I was fortunate to do my second round of system training in Chicago. What’s even better is that I managed to go around the city on weekends.
Just like LA, I think it’s the same for all other US cities except New York, it would be more convenient to go around driving your own car. Chicago has a much better rail transit though. There is a 24-hour train from the airport to downtown. I stayed at Radisson Hotel, which is 10 minutes away from the O’Hare airport. They offer a free shuttle from the hotel to the airport every 30 minutes.
If you’re like me who has only weekends to go around downtown, here’s my recommended itinerary:
1. Leave your hotel as early as possible, if you could reach the city by 8am that would even be better.
2. When you reach the train station, purchase a 1-day pass that is worth $10. I got lucky when a man gave me his 7-day ticket that is about to expire on that day. I saved $10. 🙂
3. Alight at Roosevelt station and walk towards Shedd Aquarium–you’ll have to switch train from Blue to Orange. From there you can purchase a CityPass that is worth $89 and you can have a VIP pass to 5 tourist areas in the city. You can also purchase it online or at any of the Chicago attractions. For more information, you can refer to the CityPass Chicago website.
These are the 5 attactions that you can go to:
1. Shedd Aquarium (9:00AM – 6:00PM)
2. Skydeck Chicago (9:00AM – 10:00PM)
3. The Field Museum (9:00AM – 5:00PM)
4. Museum of Science and Industry (9:30AM – 5:30PM)
John Hancock Observatory (9:00AM – 11:00PM)
5. Adler Planetarium (9:30AM – 6PM)
Art Institute of Chicago (10:30AM – 5:00PM)
During weekends, the queues to these attractions are unbelievably long, but if you’re holding this CityPass you’ll have a faster time to go in. It is REALLY important to be there by 8am. I wasn’t able to go to The Field Museum because by the time I finished the Adler Planetarium, it was almost 5PM. Anyway, the CityPass is good for 9 days so you can always go back on the next weekend and use the same pass.
I went to Shedd Aquarium first because that’s the nearest from Roosevelt station and it’s also near the Field Museum and Adler Planetarium. You can have your lunch at Café Galileo’s by Food For Thought which is inside the Adler Planetarium. The view from this Cafe is relaxing!
Always remember to check the showtimes in each attraction. They have 3D and 4D films, animal shows, etc that are on specific schedule. I remember, I watched the Space debris 3D show in the Adler Planetarium and fell asleep a quarter of the show. I probably was too tired or the topic was boring for me.
After going to aquarium, museum and planetarium, you can go around Lake Michigan which is so serene and just relaxing. You may take another train to go to the Observatory or to Willis Tower or you can be more adventurous and walk for almost 40 minutes. It’s more fun to walk around. You’ll see nice old buildings, bridges, the waterways, etc. There’s a lot more to see when you walk around: the people, the lifestyle, among others.
Some people prefer to go to the Tower or Observatory at night, but I think it will be better to go there when there’s still daylight or you can split the two. I went to Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) around 5PM, which is still a bright day. Then I chose the Observatory for the night view. There’s also The Cheesecake Factory at the basement of the building, which is a rewarding treat after a long and tiring walk from the Willis Tower.
When my uncle drove me around downtown on my first week there, I knew that my heart is starting to fall in love with this city. When I walked around and explored it by myself, my heart was snatched away. I’ll definitely be coming back Chicago, maybe for good. 🙂