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Chicago Midway International Airport

Chicago Midway Airport Logo.gif

Airport type Public
Owner City of Chicago
Operator Chicago Airport System
Serves Chicago, Illinois, USA
Elevation AMSL 620 ft / 189 m
Coordinates 41°47′10″N 087°45′09″W / 41.78611°N 87.7525°W / 41.78611; -87.7525Coordinates: 41°47′10″N 087°45′09″W / 41.78611°N 87.7525°W / 41.78611; -87.7525
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4L/22R 5,507 1,679 Asphalt
4R/22L 6,446 1,965 Asphalt/Concrete
13C/31C 6,522 1,988 Concrete
13L/31R 5,141 1,567 Asphalt
13R/31L 3,859 1,176 Concrete
Statistics (2008)
Aircraft operations 253,901
Passenger volume 17,340,497
Cargo tonnage 14,254
Source: FAA[1] and airport website[2]
Midway Airport diagram

Chicago Midway International Airport (IATA: MDWICAO: KMDWFAA LID: MDW), also known simply as Midway Airport or Midway, is an airport in Chicago, Illinois, United States, located on the city's southwest side, eight miles (13 km) from Chicago's Loop. The airport's current IATA code MDW has been in use since it was implemented in 1949 when Chicago Municipal Airport was renamed Chicago Midway Airport.[3] It is bordered by 55th Street, Cicero Avenue (terminal entrance), 63rd Street, and Central Avenue. The airport's northern half is within the Garfield Ridge community area, and the southern half is within the Clearing community area. The airport is managed by the Chicago Airport System, which also oversees operations at O'Hare International Airport and Gary/Chicago International Airport.[4]

Midway is dominated by low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines. AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines are the airport's other major operators. Both the Stevenson Expressway and Chicago Transit Authority's Orange Line provide passengers access to downtown Chicago. Midway Airport is the second largest passenger airport in the Chicago metropolitan area, as well as the state of Illinois, after Chicago O'Hare International Airport.[5]

Today, Midway Airport serves as a focus city for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines[6] and Orlando-based AirTran Airways. For over 16 years, Chicago Midway International Airport had been the main hub for Indianapolis-based ATA Airlines (ATA), but that service was reduced to four destinations in November 2007, and was scheduled to end by June 7, 2008[7][8] before the airline filed for bankruptcy in April 2008, immediately discontinuing all flights.[9][10]




Early history (1923–1962)

Originally named Chicago Air Park,[11] Midway Airport was built on a 320-acre (1.3 km2) plot in 1923 and consisted of a single cinder runway that primarily served airmail services. The site was selected following the destruction of the Wingfoot Air Express when it crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Building, killing thirteen people, and the city decided to close the Grant Park air strip. In 1926, the Chicago City Council leased the land for commercial purposes from the Chicago Board of Education at a rate of $1560 per year.[11] On December 12, 1927, Midway was dedicated as Chicago Municipal Airport by Chicago Mayor William H. Thompson,[3] and became known as "Munie" to many early pilots. The unique one-square-mile footprint of Midway Airport is due to its connection to the Chicago Board of Education. Under the Land Ordinance of 1785, land was divided into townships. Each township included a one-square-mile (640 acre) section devoted to education. In most instances, one-room school houses were located on this land, the balance of which was farmed to provide funds for the operation of the school. As township school districts consolidated, much of this excess land was typically sold for other purposes. The Chicago Board of Education continued to own the Midway Airport section and rent it to the City of Chicago for airport operations until 1982, when an education funding crisis forced the Board of Education to sell the land to the City of Chicago for $16 million.[12]

Chicago Midway Airport (formerly Chicago Municipal Airport) as it looked in 1927

During its first full year of operation in 1928, the airfield was home to twelve hangars and four runways, lit for night operations.[12] Air traffic control was handled by flagmen,[12] who would be positioned at the end of the runways; they were responsible for controlling 14,498 flight operations carrying 41,660 passengers that year.[3] The official observation site for Chicago's weather records was also moved to Midway during that year from the downtown area and would remain there until it was moved again, this time to O'Hare, in 1980.

