Chicago has an efficient public transportation system, so it is easy to get
around without a car. If you’re staying in the downtown or Near North
neighborhoods, you can walk to many attractions.
If you want to go farther
afield, there are a variety of public transportation vehicles to get you
there, including: buses, the “L” (an elevated train system), subways,
commuter trains, and taxi cabs galore. (Note, many Chicagoans call the
elevated trains “the El”, but the MTA calls them “L”. ) To access maps, trip
planners, schedules and fares for public transportation, go to the official
website of the
Chicago Transit Authority or call 1-888-YOUR-CTA.
As in all
"big" cities around the world, there are areas of Chicago that have high
crime rates and can be dangerous, especially to visitors. Ask the
staff at your hotel about local safety conditions for areas near your hotel
and for other destinations to which you might travel.
To help with your tour around Chicago, take these steps
1. Be sure to see
our map of the best places to visit in Chicago, or any map you prefer, and use it to
familiarize yourself with the geography you intend to visit.
2. Study the
Chicago Transit Authority's website for details on public transportation and
how to use public transportation in Chicago.
3. Be sensible about late
night transportation and use taxis when: 1) other options can't get you there in
time, 2) other options can't get you close to your destination, 3) you are unsure you know
how to get to your destination from the public transportation drop-off, or
4) you feel unsafe using public transportation.
4. Walk whenever you can to experience Chicago's wonderful
neighborhoods, but be sensible about walking late at night or in districts
in which you feel apprehensive about your safety. Always ask a
local authority if the area you want to visit is safe.
5. Parking fees in the Loop and some other sections of Chicago can
be sky-high and using a taxi or public transportation is often a good
Although our guides do not provide recommendations on dining, Chicago has
a thriving restaurant community featuring food specialties from around the
world. Now known as a culinary center, Chicago also has a well deserved
reputation for “comfort” food. After all, it was at Chicago’s Billy Goat
Tavern that the late John Belushi heard the phrase he made famous on
Saturday Night Live of
“Cheeseburger, cheeseburger.” Chicago is, also, the home of the Pizzeria Uno
and the deep-dish pizza, not to mention Eli’s, which is famous for its role
in popularizing cheesecake in the United States.
If you are in the mood for Greek food, head to Greek Town, or Taylor street
for Italian, or.... You get the idea, there are so many kinds of food, styles of
restaurants, and pricing tiers available when dining in Chicago that it’s a
good idea to ask for recommendations from the desk staff at your hotel or ask a
friend who “knows” Chicago .
Now, Just one more food thing – It may sound kind of hokey, but Chicagoans
have a thing for hot dogs. In fact, some of the hot dog stands in Chicago have attained an almost gourmet status
among residents and visitors.
The Chicago “dog”
is not just your everyday, run-of-the-mill hot dog. These delights are
served in a poppy seed bun, accompanied by mustard, relish, a pickle spear
(sometimes pickle slices), chopped onions, a couple of tomato slices , two
or more sports peppers and celery salt. The wiener is usually Vienna Beef
brand and steamed to perfection (plumped, but not soggy and certainly not
grilled). Try one - you may just fall in love again.
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own personality,
architecture and atmosphere and each offers something unique to the visitor.
The Loop or downtown area, for example, offers historic architecture, live
theater and entertainment, dining, and art; the Lincoln Park neighborhood is
home the zoo, North Avenue Beach, Steppenwolf Theater and a variety of
trendy restaurants and bars; and Wrigleyville, named for Wrigley Field, is
home to the signature sports bars and pubs….and of course, the Cubs.
We do not cover all of Chicago’s neighborhoods here, as the description
would take its own website. Rather, we focus on those central to “tourist”
Chicago and the ones that hold the most attraction for travelers. Also, note
that many of the areas we mention can be further broken down into smaller
neighborhoods. (If you are interested in exploring Chicago's many
neighborhoods,, see this
real estate website, which has a great introduction to Chicago’s
many neighborhoods. Click on North Central on their map to get started.)
The Loop, or Chicago’s downtown area, is bordered by Lake Michigan on
the east, The Chicago River on the west and the north, and Harrison Street
on the south. In addition to being the business hub of the City, the Loop is
also home to Grant Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, Symphony Hall, the
Chicago Opera House, theaters, and public art exhibits. Many examples of
Chicago’s architectural heritage can also be found here in the Loop’s
theaters, public buildings and businesses.
The Near-North Side borders Lake Michigan on the east, the River on
the south, Clark Street on the west, and Division on the north. Many of
Chicago’s best places to visit lie within this area. The Magnificent Mile,
for example, is Chicago’s luxury shopping area with shops like Cartier’s,
Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Then there’s the Gold Coast, thus named because it
has been one of the City’s wealthiest areas since 1882 when millionaire
Potter Palmer built his 42-room mansion here. The Near-North Side is also
home to Oak Street Beach, the Drake Hotel and the John Hancock Center.
Lincoln Park is the name of the neighborhood that encompasses the
1,208 acre park of the same name and the Zoo. In addition to the park and
the zoo, Lincoln Park is home to some of Chicago’s trendiest restaurants and
Wrigleyville has one major claim to fame, and, as you may have
guessed, it is Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs baseball team. The
neighborhood is also home to a variety of popular sports bars and
restaurants, such as Cubby Bears, Sluggers and Murphy’s Bleachers. An “L”
stop is conveniently located on Addison Avenue just east of Sheffield, so
getting there is a snap.
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