Outside Chicago

Discussion in 'Midwest' started by printman2000, Jan 17, 2013.

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  1. Jan 17, 2013 #1

    printman2000

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    My family and I will be spending a week in Chicago this summer. It is easy enough to find "Things to do in Chicago" on the internet. However, I was also interested in things to do just outside Chicago that could be reached with Metra. Does anyone have any suggestions?
     
  2. Jan 17, 2013 #2

    John Bredin

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    Brookfield Zoo, reached on the BNSF line out of Union Station. http://www.brookfieldzoo.org/czs/flash/landing/index.html

    Chicago Botanic Gardens, reached on the UP-North line (Braeside station) out of Ogilvie Station. http://www.chicagobotanic.org/

    Arlington Park horse-racing track, reached on the UP-Northwest line out of Ogilvie. http://www.arlingtonpark.com/

    Ravinia outdoor concert venue, reached on the UP-North. http://www.ravinia.org/

    Minor-league baseball in:

    *Joliet, at the end of the Rock Island line out of LaSalle St. Station. http://jolietslammers.com/

    *Schaumburg, reached on the Milwaukee-West line out of Union Station. http://www.boomersbaseball.com/

    All of these are right across from the station, except for the Zoo which is an easy walk away and the Botanic Gardens which are walkable but not as close as the Zoo is to its station. You'd be doing a lot of walking at the zoo and the gardens anyway. :^) For something a bit more ambitious, there's:

    Indiana Dunes state & national parks, reached on the NICTD (formerly South Shore) out of Millennium or VanBuren St. stations http://www.indianadunes.com/

    If your family is into bicycling, there are plenty of suburban bike trails reachable by Metra. (Of course, in the city there's the spectacular Lakefront Trail http://www.choosechicago.com/articles/view/The-Lakefront-Trail/454/ and some others.) The (literally!) original rail-to-trail is the Illinois Prairie Path, which can be reached from several stations of the UP-West line out of Ogilvie. http://www.ipp.org/

    Of course, there are some nice suburban downtowns near Metra stations. Lots of interesting ones on the North Shore, reached on the UP-North line.
     
  3. Jan 18, 2013 #3

    SarahZ

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  4. Jan 18, 2013 #4

    printman2000

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    Thanks for the suggestions!
     
  5. Jan 18, 2013 #5

    MrFSS

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    Its a shame you can't Metra (UP NW Line) to the Illinois Railway Museum.

    You can get close, but not close enough not to have a car for the final leg. But it is a great place to spend a number of hours if you have a car rental for a day.
     
  6. Jan 18, 2013 #6

    printman2000

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    Don't think for a second I have not been contemplating taking the blue line out to O'Hare, renting a car and going to the museum. May very well do it!
     
  7. May 27, 2013 #7

    benjibear

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    Bringing up an old topic. I am thinking about renting a car and going here and am just wondering if it is worth going. I will be arriving on the CL, was going to rent a car at Union Station, and spend the day here. I think it is doable but was wondering what others thought and if it would be worth it.
     
  8. May 28, 2013 #8

    John Bredin

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    Yes, definitely worth spending a day at IRM, and definitely can spend an entire day there! On a busy summer weekend, they can be running a trolley bus, two streetcars on the trolley loop, and three or four trains on the museum mainline. Add in walking through the car barns (10 of them, IIRC) and cars displayed outside, and lunch, and there's the day gone. :p
     
  9. May 28, 2013 #9

    MikefromCrete

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    Illinois Railway Museum is one of the top railway museums in the country and definitely one that likes to run its equipment. As mentioned above, on a weekend, there will be street car rides and plenty of operation on the main line, in addition to the static displays. I don't think there is any operating steam at this time, but plenty of electric and diesel trains.

    Definitely worth a day of your time.
     
  10. May 29, 2013 #10

    trainman74

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    Even if you really, really like children, you might not want to visit the IRM on a weekend when Thomas the Tank Engine is visiting. (I can tell you this from personal experience.) Looks like, in 2013, that's August 16-18 and August 24-25.
     
  11. May 29, 2013 #11

    GG-1

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    Aloha

    As a Car Attendant on the Nevada Southern RR Museum I love it when Thomas visits. There is nothing like the sparkle in a child's eys when the get their first train ride behind Thomas. True it gets crowded but it is worth it!
     
