Afforable day trips around chicago, Metra/public transit accessible
October 23, 2011 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Afforable day trips outside of chicago, Metra/public transit accessible

I am looking for excuses to get out of the Chicago proper (probably during weekdays) and experience a little more of Illinois. The caveat? I'm a poor student without access to a car and I'd like keep these excursions relatively short--a day or less. I love art, eating, shopping (record/thrifting/antiquing especially)... I'm open to most anything! Thanks for the suggestions in advance!
posted by faeuboulanger to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You might like walking around and exploring Geneva, on the Fox River. Geneva has a bunch of art galleries.

Wheaton is pretty nice too. They have Secondhand Rose thrift shop. Note to call ahead, it looks like they are closed Mondays, so verify it before you head out.

You can also catch a Pace bus up from Geneva to St. Charles and do some exploring there.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:03 PM on October 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

General notes about Metra.

- Buy your ticket(s) at the station if possible. If you buy a ticket on the train and the station you departed from had its ticket booth open, you will get hit for a $3 surcharge for the one way trip.

- Not all Metra stations are directly in the "downtown" area. As noted above, Wheaton is great and right in the middle of things. However, Naperville is 3/4 mile from the center of town. Use Google maps to calculate the general distance. Could be sucky on a rainy day

- Pace bus in the burbs is great when you hit the timing right. However, miss that one bus, and another may not be along for an hour. Also note that some Pace buses are commuter only buses in that they run from the housing subdivisions to the Metra station in the morning and the other way in the evening. Just make sure that the bus you are taking has a return trip and print the schedule before you leave home.

I guess that is it. Have fun!
posted by lampshade at 1:15 PM on October 23, 2011

Best answer: I know this is probably one of the last nice days of the fall, but there is an incredible network of bike paths/trails around Chicago, and many of them are accessible by bus/El/Metra--all of which allow you to bring your bike. This makes it easy to bike one way and take the train home if you're not up for a long ride, or if the weather takes a turn. I'm not sure what part of town you're in, so I'll try to include a range of departure points:

The DuPage River Trail runs from North Ave. up to Lake County, and there are dozens of nice spots in the forest parks along the way. The trail is a little too lumpy for street bikes south of Lawrence Ave., though. However, the forest parks north of there are the nicest, in my opinion.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is close(ish) to the Braeside Metra stop and is right off of the North Branch Trail. It's free if you walk or bike in (cars have to pay $20 to park).

You can take the North Shore Channel Trail from Lawrence Ave./the Lincon Squareish neighborhood to Evanston, which has Northwestern (of course), a bakery that makes excellent florentines, and some nice beaches. The Baha'i Temple is also worth a stop.

You can reach Joliet by Metra. Joliet itself might not be exciting enough to warrant a day trip, but you can bike down the I&M Canal Trail as far as Starved Rock, which has camping and wonderful trails through its gorges At 60 miles each way, this is more than a day trip, but the canal trail itself is nice enough to be worth the trip (though it tends to be nicer the further you get from Joliet).

Non-bike things:

Oak Park is right out at the end of the Green Line, and has a bunch of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings.

There's a vintage clothing show & sale in Elgin (full disclosure: one of my friends is a vendor and I help out sometimes). I think the next one is going to be in February, but I don't think they've set the date yet. It's also on the Metra.

Also, check your MeFi Mail.
posted by pullayup at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Evanston area is pretty fun and easily accessible by the Purple Line. It runs express from the Belmont stop to Howard on weekdays.

For eating, I recommend Bennison Bakery, Thai Sookdee, Mount Everest, Edzo's, and Notes Street Cafe.

The Northwestern campus (accessible by the Davis, Foster, and Noyes Purple stops) is quite beautiful in the fall. Walk toward the lakefront to access the lakefill park and get a beautiful view of downtown Chicago. It's the perfect spot for a picnic when the weather is warmer. There's also an art museum on campus (Block Museum).
posted by yodangson at 5:20 PM on October 23, 2011

Recommending record stores might not fit the "affordable" part, but I have always had good luck at Remember When in Westmont. I'm also fond of Second Hand Tunes in Evanston, right off the purple line. While it's in the city, my personal favorite is Out of the Past Records on the far west side - you could easily spend a whole day digging through their mostly-unsorted collection.

If you head out to Westmont, you can get free passes to the two-stops-down-the-Metra Brookfield Zoo at any Chicago Public Library - just call ahead to see if the passes are in stock. I would also recommend seeing the Morton Arboretum on the cheap/free this way.
posted by caminovereda at 9:01 PM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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