Welcome to Chicago
Voted the best big city in the USA for a fifth year in a row (Condé Nast Traveler readers) Chicago, also known as the ‘Windy city’ has such much to see and do.
Chicago is renowned for its museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago with its noted Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Famous for its bold architecture, skyscrapers such as the iconic John Hancock Center, 1,451-ft. Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower. There is something for everyone; zip around the sights and inner city green parks on a Segway or bicycle. Kayak on Lake Michigan or simply chill and gaze out across the freshwater lake from one of the many eateries along the lake shore.
But Chicago is more than just a big city. It’s a city of neighbourhoods and people that represent vibrant and diverse backgrounds and cultures. Every October, runners travel to Chicago to experience this incredible city by running through it at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon starts and finishes in Grant Park. To stay close to the start as we do allows you to walk to the start without stress or reliance on transport.
Chicago is on Central Standard Time (GMT minus 6 hours during daylight saving time and minus 5 hours the rest of the year).
Please do not use any other website to apply for your ESTA than the official website. You will just be charged more than what you need to pay. Fee for application should only be $14.00 USD.
Visitors to Chicago from outside the United States need a visa to enter the country. The UK and other countries are part of a Visa Waiver programme called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Before you travel to the US, you must have a Visa or an ESTA, otherwise you will not be able to travel. More information can be found here
US Customs and Border Protection
Waiting times at the US border can range from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on time of day, how many flights land at the same time plus any restrictions that maybe in place. US Customs officers are trained to be inquisitive and suspicious. All you can do to prepare is to have all your documentation handy. More information on what to expect can be found here
The drinking age in Chicago—and throughout the United States—is 21. Open containers cannot be taken outside drinking-establishment premises. Consuming alcohol while traveling in a vehicle is illegal for both drivers and passengers. It is also illegal to transport alcohol with a broken seal. Smoking as well as “vaping” or the use of e-cigarettes, vape pens, and e-hookahs is prohibited in enclosed public places, and within 15 feet of the entrance of these establishments.
Using your phone
There are two ways to use your smartphone in the US: you can either roam on a UK-based SIM card or you can buy a new US-based SIM card upon your arrival in the States. Check with your network provider before you go as you maybe able to pay a bit extra to have peace of mind without getting hit with a bill on your return. Emergencies (police, fire or ambulance): 911
In New York City and throughout the United States, the US dollar is the standard currency. Credit cards are widely used and ATMS are plentiful.
As with any city, please exercise common sense and take reasonable precautions to protect your personal safety plus your belongings. Always make sure that you have adequate travel insurance, declare pre-existing medical conditions and make sure that your insurance covers you for all the activities that you will undertake whilst you are in the USA. Only ever use licensed taxis and if you are ever unsure it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your hotel concierge should be able to help you with any questions or concerns. A useful resource is 311, the City’s official government services and information hotline.
If you’re coming from outside the United States, check this page for visa information. Below you can find some information on the best ways to get to Chicago:
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) both offer easy access to downtown Chicago by using taxis, buses, subways and/or commuter trains. O'Hare is one of the busiest airports in the country, with many airlines flying to and from its four terminals. By comparison, Midway is much smaller, with just one main terminal with three concourses. O'Hare is most likely where you'll go, although Midway does offer some international flights.
O’Hare International Airport
It’s located at just 16 miles from Downtown Chicago. There are various ways to get to Chicago from O’Hare:
Taxis charge a $59 - $64 not including tolls and tips. Don’t worry if the cab driver doesn’t put the metre on as this is a flat non-metered fee. There are some other charges levied on top which will add up to about $100 in the end so expect to pay about that. Surcharges are things like a $4.50 rush-hour surcharge, bridge and tunnel tolls, and a tip. It takes up to 55 minutes to get to Brooklyn, depending on traffic and road conditions
Take the Subway train and you can get to Downtown Chicago on the Blue line in 40 minutes. More information can be found here.
Getting around the City
Apart from running, Chicago is also great for walking. By walking everywhere you will really get a feel for the place and you’ll feel the buzz of this great city. If you are ever in a hurry or you need to travel a bit further, you can use the subway, buses and of course taxis.
Trains and Buses
Buy yourself a Ventra Card and you will have access to trains and buses. You can buy your fare (loaded onto a Ventra Card or just a quick, disposable ticket) with cash or card from vending machines at both airport stations The most up-to-date information on Ventra Card and where to purchase can be found here. Alternatively you can buy a 1,3,7 day CTA pass.
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) transit tips
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) offers an economical and convenient way to get to and from the Health & Fitness Expo. Learn more about CTA fares and transit directions to McCormick Place.
Visit transitchicago.com for information on CTA fares and transit directions to McCormick Place.
All taxis are metered and rates depend of the service and time of the day (weekday, weekend, festivity). Please take in mind that trips from and to O’Hare or Midway Airports have an additional USD $ 1.00 fee. An average fare from O’Hare to downtown Chicago is around $24 to $40. Prices do not include tip.
Some taxis offer a shared ride service too. Check directly at the airport in case you are interested. Taxis are located at the lower level of each terminal at O’Hare Airport, outside the Baggage Claim Area. Taxis run through Chicago and the suburban areas. It is recommended to pick up a licensed taxi and not to accept taxi rides outside the taxi rank or from the Departures level. Traffic jams and delays are a common issue to deal with, since traffic in Chicago is always hectic. Our recommendation is to use the trains.