So you find yourself clicking to reserve a hotel room for a weekend getaway to the Windy City. Before leaving home, here is some information that will help you plan for driving in and around Chicago.
Chicago’s streets are laid out in an easy-to-navigate grid. Apart from a few diagonal exceptions, the streets run directly north/south and east/west. (The intersection of Madison and State Street marks the center of the city, the place where all addresses originate.) Traffic mostly flows at a steady pace, except during rush hour, of course, which is roughly between 7 – 9 a.m. and 4 – 7 p.m. on weekdays.
As in any big city, parking can be a pain. Luckily, there are multiple websites out there which allow you to search parking lots and garages for availability and which allow you to pay in advance to reserve your spot. (Check-out: ParkWhiz, SpotHero, and Parking Panda)
Locals refer to expressways and tollways by given names not by numbers. For example, 1-90 is the Chicago Skyway and 1-88 is the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway. (For a full listing click here)
Paying tolls in Illinois can be confusing. Some plazas accept cash payment, but only exact change. Some don’t accept cash at all. Certain lanes are for I-PASS users only. If you want to save time and avoid fines, FastToll app lets you drive through and pay tolls later. It keeps track of the plazas/ramps you passed through, the amount you owe, and sends reminders of payment deadlines.
Also, Illinois tollways have “oases” which serve as rest and refuel stops. They offer food and retail options, gas and car wash facilities. (Check GasBuddy to make sure you’re getting the best price.)
What started out in the late 1800’s as a homestead consisting of 100 acres and a one-room house has now become the present day Sonny Acres Farm — one of the most popular fall destinations for families in the greater Chicago area.
Located a mere 36.6 miles from downtown Chicago, urbanites don’t hesitate to hop on the U.S. 290 tollway to enjoy a day of fresh air and farm fun. (Save yourself some headache by downloading the free tracking mobile app FastToll before your road trip.)
Sonny Acres Farm offers pony rides and pig races, hayrides and a haunted barn. There is also a pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, carnival rides and much, much more.
Onsite parking is free and there’s no entrance fee. They operate on a pay-as- you-go kind of system. All activities cost between 2 and 6 tickets (1 ticket = $1). On Wristband Wednesdays, you can enjoy unlimited rides from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for $10. (Make sure to stop at an ATM beforehand because the ticket booth accepts cash payment only.)
This family-owned and operated farm has become a fixture of its West Chicago, Illinois community and is well-worth a visit.