Chicago Layover Guide (MDW)
What are you looking for in MDW?
Tours/To do | Relax/Sleep | Internet/SIM | Transport | Storage | Money
Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) used to be the primary airport found in the city of Chicago, Illinois founded in 1927 but has been replaced by O’Hare International Airport in 1955. The airport still serves as the second-largest commercial airport in the Chicago metropolitan area and it is located 13 km (8 mi) from the center of Chicago. In the United States, Chicago is known for its food, jazz music, interesting architecture and 1920s gangsters like Al Capone.
Can you leave Chicago Airport (MDW) airport during a layover? Do you need a visa?
It's possible for certain travelers to visit Chicago during a layover but others require a visa depending on nationality. (more info).
Tours, Things to do, Sightseeing
Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Experience
This might be the most famous building in Chicago and it offers an unrivaled view of the city from the Skydeck on the 103rd floor. The Ledge is not for the faint hearted, it is made of a series of 4 glass-paneled boxes that extend out from the building’s facade and gives a dizzying vertigo-inducing view straight down. » book this tour
90-Minute Mob and Crime Bus Tour
Discover Chicago’s underworld of criminals and gangsters on a luxury 90-minute bus tour. This tour offers insights in the world’s most famous criminals, mobsters, and gangsters conned their way through the city. Learn about crime scenes from as far back as the 19th century through modern times. Find out the history of Al Capone, the Untouchables, the Chicago Mob, John Dillinger, Terrible Tommy O’Connor, H. H. Holmes, the Chicago Black Sox, Leopold and Loeb, bank heists, Cap George Streeter, and more. » book this tour
Chicago River Architecture Cruise
This 75-minute cruise takes you to all three branches of the Chicago River, and marvel at the architecture that has made Chicago legendary. The tour gives insights into the buildings and engineering of a city that gave birth to the skyscraper. View over 40 landmark buildings from the cruise and find out why Chicago is the spiritual home of modern American architecture. » book this tour
Things to do / Sightseeing
Music Box Theatre
This 1929 Chicago theatre used to show gorgeous two-screen movies. It is still perfect for movie lovers who enjoy the latest art-house films and documentaries. The main theater is gorgeous, and regularly hosts the director’s question sections. They also offer midnight screenings of cult classics. Grab some popcorn from the concession stand and make sure to catch a movie.
Time required: Set aside 1 to 2 hours to visit the Music Box Theatre.
Airport to here: Typically takes a Taxi 30 minutes and public transport takes an hour.
Wrigley Field is the home of the Chicago Cubs and might be one of the most famous places to see a baseball game. The stadium is very well designed and has a feel of nostalgia as you see the outfield walls and the manual scoreboard. Even the stands take you back and let you enjoy games whether the Cubs are performing.
Time required: Set aside 1 or 2 hours to explore the stadium.
Airport to here: Typically takes a Taxi 40 minutes and public transport takes an hour.
The Empty Bottle
The Empty Bottle might be the best rock club in the States. It is a proving ground for local and touring musicians to make their names in the music industry. It has the capacity to hold over 300 people as they rock out to electronic acts and experimental musicians on the rise. A visit to the Empty Bottle almost always guarantees a memorable show.
Time required: Set aside 2 to 3 hours to enjoy The Empty Bottle.
Airport to here: Typically takes a taxi 40 minutes and public transport takes an hour.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company
The Steppenwolf Theatre Company was founded in the basement of a Highland Park church, but has grown to embody the hardworking ethos of the Chicago theater community. It was home to some of the world’s most famous acting groups including Gary Sinise, John Mahoney, and William Petersen. It is still running and you can see great shows nearly every night of the week.
Time required: Set aside an hour or 2 to enjoy the theatre.
Airport to here: Taxi takes an average of 35 minutes while public transport typically takes an hour.
Museum Campus is a massive natural history museum that was founded back in 1893. It has a permanent exhibition that spans 350,000 square feet. The most recommended part of the institution is the popular “Inside Ancient Egypt” exhibit, that recreates the tomb of the pharaoh’s son Unis-Ankh. It is full of Egyptian artifacts some aged over 5000 years old and it has the largest collection of mummies in the United States.
Time required: 2-3 hours.
Airport to here: Typically takes a Taxi 40 minutes while public transport can take more than an hour.
The Millennium Park is a 25-acre park that is one of the most popular gathering spots in the city. This because it is the home of iconic public art installations like the Cloud Gate. During summer, there are free concerts and movie screenings.While in the winters, there are ice rinks.
Time required: You will need at least 2 hours to enjoy Millennium Park.
Airport to here: Taxi takes an average of 40 minutes while public transport typically takes a little over an hour.
East Garfield Park
Garfield Park Conservatory has a gorgeous glass structure housing more than 100,000 plants. Even better admission is always free though donations are welcomed. The Palm House is the conservatory’s largest room and is a great place to take a walk, it is almost like a paradise. Another room attempts to recreate the vegetation in Illinois millions of years ago, so make sure to check out the Fern Room.
Time required: 2 hours to 3 hours.
Airport to here: Taxi takes an average of 30 minutes while public transport takes an hour.
Relaxing and Sleeping
Airport Lounges and Relaxing
The airport has no pay-per-use lounges but there is an USO lounge available. » view all lounges or buy a lounge pass or membership online
Hotel and Sleeping
Many hotels are found within a mile of the airport. » view all or book an airport hotel online
Rest Area and Sleeping in Airport
There are no designated resting zones.
WIFI/Internet and SIM Card
WIFI/Internet: Connect to the “_Free_MDW_Wi-Fi” network for free unlimited internet.
SIM Card: There are several shops within the airport that sell SIM cards. » buy a global sim card for Chicago, United States that you can use for other countries as well!
Transportation to/from airport
Taxi: There are designated taxi stands found in front of each terminal on the lower levels.
Train: The CTA Orange Line train links passengers between the airport and downtown Chicago. (more info).
Bus: There are several great bus options to the city and back to the airport. (more info).
Shuttle: There are airport hotel shuttle services and free shuttles with wifi that operates throughout the airport grounds.
Car rentals: There are a variety of options for vehicle rentals found at Midway’s Rental Car Facility that hosts all of its rental companies in one convenient location. » view available cars or rent a car now online
Parking: There is spacious parking available and it is possible to book a parking space in advance.
Luggage Storage & Lockers
There are no designated luggage storage spaces. » book a luggage storage or locker at Chicago Airport (MDW) online (subject to availability).