The greater Chicago area, featuring Chicago Midway and O'Hare International Airports
The former Main Terminal entrance of
Chicago Midway Airport before the
airport's recent expansion project

A new passenger terminal and administration building, funded by a bond issue, was dedicated in 1931[12] by Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, and in the following year Midway Airport earned the title of "World's Busiest" with over 100,846 passengers riding on 60,947 flights.[3] Midway held that title for three decades until O'Hare claimed it in 1961.[12]

In 1941, Midway Airport joined World War II efforts because of its long runways and mid-continent position.[3] The war years proved to be a boom for Midway, which saw new construction funded in part by $1 million in federal monies from the Works Progress Administration, and work on additional runways moved forward in 1941 when a court ordered the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad to reroute tracks in the vicinity of the airfield. Midway handled a full 25% of the nation's 417,000 passengers during that year.

The airport was officially renamed on July 8, 1949[3] by a unanimous vote in the City Council to "Chicago Midway Airport" in honor of the World War II Battle of Midway[3] – not after Midway Airlines, as many have believed, nor because the airport is located at the west end of 59th Street (the eastern end of which is part of Chicago's historic Midway Plaisance). Midway saw 3.2 million passengers carried on 223,000 flights during 1949. The number of passengers rose to 3.5 million the next year and reached a height of 10 million in 1959. This video of Chicago Midway Airport in 1954 shows the increase in traffic that Midway Airport experienced throughout the 1950s.[13] However, by 1959, the airport had proved unable to handle larger aircraft and higher passenger loads. By 1961, the airport faced a 60% drop in passenger traffic, largely due to the opening of O'Hare in 1955.[3] In 1962, United Airlines, the first major carrier to serve Midway, ceased operations at the airport, the last remaining carrier to do so during this period of decline.[12]

Post-O'Hare reconstruction (1963–1993)

By 1967, reconstruction had begun at the airport, adding three new concourses with 28 gates and three ticket counters,[3] and in 1968 the city invested $10 million in renovation funds,[12] The funds partly supported construction of the Stevenson Expressway, which proved to be a major route for passengers to the airport, and Midway saw the return of major airlines during that year, serving 1,663,074 passengers on more than 274,062 flights,[3] aided in part by the introduction of jets, such as the McDonnell Douglas DC-9, Boeing 727, and Boeing 737, that were capable of using Midway's shorter runways, which the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 could not.

In 1979, Midway Airlines began operations,[3] the first to do so after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, and went on to become the flagship carrier at Midway before ending its operations in 1991.[12] Midway Airlines helped revitalize the airport and led the way for other discount carriers, who benefited from Midway's lower costs and close proximity to Chicago's Loop, to prosper.[12] Southwest Airlines, which began operations at Midway in 1985,[14] was one such beneficiary. Three years earlier, in 1982, the City of Chicago purchased Midway Airport from the Chicago Board of Education for $16 million.[12]

The Chicago Transit Authority displaced the original location of the Carlton Midway Inn to open a new CTA terminal at the airport on October 31, 1993 for the newly established Chicago 'L' Orange Line, which connected Midway to Chicago's Loop.[3] The CTA's Orange Line connects Midway to downtown Chicago via elevated train transportation.[3] Midway Airport is the terminus of the line, which traverses the southwest portion of the city before ending up in the loop and cycling back to Midway again. The Orange Line does not run 24 hours a day (unlike the Blue Line, which provides 24-hour service to O'Hare & the Red Line), but does operate extensive hours from about 4:00 A.M. to 1:00 A.M., running at an average of 8-minute intervals.

