I'm heading to SES Chicago later this week to be on the Thursday morning "Web Feeds, Blogs, and Search" panel. What I'm struggling with is how to get from Chicgo O'Hare to the hotel (Hyatt Regency McCormick Place) and convention center (McCormick Place - Lakeside Center).

So far I've had very mixed messages from those who know Chicago better than I, which is--honestly, just about anyone.

Given that my flight is scheduled to arrive at 6:16pm, is it more sensible to take a cab from the airport to the hotel or am I better off with the train?

I suspect it's a case of "one is faster but it costs more" and if that's the case, can anyone ballpark how much more that is?

Also, if you're in the area and want to meet up for dinner at or after 7:30pm or so, let me know in the comments of via e-mail.

Posted by jzawodn at December 13, 2004 07:24 AM

Reader Comments
# dan said:

I would suggest the cab route, in my nine months consulting in Chicago no one ever suggest the "El" to O'Hare, to Midway yes, but not O'Hare. From downtown the cab ride will be about $40. One thing to note about Chicago traffic as well, from my experience even though the expressway is packed that doesn't stop the cars from moving at 60MPH it is pretty amazing.

on December 13, 2004 08:00 AM
# Stephen O'Grady said:

i'm not a Chicago guy, but i bet Ed Brill (www.edbrill.com) might have an answer for you.

on December 13, 2004 08:04 AM
# Richard said:

Having taken a few trips to chicago, I can say if you plan for it, there public transit is very good.

on December 13, 2004 08:25 AM
# JH said:

Transit involves rather a too-long El ride into the city, and then either a 1-block walk to the suburban train to McCormick Place station (getting out of which involves climbing 2 flights of stairs dragging luggage)...

...or change to the red line and wind up 3 blocks from McCormick Center, at the intersection of Chinatown and the most menacing 200 yards of vacant lots, empty warehouses and very vocal street drunks that I saw the whole time I was there last.

Either way you'll get lost anyway.

Get a cab.

[All that said, have a great time. Spend time further north and it's a great town. Specifically there's about a dozen *very* good bars within a block or two of the corner of Clark and Diversey. :-) ]

on December 13, 2004 08:31 AM
# Barnaby James said:

Take a cab.

The El train is a more interesting way to get to/from the airport (compared to sitting in traffic) if your heading to downtown. But the El stop for your hotel would be Cermak which is kind of sketchy. From personal experience, getting a cab from there after dark is basically impossible and I wouldn't want to walk it.

I usually take the El train - I am thinking the cab ride will not be cheap. Alternatively, take the El train to one of the downtown stops and get a cab from there.

on December 13, 2004 08:42 AM
# Jon said:

I'd say go with a cab. I was there two weeks ago and a cab from O'Hare to downtown cost me $37.50.

on December 13, 2004 08:46 AM
# J said:

I have to disagree with JH even though I have the same initials. The El is much faster into downtown than a cab. If you don't want to have to switch trains once you get downtown just get off at Washington or somewhere around the Loop and catch a cab to your hotel. The train is so easy at O'Hare and cheap. Most of the people at my firm take the train to O'Hare so they don't have to deal with traffic. The train ride is long, but it is not any longer than a cab. You will probably get stuck in the traffic if you cab it and even with the best or craziest cab driver you will be inching your way towards downtown very slowly. Later at night when it the expressway clears up a cab is the way to go.

on December 13, 2004 08:46 AM
# Timboy said:

I agree with Dan that a cab to downtown will be about $40, and that walking to McCormick from Chinatown with luggage at night is not a good choice. A cab is not necessarily faster at rush hour, though --- the train and the freeway are right next to each other, and in heavy traffic you are often going nowhere fast in a car as the train whizzes by you. The train will be 30 to 45 minutes to downtown.

If you want to take the train, your best option might actually be to take the train to downtown (which is totally safe) and then take a cab from there to McCormick Place. Lately when I visit, though, I admit that I always take the cab --- even if it's the same time for more money, it's less hassle for sure.

on December 13, 2004 08:54 AM
# Charles said:

Contact the Hyatt, they might have a free shuttle. ISTR seeing Hyatt shuttles at O'Hare. If they don't offer shuttle service, they'll certainly have a recommendation for preferred transportation.

on December 13, 2004 08:55 AM
# Damon said:

Like most others are saying here, McCormick is pretty inconvenient to get to via train. So a cab somewhere along the way will be useful. You may have better luck taking the blue line into the city and then grabbing a cab and hopefully avoiding some of the horrible traffic on 90/94. Of course...you can always just snag a limo for ~$60 too. ;)

If you're looking for the cheap route, Airport Express will get you there for ~$23.