  12. May 29, 2013 #12

    benjibear

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    I have been to Strasburg during the Thomas event. It is a mad house. We were there with my nephew where we ended up cutting the line (we didn't know because to us it just seemed people were walking that way), then when the line stopped our nephew talked how he doesn't like Thomas and likes Diesel better because he is bad, and then as we were moving he said that he hopes Thomas burst into flames and Diesel comes to save the day. We were glad to return him to his dad that day.

    Thanks for the advice. I am planning on renting a car and heading up to there. I wasn't sure at first because I am not into the western railroads but it sounds like a place I need to get to at least once in my life.
     
  13. Jun 25, 2013 #13

    benjibear

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    I want to thank everyone for the advice on the Illinois Railway Museum. I did rent a car from Hertz which I was very disapointed with. However, I did enjoy my time at the museum. They had one trolley and a main line train running. I just did not have enough time in the afternoon to ride the train. They are working on getting steam running in the near future. There is alot to see there. It was not as "polished" as some other museums I have been too. The reason I say that is the equipment is just stored in pole barns, with tight aisles, and dimmly lit. However, they are a very active museum and it looks like they are doing as much as they can to keep stuff inside. I was dispointed that the trolley buses were not operating.
     
  14. Jun 26, 2013 #14

    MikefromCrete

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    Unlike the California and Pennsylvania railroad museums, the Illinois Railway Museum receives no state funding and is entirely run by volunteers. So, it may be a bit rough in spots, but it is one heck of an operation. By the way, I've been to the IRM many times and I've never seen the trolley buses in operation.
     
  15. Jun 28, 2013 #15

    Acela150

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    If you have the money and desire, I hear Rochelle, IL Railroad Park is a action packed place.
     
  16. Jul 6, 2013 #16

    benjibear

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    That looks interesting.
     
  17. May 28, 2017 #17

    dogbert617

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    If you don't mind that only a VERY limited number of trains go north of Waukegan on the Union Pacific North Metra line(even on weekends too, sadly), Kenosha is a very fun place to travel to! I'd recommend going on a Saturday when you can get a weekend pass, explore one or more(your call if you only do 1, or more) of the 'north shore' downtowns south of there, then head north to Kenosha. There are a lot of good restaurants and bars up there, it has the free Kenosha Public Musuem(basically their local natural history museum a la The Field Museum in Chicago, plus also a civil war museum and a kids museum), you can ride on a restored streetcar loop through the downtown(which runs till something like 6:15-6:30pm), it has a farmer's market if you go early up there(HarborMarket), and of course the lakefront is really nice to see(i.e. Simmons Island beach, the lakefront park on both sides of the harbor). Don't forget that the downtown branch of Kenosha's library was designed by Daniel Burnham(of Rookery Building, Chicago Union Station, and Flatiron Building in NYC fame. and dozens more buildings at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Burnham). Across the street too(and in nearby blocks) is a nice historic neighborhood of single family homes, which even includes the home Orson Welles(yep, that one of Citizen Kane movie fame) was born in. This blue, white, and red brick home is it, on 7th Avenue just south of the block the library and park are on: https://goo.gl/maps/xA7uPBtBNmx

    Anyway, the Metra Union Pacific North schedule. Where you can how MUCH fewer trains run to Kenosha vs. those that begin/terminate in Waukegan, but it's still very fun to visit on an $8 weekend pass: https://metrarail.com/sites/default/files/metra_50933_fm10_tt_proof_1.pdf

    I also would've thrown downtown Geneva in(Union Pacific West line), as an interesting place to visit. You can railfan in nearby West Chicago(also having a UP-West stop, and remember all you need is an $8 weekend pass), at this railroad junction you can walk to from the West Chicago Metra station. Here's a google street view preview of what I mean: https://goo.gl/maps/xQzABvyoXPB2

    Also a shame Blue Island, IL wasn't mentioned. It has a pretty historic downtown, and is just south of Chicago(and the Beverly neighborhood) on the Rock Island Metra line. Has a lot of interesting restaurants and bars on both sides of the Cal Sag Channel. More just to the south of that bridge, but there are a few to the north(the side of the Metra station) as well. Also has a few antiques stores and vintage shops, too. If you walk over south of the Cal Sag Channel and a few blocks west on Broadway Street, you'll run into an AMAZING place for railfanning(another google street view preview): https://goo.gl/maps/G9twmyZafeT2

