I am visiting Chicago the last week of September into the first week of October for the first time. I am staying at what I believe is a central hotel, The Blake. I am traveling with my wife who has health issues that require her to walk with a cane, can't be on her feet the way i can, meaning i am going to have some free time on my own. I was thinking about bringing my bike so that when I was alone I could wander around the city by bike. I'd love to get some advice from the people who live and ride there.
( I was just reviewing my message before posting it. Is the bike thing too ambitious? Chicago is a big city with public transport, taxis and sidewalks....will I have more than enough to do on foot? Maybe save the bike for a second trip? )
1. The law. I'm just looking for the basics here. I'm from Toronto and I suspect that the laws/rules are similar. Cyclists are considered vehicles and are supposed to use the road and follow all the same rules that vehicles use. Helmets are not the law but strongly encouraged. Bikes need a bell or some other noise maker. Lights at night. Same thing in Chicago? I do not want to get the attention of the police.
2. Cars and bikes. Are you guys getting along? In Toronto there is pretty constant conflict between bikes and cars, both on the streets and in the media. I'm more concerned about the street situation. Would it be fair to assume that I can safely ride anywhere in the city? Meaning there is a basic respect for each other and that if I am being attentive I should be OK to just explore the city by bike? Or am I going to be uncomfortable on the roads?
3. Rent or bring? Should I bring my own bike or are there affordable rental places that can set me up. I am 6'5" and would like a mountain bike style. What is bike theft like downtown. would a bike be stolen if left locked on the street over night?
4. Riding at night. I'd love to just wander the city at dawn and dusk....any reason not to? If I have lights i should be good correct? Is it rare to see folks riding at night?
5. Bike Lanes. I have found that Chicago city has what look like some great maps to download....there appear to be a fair bit of dedicated bike lanes. Fair to assume they are effective and useful?
6. Food. Off topic and I am sorry to pump you for food info....but I have to ask.... Is Chicago deep dish pizza really a thing? recommendations? Barbecue...where should I check out? Are there restaurant rows? really interested in independent fine dining that is not too pricey. Not into chain food.
7. Neighborhoods to check out.
Thanks in advance for your input
looking forward to this trip!!!
Thank you for all of the responses and info. Great stuff.
I am leaning towards bringing the bike, I have the room (old Subaru Forester), and riding around would let do so much more exploring. The touristy stuff is easy to do on foot, but just taking a look at the city should be great by bike.
Really looking forward to this, and thanks for the input so far.
Thanks again for all the advice and info
"Last week of September into the first week of October"
Will you be in town on the Friday the 25th? If so ride critical mass.
^^^^^^This. There is no better way to experience a city.^^^^^
I would highly recommend biking the lakefront, especially if you can do it at off peak hours (early mornings, or during the middle of the day on weekdays). As other have said biking at night is great, though I don't recommend the lakefront at night as it is pretty dark and you don't get to really see how beautiful it is.
Biking around is a great way to get to different neighborhoods since Chicago is pretty spread out. Other neighborhoods that I didn't notice being mentioned are Lincoln Square, around Argyle for some good Asian options, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park). BTW, there is a Chinese bakery on Argyle by the Red Line stop that has great BBQ pork buns for a dollar or two, two of those make a great breakfast or lunch.
There are too many food options to list, but if you are looking for something unique to Chicago, try an Italian Beef sandwich, maybe from Al's, but lots of places around that do this and hot dogs. (I recommend "Dry" - "Wet" is really messy - with giardiniera if you like a little spicy). The Chicago hot dog is another unique thing often recommended to tourists to try. Often confused with deep dish, stuffed pizza is also a thing here, very heavy and takes an hour to cook. Personally, I prefer thin, but stuffed is interesting to try and I've never seen it anywhere else. If you want thin, I recommend Bricks pizza.
Have fun in Chicago!
Beef may be messy when wet, but it's damn good! Portillos is another option for beef and dogs.
Pequods was mentioned earlier and gets my vote for best deep dish.
Also since OP is staying in South Loop you may want to venture to nearby Pilsen, lots of great spots on 18th st (bars, shops, mexican arts museum)