Naval Station Great Lakes

My family will be going to the Naval Station Great Lakes for a graduation in a couple of months. I’m trying to decide whether to get hotel rooms in the downtown Chicago area or if we should be closer to the base.

Anyone familiar with the area? If so, can you recommend a mid-priced hotel in a safe area and tell me about your favorite attractions and restaurants?

I’d appreciate any assistance you can offer.


Great Lakes is over an hour’s ride from downtown, even in the best of traffic.

I don’t know about hotels, but the Naval Station is very near Gurnee Mall (huge outlet mall) and Six FlagsnGreat America, so there’ll be a number of hotels nearby. The whole area is safe (as safe as any where) although Waukegan is a little less so. Depending on dates, you’re also a 10 - 15 minute drive to the Renaissance Faire (weekends) near Kenosha (across into the Wisconsin border.)

It’s been a while since I’ve been at Great [del]Mistakes[/del] Lakes, but I’m still familiar with the geography.

Chicago, being a fairly large city, has an extensive mass transit system. I would strongly recommend staying somewhere along the Union Pacific/North Line, then taking the train to the base. There is a stop in North Chicago that serves the base, and while there may be some walking, it sure as hell beats finding parking and sitting in traffic. I can’t give recommendations as to hotels, but I’m sure a Chicagoan will be along shortly for that. Keep in mind, too, that the farther from the base you are, the easier it will be to find a hotel room.

In terms of attractions, my favorites were the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum, but I’m just geeky that way. There’s tons upon tons of stuff to do. A lot of it also depends on the weather. Keep in mind, too, that your graduate may have geographic restrictions, and that you will want to find out what those are.

Good luck to your graduate!

Former SN MsRobyn
Washout, Electronics Technician “A” School
Great [del]Mistakes[/del] Lakes 1991-1992

Downtown Evanston is served by the Davis St. Metra stop (as well as the CTA, if you want public transit access to points in Chicago that aren’t well-served by Metra), and has a ton of restaurants and several hotels, and would be about midway between downtown Chicago and Great Lakes. I grew up there, so if you have questions, post away. Any of the hotels there should be fine, though the Orrington is probably the nicest (and likely the most expensive).

I went by train from/to Chicago to/from boot camp at USNTC Great Lakes but that was in May of1963 and it snowed while I was there. I’ve also stayed at the Orrington Hotel in Evanston for 4 weeks while attending short courses at Northwestern U, but that was in 1973.

Will you have a car?
What kind of things are you interested in?
Is there some reason in particular you want to stay in the downtown area?

Not sure I can be of much help with lodging since I always stay in cheaper places in the suburbs, but I second the votes for SFGAm, The Field Museum, and the Museum of Science and Industry. Also the Art Insitute of Chicago.

We’ll have a car, but the more we can use mass transit the better. We enjoy live music (classic rock, R&B and jazz), flea markets, fishing, museums and natural scenic places.

I mentioned downtown Chicago because I’ve stayed there before – usually on or near the Magnificent Mile. I wanted to get some input on how the area near the base compares to it; also if I don’t like it, how complicated it would be to go back and forth.

I’m not sure yet how many days we’ll be staying. Right now I’m just gathering information about our options. This is really helpful.

The Shedd Aquarium and the Planetarium are on the “museum campus” too, but I don’t consider them in the same class as the Field Museum, I found a couple of hours to be plenty for the aquarium.

Once I stayed very close to the Naval Station, (at a Days Inn). I did not like it, it was a tired hotel in a tired neighborhood and I felt a little edgy there for some reason. I only stayed there to try and split the difference between downtown Chicago and SFGAm.

Great Lakes is almost halfway to Milwaukee, a location that 50 years ago wouldn’t have even been thought of as Chicago.

If the main point of the trip is the graduation ceremony and you have a car, choose a highway motel near Gurnee Mills mall, and use the money you save to pay for parking on the days you come downtown. If you’re planning on spending several days in Chicago, then you’ll obviously want to choose a downtown hotel and just drive or take the train up to Great Lakes one day.

I’m a great booster of public transit, but I regularly respond to potential visitors who think it’s a good idea to spend 90 minutes each way on a commuter train to avoid 10 minutes of freeway traffic congestion. Take a short commuter train ride to the Museum of Science or Industry or L ride on the Brown Line while you’re in the city as part of the Chicago experience, but don’t let it determine your whole weekend.

Libertyville, IL has several of the low-medium priced hotel chains. That’s where my family stayed when they came to my graduation.

One thing to keep in mind - boot camp graduations are on Fridays, and they start early. It will also take a long time to get through the searches, (they check everyone’s ID’s, they check insurance cards,they have dogs check your cars and it’s very crowded.) We got there at around 6:30 AM - took an hour plus just to get to some seats.

I’m guessing you’ll get four invitations like we did (this was a couple years ago) and there are hotels right around there but they’ll fill up fast so book as soon as you get the graduation info. If you’ll end up staying the weekend (which a lot of out of town families do) your graduate will have liberty call that weekend so you could check out of the close motel after graduation, then stay somewhere closer to the city to sightsee and do stuff. We were lucky in that we live about an hour away so we just took him home.

I recently transistioned from the Navy to the civilian workforce and worked at Great Lakes whilst living in Chicago proper. Feel free to PM me anything. If you want to take public transit, the METRA is the way to go - reliable and clean. Everything at Great Lakes (Navy related) can be accessed on foot very easily from the METRA.