Travel ideas U.S. midwest
June 5, 2012 2:50 AM   Subscribe

[Very last minute U.S. Midwest travel filter] Going to be in Bloomington for a conference and then have a couple days planned in Chicago...what to do with the three extra days?

Will be flying over to Indiana on a conference later this week and then meet up with a friend in Chicago. Afterwards, I'll still have three days to play with (but no car) and will eventually fly out of Indianapolis. Any ideas on what to see in the vicinity of this area?

Note: never been to the Midwest, but if I could I'd love to explore the surrounding nature and wildlife (don't have much gear though)...what are my options like? Wish I had more time to plan ahead, but my brain has been a bit fried with this presentation, and I'd certainly appreciate any ideas to help me along in the last minute logistics.
Thanks in advance!
posted by wallawallasweet to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The "no car" thing complicates the matter immensely. It looks like you can take Metra (commuter rail) from Chicago to within reasonable proximity to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore/State Park, though. I was also going to suggest Turkey Run State Park in Indiana, but I don't know how feasible it is to get to without a car.
posted by drlith at 3:57 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chicago is eminently walkable and public-transportation-able. The wife and I visit from Cincinnati regularly. Some random ideas...

For my money, Shedd Aquarium. You could actually kill all three days at the Field Museum, too.

The weather's awesome - take a walking architecture tour. I've been on several and even natives walking by on the street stop to listen and learn.

I like to check out the National Museum of Mexican Art, which is really well done, and then eat lunch at Nuevo Leon.

The logistics are maybe tougher but I believe you can take a commuter train out to Indiana Dunes. Someone confirm here.

You'll inevitably think of Chicago pizza. Everyone has a favorite, but out of Uno, Lou Malnati, or Giordano's, you can't really go wrong. Unless you don't like deep dish, in which case I recommend Piece.
posted by OHSnap at 3:58 AM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

The logistics are maybe tougher but I believe you can take a commuter train out to Indiana Dunes. Someone confirm here.

The South Shore Line from Randolph Street (has this station been rebranded Millenium something?) goes to the Indiana Dunes. I think you'd want either the Dune Park or Beverly Shores station. Dune Park is, not surprisingly, in the state park, but it looks from Google Maps like Beverly Shores might give you easier beach access if that's what you want.
posted by hoyland at 4:58 AM on June 5, 2012

Chicago has many parks that are within reach of public transportation. If you're willing to plan carefully, you can take the Metra commuter rail to relatively distant points and enjoy. Of those, I could suggest Lilacia Park in Lombard, which isn't large, but is right next to the Metra. You can almost certainly find other things that may be of interest.

However, finding three days worth of stuff like that to do might cause you to miss out on some other fascinating and enjoyable stuff.

Please consider budgeting at least(!) one day to explore the Chicago Loop (their term for what other people might call downtown), and particularly take some time to walk through Millennium Park, see Buckingham Fountain, shop at (the now former) Marshall Field's and/or the Magnificent Mile, take in a show in the Theatre District, visit the Sears Tower Skydeck (now called the Willis Tower), check out the Art Institute, and challenge yourself to see how far across the Loop you can get using the underground pedestrian walkways. You could fill a week with activities that are all within walking distance if you happen to have a room in the Loop. Don't forget the other museums, the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, etc.

You can get a brief rundown at
posted by jgreco at 5:07 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Echoing OhSnap and jgreco and would only add The Museum of Science and Industry to your list.
posted by jquinby at 6:12 AM on June 5, 2012

This weekend is the 2012 Chicago Blues Festival. 5 stages of live music, free admission.
posted by kanuck at 6:53 AM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh now, that'd give you a real awesome feel for Chicago. Definitely suggested if you can swing it.
posted by jgreco at 8:20 AM on June 5, 2012

I'm just back from visiting family in the Chicago area, as always I spent a few days in the city. It's just a great US city, so much to do, and so much to do that's easily walkable.

I love art museums and if you do also it's hard to go wrong with The Art Institute, a great collection, a great place to see their collection, too. There are of course all of the famous paintings, and their spectacular Impressionist collection, but I can get into about any of their galleries and find things I love.

It is fun to go up into Sears Tower (as noted above, now Willis tower) and look at the city from there. You could easy go up into the Hancock tower, almost as high, but if you're in the Hancock you're directly in a part of the city that is truly great to look at, not so much look directly down upon, whereas from Willis you get to look at it all, including the Hancock, which is a much prettier building than the Willis, to boot.

But walking the city, it's just so great, so many pretty buildings, Millennium Park is done very well, it's clean for a US city, down on Michigan Avenue and most of the streets which are closeby. It was a city in decline, it had a definite feel of Detroit, or a possibility of that, but Daley Jr. came in and turned it around -- I know that plenty of people have plenty of beefs with Daley but credit where credit is due, that city looks now like a Canadian city, flowers everywhere, fairly clean, etc and etc, and Daley is the one that pulled that rabbit out of that hat.

Take an architectural tour, grab some good eats, experience some great museums, walk a great town, have a great time -- spend your time in Chicago.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:29 PM on June 5, 2012

Yeah, maybe you could take part of one day and head out to to the Indiana Dunes or some other natural area, but I'd nth the idea that you spend the bulk of that time in Chicago itself. Not only could you easily fill three days in the city, but the surrounding countryside...I'm sure it's got some nice bits, especially near Lake Michigan, but it's not an area I'd recommend for natural beauty. I would, however, heartily recommend Chicago. Spend some time exploring the city, its easy to get around and you won't be disappointed.
posted by breakin' the law at 4:06 PM on June 5, 2012

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