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Navigating the US: Getting Around in Chicago, Illinois

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Getting Around in Chicago

Chicago resides on the shores of Lake Michigan as the crowned jewel of the Midwest. As the third largest city in the U.S., Chicago is known for its cursed baseball team, picturesque skyline, and many, many nicknames. The city streets are easy to navigate, making getting around in Chicago pretty easy. But just in case you’re having trouble, make sure you check out the information we’ve got for you below!

Recommended Modes of Transportation

  • Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)—As the main system of trains and buses in the city of Chicago, CTA is the easiest (not to mention cheapest) way to get around town. Fares can be paid with transit cards, cash, or credit cards (only on some). Visitor passes are also sold for unlimited travel on the CTA and Pace. For 1 day it’s $10, 3 days is $20, 7 days is $28 and 30 days is $100. For the bus system, the CTA even has provided commuters with one of the most amazing gifts ever presented to Chicagoans—the CTA Bus Tracker. If you couldn’t already guess, it lets you know exactly where your bus is, whether it’s on time, and your bus’s route. For more info on the CTA, check out their website.
  • By car—Driving in downtown Chicago can be a nightmare, with heavy traffic and extremely expensive garage prices. If you absolutely need to drive downtown, make sure you account for the time you will be stuck in traffic. Also, parking restrictions are strictly enforced, so make sure you pay close attention to street signs.
  • By taxi—Taxi fares in Chicago are some of the least expensive in the U.S., making taxis a great option to get around if you don’t want to take public transportation. They can be hailed anywhere throughout the city and their rates are regulated by the city, so they’re standard with $2.25 for the first 1.9 mile and $0,20 for each additional 1/9 mile.

Getting Around in Chicago

Alternative Ways of Seeing the City

  • Chicago Water Taxi—In the summer, water taxis offer a great way to get around the city, especially if you’re traveling around the fringes of downtown. They’re normally cheap and offer you some sweeping views of the skyline. Chicago Water Taxi offers three different stops (Michigan Ave., LaSalle/Clark, and Madison St.). Shoreline Sightseeing is also an available water taxi option, offering seven destinations rather than three.

Best Places to Park

Parking in Chicago is eerily similar to the Hunger Games (that might be a slight exaggeration), so if you decide to brave it, make sure you plan ahead. This can be done easily with

Getting Around in Chicago

Source: Robert Werner – 2005 Vancouver, BC


O’Hare International Airport is the main airport that serves Chicago, located 17 miles outside of the city. It’s one of the biggest airports in the world and is known for frequently delaying and cancelling flights. If you don’t want to battle with the crowds at O’Hair, Midway International Airport is also only 10 miles southwest of downtown. It’s usually cheaper with fewer delays, too, making it a great airport to fly out of.


  • Museum Campus—Three of Chicago’s most prominent museums are located within a short walk of each other on Museum Campus. These museums include the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Shedd Aquarium. Only a short distance away is the Museum of Science and Industry, which is located in Hyde Park.
  • Willis Tower—More popularly known as Sears Tower, Willis Tower is the tallest building in America, providing sweeping views of the city from its highest floor.
  • John Hancock Center—Though it’s not the tallest building in the city, the Hancock is probably the most beloved. It offers better views that Willis Tower and is also a lot prettier to look at.
  • Along the Magnificent Mile—This tour gives you an itinerary that takes you to some of the most important places in the city within one day and night. See amazing views, eat amazing food, and enjoy the beautiful architecture.
  • Loop Art Tour—If you’re interested in seeing Chicago’s collection of modern sculptures, this 2-4 hour walking tour is perfect for you. It’s free and all you have to do is print out this map.

For more information on getting around in Chicago, make sure you check out these sites: