Chicago | 3 Days in the Windy City in a wheelchair

Chicago | The Windy City they say…

In July 2018 we had the chance to spend three days in Chicago before attending a conference in Iowa City. Three days under the hot summer sun were enough to get a good first glimpse of the city and its accessibility. Let me share my experience with you.

 

Some basic facts

The City of Chicago in the state of Illinois lies on Lake Michigan, one of the five great lakes of North America. Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States. In 2017 Chicago was the second most visited city after New York. Two airports serve the city: Midway Airport (MDW) and O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

 

Why do people actually call it “The Windy City”? You might think it’s obviously because of the breezy wind due to Lake Michigan. However, there are controversial opinions of the nickname’s origins. Four main possibilities are mentioned throughout the web: the weather, the rivalry with Cincinnati, the World’s Fair and politics. It seems like there is no final answer to this question.

 

Chicago is also known for its food – the Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, also called Chicago-style Pizza. As a European and true Italian pizza addict I  – of course – had to taste it! There seem to be two known deep dish restaurant chains: Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s. We decided to go to Giordano’s and this was probably a mistake… what a disappointment! This surely is a very personal thing, but I really didn’t like the deep dish pizza at all. In my opinion, it is more a huge pie drowned in tomato sauce and cheese than a pizza. Nevertheless, if Chicago Deep Dish Pizza has been on your bucket list forever, keep in mind that it needs 45 minutes of baking.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Giordano's | Little Miss Turtle

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Giordano’s

 

O’Hare International Airport to Downtown Chicago by train

Step CTA Blue Line O'Hare Station | Little Miss Turtle

Small step between the platform and CTA Blue Line Train at O’Hare Station

 

The CTA Blue Line Train connects O’Hare Airport to Downtown for 5 USD. The Single-Ride Ventra ticket is good for up to 3 rides within 2 hours of use, which means you can transfer with no extra cost. The train is accessible, but there still is a small step (about 10 cm) between the platform and the train. Power wheelchair users might probably need some help to board. The train ride to Downtown takes about 45 min.

 

Unfortunately, not all train stations of the L-Train system are accessible. Therefore I would suggest to visit CTA’s website before departure. Moreover, I recommend to also check the elevator status in advance. We got off at the accessible Jackson Station as we needed to transfer to the Red Line to get to our hotel*.

Jackson Station Chicago | Little Miss Turtle

Jackson Station (transfer between Blue and Red Line)

 

List of accessible CTA L-train stations on the Downtown Loop

Blue Line 

Clark/Lake

Jackson

Brown Line

Clark/Lake

Washington/Wabash

Harold Washington Library

Washington/Wells

Orange Line

Clark/Lake

Washington/Wabash

Harold Washington Library

Washington/Wells

takes you also to Midway Airport

Red Line

Lake

Jackson

Purple Line

Merchandise Mart

Clark/Lake

Washington/Wabash

Harold Washington Library

Washington/Wells

Green Line

Clark/Lake

Washington/Wabash

Pink Line

Clark/Lake

Washington/Wabash

Harold Washington Library

Washington/Wells

 

Another option is to take a wheelchair-accessible taxi. You can either go to the taxi counter at the airport or book an accessible taxi via the Curb Taxi App. You can also call Open Taxis, Chicago’s centralized wheelchair-accessible taxi dispatch (toll-free number 1-855-928-1010) or download their app.

Chicago City Taxi | Little Miss Turtle

Chicago City Taxi

 

Accessible things we did in Chicago

Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail was close to our hotel* in the Gold Coast neighborhood and so we decided to walk to the Navy Pier. The wheelchair-accessible trail takes you along the shore of Lake Michigan to Ohio Street Beach as well as all the way to the Shed Aquarium.

 

 

Milton Lee Olive Park

We stopped at Milton Lee Olive Park from where you get a beautiful view of Chicago’s skyline. The black skyscraper on the right is the former John Hancock Center. It is now called 875 North Michigan Avenue and is home to the observatory 360 Chicago, which we didn’t visit.

Chicago Skyline | Little Miss Turtle

The Skyline seen from Milton Lee Olive Park

 

Navy Pier

The Navy Pier is an entertainment area and one of the city’s landmarks. We enjoyed strolling along the accessible pier. There are many shops, restaurants, attractions like the Navy Pier Wheel, the indoor Crystal Botanical Gardens as well as other cultural and fun things to do. Good to know: There are two accessible family restrooms next to McDonald’s in the food hall!

 

 

Chicago Riverwalk

We also explored the accessible, waterfront located Chicago Riverwalk. The way from Navy Pier to the Riverwalk entry is not that long (about 20 min.) and leads over Lake Shore Drive Bridge. From the Riverwalk you get stunning views of Chicago’s architecture, not to mention the impressive DuSable Bridge with Trump Tower right behind it. Access ramps are clearly indicated and very easy to find.

 

 

Millenium Park

Another great place certainly not to miss is Millenium Park with its Cloud Gate. Millenium Park is part of Grant Park, a large urban park in the Loop district. The whole area is fully wheelchair-accessible.

Cloud Gate inside Millenium Park | Little Miss Turtle

Cloud Gate inside Millenium Park

 

Conclusion

Above all the general accessibility of Chicago is good, besides the fact that the L-Train system is not fully wheelchair-accessible. As a wheelchair user, I fully enjoyed my time in the Windy City and will surely be back again with some more time.

 

Have you been to Chicago yet? If so, how did you like it? Leave a comment below to share your experience! You can also follow this blog on Facebook.

 

*We stayed in a regular, non-adapted hotel room and therefore I cannot recommend the hotel.