Getting Around Chicago
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.)