Chicago Travel Basics
The area codes for Chicago are 312 and 773. The area codes for the Chicago suburbs are 847, 224, 708, and 630.
For local calls within the same area code, dial the seven-digit number. For calls between area codes within the Chicago area, dial 1 plus the area code and then the seven-digit number. For long-distance calls within the U.S., dial 1, the area code, then the seven-digit number. For international calls, dial 011, the country code, any local codes, and then the phone number. If the local code starts with a 0, you usually drop the 0 when calling from the U.S. When calling Canada and parts of the Caribbean, it is only necessary to dial 1, plus the area code and phone number.
Electricity is 110V AC, 60Hz in the United States. Plugs are of the flat, two-pin type. Be aware that this voltage is half as much as in most European and Asian countries, so visitors from those countries will need a plug adapter and a power transformer to operate their appliances.
Dial 911 for all emergencies.
Police (non-emergency): 312-746-6000 or TDD 312-746-9715
Fire (non-emergency): 312-744-4755 or TDD 312-744-2961
Illinois Poison Control Center: 800-942-5969
Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline: 888-293-2080
Crisis Line: 815-722-3344
Fax and online services are widely available throughout the Chicago area. Most hotel rooms are equipped with fax and modem connections and those catering to business travelers often offer guests access to in-house business centers. Additionally, the city boasts a variety of walk-in business centers. Check the local Yellow Pages under "Fax Transmission Service" and "Computers-Training" for further information.
The local language in Chicago is standard American English. It is spoken in a rapid, casual manner and does include some slang. There are no real peculiarities about the regional accent, but international visitors may find the spoken English here to be difficult to understand at first.
New Year's Day: January 1
Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Third Monday in January
Presidents' Day: Third Monday in February
Easter Sunday: mid-March or early April
Memorial Day: Last Monday in May
Independence Day: July 4
Labor Day: First Monday in September
Columbus Day: Second Monday in October
Veterans Day: November 11
Thanksgiving: Fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day: December 25
Chicago lies in the Central Time Zone (Greenwich Mean Time minus six hours). During the spring and summer months, Chicago, like all of Illinois, observes Daylight Savings Time.
Australia: Citizens of Australia must have a valid passport to enter the United States if they are staying less than 90 days and have an onward or return ticket.
Canada: Citizens of Canada need proof of citizenship for entry into the United States. This can be either a birth certificate with a raised seal or a voter registration card with a photo ID. A driver's license is not enough. Canadian citizens under 16 need notarized permission from both parents.
France:Citizens of France must have a valid passport to enter the United States if th ey are staying less than 90 days and have an onward or return ticket.
Germany: Citizens of Germany must have a valid passport to enter the United States if they are staying less than 90 days and have an onward or return ticket.
Ireland: Citizens of Ireland must have a valid passport to enter the United States if they are staying less than 90 days and have an onward or return ticket.
Japan: Citizens of Japan must have a valid passport to enter the United States if they are staying less than 90 days and have an onward or return ticket.
United Kingdom: U.K. citizens must have a valid passport to enter the United States if they are staying less than 90 days and have an onward or return ticket.
What to Take
Midwestern attire is generally casual and conservative. Shorts and T-shirts are acceptable in summer, and you will need a heavy coat, hat, and gloves during the winter months. In spring and fall, bring a light jacket or sweater. It's a good idea to pack rain gear in the spring and summer.
In Chicago, casual dress is acceptable in most places, but you will want to dress up to go to the top restaurants and theaters. To see the sights, be sure to pack good walking shoes, as much of the downtown area is accessible by foot. If you are traveling on business, come prepared with standard business attire.
When to Go
Winters in Chicago can be brutal. Bitter cold winds whip off of Lake Michigan, making the air feel much colder than the temperature reading. Spring can be sunny and beautiful, but it is also the season for heavy thunderstorms and tornadoes. Summers are usually quite hot, and it is the busiest tourist season. Fall brings the most moderate weather and a break from the summer crowds.
Chicago hosts several major festivals throughout the summer months, including the Chicago Blues Festival, Gospel Festival, Air & Water Show, "Viva! Chicago" Latin Music Festival, and the Jazz Festival. Call the Mayor's Office of Special Events Hotline (312-744-3370 or TTY 312-744-2964) for information about dates and admission to these events.
The Taste of Chicago, held annually the last week of June through the Fourth of July, is a major draw for both locals and visitors. Downtown Grant Park is converted into a huge outdoor fair, where restaurant owners from all over the city set up booths and cook a few dishes from their menus. To get a taste, you buy a strip of tickets and exchange them for samples of all kinds of ethnic and American cuisine types. There are also several musical events and a fireworks display connected with the festival.
If you're willing to brave the cold Chicago winter, you can get some great travel deals in February, when many hotels and tourist attractions in the city offer "Winterbreak" specials. The tourist office will provide you with a Value Pass, which includes discounted admissions to museums, low rates for some major hotels, and coupons for restaurants and nightclubs. The pass is valid only during the Winterbreak period.