Layover advice please!

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char

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So I am going on my second train trip. I will be spending a 4 hour layover in Pittsburgh and a 6 hour layover in Chicago. I did the same last time, and it seemed so long. I am a young girl traveling alone. I am concerned about my safety if I leave the stations in these big cities. So, does anyone have any advice about things to do during these layovers? I just sat at my gate last time, not adventurous enough to explore the stations (well there isn't much to the Pittsburgh station). Are there things to do or see in Chicago's Union Station? What activities do you during layovers? Any suggestions will be appreciated! :)
 

Ryan

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Chicago is absolutely safe - get around the station some, the Willis Tower is a short walk, as is Giordiano's pizza if you want a meal.
 

had8ley

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I have to agree with you on Pittsburgh...although you don't give a time element of your lay-over in Chicago there are two places that are worth leaving the station for. The first is Lou Mitchell's and it is a stone's throw from the station. They serve outstanding breakfast and are also open for lunch; unfortunately, they close at 3 p.m. IIRC. The other place is the official un-official gathering spot for the AU gang~ Giordano's Pizza. It's about three or four blocks from the station but you get a good view of the city with all the skyscrapers and you cross over the Chicago River bridge in addition to seeing the EL (elevated subway). Good luck and good traveling!If you are traveling sleeper you can check your bags in the baggage room at the Metropolitan Club inside the station.
 
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MrFSS

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And, if you aren't into Pizza, go out into the Great Hall, turn left and follow the Clinton Street Exit Signs. Walk west down Jackson 1 block and Lou Mitchell's is on the south side of the street. Very safe at the lunch hour and great food, just about anything you might want to eat with fairly reasonable prices.
 
C

char

Guest
Thank you guys!! I think I will try and go to Lou Mitchel's then, seems to be the thing to do. But, when I was in the Chicago station last time I found it incredibly confusing and I ended up asking a police officer for directions to my gate, then I stayed there! Do they have maps somewhere or something?

Again, thank you for your responses! :)
 

MrFSS

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Thank you guys!! I think I will try and go to Lou Mitchel's then, seems to be the thing to do. But, when I was in the Chicago station last time I found it incredibly confusing and I ended up asking a police officer for directions to my gate, then I stayed there! Do they have maps somewhere or something?

Again, thank you for your responses!
See this link.
 

the_traveler

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In Chicago, if you are arriving and/or departing via a sleeper, you can use the Metropolitan Lounge. Otherwise, you can not! If you're entitled to use it, I would, at least to store you bags while walking around Chicago!


As mentioned, the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower is only a block or 2 away from Union Station. Lou Mitchell's and Giordano's are both within 3 blocks tool

Enjoy your trip!
 
G

Guest

Guest
Thank you guys!! I think I will try and go to Lou Mitchel's then, seems to be the thing to do. But, when I was in the Chicago station last time I found it incredibly confusing and I ended up asking a police officer for directions to my gate, then I stayed there! Do they have maps somewhere or something?

Again, thank you for your responses! :)
I see Mr FSS already posted a good map of CUS so I'll mention a couple of things: As the other poster said the Metro Lounge is a nice place to wait for your train (secure baggage room/be sure and tip the redcap there when you get your bag, saves carrying it around), if you need it Redcaps will take you on a cart to catch your next train, otherwise an Amtrak employee will lead the sleeper passengers to their train/saves waiting in the crowded bullpen rooms-be sure and look @ the Great Hall also!!

If you are into it, as the other poster said the Willis (ne Sears)Tower is a nice view from the observation level! Also Double Decker Sightseer Busses load in front of it, and there are River Taxis to take you on a tour downtown also. In addition there are CVS and Walgreens Drugstores for supplies a couple of blocks from the station and upstairs is the food court with newstand up the Escalator! (Gold Coast Hot Dogs are very good!)If the weather is nice you can just walk (East) over towards the Lake,walk around Michigan Avenue(great window shopping etc.)and check out all the old buildings, lots undergoing renovation!

I wouldnt recommend riding the L or Light Rail yet if you arent sure of traveling around in a Big City by yourself but the above places that we recommended should fill your time n icely and give you a good time! Just be sure to be back by the time the Metro Lounge women put on your entry Pass to the Metro Lounge, they load the trains by that and if you need to get your luggage or get a RedCap they want you to do it 30 minutes before boarding! Please feel free to ask any questions, Bon Voyage! :)
 

had8ley

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Feb 27, 2006
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Lou Mitchell's is cash only, right?
Not sure, Ryan, but I think that is correct.
Tom;

Last time I was there I was awfully red faced; I had to find an ATM machine to keep from washing dishes. BTW, my wife had helped herself at home to what I thought was enough cash for the trip. I had just enough for tips on # 58 and I had promised a good friend I'd buy breakfast !#$ :blush:
 

kal-tex

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Oct 28, 2009
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Hi!

