Whether you want to get away for the weekend or are just visiting for a day, planning a trip downtown is a lot of work. From food to activities to travel, it can add up fast. Check out these tips to make your trip a little easier and get more bang for your buck.
Schedule out your trip ahead of time
It’s no secret that planning makes a trip run smoother, but the way you plan it out can make the difference between a good trip and a great one. With all the different attractions Chicago has to offer, it’s easy to pick out your favorites no matter how far away they may be from each other. Try planning out your trip based on neighborhood, such as visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on the North Side for one trip and maybe save Millennium Park and the Shedd Aquarium in the Loop another day. With more time in one area, you’ll not only see more but also spend less time and money on travel.
Use public transportation if possible
To avoid traffic, utilize our city’s great public transportation, such as the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). They provide buses and trains with over 280 routes and stops that is sure to be able to take you to your destination, especially if you’re going to some of the more popular attractions. You can even buy a 1, 3, 5, or 7-day pass with unlimited rides if you plan on doing a lot of traveling. But, if you do plan on driving, the Millennium Garages parking garages are not only a little cheaper than the average garage but are also conveniently located under Millennium Park and Grant Park. They even have an early bird special if you get there before 10 a.m.
Get discounts on popular attractions
Groupon and Living Social are great ways to get discounts on one activity in particular, but maybe you want an action-packed day of Chicago fun with your family. Chicago CityPASS and Go Chicago Card are great ways to plan out what specific activities you want to do and then bundle them together at a lower rate than if you bought them all separately. Some attractions also offer VIP or fast passes so you can spend less time waiting and more time having fun. There are also a ton of free activities and free museum days daily.
Avoid high hotel prices
Discount sites, such as hotwire and booking.com are a great way to find discounted hotels in and around the loop. But, if you’re looking for one away from the hustle and bustle, look for hotels in the North Side neighborhoods, such as in Lincoln Park or Roscoe Village. Hotels in the loop tend to be more expensive because they’re catered toward businessmen traveling on the company’s dime, and hotels on the north side tend to be more family-friendly.
Find restaurants where kids eat free
Popular family restaurants such as the Rainforest Café and Portillo’s are always kid-friendly but not always the most cost effective. If you’re looking to save, check out this list of places where kids eat free. From Italian to traditional American cuisine, you’re sure to find something for the whole family without worrying about the price.
Barn& Company: Tuesdays and Wednesdays all night
Crosby’s Kitchen: everyday 4-6 p.m.
Dunlays on the Square: everyday 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar: everyday 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Hollywood Grill: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 2-10 p.m.
Hutch American Bistro: every night 5-6:30 p.m. and all night Sunday
Riverview Tavern: Monday through Thursday 4:30-6 p.m.
Pizzeria Serio: Sundays all night
Southport& Irving: everyday 5-6:30 p.m.
Wilde Bar and Restaurant: weekdays 4:30-6:30 p.m.