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Airport Code: ORD
Web Address: http://www.ohare.com
This bustling air traffic hub, which just recently lost the title of "World's Busiest Airport" to Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, was originally called Orchard Place and was home to a giant wooden-roofed factory producing Douglas C-54 troop and cargo carriers for use during World War II. Renamed O'Hare International Airport (ORD) in 1949 to honor Lieutenant Commander Edward H. "Butch" O'Hare, a Chicagoan killed during the war, the facility remains true to its roots by retaining "ORD" as its official abbreviation.
Today, O'Hare has four terminals: Terminals 1, 2, and 3 primarily serve domestic flights, and Terminal 5 hosts international flights. United and United Express use Terminals 1 and 2; Terminal 2 also serves Northwest, Continental, Trans World Airlines, America West, and several other carriers. Terminal 3 serves American Airlines, Delta, and others. The walk between each of the domestic terminals can take up to 15 minutes, and a ride from the domestic terminals to Terminal 5 on the airport transit system can take 5-10 minutes.
To get your bearings, ask for a terminal map at one of the four information booths located on the lower level of each domestic terminal and on the upper level of the international terminal. The booths are staffed by people who, collectively, speak 26 languages.
Take Care of Yourself
Dining options in Concourse C in Terminal 1 (the United terminal) include the Chicago-based Berghoff's, Panda Express, and the sushi kiosk at Gate 20. In Concourse B, look for Chili's (Gate 14) and the Wolfgang Puck Café at Gate 6. In the main hall of Terminal 2, your choices include Edy's Ice Cream, Cinnabon, Juice Works, and the Fresh Departure Deli. Over in the Terminal 3 rotunda you'll find the Chicago Tap Room, Great American Bagel, Panda Express, Momo's Pizza, and Butch's Grill.
Best Healthful NoshJuice Works in Terminal 1 (Gate B15), in the main hall of Terminal 2, and in the Terminal 3 rotunda has healthy sandwiches, juices, and yogurt. There's also a sushi kiosk at Gate C20 in Terminal 1.
Best Sinful SnackChocolate from Fanny May Candies in Terminals 1, 2, and 3.
Relax and Refresh
O'Hare is usually too crowded to offer many genuinely quiet spots, but there's a small parklike area in the connecting corridor between Terminals 1 and 2 that affords a good view of the airfield. You'll also find comfortable seating near the Children's Museum just past the security checkpoint in Terminal 2, and at the exhibit area sponsored by the Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications at the end of Terminal 2, toward the rotunda.
For a peaceful spot, try the chapel in Terminal 2, on the second-floor mezzanine above the TWA counter. Or hoof it on over to the lobby area of the O'Hare Hilton, which is just a 5-minute walk from the terminals via an underground pedestrian tunnel. If you want to check in, the Hilton offers a day rate on a space-available basis (773-686-8000).
The folks at Back Rub Hub in Terminal 3 specialize in relaxing massages, and the unisex Francolynn Hair Salon on the lower level of the O'Hare Hilton offers haircuts and manicures.
If walking the terminal concourses isn't enough exercise, you can purchase a $10 day pass for the health club located on the lower level of the Hilton, with its coed sauna/steam room, swimming pool, whirlpool, and weight rooms. It's open Monday-Thursday, 5 AM-11 PM; Friday until 10 PM; and 6 AM-10 PM on weekends (773-601-1722).
If you overdo it, stop by the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center's clinic in Terminal 2, just past the security checkpoint, open daily 6 am-10 pm. And if you really overdo it, you'll be glad to know that O'Hare was the first airport to provide publicly accessible defibrillators throughout the terminals.
Take Care of Business
The Skybird Business Center, upstairs in the rotunda in Terminal 2, contains desks, computer hookups, and facilities for mailing packages, sending faxes, and holding meetings. The airport is also home to a pair of business centers (in Terminal 1, across from Gate B6 and in the underground walkway between Concourses B and C) where you can rent a fully equipped mini-office on a per-minute basis.