Recent history (1994–)

In 1996, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced the historic Midway Airport Terminal Development Program, which was launched the next year. At the time, it was the largest public works project in the state.[15] The Midway Airport parking garage opened in 1999, bringing covered parking to the airport for the first time. The garage, offering 3,000 hourly and daily parking spaces, is connected to the Midway terminal building for convenient access to ticket counters and baggage claim areas.[3]

Continuing with the expansion project, a pedestrian bridge over Cicero Avenue was constructed in 2000. The bridge connects the new terminal to the new concourses.[12] In 2001, the new 900,000-square-foot (84,000 m2) Midway Airport terminal building opened, offering expanded ticket counters, spacious baggage claim areas, traveler information and a short walking distance to airline gates.[3] A 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) food court opened with Chicago-style food and retail options, and in 2002, Midway welcomed the return of direct international service after a 40-year absence with the opening of the new Federal Inspection Service facility in Concourse A.[16]

In June 2004, Mayor Daley and airline officials celebrated the completion of the Terminal Development Program.[12] The expansion project resulted in the addition of 14 gates (from 29 to 43), with the airport now providing 43 gates on 3 concourses.[12] A new 6,300-space economy parking garage, including a new bridge and roadway used exclusively for buses shuttling passengers to and from the terminal, opened in December 2005.[12]

Simultaneous to Midway's expansion, ATA Airlines began rapid expansion at Chicago Midway in the early 2000s, and prior to 2004, ATA offered significant scheduled service to destinations from Midway Airport and was the airport's dominant carrier, occupying and operating 14 of the 17 gates in Concourse A.[17] However, after the airline declared bankruptcy in October 2004, scheduled service from Midway significantly decreased.

ATA Airlines opened their Chicago-Midway hub in 1992, and was the largest carrier at Midway as recently as 2004. ATA ceased all operations in April 2008.

Due to repeated cancellations to its schedule, ATA then offered non-stop flights to 4 destinations, and mainly operated out of only 2 gates in Concourse B. On May 11, 2007, the airline added new service from Chicago to Oakland and Ontario, California.[18] These new additions marked the first time ATA increased service at Chicago Midway in almost three years. However, just five months later, ATA announced they would end service to Ontario on January 7, 2008.[19] On April 3, 2008, ATA Airlines discontinued all operations. The airline had operated at Chicago-Midway since 1992.[8]

As of November, 2008, Porter Airlines flies between Midway and Toronto. It is the only Canadian route served from Chicago-Midway.

In early 2009, construction began on an expansion of Concourse A. The new area will compliment the existing walkway to gates A4A and A4B, and will feature new concessions and a new holding room. The area where the walkway to gates A4A and A4B meet the main terminal has been widened and further down the walkway near the gates is a new 2 level waiting area and food court in the shape of a half circle covered in glass for airfield viewing. The project is scheduled to be complete in Spring 2010.


On April 20, 2009, a $2.5 billion deal to privatize the airport via a 99-year lease fell through when the consortium could not put together financing. The City is to keep $125 million in the downpayment. The consortium operating under the name of Midway Investment and Development Company LLC consisted of Vancouver Airport Services, Citi Infrastructure Investors and Boston's John Hancock Life Insurance. It was awarded the contract in October 2008 by the City Council which voted 49-0 to approve it. The consortium would have operated the airport and collected airport parking, concession and passenger facility charges. However, Chicago would have continued to provide fire and police services. Chicago privatized the Chicago Skyway in 2007.[20]

The two original Southwest Airlines maintenance hangars at Midway Airport.


Chicago Midway Airport is the second largest passenger airport in the Chicago metropolitan area, and is the second busiest in the state of Illinois after Chicago O'Hare International Airport.[5] In 2008, 17,340,497 passengers traveled through Chicago Midway, second behind O'Hare International Airport, and ahead of Gary/Chicago International Airport and Chicago Rockford International Airport.[5] In 2005, Chicago Midway International Airport was the 30th busiest airport in the United States in terms of passenger traffic.[21] In its 80-year history of passenger traffic, Midway Airport has had 21 incidents and accidents, and only one accident since 1976.

Southwest is the dominant carrier at Midway, controlling 29 of the airport's 43 gates. Currently, the airline offers 227 daily departures to 47 destinations.[22]

Chicago Midway International Airport ranked third amongst large airports in the nation for "Best On-Time Arrival Rates" in June 2007, with 75.4% of all flights (8,087) arriving on time, a 3.8% increase from the previous year.[23] It ranked highest in customer satisfaction among medium-sized airports (10 million to 30 million passengers per year) in J. D. Power and Associates' 2008 study.[24]


Aerial view of Chicago Midway International Airport, a.k.a. the "world's busiest square mile".

