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1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

Wichita, KS
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1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

This is my first post and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to search so forgive me if this has been asked before - We are a family of 4 (mom, 20 yo daughter, 18 & 16 yo sons)that will be making our first trip to Chicago for my son's graduation trip. We are planning to arrive 6/4 and depart 6/9 and have decided to travel by Amtrak. Would like to find an inexpensive($150 or less) but nice (safe, clean, etc) hotel not too far from Union Station so we could walk. Some of the things we would like to do while in Chicago are Navy Pier, Field Museum (gotta see King Tut!), Museum of Contempory Art,Art Institute, Frank Lloyd Wright/Robie Home, along with with other artsy type stuff (my kids are art nerds) and of course some shopping. I would appreciate any advice you could offer to help us enjoy our stay.

Chicago, IL
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1. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

I wouldn't stay over near Union Station, the only hotel I can think of that might be considered walking distance is the W City Center, it's easy enough to get a cab or hop on public transit to get to an area that is filled with hotels like North Michigan Avenue or River North, especially since this is not just an overnight visit.

Are you looking to have 4 people in one room? Or get 2 rooms?

If it's 2 rooms, you might try bidding on Priceline or Hotwire, check www.biddingfortravel.com or www.betterbidding.com before bidding. If you are looking for one room, maybe someone else can help you locate a suite type hotel.

chicago, il
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2. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

I would not stay near union station - its far from all the attractions. You should stay near Michigan Avenue, north of the river (take the 151 bus to this location - bus leaves from in front of union station). If you can get by with one hotel room with two queen beds you can stay in a nice hotel - otherwise two rooms might put you at the south end of michigan avenue. Michigan avenue is fun and safe 24/7 - union station is in the financial district and closes up at 6 p.m. on weekdays and is dead on weekends.

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3. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

I highly recommend staying in the Loop or Michigan Ave areas. Loop is closest to the museum campus and Millennium Park (where you might find free outdoor concerts). You'll only be making 1 trip to and from Union Station, but you'll have a few days of traveling around to sites within Chicago, so why not be closer to sites, even if it means a $10 cab ride to get to the hotel?

Priceline is a good option, but more info on budget and how many rooms you need would help with more detailed suggestions.

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4. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

Just to give you an idea of what priceline can do - we've been to Chicago many summer weekends, and never paid more than $80/night for a room in a 4* hotel. Priceline only guarantees bed space for 2 people, so you'd need to reserve two rooms, but you can often get two rooms on priceline for about the same price as one room through traditional channels. Chicago is a great area for priceline - it's not perfect for everything, but I love it for Chicago! :)

michigan
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5. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

Well, I once walked from Union Station to the magnificent mile (Michigan Ave. north of the river), but I don't recommend it. It took about half an hour.

I agree with everyone else - don't stay near Union Station. Not that it's a bad area, but it's far from the fun things you want to do. It is very easy to get a cab at Union Station. They are always lined up outside, so there is no need to flag one down.

Stay somewhere near the magnificent mile! You will love it. You might want to try the Red Roof Inn if you don't want to go through Priceline (if you want to be able to cancel your reservation). It gets decent reviews and is in an excellent location for the price.

Rensselaer, Indiana
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6. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

Poohmom, the other posters are correct. There isn't much lodging available around Union Station.

I usually don't suggest this option to visitors, but have you looked at the VRBO website for options? I see mention of a couple places (one on State Street and one in the Gold Coast) in your price range that sleep 4. A plus in having an apartment is that some meals could be eaten in for some savings.

I've never used this option before personally, so perhaps someone who has might mention their experience with this.

You'll also want to look at Chicago Pass or City Pass if you are going to a number of museums. Note: I doubt that entrance to the King Tut exhibit will be included under whichever pass you obtain.

If you get a family membership to the Field, it is $80 but the King Tut tickets are only $10 for members vs. $25 for non-members. The Art Institute is free on Tuesdays, but expect crowds due to that fact.

I'm mentioning these items because you'll need to sit down and calculate which way would be best for your needs.

Take advantage of some free items to offset those more expensive things. For example, Millennium Park is free and so are the concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. And a picnic supper is just the thing for a nice evening under the stars with music (if available when you are here).

For an inexpensive view of the city skyline from the lake, take the harbor taxi from Museum Campus to Navy Pier (or vice versa).

If you do go to Navy Pier, there is free entertainment at the beer garden at the far end. It's not enclosed so even though your kids cannot indulge, they still can enjoy the music.

One activity that I think your whole family would really enjoy is Bobby's Bike Hike. Or, if that's outside your budget, you could always just rent bikes yourselves from Millennium Park or Navy Pier and go biking along the lakefront path or Lincoln Park.

Hope this information helps a bit!

Wichita, KS
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7. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

Thanks for the info - it does seem like it would be better to just take a taxi than trying to stay close to Union Station. I looked at Red Roof Inn's website (having checked out expedia, hotels.com, etc yet) and we could get a Deluxe suite for $170 a night which would give us more room. That sounds better than some of the other options we looked at.

