Making The Most Of A Day In Chicago – Travel
Recently we packed up and took a weekend trip to Illinois. We like to think of Chicago as our home away from home so we made sure to set aside a day to visit the city. There is so much to do and see in this great big city it can be overwhelming for a first time visitor. We wanted to show how much is possible to do in just a single day so get your walking shoes on because we are going to cover a LOT of territory!
Places To Stay: There are no shortage of hotels in Chicago! On a previous trip we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel which was right in the heart of everything. This was convenient for us because we were spending several days in the city so it eliminated all commute time. However, hotel rooms in the city go for a premium and since the rest of our trip was elsewhere we chose to stay outside of town where the room rates are more reasonable.
Parking: Now that you have a place to stay let’s talk about parking. If you have never been to Chicago before you may not know that parking can be a HUGE challenge in the city. Much like hotel rooms, parking rates can fluctuate quite severely. If you’re not careful you could wind up paying more to park than it costs you to sleep. I would highly recommend reserving you parking ahead of time with an online service. We prefer “Spot Hero” although there are others to choose from. With Spot Hero we chose which attraction we wanted to be closest to and then had it search out the best deal. This trip, for example, cost us $12 for the day at a garage a little under a mile from where we wanted to go. As we ventured around the city we saw signs for as much as $25 per day so it definitely pays off to use this service. *NOTE* Most parking garages do NOT have “in-out” privileges so once you park you can not leave and return without paying again.
Getting Around: While there are plenty of taxis throughout the city that can get expensive… and traffic is HORRIBLE! Get stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time and you will be paying someone yet no going anywhere. We prefer to walk it! Almost everything is within walking distance in the downtown area. Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes though because you will be putting on some miles for the day. On one trip we entertained the thought of taking a shuttle bus down to the Navy Pier but opted to walk it instead… not only did we get there faster, we did everything we came to do and left before the shuttle even made it.
Sightseeing: There are tons of things to do and see in Chicago: Museums, Restaurants, Shopping, Parks, Sculptures, and of course Views from the tops of very high buildings. If you plan on doing alot we highly recommend purchasing a CityPass.
With the CityPass we were able to see 5 of the city’s most popular attractions for half the price, not to mention all of the extra benefits and discounts that come with it. Since we were tight on time, the “line jumper” option was the best value of all which allowed us to skip the general public lines and walk right in.
So are you ready to hear about our day? Well here it goes:
We arrived in Chicago just before 11am. Parking was easy since we had pre-paid and the GPS took us right to it. Our first stop was also our favorite stop (all will be featured in their own posts) at the Shedd Aquarium. The CityPass allowed us to jump the line and get right in. It also gave us access to the special exhibits that cost extra for everyone else (except the animal show which was an additional $2 per-person). Since we had been here before we only spent about 2 hours walking around. From there we went to the Adler Planetarium which is just a short walk away. This was a first for both of us so we didn’t know what to expect. It was nice but more geared towards children so we walked the place and took in one of our included shows before leaving after an hour and a half. Third we hit the Field Museum which was also in the same general area so there wasn’t much walking at all to be done. The exhibits here had changed alot so it was almost like the first time… we visited the special exhibits included with our CityPass but not the shows… again spending about 2 hours inside.
From there we had quite a hike ahead of us to get to the SkyDeck so we hit “Cloud Gate” aka “The Bean” and stopped for dinner at Giordano’s for some famous Chicago-style pizza. At the SkyDeck we skipped the 45 minute wait and got right up to the top… again the passes are awesome! After taking in the view, we had another hike to get to Chicago 360 at the top of the John Hancock building for some stunning night views. After that, we had a quick stop at Ghiradelli for dessert before making the trek back to the car and calling it a day. *phew*
Not once did we ever feel rushed, even after all of that. Since we had been here already we were mostly just revisiting our favorite sights. Plus with the money we saved on admission we didn’t necessarily have to use all of our tickets. If we ran out of time we would still wind up on top cost wise. Chicago is an awesome city! If we have it our way we will come back and visit every year (very do-able since it’s only a 5 hour drive for us)
If you’re planning a Chicago visit, seriously consider getting a CityPass. We’ve used them in several cities and liked them so much that we became an affiliate because hey …if you’re going to sing praises for a product, you might as well try to make a buck off of it too! Clicking on our banner below does not affect your price in any way shape or form: you get the same great deal we got, they give us a couple bucks (literally) for sending business their way. If you want to learn more about the attractions visited, stay updated with our blog as we write about each in greater detail.