Yikes! Last minute road trip to the windy city!!!

Friends visiting from Tulsa want to see Chicago. I live in Fort Wayne and will be driving up in the morning.

I’m finding groupons for hotels downtown for less than $100…can that be right?

I know Chicago isn’t a car-friendly place so any suggestions for a “train virgin” traveling the L or using busses?

Are taxi’s a good choice? Expensive?

We will be there Tuesday and Wednesday. Best Chicago Pizza? Best Chicago Hotdogs?

Other than the museums/the bean/Sears Tower, any “gotta do’s”?

Gah, I hate last minute planning!

Oh, are the Four Points, Mile North, and the Essex? Any suggestions?

I’ll try my best - I know nothing about the hotels, so just look for something that has decent reviews and prices, I guess?

The L is easier to understand and faster than the buses, but obviously doesn’t go quite as many places. If you have an iPhone, I recommend the Hopstop app for planning bus/L trips between places. Go to the CTA’s visitor’s guide to learn about the various routes, payment options, etc. They do not take cash/credit cards on the buses! Check into how to buy a fare card by reading that site, and of these card options, you want a transit card or magnetic stripe pass. Transit cards are thin and bendable, and can have more money loaded onto them at transit vending machines. Chicago Cards and Ventra Cards (hard plastic like credit cards) are more for residents/regular visitors.

Taxis - well, they can be pricey if you’re traveling several miles but they definitely have their use. They have to take credit cards these days, and many/most have automatic swipe machines mounted in the back. If you don’t have cash, poke your head in the cab and before getting in, tell the cabbie you don’t have cash and have to pay by card. It’s amazing how many cabbies claim their little machines don’t work if you wait until you’re underway (wanting to work under the table, I’m sure) when the machines seem so durable in stores! Fares are posted.

Pizza? I’d say Piece in Wicker Park, but that’s not “Chicago style.” (Not really fond of deep dish myself.) For that, try Pizzaria Due, or Lou Malnati’s, IMO.

Dogs? Hot Doug’s is pretty fantastic.

Don’t do the Sears Tower, IMO. For that you have to buy tickets, go through security, typically wait a long while to get up there, etc. Instead, go to the John Hancock Center off Michigan Avenue (“the Magnificent Mile”), take the free elevator up to the lounge level, then stay in the bar, buy a drink as a way to thank them for the lovely view, and enjoy the beautiful skyline. It’s gorgeous at night especially, as long as it’s not foggy.

I’d take the Four Points first, and the Essex last unless they want to focus on the museums. SpotHero is a good place to find and arrange for parking ahead of time; don’t use the hotel valet service. Driving is not tough, and is certainly the most convenient way for a group to visit the Garfield Park Conservatory, Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, or the University of Chicago area. Maybe even Wrigley Field.

Stop by the Chicago Architecture Foundation at 228 S. Michigan. Visit the shop, look at the amazing model in the building lobby, and arrange to go on a walking tour.

… or, if the weather is reasonable, take their architectureal boat tour down the river. (Not sure when they run, but what the heck.)

Yes, Architecture Foundation tour! If they’re still doing it at this time of year and if you’re very well-bundled and cold-hardy, I would recommend their boat tour.

Edit: Dammit, just barely scooped! /shakes fist

Still looking for ideas? I recommend the Untouchables Tour. It’s cheesy but fun, and leaves from the big McDonald’s on Clark Street.

Oh, and file a trip report when you get back!

BTW, a fun evening is at Tommy Gun’s Garage – dinner with musical comedy, all done up like a Roaring 20s. We haven’t been there is years, but it remembers fondly and is still in biz.

Piece is so outrageously overrated, especially considering Santulo’s (or whatever it’s called) is about two seconds away and doesn’t come with any of the horse shit.

But yeah, Sears is basically a $17 elevator ride to a gift shop, so go if you must, but just know what you’re getting into. Go during peak hours and you’ll be standing in line for an hour+ before you get anyway. Go at off times, though, and you can basically go right up. My family is in town and I am *really *glad they didn’t want to go.

Bah! I reject your reality, and substitute my own…

Piece’s beer is fabulous as well, and the main problem with them (besides dinner time being loud as fuck) is that they’re so slammed, it’s hard to get in. So nyah.

We’ll settle this with a knife fight! Loser has to eat dinner at Flash Taco for a week.

Ugh, seriously?! OK, soon as I recover from this food coma… burp (No pizza of any kind involved.)

If you are going someplace in the sky, skip the Willis Tower, skip the Hancock observatory and go have an overpriced cocktail in the Signature Lounge at the Hancock. It’s almost as high as the skydecks and look–alcohol! Also, see the ladies room. Seriously. Even if you’re a guy.

CAF tours are the bomb. Walking, boating, biking, bundle up.

You can get a Chicago hot dog anywhere you see a Vienna Beef sign. For deep dish I’d go to Maggiano’s or Uno.

Navy Pier is touristy fun.

REPORT: We only had a couple of days so we decided to take the double-decker bus tour down because parking is ungodly expensive. In theory it sounded like a good idea, but in reality, the drivers were annoying. we did the touristy stuff including the Sears Tower at night. I thought it was pretty awesome to stand in the glass box at night and there was no line. We then went to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and the Planetarium. We ate at Gino’s East and a wings place also on Superior that I can’t remember the name of. Sadly, no time for chicago dogs. We stayed at Mile North and enjoyed the decor. I downloaded one of the CTA apps but found it was an easy walk wherever we wanted to go. Best of all it was a great trip with great friends.

Thanks for the report! Glad you had a good time.