Business Trip to Chicago (need answer fast-ish!)

I’m going on a business trip in about 10 days. I’ve got a meeting in Carol Stream one day, then I’m going to McCormick Place (right downtown) the following day. Since I don’t have to be to McCormick Place until 10 AM, I went ahead a booked a hotel in Carol Stream and thought I’d have plenty of time to casually drive into downtown in the morning.

Then, I remembered that this is Chicago and going downtown at any point before noon is going to be trouble and I am looking at driving 30+miles. I looked at the commuter rail and it doesn’t seem to stop anywhere near where I need to be, so I’m going to have to drive.

My next thought was to simply book a hotel room closer to McCormick place. A quick google of hotels near downtown Chicago came back with tons of hits. I started looking through reviews and I’d find 5* reviews next to 1* reviews for the same place. Darn! Says I! If only I knew of someone with first hand experience in Chicago! Well, I should have a whole wealth of info at the Dope! Anyone got hotel recommendations for me?

I’d prefer not to stay right downtown – but I’m thinking 5-15 miles would be an easy enough drive in the morning.
I’m not paying for the hotel – my company is. But, I’d still like something reasonably priced. Say $100-$150 range.
I’d like wireless internet, since there’s a real good chance that I’m just going to hunker down in my room and not venture out.
I’d really like to stay in a friendly part of town. I don’t want to be insulting, but I know there are places in Chicago that I wouldn’t want to spend the night in. But, as an outsider, I have no idea where exactly that is. So, I’m looking to you guys for some advice.

I would try the Midway area. It’s right off I-55, as well as the Midway/Cicero/terminus stop of the Orange line. In terms of bang-for-buck-and-location, I think that’s your best bet.

If this is the case, then I’ll second pulykamell’s suggestion.

But I think that would be a mistake. I realize you’re not me, but I like to do as much exploring as I possibly can whenever I travel. If you stay in River North you’ll be within walking distance of countless restaurants and night spots; you can take full advantage of whatever non-working time you have and enjoy what the city has to offer. There’s a Comfort Inn (15 E. Ohio) and a Hilton Garden (10 E. Grand) that are close to your price range.

ETA: You’d be about 6 miles from McCormick place via Lake Shore Drive. I’m not intimately familiar with morning traffic on that route, but I think LSD tends to run OK.

Well, the Carlton Inn at Midway looks to have good reviews on Travelocity and is the same as the hotel in Carol Stream price wise. Though, I’m a bit concerned that there’s a hotel a couple of streets down that has a review claiming that it’s full of “methheads and crackwhores”. Wonderful.

There’s a strip of hotels a few blocks down that are all nice, but a bit more expensive. More like the $200 range. Probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow from the accountants here.

Wheelz, I appreciate the suggestion. But from a quick search, it looks like anything under $300/night may or may not be infested with bedbugs. Though, Trump Tower looks nice for just over $800/night. It would be nice to get out and explore, but I just don’t know if I can get away with the extra $200 to facilitate that.

The two you suggested have no vacancies for the night I’ll be there. Thanks for checking, though. It does look like an area worth exploring.

The Carlton is about 1/4 mile from my house. That place is fine. It used to be a little dicey when it was the Tangiers Motel, but from what I’ve heard, it’s cleaned up since then. We’re probably going to put guests there for our wedding, so we’re fine with it. I’m assuming the hotel you’re talking about is the Skylark. I have no direct experience with it, but its reputation is a bit unsavory.

The hotels I was thinking of are the block of hotels and motels just south of the airport on Cicero, at around 6600 S Cicero. It may technically be Bedford Park and not Chicago at that point, but they’re all your standard typical airport accommodations at that point.

You’ll have no problem at all driving from Carol Stream to McCormick Place after 9 am. Just stay where you’re already booked. If you want to come downtown for fun the night before, you can either drive all the way or park at the Schaumburg Metra station and take the train in.

People seem to get completely innumerate when thinking about Chicago traffic. Pretty much the worst possible situation you can encounter (except in a blizzard) will take you an extra 20 minutes end to end.

pulykamell, The other hotel was the Crossroads. The Skylark didn’t fair very well with the single rating either. But, instead of crackwhores and methheads, their complaints were about the roaches and only having two choices of channels on TV - chinese or porn. Still, the Carlton looks nice.

**Mr Downtown **, That’s comforting to know. Any idea how long I should expect the drive to take? How did you get that fancy traffic report?

Carol Stream to downtown Chicago by car is about an hour, but it depends where in Carol Stream you are, and what the traffic is. I’d say an expected range is anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour fifteen.

Carol Stream is a bit of a trek, about 30-35 miles from downtown. If you happen to feel like staying at the Carlton and want a good place to eat, there’s a great Mexican goat restaurant just down the street called Birrieria Zaragoza’s, at 4852 S. Pulaski. It actually shows up as #2 best rated on Yelp if you do a search for restaurants in Chicago. #1 is the expensive molecular gastronomy of Alinea. Feel free to PM me if you end up in the neighborhood and want to grab dinner.