Too bad I've got a big huge corporate meeting Thursday night or I'd love to meet you for coffee!

on December 13, 2004 09:57 AM
# imabug said:

I'd go for the airport express shuttle. Cheaper than a cab, not quite as fast, but I've always found it a more interesting ride.

on December 13, 2004 10:54 AM
# wbwither said:

I'll second (third?) the recommandation to get there by the Blue Line to downtown, and then take a cab to your hotel (should be about $10-$15 -- I've made that cab ride several times, as my grandparents stayed at that hotel when I was in school in Chicago). Traffic from O'Hare is a bitch. Catching a cab in the Loop will be uber easy.

on December 13, 2004 11:09 AM
# Scott Johnson said:

I have only been to Chicago a couple of times, but I do remember that the L was an extremely easy way out of the airport. But once I got further away from the airport, I had no idea where I was. When I was staying a block from a train station, getting back to the airport was a snap.

But if you arrive at a decent, non-rush time, take a cab. It's really just not worth the time it would take to plan out a trip on the train. The cab route is WAY easier.

on December 13, 2004 11:22 AM
# Mark Payne said:

My suggestion would be to take the El because it is much cheaper, and probably going to be faster. I personally think its quite fun to see all the different classes of people all riding the train together.

I would offer two suggestions because you really don't want to walk from the train station to the Hyatt. I ride the red line nearly every day; sometimes to my classes in the loop, and others to classes down at Sox-35th which is one stop past Cermak-Chinatown. It's not as sketchy / dangerous as one might expect, but I certainly wouldn't walk it.

I don't know about the cab situation down there as the first JH suggested, but you could transfer to the red line at Jackson (which is easy), and call a cab to meet you before the blue line goes underground. Or, the easiest way would just be to get off in the loop (say at Washington), and grab a cab down to McCormick.

And I definitely agree that you should head up to the north side for good eats and bars. Too bad I'm in the midst of hellish law school finals, or I'd meet up with you! Have a great time!

on December 13, 2004 11:25 AM
# Christian Murphy said:

The RTA's trip planner can be worth a look. For your trip, it basically makes the same suggestions as the comments above, but it suggests taking the 21 bus between Cermak and McCormick place.

on December 13, 2004 12:12 PM
# Eric Sinclair said:

I will (fourth?) the blue-line it downtown then cab it to McCormick. Honestly, the lack of good transit to the McCormick area is a sin....

The Blue Line will set you back $1.75 to downtown, plus another $10-15 for the cab. Blue line is right in the airport (look for the signs). Getting off anywhere between Dearborn and Jackson will put you a bit further from the McCormick place, but right in the loop for prime cab hailing.

on December 13, 2004 07:56 PM
# Brian said:


The cabs in Chicago are unbelievably clean (like Chicago, basically), and you can leave the driving to the cabbie. I've never had a bad experience with a cab in Chi-town.

on December 13, 2004 08:48 PM
# JH, the first one again said:

Well, yeah. That El-to-Downtown-then-cab thing would work too. If you go to the eastern end of the loop McCormick Place is more or less a straight line cab ride...

I'd still get the cab though. But then I'm in the UK and $20 barely buys a coffee outside the US these days :-)

on December 14, 2004 02:02 AM
# Christine Eckstein said:

Hey Jeremy! Dunno if you remember me. We went to college together. I've been in Chicago since - with EY mostly.

Yes, you could take the train (blue line), but it'll be a hike to the convention center as some have posted. There are also buses from the east loop area -- where you can get off the blue line -- that will take you to McComick (such as the #3 and #4.) Transfer to the busses will be cheaper than a full ride. If you want to take public transit, I recommend aquainting yourself with the system maps and schedules at http://www.transitchicago.com/.

Most hotels also depend on the Airport Express shuttle that was mentioned. Some hotels have their own shuttles either for specific hotels or their chains. You can usually inquire about that via your hotel.

A cab ride from O'Hare at that time of day could get to as much as $45-50 given that it's the end of rush hour and it's suppose to be a mixed bag of precipitation Thursday (or course, you could always negotiate with them.) But it will be your driest, smoothest ride unless you take a limo (which is around the same price.) Can you tell I've done this weekly for the last 7 1/2 years?

Also, Jeremy, feel free to contact me. Wouldn't mind catching up on some of the old Darrow days. Hope things are well! Take care!

on December 14, 2004 07:16 AM
# Thomas said:

I've been in Chicago for last New Years and I took the train to get there and the cab the way back. My experience is that the cab is well worth the money.

I wish you a great time at SES and sorry that I couldn't make it. :(

on December 16, 2004 05:05 AM
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