The phrase “Summer in Chicago” just has a great ring to it. For a city that is blasted by bitter cold for almost seven months out of the year, they really know how to take advantage of the warm summer months.
We were headed toward Chicago recently and wanted to get a feel for the city. We started researching RV parks near the city and didn’t have much luck. There was the Illinois Beach State Park in Zion. We’ve stayed there before and it’s a great state park right on Lake Michigan, but nowhere near the city.
Sure, you can hop on the train, which is just a few minutes from the state park, and ride the Metra over an hour into the city, but I was looking to stay very close, if not in, downtown. Is that too much to ask?? I mean, all I have is a 40-foot rig, I should be able to squeeze in somewhere, right?
After scouring the internet, we finally found a possible solution. At the McCormick Center, which is just off of Lake Shore Drive, there is a truck marshaling lot where all the semi’s park overnight or long term.
The good news was that they allow RVs to park there and at a whopping $35 a day, which is about the same price as parking in the city for 2 hours. Score!
Here is the website to the McCormick Place Truck Marshaling lot. Here you’ll find up to date prices as well as directions on how to get there. You can also book your stay right on their website, but be sure to call first before booking to see if there are any major events going on where the lot might be full. www.truticket.com/bus_eventparking_1.aspx
A little note on driving your rig into the city. It sounds daunting. I was a bit nervous and not sure what to expect given the fact that summer in Chicago also means construction season.
The good news is that the lot is less than a mile from I-55 and it consists of about two right turns. After I got into the lot, I was like, “Is that it?” It was way easier than I expected. Even traffic was good and we came in just before noon on a Monday. I guess the seas parted for me.
Once you get parked and settled, it’s time to explore. Let’s be honest, you’re in a parking lot with no hookups, you’re not going to want to hang out by the rig for very long.
If you normally travel with bikes, great, you’re all set. If you don’t, figure out a way to bring them along. The Lake Shore Trail is right across the street from the lot and is a great way to get to the city to enjoy summer in Chicago.
It totally beats trying to find a parking spot that doesn’t cost a fortune and you ride right along the lake which is beautiful. If bringing bikes isn’t an option, check out www.divvybikes.com which is a bike rental system all around the city.
We took the trail from the lot and headed north toward Museum Campus. This is the home of some very notable museums, including the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History.
The bike ride to Museum Campus was all of 15 minutes on a flat paved trail with very scenic views of Lake Michigan.
We had two full days planned of museums, which would have been rather pricey, but luckily some of the Chicago museums honored the reciprocal membership we own. This is a great membership to have especially for families.
We wrote about it on our blog, so click here for more information.
Visiting these museums are always so educational and really get the creative juices flowing in our kids. Definitely worth a stop!
On the way to Museum Campus, you’ll pass Soldier Field, which is home to my team, Da Bears! Soldier Field is also a very popular venue for summer concerts and other outdoor activities. The McCormick Place Marshaling Lot would make for a great tailgating spot for those heading to the game. I’d say it’s a 45 minute walk from the lot to Soldier Field.
Another great summer destination in Chicago is Navy Pier. We biked it there, again all along Lake Shore Trail. The ride is about a half hour. At Navy Pier you have so many great options for dining and entertainment.
If you’re lucky, you may see the tall ships in the harbor, there’s the Centennial Wheel, which is the iconic Ferris Wheel. They even recently opened an ice skating rink, which you’d think the city folks would be done with ice, but apparently not.
We stopped at the Chicago Children’s Museum, which was discounted thanks to our reciprocal membership, and spent quite a few hours building forts, playing store, climbing and running.
I even got a chance to slip out while the kids were playing to head downstairs to Harry Caray’s Tavern to grab a cold beer and watch the Cubbies. If that doesn’t scream summer, I don’t know what does!
For more information on Navy Pier and the restaurants, stores and activities they have, check their website at www.navypier.com.
After enjoying our day at Navy Pier, we headed back to the “campground,” but took the scenic route back to see some of the landmarks of the city.
We rode to Millennium Park to check out the giant silver bean. We all had fun taking pictures and seeing our reflections in this iconic piece of art.
We continued on to Grant Park to see the place where all of the Bulls’ rallies took place after winning all of those championships in the 90s. Ahh memories.
We also checked out Buckingham Fountain, where I couldn’t help myself from singing the Frank Sinatra classic “Love and Marriage.”
While in Chicago, you have to try some of the deep-dish pizza joints the city is famous for. We couldn’t wait to dig in to the soft crust and spicy sauce. We tried two places, Gino’s East (South Loop location) and Giordano’s in Hyde Park.
All I can say is WOW! One piece is enough to fill you up, but I couldn’t stop at just one. I can totally see why this pizza is world famous and can’t wait to try it again.
So, if you’re looking to head out this summer in your RV, don’t shy away from Chicago because there’s nohere to stay. Plan a few days at the McCormick Place Truck Marshaling Lot and get an up close and personal experience with the city. We had a fantastic time and will definitely be back.