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Using Amtrak and Via Rail
What to do between trains in Chicago

With one exception, all Amtrak passengers travelling across the United States must change trains at Chicago Union Station. You may have a few hours there.

Instead of remaining in a crowded terminal, here a some hints to enjoy your time in Chicago.

Chicago Union Station stands adjacent to the "Loop", the main commercial and museum area, and within walking distance of the North Michigan Avenue upscale shopping area.

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Inexpensive dining near Union Station

In the "Loop", a fine place to have lunch every day or an early evening meal on weekdays is Seven on State, the upscale fast food restaurant of the flagship Marshall Field Department Store at 111 North State Street, a short walk from Union Station. As its name implies, Seven on State is on the seventh floor.

Here you can choose from a variety of cuisines, and easily eat a satisfying and even healthy meal for under $10. Do not let the term "fast food" keep you away. This is good food—not gourmet—but certainly a step above the usual fast food at a similar price. Portions are ample and service is quick.

Sightseeing in centre city Chicago

Gray Line offers tours of Chicago for those with ample time. Or, during warm weather, you can take a taxi to Oak Street Beach, north of the "Loop" business district, to enjoy a swim in Lake Michigan and relax on a reasonably pleasant urban beach.

Feeling healthy and fit and have some time? Walk to Oak Street Beach during the day as follows: From the North side of Union Station (one of the Adams Street exits), turn right, and walk eastbound some nine blocks on Adams Street to Michigan Avenue through the heart of the city centre.

In front of you at the intersection of Adams and Michigan are Grant Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the most important art venues and schools in the United States. The Art Institute frequently has major visiting exhibits.

From just south of here, on the ground floor of the Santa Fe building on Michigan Avenue between Adams and Jackson, the Chicago Architecture Foundation sells wonderful group walking, coach, bicycle, and even boat tours of Chicago. Check its outstanding Internet site for tour details or stop by its information desk in the Santa Fe building. Dr. Voyageur highly recommends these tours. The walking tours usually start at the Santa Fe Building, and are fascinating even if you have no architectural background. The coach tours often feature the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, who was based in Chicago for many years.

If walking on your own, turn left, and walk northbound on Michigan Avenue, the premier business street of Chicago. You will pass the Wrigley (gum) Building, the Tribune (media company) Tower, Water Tower Place, and other well-known sights.

After some 21 mostly short but interesting blocks (Remember, Dr. Voyageur told you that this was a walk for the fit!), you reach Oak Street, where Michigan Avenue ends at the lake. Access this nice beach through the park and enjoy the views of the skyline and lakeshore. Lake temperatures in mid-summer are just right for warm days.

Just south of here, along the lake, is the Northwestern University Chicago campus, which houses its medical school. The apartment buildings in this area are amongst the most desirable places to live in Chicago.

Take a taxi back. You deserve it. If feeling undeserving or under financed, walk westward several blocks to State Street and then south (left) to the Chicago Transit Authority metro stop at Chicago Street. Take any Red Line train marked "Dan Ryan" southbound to Jackson Street. Then walk westbound on Jackson to Union Station at Canal Street. Walk north on Canal to use the impressive eastern entrance to Union Station in order to enter its grand waiting room.

Note: Greyhound connecting passengers can access the above walking tour by exiting the Greyhound Terminal on its Canal Street side, turning left, and walking north three blocks to Adams Street (Union Station). Turn right on Adams to Michigan Avenue. Do not walk between the Greyhound Station and Union Station at night.

Go To >> Amtrak & Via Rail - Travelling the most scenic routes

Go To >> Amtrak & Via Rail - Tips for booking and finding the best fares

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