The original fully developed 1940s layout included 8 runways that crisscrossed the 8-by-8-block (one square mile) property. All terminals and hangars were on the square periphery. By the late 1970s the shorter north–south and east–west runway pairs had been closed. Four of the original runways remain, all significantly strengthened and enhanced, but essentially the same lengths as always. A short runway for light aircraft was added in 1989.

Chicago Midway International Airport covers one square mile (640 acre, 2.59 km2) and currently has five runways:[25]

  • Runway 13C-31C: 6,522 ft × 150 ft (1,988 m × 46 m), air carrier runway, ILS equipped.
  • Runway 4R-22L: 6,446 ft × 150 ft (1,965 m × 46 m), air carrier runway, ILS equipped.
  • Runway 4L-22R: 5,507 ft × 150 ft (1,679 m × 46 m), general aviation and air taxi.
  • Runway 13L-31R: 5,141 ft × 150 ft (1,567 m × 46 m), general aviation and air taxi.
  • Runway 13R-31L: 3,859 ft × 60 ft (1,176 m × 18 m), light aircraft only.

Because Midway is surrounded by buildings and other development, the landing thresholds of the runways are displaced to provide a proper obstacle clearance. Both the FAA and the airlines ensure safety by adhering to calculated load limits and various weather minimums. Because of the displaced landing thresholds, the runways have shorter distances available for landings than for takeoffs. 13C-31C, the longest runway, only has an available landing distance of 6,059 feet (1,847 m) in the southeast direction, and 5,826 feet (1,776 m) operating to the northwest. All the other runways have a landing distance below 5,930 feet (1,810 m).[26] The largest aircraft normally seen at Midway is the Boeing 757. Due to close spacing between runways and taxiways and other dimensional issues, widebody aircraft would require too many operating restrictions to be practical.

Terminals, airlines and destinations

Destinations served from Chicago-Midway
Southwest Airlines is the dominant carrier at Midway, operating more than 225 daily flights out of 29 of Midway's 43 gates to over 45 destinations across the United States.
An AirTran Airways Boeing 717-200 with a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 in the background.

The carriers transporting the most passengers from Chicago Midway Airport are Southwest and AirTran. In 2008, a total of 17,340,497 passengers were carried through MDW, a 10.52% decrease from the previous year. Also in 2008, 253,901 aircraft passed through Midway Airport, a 16.66% decrease from 2007.[27] Since the merger of Northwest Airlines into Delta, Delta is now the second largest carrier at Midway, surpassing Airtran in number of daily flights and year round destinations.

For complete information on flights to and from Chicago Midway International Airport, please see the airport's website.

Midway has 43 aircraft gates on three concourses (A, B, and C)[3]

Note: All international arrivals are handled in Concourse A.

Airlines Destinations Terminal
AirTran Airways Atlanta, Fort Myers [seasonal], Orlando, Sarasota/Bradenton A
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Minneapolis/St. Paul A, C
Delta Connection operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines Atlanta C
Delta Connection operated by Comair Detroit A
Delta Connection operated by Compass Airlines Minneapolis/St. Paul A
Delta Connection operated by Pinnacle Airlines Atlanta, Detroit A
Delta Connection operated by Shuttle America Atlanta, New York-LaGuardia [ends June 10] C
Frontier Airlines Denver A
Porter Airlines Toronto-City Centre A
Southwest Airlines Albany, Albuquerque, Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham (AL), Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hartford/Springfield, Houston-Hobby, Indianapolis, Jackson, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Little Rock, Long Island/Islip, Los Angeles, Louisville, Manchester (NH), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New Orleans, New York-LaGuardia, Norfolk, Oakland, Omaha, Ontario, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Tucson, Washington-Dulles A, B

Other services

Airlines Destinations
Pet Airways Baltimore, Denver-Rocky Mountain

Previous airline service

Before the rise of O'Hare in the late 1950s, Midway was the world's busiest airport and one of the key hubs in the U.S. airline system.[12] United Airlines was headquartered at Midway in the pre-O'Hare days, and American Airlines was originally based at Midway until it moved its headquarters to New York City in the mid-1930s. There was also a very large presence from TWA and Eastern Air Lines, as well as several others. The airport was extensively renovated in 1958 and, again, in 1967, after which several of the legacy carriers resumed service after a period of some years.[12] Midway was also a hub for the startup Midway Airlines in the 1980s, and a focus city for former Vanguard Airlines from 1997–2000.[28]