We will be working on our budget tomorrow (so much fun trying to schedule a time when we can all be together!) so I really appreciate the ideas for free/inexpensive entertainment! I listed a few of the things we are wanting to do but would welcome more suggestions. None of us are really into sports, more art, photography, music, theatre, etc.

Thanks for the help!!!

Rensselaer, Indiana
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8. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

Poohmom, glad that the Red Roof Inn worked out for you. Although it's been some time now since I've been there, Coco Pazzo Cafe (located in the same building) used to have good Italian at reasonable prices.

By the way, if you don't have it already, maybe by getting a AAA membership, you can save some $$ on both your Amtrak tickets (I do know they allow this discount) and the hotel as well.

Also, make sure you get CTA passes for while you are here. It will save you $$$.

Now for suggestions for the free and inexpensive stuff to do:

First, I would go to the City of Chicago website to the museum section and see what museums are free/reduced entrance fees on which days. Also take a look at all the museums Chicago has. Maybe another might strike your fancy as well.

While in that website, take a look at what free entertainment will be happening every weekday at Daley Plaza ("Under the Picasso") and on some days at the Chicago Cultural Center (which also has a visitor's center).

Also, while you are in this website, look what special festivals are taking place. For example, you are coming at the time of the Gospel Fest (in Millennium Park), the Printer's Row Book Fair and the Belmont/Sheffield Festival (on the northside).

The Printer's Row Book Fair has no entrance fee for the book fair itself; however, take a look at the authors who will be giving lectures, signing their books, etc. Sometimes (with world-famous authors), there may be an entry fee for the lecture being held at a particular location.

The Belmont/Sheffield Music Festival usually has a $5-6 gate fee/pp but all the entertainment at each of the stages is free. You just have to pay for your food and whatever else you happen to buy from the vendors.

The Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park Conservatory are both free every day of the year. If you go, make sure to stop in at the cafe/beer garden behind Cafe Brauer, just south of the Zoo. Great spot with one of the loveliest views of the skyline by the swan boats dock.

If you are going up to LPZ & LPC, have a picnic. You can pick up fresh items at one of the city's farmer's market for your picnic. There are many around town - the City of Chicago website tells when and where they are being held in the various neighborhoods and at Daley Plaza.

Since you want to see the Frank Lloyd Wright/Robie Home, go to the Chicago Architecture Foundation's website and see what else they have available. They usually have walks for around $10/pp.

If it is not outside your budget, one of the must-see/must-do things for Chicagoans and their visitors alike is the CAF River Cruise (IMHO). It's more expensive than other tours BUT you get correct information by a knowledgable docent; and, as it is 2.5-3 hrs. in length, it's not overly expensive. However, just to let you know, some of the other boat cruises around town do have 2 for 1 (upon occasion) and I think that one might be included in the Chicago Pass.

The Chicago Park District has beach volleyball nets set up on North Avenue Beach in the summer in the evening and sign up for playing is free (at least for Chicago residents--not exactly certain about visitors, but you could certainly check that out with them by e-mail). Even if you all couldn't join in, just go to the beach and enjoy the sights.

There is a free trolley system that goes around town to various sites. NOTE: they can get really crowded during the course of the day and you could have to wait for the next one; just depends on when you go and the crowds.

Go to Buckingham Fountain at night for the lightshow.

Chicago usually has the Summerdance series. Dancing under the stars on S. Michigan Avenue.

Walking doesn't cost a dime - only the wear and tear on your shoes (and yourself). I recently responded to another person (I think it was for skateboy) coming in April about recommended walks. Take a look at my suggestions.

Hope this helps out a bit. So much to choose from for your brief stay here but I'm sure you'll find things that will make all of you happy!

michigan
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9. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

I think you'll probably like the Red Roof Inn. I haven't stayed there, but I have stayed at two other hotels right across the street and it's a great area! For inexpensive snacks/breakfast, etc., there is a Dunkin Donuts right across the street. Also, there is a White Hen convenience store just a block away. Also a Subway (sandwich shop) nearby. If you like Chinese food, Szechwan is right across the street and their prices are very reasonable. You're just a block from Michigan Avenue, so you'll have a great time.

Kansas City
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10. Re: 1st time visit - hotels near amtrak

poohmom,

If you haven't booked your Amtrak tickets yet, here's a way to save 25%. This method ONLY works for coach seats and cannot be used in conjunction with other promos (such as AAA discount). Book your tix through the online website (www.amtrak.com) and when you get to the "select train" portion, put H570 in the promo code box. This is a promo code for 25% off coach seats. Although this code has a few blackout dates, I've tried it on the dates you gave and it worked. I used it on my last trip Amtrak trip to Chicago.

Also, if you have never travelled by Amtrak before, you might want to visit www.on-track-on-line.com for some valuable first timer information. (Look at the "Amtrak Travel Tips" on the left hand side of the page)

Enjoy your ride on the Southwest Chief!!