    Speaking of places south of Chicago, Flossmoor, IL has a nice downtown, complete with also an interesting restaurant and beer brewery right next to that station(Flossmoor Station). Ditto with Homewood, on that line. Also, it should be mentioned for the South Shore Line, that Beverly Shores and downtown Michigan City(11th Street, it's the first Michigan City stop of the 2 when you go east from Chicago) are nice day trips to do. Be cautioned that Beverly Shores is a flag stop, and you just press the signal button on the east end of the platform 5-10 minutes before the westbound train time for the arriving train to stop. And of course when you're heading east towards that station, ask the train conductor/employee taking your ticket which cars of the train will open at Beverly Shores, since not all train doors open. Michigan City has a nice little downtown, bunches of restaurants/bars you can eat or drink at, Washington Park and Beach, and even an outlet mall. There's even a casino(Blue Chip) that has a shuttle from the MC 11th Street station, as well. And don't forget(for railfans), the VERY last section(since East Chicago and South Bend got rid of their street running sections decades ago) of the South Shore Line that has street running! Amtrak runs through the downtown as well(most blow right through MC, but a handful of the Michigan trains stop here), so you might catch a train or 2 going through Mich City.

    I've been there once, and liked it. Definitely do need a car to get out there though, or be up for doing a bike reservation on Amtrak to Mendota, IL, then biking north and back(2.5 hours each way) to Rochelle.

    I need to revisit IRM, someday. Too bad they don't have a complimentary shuttle service from the Crystal Lake Metra station, since that'd for sure probably boost their attendance(at least from those who don't own cars) a little bit.
     
  18. Jul 23, 2019 #18

    dogbert617

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    It's belated, for me to mention this bit of news I read about a way one could do to get out to IRM. Besides biking(from either Crystal Lake or Woodstock) or driving out there, I read something that MCRide(serving McHenry County) started earlier this year, to allow people to use their call and ride service to get to Illinois Railway Museum. Here are the details about that:

    https://www.mchenrycountyil.gov/county-government/departments-j-z/transportation/transit-services/mcride-dial-a-ride

    https://www.irm.org/in-the-news/museum-now-accessible-via-public-transit/
     
  19. Jul 31, 2019 #19

    NorthShore

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    I recently went to IRM with another member of the AU community via Metra UPNW to Woodstock and Uber. However, securing a ride share for the return trip was a bit more challenging, as the museum is sort of in the middle of nowhere/farmland with few drivers nearby. Fortunately, we left plenty of time before the next train and did, eventually, get a driver back to Woodstock.

    We thought about using the dial a ride service, but were uncertain of how it would work out in travel time and scheduling.

    Two steam trains were operating, along with a Chicago streetcar and a set of old interurban cars that day.

    As for trolleybuses, there is a garage with a lot of preserved, but mostly dilapidated, equipment. Years ago, I was there on a day when a couple operated. However, the pantograph kept falling off the wire of the bus I was riding. At one point, since the driver wanted to realign to the wire, he asked that some men exit the bus to help push it. Then, all of the men. Then all the men and boys....we eventually got the thing running again!
     
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  20. Jul 31, 2019 #20

    AutoTrDvr

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    A caution about "Schaumburg." I lived there for three years. The Schaumburg Metra station (old Milwaukee Road line) dumps you on the lower southwest corner of Schaumburg, right in the middle of nothing but suburban sub divisions. There's nothing around it (or there wasn't when I was there) but residential neighborhoods, etc. All the "action" in Schaumburg is in the northeast corner, which is where the malls are (Woodfield, etc.). The better alternative is to take the Metra Northwest Line (Old C & NW - Northwest line) to either Arlington Heights or Palatine. That will get you closer to Woodfield Mall. If you like good pastries for desert, you can go beyond Palatine to the "Barrington" station, where they have "Ambrosia Patisserie" founded by the late Richard Rivera, featured on the Discovery Channel's "Great Chefs - Great Cities" series.