Both American Airlines[29] and United Airlines[30] ended all scheduled service to Midway in September 2006, in favor of concentrating Chicago-area operations at the larger nearby O'Hare International Airport. However, despite its small size compared to O'Hare, Midway is still a vital transportation terminal. Its key advantage is that it is closer to the Loop than O'Hare. The average train ride on the Orange Line from the Loop to Chicago Midway International Airport is about 20–25 minutes, compared to about 45 minutes from O'Hare.

Big Sky Airlines, which commenced non-stop service on December 3, 2006 between Springfield, Illinois and Midway, later expanded the service to include daily nonstop flight to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, beginning on March 17. However, citing poor demand, both the Springfield as well as the Eau Claire flights were discontinued on June 9, 2007.[31]

Mesa Airlines, which began non-stop service from MDW in early 2007, discontinued all flights to Decatur and Quincy, Illinois, effective November 9, 2007. The flights, which were operated by Air Midwest, were terminated citing poor passenger demand.[32]

Chicago Midway International Airport was once the largest hub of ATA Airlines and its wholly owned regional airline partner Chicago Express which operated as ATA Connection . ATA had operated a hub at Midway since 1992. As recently as 2004, ATA operated over 100 daily flights to over 30 destinations. The airline cut back service from Chicago after declaring bankruptcy in late 2004. In April 2008, the airline again declared bankruptcy and ended all scheduled operations. On April 3, 2008, ATA Airlines ended all operations, including service to the four cities the airline still served at Chicago-Midway.

Continental Airlines, provided daily service from Chicago-Midway to Cleveland and Newark until May 2008. The airline discontinued Chicago-Midway service on May 31, 2008 citing high fuel prices. However, Continental has stated it will maintain all operations at nearby Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

Among the other airlines that use to frequent Midway were Access Air, Kiwi International Airlines, US Airways, MetroJet, Ozark Air Lines (2000-2001), and Pan American Airways (1998–2004).

Incidents and accidents

Significant incidents

Southwest Airlines Flight 1248, a Boeing 737-700, after it skidded off runway 31C on December 8, 2005.

On June 30, 1956, United Airlines Flight 718, a Douglas DC-7, was headed for Midway Airport. Over the Grand Canyon it collided with a TWA Super Constellation killing all 128 people on both planes. This became the impetus for the modern air traffic control system.

December 8 incidents

On December 8, 1972, United Airlines Flight 553, a Boeing 737-200, crashed into a residential area outside of Midway during landing. The crash of the 737-200 killed 43 of the 61 on board, and two on the ground.

Exactly 33 years later, on December 8, 2005, Southwest Airlines Flight 1248, a Boeing 737-700 inbound from Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Baltimore, Maryland, slid off the runway while attempting to land at the airport in a heavy snow storm.[33] The airplane broke through the barrier fence of the airport and came to rest at the intersection of 55th Street and Central Avenue bordering the airport at its northwest corner.[33] A 6-year-old boy was killed as a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by the plane after it skidded into the street.[33]