Explore the Airport
Browse the bookstores in Terminals 1, 2, and 3 and the Beanie Baby store (Ty-riffic) in Terminal 3. Terminal 1's Concourse B houses Michael Jordan Golf, which purveys shirts, chocolate golf balls, and other golfing paraphernalia, and a branch of the Field Museum Store. Chicago Sports Section located in Terminals 1 (Gates B6 and C9), 2 (Gate F1), and 3 (Gate L4) offers team trinkets, and Brookstone has shops at Gate C11 and in the main hall of Terminal 3.
Students from Gallery 37, an award-winning Chicago arts education program, created the painted benches placed throughout O'Hare's terminals, including the benches and mosaic planters near the player piano in Terminal 2. Down the hall is an exhibit of vintage radio and television sets, courtesy of the Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Running along the tunnel connecting United's two concourses is Michael Hayden's "The Sky's the Limit," the world's largest neon sculpture, whose undulating lights are paired with a peppy sound track. Terminal 5 features a museum-quality collection of 43 stained-glass windows and 19 wooden sculptures by Jerzy S. Kenar, a Polish-born artist who lives in Chicago.
Wherever you are in the airport, listen up. When the sound system isn't being used to announce gate changes, lost kids, or the prohibition on smoking, it broadcasts music by some of Chicago's best-known jazz, blues, classical, folk, and rock musicians. If you hear something you like and need to know the name of a tune, you can look it up at www.airportmusic.org.
Finally, for impressive views of O'Hare's facilities, hop on the people mover. The Automated Transit System travels a total of 2.7 miles on a single trip, making stops at the domestic and international terminals and at the long-term parking facility.
Stop by the cheery "Kids on the Fly" activity center sponsored by the Chicago Children's Museum in Terminal 2. At flight-related play stations, kids can tag and weigh baggage, load cargo, and take the controls in a simulated control tower and jet cockpit. Just make sure the "pilot" steers clear of the 10,000-piece Sears Tower made of Legos.
Also, be sure to take the kids to visit the airport's dinosaur: a four-story-high, 72-foot-long Brachiosaurus skeleton model on loan from the Field Museum. You can't miss it if you head to the upper level of Terminal 1 in Concourse B.
Go into Town
The average cab fare to downtown Chicago costs between $25 and $30. The ride can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. Shared shuttle vans make the trip for $17. For a faster and cheaper ride into town, take public transportation: the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Blue Line train provides 24-hour service between downtown Chicago and O'Hare International Airport. Follow the lower-level pedestrian passageways inside the airport terminals to the CTA station. The fare to downtown is $1.50, and the ride takes about 45 minutes.
Call the folks at the Customer Service Hotline (800-832-6352) if you need to know anything about Chicago O'Hare International Airport before you arrive.
Copyright © 2001 by Harriet Baskas
|Albany, New York: Albany International Airport||19|
|Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol||23|
|Atlanta, Georgia: Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport||29|
|Austin, Texas: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport||34|
|Baltimore, Maryland: Baltimore/Washington International Airport||39|
|Boston, Massachusetts: Logan International Airport||44|
|Burbank, California: Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport||50|
|Charlotte, North Carolina: Charlotte/Douglas International Airport||54|
|Chicago, Illinois: Chicago O'Hare International Airport||59|
|Cincinnati, Ohio: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport||64|
|Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport||70|
|Columbus, Ohio: Port Columbus International Airport||75|
|Dallas, Texas: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport||80|
|Denver, Colorado: Denver International Airport||85|
|Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport||90|
|Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport||95|
|Hartford/Springfield, Connecticut (Windsor Locks, CT): Bradley International Airport||99|
|Honolulu, Hawaii: Honolulu International Airport||103|
|Houston, Texas: George Bush Intercontinental Airport||108|
|Indianapolis, Indiana: Indianapolis International Airport||113|
|Las Vegas, Nevada: McCarran International Airport||117|
|London, England: Gatwick Airport||122|
|London, England: Heathrow Airport||128|
|Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles International Airport||134|
|Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis International Airport||138|
|Miami, Florida: Miami International Airport||143|
|Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport||148|
|Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Montreal-Dorval International Airport||154|