    As for things to do outside of Chicago, if you take the Metra "North" line to Waukeegan, that's the stop to go to "Six Flags - Great America" in Gurnee. Not sure if they have mass transit there, but an Uber/Lyft will do just fine.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2019
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  21. Jul 31, 2019 #21

    PerRock

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    I've wondered about that... So far all of my trips to IRM I've had a car or was going with someone who had a car. But using Uber or Lyft was intriguing, my question is; I wonder if you'd have better luck getting a Lyft if you scheduled it in advance? I've done this a number of times for early-morning flights without any problems. The other option that might work is to convince the driver to join you at the museum; I've known people to do it at casinos & festivals (the driver turns off the meter, you pay for their entrance/parking/whatever, then pay in cash what you paid to get out there... often tipping a bit)
     
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  22. Aug 1, 2019 #22

    dogbert617

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    I'll add if you are riding along the Milwaukee District West(Elgin) route, you can transfer to a Pace bus(#554) from either Hanover Park, or from the Elgin transporation center that's a very short walk from the downtown Elgin Metra station(NOT National Road, or at Big Timber Rd. btw). That bus route(schedule at https://www.pacebus.com/pdf/full/554back.pdf ), will take you right up to the northeast part of Schaumburg with all the shopping and etc. Map for the #554 bus route: https://www.pacebus.com/pdf/full/FP-554.pdf Keep in mind that the #554 ONLY runs from Monday to Saturday, and does NOT run on Sundays and holidays. Plus the times are limited on Saturdays, and that bus stops in mid to late afternoon on Saturdays.

    If you were going from the Union Pacific Northwest Line(Crystal Lake, McHenry, and Harvard), you could get off at Arlington Heights, and take the #696 bus over to Schaumburg(schedule at https://www.pacebus.com/pdf/full/696back.pdf ). Map for the #696 bus route: https://www.pacebus.com/pdf/full/FP-696.pdf Keep in mind that bus ONLY runs on weekdays, and does not run on weekends or holidays. Of course for either of these 2 buses if you missed the last scheduled bus, I'd take an Uber or Lyft to get back to a Metra station, that's for sure!
     
  23. Aug 4, 2019 #23

    NorthShore

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    If you're going to the interesting stuff in Schaumburg (beyond the minor league baseball stadium) why wouldn't one just take one of the numerous Pace buses that go there from Rosemont CTA? Or, for a longer but sure ride, the good ol 208?

    There's even a bus to Elgin from Rosemont, now, which makes for an easier connection than taking Metra, if you're not coming from or through downtown.

    Elgin, itself, has some interesting historic sites to visit.

    And, yes there is Pace bus service to Great America both connecting in Waukegan, as well as an express bus from Rosemont.
     
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  24. Aug 9, 2019 #24

    dogbert617

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    Yep, I do like how as of late(like a year or 2 ago?), that Pace service along I-90 was greatly expanded. As far as going between Rosemont and Schaumburg, I've always liked taking the #606 bus, since you can take that bus straight west to Mitsuwa Marketplace(which is a really great Asian market, especially of Japanese items. and its food court, liquor store, and Japanese bookstore is really awesome), along with anywhere in the area near Woodfield Mall. 606 schedule: https://www.pacebus.com/pdf/full/606back.pdf If you wanted to go further west than that, you'd have to either transfer to the #554 bus(which may be tricky to do, since that bus doesn't have a lot of scheduled runs, schedule at https://www.pacebus.com/pdf/full/554back.pdf ), or consider doing an Uber/Lyft to where you want to go to. The streets do have sidewalks in that part of Schaumburg, in my experiences out there thankfully.

    In Waukegan, you'd take the #565 bus on Grand to go west towards Great America, and that bus starts/ends on Sheridan just north of Washington. A limited number of #565 bus runs go all the way down the road(east of the Amstutz(sp?) Expressway, to drop off and pick up passengers just west of the station house for Waukegan's Metra station. 565 schedule: https://www.pacebus.com/pdf/full/565back.pdf You'd walk south from the bus stop at Grand and Six Flags Pkwy/Lawson Blvd(if you see a Burger King and also a sign on the southeast corner of the intersection for Six Flags, you got off at the right stop), till you get inside the park and see the admission booth for paying your admission to get inside. As for taking a Pace bus from Rosemont to Great America and back, that would be the #284 bus( https://www.pacebus.com/sub/espd/six_flags_express.asp ).
     
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  25. Aug 9, 2019 #25

    Qapla

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    I used to live in Waukegan - back in the late 1950's
     

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