Top 5 Travel Tips When Visiting Chicago
So, you’re planning to travel to Chicago? You’ve made an outstanding decision! The Windy City is a wonderful place to visit, with plenty of sights, sounds and tastes to enjoy.
Just like when you’re visiting any new place, it’s a good idea to be prepared for your trip before you reach your final destination so that you know what to expect, how to pack, what to do and what not to do so you can make the most out of your travel to Chicago.
Here are the top 5 travel tips for anybody who is visiting Chicago.
1. Prepare for the Weather
Chicago truly is a tale of four seasons. Depending on the time of year you are going to travel to Chicago, you’ll want to pack different items and even potentially adjust what you are planning to see and do in the city. For example, if you’re visiting in the winter, don’t expect to sit on the beach on the coast of Lake Michigan.
Chicago experiences extreme temperatures in both the winter and summer months, with the average annual snowfall being 36 inches in winter, and summer temperatures reaching as high as 100 degrees.
Winter is a particularly tough time to visit Chicago. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Chicago ranks as the sixth-coldest major city in the United States for December, January and February. If you are planning to travel to Chicago in those months, make sure you bundle up and be prepared to spend a lot of time indoors.
Spring is typically Chicago’s wettest season, and winter conditions will often persist into April and sometimes even into May. This is why Chicago is such a hot spot for tourists to visit in the summer and fall. Even with the cold weather in the winter, Chicago’s summers can get quite hot, reaching into the nineties and sometimes even higher.
Still, temperatures and weather can fluctuate from hot to cold and back again in the same week. So make sure that you layer up your clothing, no matter what time of year you’re planning to travel to Chicago.
2. Familiarize Yourself with the CTA
No matter how you’re arriving in Chicago, one of the best ways to get around the city is via public transportation. So, before you leave, make sure you familiarize yourself with all the options available to you through the Chicago Transit Authority. Buses and trains are accessible from a lot of places and can take you all over the city with ease.
In fact, even if you are flying into one of Chicago’s two airports, taking public transportation to your hotel might be much more preferable than renting a car or even hailing a taxi. If you’re planning to be in Chicago for an entire week, consider purchasing a seven-day Ventra pass, which will give you easy access to the entire city for only $33.
3. Bring Your Walking Shoes
While we’re on the topic of getting around, make sure to bring your walking shoes if you’re planning to travel to Chicago. Even if you are driving into the city or renting a car, you might find it difficult to find parking outside of all of your destinations.
Don’t worry, though. Chicago is a mostly flat city, so you won’t be dealing with a hilly landscape like you would in San Francisco, for example. Walking is one of the best ways to see Chicago, actually, as you get to experience all the culture, architecture and beauty of the city from the street view.
4. Take a Tour
Some travelers don’t like to take tours of the places they visit because they feel they won’t get an authentic experience. That isn’t the case if you’re planning to travel to Chicago, though. In fact, Chicago has a number of excellent tours that will take you around the city by bus or by boat.
You can also take a walking tour, an architectural tour, a food tour and more. Don’t shy away from letting someone who knows a lot about the city show you around Chicago. You’ll be able to see a lot more sights than you’d be able to see on your own, and you might even end up stumbling upon a part of the city that you were unfamiliar with before your trip.
The key to any tour is to figure out what you’d like to see first before you visit, and then find the tour that matches up with that. And, finally, make sure you book your tour in advance to ensure your spot is secured, as tours can fill up fast, especially in the summer months.
5. Discover Chicago’s Neighborhoods
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. As such, the only way to truly get a feel for the city when you’re visiting, you have to travel into the neighborhoods and experience life as the locals do.
Even if your hotel is in one of the more popular places of the city – such as the Magnificent Mile – make your way to some of the outskirts to see all Chicago has to offer. Make your way to Logan Square to experience food and nightlife. Head to Humboldt Park, which is full of attractions. Or head over to Hyde Park for even more beauty.
Keep these five tips in mind if you’re planning to travel to Chicago, and you’ll be well-prepared to have the experience of a lifetime in the Windy City.