Chicago Transportation Guide

Chicago is a big place, you've got a lot of ground to cover on your Chicago adventure, and learning how to navigate a new city can be a little daunting. We get it. But with a little bit of information, you'll be able to criss-cross the city like a local in no time. Take a look at our Chicago Transportation Guide for some recommendations on getting to the city's best restaurants, iconic landmarks, and beyond!

chicago cta el train

Take the El

The CTA's El trains are an amazing way to see the city and get from point A to point B on the cheap. The El system features seven different lines that make numerous stops throughout downtown Chicago (except the Yellow Line) and will take you all over the city. While Chicagoans refer to all CTA trains as the El (short for elevated train), the term actually includes both the city's above ground and underground lines. Like any urban public transit system, the CTA is much easier to navigate with a little bit of knowledge, so take a look at our guide to the CTA before your first visit to Chicago.

Ventra Cards

Ventra is Chicago's ticketing system that gives you access to the city's CTA buses and trains. If you're taking the El for the first time, you'll need to purchase a Ventra card to ride. While CTA buses do accept cash & coin, CTA El Trains require Ventra passes for all rides.

Ventra does sell single ride or single day passes, but the most efficient and cost effective way to travel is with a reusable Ventra card. For $5.00, you can buy a brand-new, empty Ventra card at all El stops and most Walgreen locations throughout the city. Once you've purchased your card, you can add fare value with the Ventra app, at CTA Station Kiosks (with cash, a credit card, or a debit card), or at Walgreen locations.

If you decide to go with the single fare or single day passes, expect some additional charges.

Transit Pricing

El train fares run $2.25 per ride and bus rides cost a flat $2.00, with the exception of Blue Line trains departing O'Hare International Airport, which cost $5.00 (Midway charges the standard $2.25). The CTA also offers transfer fares, which give passengers up to two $.25 rides within two hours of your original fare. Your Ventra card will automatically track this.

el train in river north chicago

Using Your Ventra Card

Once you get to the turnstile, using your Ventra card is easy. Just tap it on the box to your right that says "Tap Card" for a second or two, and you'll be good to go. If you quickly wave the card over the mechanism, you'll probably receive an error message.

Warning: When you board the CTA using a Ventra card, make sure to remove the card from your wallet before tapping it on the receiver. If you tap your whole wallet with your Ventra card in it, the machine may trigger unexpected fare charges to certain credit cards.

Finding the El

You'll find all CTA El lines (except the Yellow Line) within a half mile of Kinzie Hotel.

  • Brown and Purple Line elevated trains stop at Merchandise Merchandise, just a five-minute walk from Kinzie Hotel. Turn right when you exit the hotel, walk westward on Kinzie, and you'll run right into it.
  • Green, Pink, Orange, Brown, and Purple Line elevated trains and Blue Line subway trains stop at Clark/Lake station, just an eight-minute walk from Kinzie Hotel. Walk west on Kinzie to Clark, turn left, and you'll find the station a block past the river. You can enter on Lake Street on either side of the street.
  • Red Line subway trains stop at the State/Lake station, just a five-minute walk from Kinzie Hotel. Take a left out of the front door, turn right on State Street, and you'll find the train station a block past the river. You'll find entrances on each side of State Street just past Lake Street.

Uber & Lyft

Getting around Chicago without your own car has never been easier. Ride share apps like Uber and Lyft will help you get from place to place without the effort, competition, and uncertainty of hailing a cab. Whether you need a ride to the hotel from Union Station or want a ride out to Logan Square, Lakeview, or beyond, rideshare apps make Chicago transportation quick and easy.

driving directions to downtown chicago

Driving Around Chicago

Driving in Chicago has its pros and cons. On the one hand, the city is laid out in a grid system (with a few strategically located diagonal streets), which it very easy to navigate. On the other hand, traffic can be brutal and parking downtown can get pricey.

Overnight Parking

Finding convenient, inexpensive parking in downtown Chicago can be tricky. Nearby parking garages typically cost about $40.00 to $50.00 per 24-hour period but do not allow you to exit and reenter. To mitigate some of these obstacles, you can park with us for $62 per night in a secure, covered garage with unlimited in and out privileges.

Street Parking

Metered Parking

Whether you're looking to park downtown or in one of the city's neighborhoods, you'll find metered parking on most main streets. To pay the meter, you can use a credit card at the meter box and place the ticket on your dashboard or download the Park Chicago App to add time and money to your meter as needed. Metered parking ranges between $2.00 per hour to $6.50 per hour, with prices decreasing the further you get from the Loop.

If you want to plan your parking ahead of time, download the Spot Hero app to find and reserve parking spots. You might even come across some great deals!

Non-Metered Parking

Not all street parking in Chicago is metered. If you find an unmarked street, you should be free to park there. However, be mindful of residential permit parking zones, which require a parking permit. These zones will be clearly marked and land you a ticket upwards of $60.00 if you park without a permit.

Getting to Here from the Airports

From O'Hare International Airport

Getting from ORD to downtown Chicago is a cinch. Once you land and have gotten your bags and luggage, follow the signs marked with the El Train logo. It's about a five to ten minute walk, but there are plenty of moving pedways. Once you get to the Blue Line train terminal, you'll have the option to buy a Ventra card from the automated kiosk, which takes cash and cards. When you add money to your card, keep in mind that rides from O'Hare cost $5.00 (as opposed to the standard $2.25 CTA fare).

Trains depart O'Hare towards the city about every ten minutes, sometimes more frequently. Since O'Hare is the last stop on the Blue Line, all trains at this station will head towards the Loop, and rides from ORD to downtown Chicago take about forty minutes.

To get to Kinzie Hotel, get off the train at the Clark/Lake stop. If you're traveling lightly, you can walk from the Blue Line to the hotel in less than ten minutes. Walk eastbound for a block on Lake Street, turn left on Dearborn, cross the river at the bridge, and turn right on Kinzie Street. The hotel will be right there. You can't miss it.

If you have a lot of luggage, you might want to call an Uber or Lyft to the hotel, which will run about $5.00, barring any surge pricing.

From Midway International Airport

Flying into MDW? Hop on the Orange Line, which picks up just outside of Midway International Airport, and you'll be downtown in a half hour. Follow the signs to the platform, buy a Ventra card from the automated kiosk (if you don't already have one), and hop on a Loop-bound train.

To get to Kinzie Hotel, get off the train at the State/Lake stop, which is about a five minute walk from the hotel. Walk northbound on State Street, cross the Chicago River, and turn left on Kinzie Street. The hotel will be right there. If you're dealing with cumbersome bags, you can hail a cab in front of the Chicago Theatre or order an Uber, which will cost about $5.00.

From Union Station

If you're traveling to Chicago via Amtrak, you'll most likely arrive at Union Station, which is just a mile from Kinzie Hotel. Once you exit Union Station, you'll find a fleet of taxis waiting on Canal Street. Barring any major rush hour traffic, you should be at the hotel within ten minutes.


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