The other nice point about the Carlton is it puts you right on the Orange Line, Pulaski stop. It’s literally less than five minutes by foot, and that will get you in the Loop in just over 20 minutes (if you get off at the first stop in the Loop: Harold Washington Library/State & Van Buren.

Otherwise, if driving, you’re close to I-55, which puts you in the city pretty quickly, if there’s no traffic.

The more I look at it, the more taking public transportation downtown is appealing. I won’t have to worry about parking or traffic.

Do you have any good links to subway maps? I see that there’s a stop right at McCormick Pl - I need to know if I need to change trains. I’m pretty comfortable with the DC metro system, but I’ve never been on the one in Chicago.

Any advice? Do I need to buy a prepaid card to get on and off? Or, can I use cash since it’ll just be the one trip out and back?

Dinner sounds great. I’ll shoot you a PM if I do decide to change my hotel.

The CTA maps website is here.

Google maps will actually do all the public transportation calculations for you, if you want. Just type a start point and an end point, and you just click on the bus icon and will give you some CTA routes.

There is no CTA El or subway stop at McCormick Place, but there is a Metra stop there. Metra is the commuter rail system. You can get to McCormick Place by the Metra Electric line, which you can pick up in various places downtown. Link here.

I personally would just try to catch the #3 bus from Michigan and Roosevelt (or Michigan & Washington if I’m coming from the north) and take that south to McCormick Place. You can hop on the Metra if you want, but check the schedule as the Metra trains run less frequently than CTA buses.


If you want a halfway point you could stay in Oak Park, a wealthy quaint little suburb. Lots of Frank Lloyd Write stuff. Every other house seems like a work of art. Great walking/biking town too.

You could take the green line to downtown, walk a block or two to the the Millenium Park Metra station and stop at the McCormick Place station.

The drive out to Carol Stream shouldn’t be bad. I recently moved to Bloomingdale(borders Carol Stream to the N) from Dallas and commute downtown. Chicagoland traffic isn’t that bad. I’m sure it can’t be much worse than DC. It’s nowhere close to New York. Follow the speed limits around the NW suburbs. I’ve never seen such a well patrolled area, and speed limits constantly change out here.


Hotels ‘D’ and ‘B’ are right in the middle of their historic walking area. ‘A’ looks like the largest in the area.

I’m a little late but I thought I’d throw that in.

I’ve never tried the public transportation button on google maps. Pretty slick. But, it’s looking like an hour by foot/L/metra. Or, an 8 mile drive - which according to google maps should take 10 mins.

I think I’ll just drive down and pay the $19 parking ramp fee. There’s supposedly 3 ramps to park right there. Hopefully the one I pick will have an open parking spot.

I_Know_Nothing , Thanks for the suggestion. The area looks nice, but I’d be driving to the hotel and I see no where to park. I’m leaning towards driving in to McCormick at this point, and the Carlton Midway still seems like my best bet since it appears to be a more straight forward and closer drive.

A is the Carleton, a very nice if a bit old and rustic hotel. It has 2 restaurants, Barclay’s American Grille which is just OK and Poor Phil’s which is really more of a bar but with good food (very good oysters and seafood). I’d choose Poor Phil’s. One thing to note is that the street the Carleton is on is completely torn up. Getting in and out will be a pain.
B is the Wright inn – I’d avoid it.
C is Harvey House Bed & Breakfast. Honestly I’d choose this one. You’ll be able to find street parking. You’ll need your car for dinner as there’s not much nearby (except for the very nice Frank Lloyd Wright historic district).

We stayed at the Write Inn on our wedding night – it was a lovely older hotel, and we had a very nice suite with a big whirlpool. OTOH, that was 19 years ago…it may well not be a particularly good hotel anymore. (Edit: just read the TripAdvisor reviews…sounds like it’s become run-down since then.)

At any rate, I second pulykamell’s advice…a good hotel near Midway, and just drive up I-55.

Why don’t you just stay at McCormick Place, the Hyatt I think it is? I have stayed there a few times and it’s actually pretty nice, the restaurant in the lobby is decent (but pricey). They have an over night garage so you don’t need to worry about that. If you feel like headed into the loop, it’s about a $5 cab ride. Plus that way you are coming into the city in the evening so traffic should be decent.


Thanks Chuck,
That was my first choice, but apparently this expo is a pretty big deal. All the hotels within walking distance are already full up. This was a last minute decision to go, and I was too late to get a room.

So have you decided on the Carleton? It’s a cute little hotel. Word of advice, though…be sure to ask to be in the hotel, and not the attached motel…the rooms there are tiny tiny tiny. :slight_smile: