O’Hare International Airport
O’Hare International Airport is located in the most northwestern corner of the city, 17 miles northwest of the Loop. Formerly the world’s busiest airport, O’Hare now maintains its status as the second busiest airport (Atlanta Hartsfield is the busiest) and primary hub for United Airlines. All arrivals are in the downstairs of the airport and departures are upstairs. It is clean and easy to navigate, despite its fondness for delays and flight cancellations. Seriously, it has one of the worst on-time flight records; but hey, in a city where snow is common, it isn’t all their fault. Personnel are usually friendly and helpful, and as one of the busiest airports there is always somewhere to eat.
O’Hare has four terminals, 1,2,3, & 5. Wondering what happened to 4? Terminal 4 was once used as a terminal, but now remains the airport facility for ground transportation, CTA buses, and shuttles. Terminals 1-3 handle all domestic traffic and some international, while Terminal 5 handles all international arrivals and some international departures. If you are taking an international flight I recommend calling ahead to find out the correct terminal, especially if you are going through another U.S. city first. The main rule of thumb is to always leave yourself plenty of time to be on-time for your flight. The airport is huge, and you will end up looking exactly like the airport scene in the original Home Alone, running through the airport with family in tow (that scene from Home Alone was filmed in Terminal 3; Home Alone 2 also has a scene in the same terminal).
I may personally prefer a Potbelly’s sandwich before my flight, but if a greasy and delicious burger is what you crave O’Hare boasts a Billy Goat’s location in Terminal 1. They also have a Gino’s East and Pizzeria UNO if you need to get in that last slice of Chicago pizza before returning to your city’s inferior pizza. If you are looking to get a little liquored up before your flight or just enjoy a cold beer, they also have a Goose Island Brewing Company.
Fun Fact! Did you know that Puff Daddy (P. Diddy, Diddy, whatever) filmed parts of his “I’ll Be Missing You” music video and tribute to the late Biggie Smalls in O’Hare airport? We think the underground walkway between concourses B and C with all those neon lights was an interesting choice Diddy, but we like it. If you’ve got time to kill, there is also a pretty sweet Brachiosaurus skeleton in Terminal 1.
Getting there and back:
CTA Blue Line: The green and cheap way if you don’t have too much luggage is to take the Blue Line. Just hop on at any Blue Line station and it will take you there 24 hours a day (about 40 minutes from the Loop).
Metra: Trains on the Metra North Central Service stop at the O’Hare transfer station, which connects to the airport via shuttle bus. The Airport transfer service connects all four airport terminals and remote parking lots. Check out www.rta.com for more details on how to get to the airport via Metra and regional trains.
Taxi: It’s just the easiest; there is a $1.00 extra added to trips to and from the airport. Even better? Those really nice friends who will drive you to the airport. Just be aware no curbside parking or waiting is allowed.
Drive: You can drive to O’Hare via I-90 West, which then splits to I-190 to arrive at the airport. You can also enter locally via Mannheim Road. You can park at any of the airport parking lots, but it could end up costing you more than your flight, depending how many days you are parked.
Bike: While doing research for this article I found out that you can bike to both Midway and O’Hare. Bike to the airport??? What? I laughed, but I guess if you are the world’s lightest packer, go for it.
Transportation between O’Hare and Midway: An hourly shuttle runs from O’Hare to Midway from 7:00a.m. and 10p.m. Cabs usually have set rates for the journey, about $50-60.
O’Hare airport has a cell phone lot located at Economy Parking F/Cell Phone lot. This 150-space lot is temporarily free of charge for people to wait until arriving passengers are ready to be picked up curbside. This is a much better and safer place to wait than circling the airport.