Chicago….my kind of town!
Earlier this month I took the Amtrak Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago. (www.amtrak.com) To get to the Amtrak Station, I caught the Intercity Tranist Bus 603 in Olympia, transferring to Sound Transit 594 at the Highway 512 Park and Ride which takes you right to Seattle’s King Street train station (4th and Jackson).
The Seattle’s King Street train station has recently dedicated their long-awaited renovated lobby. It’s beautiful, and worth a look even if you’re NOT taking the train!
The Empire builder is a famous train route. Lots of different sights along the way… travelling along Puget Sound north of Seattle, waterfalls going over Stevens Pass in Washington, vast open grasslands, cities and byways. The food was even good!
Then Chicago… wow… what a great city!
I signed up for the Road Scholar (www.roadscholar.org) (aka Elderhostel) “Chicago: Your Kind of Town” five day program. We stayed at Club Quarters (http://www.clubquarters.com) at Wacker and Michigan, which is a perfect location close to many museums and sites. My room had a view of the Chicago River and seven bridges. Over the five days we covered a lot of territory…Willis (Sears) tower, Federal Reserve, Art Institute, Field Museum, Board of Trade, Chicago Cultural Center… the list goes on! Believe it or not, there was also free time to explore the city on our own.
Yes, I did use public transportation while in the Windy City. I arrived in Chicago a day before the Road Scholar program started. Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in the nearby community of Oak Park was my first priority. I used the Chicago Transit Authority’s travel planning tool to figure out which train I should take, as well as where I should catch the train. The travel planning tool was very easy to use. (www.transitchicago.com)
From the Club Quarters hotel, I walked a few blocks west along Wacker Drive (and the river), then turned left (south) on State Street for one block to Lake. The “L” (elevated train) is very visible; you can’t miss it! I followed the signs, knowing I wanted to take the Green line, towards Oak Park. The vending machines were easy to use ($2.25 one way). The ticket is used to open the turnstile to the train waiting area.
I exited the train at the Oak Park stop. Frank Lloyd Wright’s (FLW) home and studio is located at 951 Chicago Avenue, a pleasant several block stroll through the Oak Park business area (www.gowright.org). Ernst Hemmingway’s birthplace home and museum are also located in this neighborhood. For $25, I went on the excellent docent-led home and studio tour as well as the self-guided audio tour of the neighborhood. The self-guided tour covered several blocks highlighting 20 buildings, most designed by Mr. Wright. I also toured the Unity Temple, which was featured in the excellent Ken Burns documentary of FLW.
My other use of public transportation was to go to O’Hare airport for my trip home. Instead of paying $35 for a shuttle bus (which would have included several stops at various hotels along the way), I opted for the $2.25 trip on the “L”! For this trip, I walked one stop farther than my starting point for the FLW trip. This time I went to the major stop at Clark and Lake. Several of the “L” lines merge here. Again, the ticket vending machines were in the entry lobby of the terminal building. To get to the BLUE line to O’Hare, I entered the CTA building, following signs to the depths of the Blue line subway. The trip was quick and easy. As we approached the airport, I smiled seeing that the freeway traffic was barely moving.
The O’Hare train stops at Terminal 3, which is the terminal for Alaska Airlines. The only thing I knew about Chicago before this trip was O’Hare airport… a HUGE airport with lots of underground tunnels, neon lights, and moving sidewalks. Again, I followed signs to the Alaska ticket counter. It turns out Alaska Airlines has a very small presence at O’Hare… I really had to LOOK to find their location!