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Overview and Essential Travel Information - Chicago, Illinois

Since its humble beginnings in the beginning of the nineteenth century --- by 1835 it was just a little village on the Chicago River --- it has boomed with activity and received quite appropriately the name 'The City That Works'. By 1870 it had become the second largest city in the nation, catching up fast with New York City. Then in 1871 what started as a small fire in a stable far to the west of the city center, became a blazing inferno that destroyed the whole inner city. But Chicagoans were resilient and fought back, creating a whole new style of architecture in the process, called the skyscraper. But there's more to Chicago than the architecture. The city is vibrant with excellent jazz and blues scenes, two great ballparks, some of America's best dining and much more.

GETTING AROUND

The El an elevated train is the quickest and cheapest mode of transportation between O'Hare and Midway airports and the Loop downtown. Shuttle buses leave at regular intervals from both airports to major downtown hotels and there are lots of taxis waiting to whisk you into the city though they're expensive. All the major car rental companies have outposts at the airport as well as branches in the city.

The best way to get around Chicago is by foot. It's flat easy to navigate and the nicest way to get the flavor of the city. This is one of the few American cities you can fully enjoy without a car. When your feet need a break public transit is not bad by American standards. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the public transportation system serving the city. It consists of the El and buses.

Most visitors should be able to use the El for almost all their transit needs the exception being those going to Hyde Park certain areas of Lincoln Park near the lake and the area east of North Michigan Avenue that includes Navy Pier. CTA buses go almost everywhere but they do so on erratic schedules. A web of commuter trains running under the Metra banner serve the suburbs surrounding Chicago. Try Evanston for vegetarian restaurants, coffee, Ten Thousand Villages on Main Street for fair trade products and walks along the lake. In Chicago, try Andersonville(North Clark Street between Foster and Berwyn) for art galleries, feminist bookshop, gourmet foods and what's left of the Swedish community. Restuarants of all flavours exist. Kopi Traveller's Cafe is a great hangout and offers snacks and coffee and atmosphere.

While CTA buses are known for arriving in 'bunches'(say two arrive at the same stop simultaneously), there is a fixed schedule for BOTH buses and trains. Check schedules at www.transitchicago.com and download maps and timetables as well. Despite the little boxes that CTA personnel seem to live in at the el platforms -most will be friendly and give directions!

information provided by cctraveler2 at TravelPost
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