Chicago is a skyscraper metropolis. The Windy City is a feat of modern architecture and home to what was once the world’s tallest building, Sears Tower, Chicago may not be a traditional tourist destination but you will find that the Second City is well worth a visit. As the hub of the Midwest, Chicago is not to be overlooked. Its picturesque skyline is reflected in the waters of Lake Michigan. World-class museums of art and science, fine public art, huge parks and sandy beaches and a multicultural vibe (thanks to the Poles, the Italians, the Greeks and the Irish among many other groups) make it an unbeatable destination for a holiday. First stop should be the lakefront, from Lakeview to Oak Street Beach, the entire area is bustling for things for you to do and to see. Whatever your passion, Chicago will match it.
One of the biggest challenges for visitors to Chicago can be the weather. Fiercely hot in the summer, the city is bitterly cold and windy in the winter. In the winter, wear layers and don’t expose skin to the wind; in summer, be sure to drink plenty of water.
Summer runs from June through August and is a hugely popular time in the city, despite the heat and humidity from the lake. This is also the Chicago’s peak festival season, which sees major events taking place in the parks and neighborhoods every weekend. Prices for flights to Chicago and crowd numbers can see an increase when the city hosts its most popular festivals.
Foodies should book a flight to Chicago during mid-July for the Taste of Chicago festival. This outdoor food event takes place at the lakefront and showcases a variety of cuisines and local flavors accompanied by live music. August is host to another popular event – the Chicago Air and Water Show. With free admission and lakefront location, the show attracts huge numbers of fans of aviation and adventure seekers.
September can be the most enjoyable and mild month of the year but there’s less going on during this period.
January to March is when Chicago is least busy, making cheap flights to Chicago and hotel deals more attainable. However, true to its reputation as the “Windy City”, cold temperatures and brisk winds will make you want to stay inside for most of your visit.
How long is the flight to Chicago?
Chicago is home to two major airports, O’Hare International and Midway International, and welcomes travelers from around the country on many major airlines. How long your flight will take depends upon your departure city with flights from Seattle, WA, and Los Angeles, CA, taking approximately four hours. Air travel from New York, NY, lasts approximately 2.5 hours, and you’ll spend a little less than three hours in the air if you’re flying in from Houston, TX.
Multiple airlines serve the two airports with Delta, Southwest and Volaris being among those that fly to Midway International and JetBlue, United and Spirit included in airlines that fly to O’Hare. International travelers can fly on a multitude of airlines into Chicago, including Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Emirates.
Because Chicago experiences all four seasons to their fullest, you’ll want to pack according to the time you choose to visit. Late spring and summer are typically warm, calling for shorts and light tops. Bring your walking shoes to walk along the shores of Lake Michigan. Fall offers beautiful color and crisp days that can turn rather chilly as evening descends. Pack clothing that is easily layered so that you can adjust as the temperature does. Winter in the Chicago area can be pretty brutal, with windy days, snow and below-freezing temperatures. Before you zip your suitcase, make sure you’ve brought along extra socks, gloves, a hat and scarf to ward off the worst of the winter weather.
Flights to Chicago land at O’Hare International Airport (ORD) located in the city’s northwest corner, about 17 miles away from the CBD or Chicago Loop. Trains and buses provide efficient transportation to city center and suburbs. The Blue Line of the Chicago subway (known as the ‘L’ to locals) connects O’Hare directly to the city, and commuter rail services are easily accessible by a short shuttle ride. Taxi and car hire services are also available from the airport.
There’s never a shortage of things to do no matter what time of year you choose to visit Chicago. Visitors at Christmastime don’t want to miss a stroll down the Miracle Mile with its high-end shops and upscale dining experiences. Top the evening off with a visit to 360 Chicago at the top of the John Hancock building. The thrilling attraction offers breathtaking views of the city along with Tilt, a one-of-a-kind observation cube that moves you out over the streets from 1,000 feet up.
Chicago’s lakefront offers beautiful views of Lake Michigan along with immersive educational experiences that are made for the entire family to enjoy. Begin your day at the Museum of Science and Industry and take a ride down into a replica coal mine or explore a German U-boat. The hands-on museum offers a little bit of something for everyone. Spend the afternoon in the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free to the public and offers a range of animals to enthrall your youngsters, from reptiles to gorillas.
If baseball is your passion, no trip to Chicago is complete without a trip to Wrigley Field for a game in the spring or summer. The park has been hosting fans of the Cubs and their opponents for over 100 years.
Chicago O’Hare International airport is among the country’s busiest airports and, along with Midway International airport, sees millions of passengers off each year. Both airports are served by many of the world’s largest airlines, including American, United, Delta, KLM, Lufthansa and Emirates, offering flights across the country and around the world. Searching Cheapflights for your next flight out of Chicago puts you in touch with great fares.
Keeping with the airports’ busy daily schedules, arriving early for your flight is a must. Leave time to make it through the baggage claim and security and arrive at your gate before the boarding call. International travelers should be aware that security can take longer and plan with that in mind.
CTA trains serve both O’Hare and Midway and are the most cost-effective way to get to the airport if you haven’t rented a car. The Blue Line gets you from downtown Chicago to O’Hare, while the Orange Line will get you from downtown to Midway. Make sure to leave enough time for delays.
If you’re looking to learn more about Chicago’s airports before you book your flight, check out our Chicago Airport Guides for more detailed information on airlines, terminals and other important must-know travel information.