|Nashville, Tennessee: Nashville International Airport||158|
|Newark, New Jersey: Newark International Airport||163|
|New Orleans, Louisiana: New Orleans International Airport||168|
|New York, New York (Jamaica, NY): John F. Kennedy International Airport||173|
|New York, New York (Flushing, NY): LaGuardia Airport||179|
|Orange County, California (Santa Ana, CA): John Wayne Airport (Orange County Airport)||184|
|Orlando, Florida: Orlando International Airport||188|
|Paris, France: Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport||194|
|Paris, France: Orly Airport||199|
|Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Philadelphia International Airport||203|
|Phoenix, Arizona: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport||208|
|Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh International Airport||213|
|Portland, Oregon: Portland International Airport||220|
|Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina (Wake County, NC): Raleigh-Durham International Airport||224|
|Reno, Nevada: Reno-Tahoe International Airport||228|
|St. Louis, Missouri: Lambert-St. Louis International Airport||232|
|Salt Lake City, Utah: Salt Lake City International Airport||237|
|San Diego, California: San Diego International Airport||243|
|San Francisco, California: San Francisco International Airport||247|
|San Jose, California: San Jose International Airport||253|
|Seattle, Washington: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport||257|
|Tampa, Florida: Tampa International Airport||262|
|Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Lester B. Pearson International Airport||266|
|Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Vancouver International Airport||271|
|Washington, D.C. (Arlington, VA): Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport||277|
|Washington, D.C. (Dulles, VA): Dulles International Airport||282|
|Appendix||Airports Listed by Code||287|
Perhaps you've set your clock for an alarmingly early hour so you can arrive on time for that 6am flight, only to discover at check-in that the flight is delayed until noon? Maybe you've raced between terminals, sweating, fretting, and cursing your carry-on as you made a mad dash for a connection that's already taken off? Or it could be you weren't even going anywhere but innocently volunteered to pick up a friend or family member and ended up cooling your heels at the gate waiting for a delayed flight to arrive. Sure you have. And you will again. Because, believe me, no one's going to solve the problem of gridlock in the skies anytime soon.
One problem we can solve, however, is what to do with the time we spend on the ground "dwelling" -- which is the official term for what we're doing when we're stuck at the airport. How? With attitude, preparation, and a bit of luck.
The attitude part is the hardest. We fly because we believe it's a fast, efficient form of transportation. Faster than driving, taking the train, or walking. Often it is. When it's not, it's exasperating and hard to maintain cool.
That's where preparation kicks in. I travel with a plastic bag in my carry-on filled with "airport essentials": a prepaid calling card, several granola bars, a handful of sucking candies, and a half dozen lemon-scented moist towelettes (airport bathrooms can get icky during delays.) I also carry a small bottle of water, $20 in airport "mad money," and a book I've been promising to read "someday" when I had the time.
Then there's luck. You'll be lucky if you find yourself stuck at an airport that offers one or more amusing amenities. For example, there's a nine-hole putting green in the West Palm Beach airport; slot machines scattered throughout the terminals in Las Vegas and Reno; an aerospace museum at the Honolulu airport; and great art and historical exhibits at San Francisco International Airport. I even find myself wishing for delays in Pittsburgh, Orlando, Portland, and Washington, D.C., because the variety of shops at these airports rivals the hippest malls in my hometown.
So, the next time you find yourself with an hour or three to spend at an airport, try not to curse or throw things at the gate personnel. Take a deep breath, open your "airport essentials" emergency kit, have a good laugh or even a snicker, and say out loud: "I hope this airport is included in Stuck at the Airport." If it's not, take some notes about what you find onsite and send them along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your reward? A copy of the "Stuck at the Airport: Top 10."
© Harriet Baskas 2001.
Posted June 20, 2001
This is a great book with lots of fun information. I've been stuck at BWI waiting to pick up family and friends and never knew what I was missing. Next time I plan to get to the airport extra early to visit the places Ms. Baskas tells about in her book. Very creative and well written. A must for frequent travelers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.