Specific spot to experience the levels of Chicago?
May 9, 2023 8:09 AM   Subscribe

What's a good and safe location for someone who's new to Chicago to take a flight or two of stairs down to experience the various levels of the city?

When I was in Chicago last year, I learned a bit of the city and how it's stacked, with a lot of service roads underneath the "main" city streets. I walked down a flight of stairs at one point and was able to experience traveling from one environment to another. But I can't remember the location.

What I remember most is walking down the steps on a bright sunny day and experiencing an almost complete environment change. Sort of like visiting a fictional underworld, dank darkness under the sunlight of the day.

Now a family member is visiting the city and wants to see the same thing, but I can't remember the location. Can you name a spot that's near the Loop and safe for a quick look/walk down below for a young woman traveling alone? We're not looking for underground subway stops, but the actual service streets/areas that a person can take a quick look at.
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You're looking for Lower Wacker Drive.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2023 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Possibly the easiest way to do this is to direct her to go to the vicinity of the old Tribune Towers on Michigan Avenue, and look for the plaque on the sidewalk that directs you underground to the Billy Goat (former home of Metafilter meetups and otherwise legendary source of cheeseborgers and tiny beers); the plaque should be on the west side of the street. She can also pop in there if she likes.
posted by carrienation at 8:43 AM on May 9, 2023 [9 favorites]

are you maybe thinking of the pedway? she can head into the flagship macy's on state street and check out the pedway from there. https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/ped/svcs/pedway.html
posted by europeandaughter at 8:45 AM on May 9, 2023

Best answer: The stairway to the Billy Goat is a good one - specifically, it's on the west side of Michigan Avenue, right in front of the Ulta.

Another fun spot is the stairway on the northeast corner of Randolph Street and Columbus Drive, outside the Blue Cross building - it goes down through not one but two lower levels of street, and the bottom one really feels like another world. I once made a wrong turn out of the Millennium Park metra station and ended up there and it felt like the urban-decay version of slipping into the Backrooms.
posted by theodolite at 9:09 AM on May 9, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: On foot, checking out the Billy Goat is the right answer. There isn't a whole lot happening on Lower Wacker Drive, it's basically just a way to bypass downtown to get onto 290/55 etc. A drive through it is a nice way to see where they shot some scenes from A Dark Knight Rises.
posted by dis_integration at 9:16 AM on May 9, 2023

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