I, too, am a female who has often traveled alone on Amtrak. I do hope that you are travelling in a sleeper - it will give you access to the Metorpolitan Lounge in Chicago's Union Station. Though other people have told you to take advantage of this perk, here are some additional reasons. It is very comfortable - sofas and easy chairs (as opposed to the normal waiting room seats); magazines, newspapers and TV; clean restrooms; free beverages (non-alcoholic); safe baggage storage; friendly people (both the Amtrak employees and the other passengers waiting there); and notification of your next train's departure. Even if only one portion of your trip includes a sleeper (i.e., you arrive by coach & leave by sleeper; or vice versa) you are entitled to use the Lounge. You just show your ticket to the attendant on duty at the desk in the Lounge. The attendant will check your ticket and give you a "pass" that allows you to come and go as you wish (you won't have to check-in every time), and it will include the time that you should be back in the Lounge in time for your next train's boarding. Whenever I travel through Chicago's Union Station (no matter how many times I'm there), I always have to visit the "Great Hall". It is beautiful and makes you realize how "grand" rail travel used to be!

Hope you enjoy your trip!
 

Devil's Advocate

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So I am going on my second train trip. I will be spending a 4 hour layover in Pittsburgh and a 6 hour layover in Chicago. I did the same last time, and it seemed so long. I am a young girl traveling alone. I am concerned about my safety if I leave the stations in these big cities. So, does anyone have any advice about things to do during these layovers? I just sat at my gate last time, not adventurous enough to explore the stations (well there isn't much to the Pittsburgh station). Are there things to do or see in Chicago's Union Station? What activities do you during layovers? Any suggestions will be appreciated! :)
Chicago is a fascinating town that I would jump at the chance to visit again. Six hours is plenty of time to go exploring and get some good food, much better than anything you'll ever see on Amtrak. If you're in even half-healthy shape Union Station is close to all sorts of interesting stuff. You just need to convince yourself to break out of your shell and go have a look around. Get a guidebook or go to the Frommer's Chicago Page and see what sounds interesting to you. Maybe your next trip will bring you there for a full week or more, which is still barely enough time to get a taste of such an interesting city. Chicago is a city to be experienced, not avoided!

Dining...



Walking Tour...



Frommers also has nightlife maps if you're of drinking age.
 
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Big Iron

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A walk up Jackson St. to the Art Institute and Grant Park is safe and worth the effort, weather permitting.
 

SereneFury

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Jun 21, 2010
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I'm a 27 year old female who just made that trip alone 2 weeks ago. Yes, the layover in Pittsburgh was kind of rough (the CL was over an hour late, so we boarded sometime after 1 AM). But there was a nice group of people there and seemed very safe, as you can probably find someone to talk to and make the time go much faster.

And I would also highly recommend getting a sleeper, as the Metropolitan Lounge in CHI is a very nice area to get away from the rush in the station. Free drinks, snacks, and wifi! :) Just wish I would have had the opportunity to check out the Great Hall. :(

Anyway, I hope you have a great trip!
 
G

Guest

Guest
I'm a 27 year old female who just made that trip alone 2 weeks ago. Yes, the layover in Pittsburgh was kind of rough (the CL was over an hour late, so we boarded sometime after 1 AM). But there was a nice group of people there and seemed very safe, as you can probably find someone to talk to and make the time go much faster.

And I would also highly recommend getting a sleeper, as the Metropolitan Lounge in CHI is a very nice area to get away from the rush in the station. Free drinks, snacks, and wifi! :) Just wish I would have had the opportunity to check out the Great Hall. :(

Anyway, I hope you have a great trip!
The Great Hall is perhaps 200 yards out the front door of the lounge, is there a reason why you were not able to walk over and take a look?(once you check in you can use your card to come and go from the lounge)
 

alanh

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It's often closed for private events. I wasn't able to see it on my first trip there for that reason.
 

icbrkr

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Since we're on the topic of Chicago - are there lockers in the Union Station anywhere? I'm not in a sleeper car this time around so I won't be able to store my bags in the lounge.
 

SereneFury

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Jun 21, 2010
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The Great Hall is perhaps 200 yards out the front door of the lounge, is there a reason why you were not able to walk over and take a look?(once you check in you can use your card to come and go from the lounge)
Boyfriend just wanted to get me to where I needed to be.
 
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Just returned from my first solo train trip. Left Philadelphia on June 30th and got into Emerville, CA on July 3rd. FABULOUS.... I will post my trip report in the next week or so. Returned via plane after a two week stay with family in San Francisco. Best vacation ever!

When I arrived in Chicago, I took a walk over to the Willis Tower and took the trip to to the top to take in the views. Afterwards I went to Giordano's Pizza around the corner for a little Chicago style pizza. Totally safe.
 

Eric S

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Dec 19, 2009
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Since we're on the topic of Chicago - are there lockers in the Union Station anywhere? I'm not in a sleeper car this time around so I won't be able to store my bags in the lounge.
Yes, there are lockers in Chicago Union Station. I know there are lockers in the south waiting lounge area (I was just there on Friday) and there used to be lockers near the baggage claim area as well.
 
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