List of All Major Incidents at Chicago Midway International Airport
Date Registration Aircraft Carrier Location Summary
31 May 1936 NC14979 DC-2 Trans World Airlines - On approach to 27L, 1 engine out, strong gusts, crashed half a mile east of field
4 December 1940 NC25678 DC-3A United Airlines 6356 So. Keating Pilot lost sight in bad weather, spun in
21 May 1943 B-24 US ARMY 3625 W. 73rd St. On approach, disoriented in bad weather, hit huge gas storage tank 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south east
26 September 1946 NC19939 DC-3 Trans World Airlines West of 96th Ave. at 97th St. Mid-air collision with Boeing PT-17, DC-3 limped in to Midway
2 July 1946 NC28383 DC-3 Trans World Airlines - Crashed 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northeast of field
10 March 1948 NC37478 DC-4 Delta Air Lines 5000 W. 55th St. Plane took off 36L, at 150 feet (46 m) went vertical, at 500 feet (150 m) nosed over, crashed on 55th St.
26 March 1949 NC90736 DC-6 American Airlines - Hit power lines on approach
18 December 1949 NC86501 L-049 Trans World Airlines - Landing too far down 13R crashed through fence, ended up at 63rd and Cicero
4 January 1951 N79982 C-46 Monarch Airlines - Overloaded taking off on 31L, could not climb, crashed on railroad tracks one half mile northeast
16 September 1951 N74689 C-46 Peninsula Transport - Belly-landed 500 yards (460 m) away at northeast 63rd and Harlem
3 March 1953 N6214C L-1049 Eastern Airlines On field Landed on 31L, gear collapsed, skidded southwest toward Hale School
17 July 1955 N3422 Convair 340 Braniff International Airways On field Hit gas station sign on approach to 13R, flipped over, crashed
5 August 1955 N74601 Boeing 377 Northwest Airlines - Landed 31L, could not stop, crashed through fence 55th and Central
20 February 1956 N7404 Vickers Viscount Capitol On field Landing on 31L plane flopped in 300 feet (91 m) short of threshold
15 March 1959 N94273 Convair 240 American Airlines - Lost sight of 31L on approach, crashed in railroad yard one half mile south of field
24 November 1959 N102R L-1049H Trans World Airlines Came to rest 63rd and Kilpatrick Plane departed 31L, fire on #2, circled to land 31L, crashed 0.2 miles (0.32 km) southeast of field
1 September 1961 N86511 L-049 Trans World Airlines - Plane departed Midway, lost elevator bolt, crashed near Hinsdale, Illinois
8 December 1972 N9031U 737-200 United Airlines 71st and Springfield Aircraft descended too low on approach to 31L and struck houses, crashed 1.25 miles (2.01 km) southeast of airport
25 March 1976 N1EM Lockheed Jetstar Executive On field Pilot unfamiliar with plane attempted take off 13R, never airborne, crashed into fence 63rd and Cicero
6 August 1976 N9446Z TB-25N Air Chicago - Poor maintenance, plane took off 4L, lost engine 2, crashed 0.4 miles (0.64 km) west of field
8 December 2005 N471WN 737-700 Southwest Airlines 55th & Central Landed 31C during snowstorm, crashed through fence, hit 2 cars, killed child in car, 55th and Central

INFORMATION SOURCED FROM: Civil Aeronautics Board archives, NTSB records, bukiri-research.

NOTE: The runway now designated 13C-31C was designated 13R-31L until 1989, when a new Runway 13R-31L was built. Runways 27L and 36L have been closed since the 1970s.


Midway Airport is served by the Chicago Transit Authority's "L" trains. Passengers can board Orange Line trains at a station in the airport terminal, which runs to downtown Chicago and the Loop (transit time about 25 minutes). This same station doubles as a stop for many CTA-run buses that serve the surrounding areas. Midway is one of the few airports in the United States that have rapid transit train to terminal service.[34]

See also


  1. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for MDW (Form 5010 PDF). Retrieved March 15, 2007.
  2. ^ City of Chicago, Airport Activity Statistics, December 2008, published January 21, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Midway Airport Visitors Guide (History Section)". 2007-05-12. Archived from the original on 2008-04-14. 
  4. ^ "Chicago Airport System". Chicago Airport System. 2007-12-01. 
  5. ^ a b c "Chicago Airport System Airport Statistics". Chicago Airport System. 2007-12-01. 
  6. ^ "Southwest Airlines Fact sheet". Southwest Airlines. 2007-04-08. 
  7. ^ "ATA to end service to DCA, LGA". USA Today. 
  8. ^ a b "ATA Airlines to Discontinue Scheduled Service at Chicago's Midway Airport". ATA Airlines. PR Newswire. 
  10. ^ "ATA Codeshare Information." Southwest Airlines.
  11. ^ a b "Chicago Transportation: Chicago Midway Airport". 2007-05-12. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "History of Midway International Airport". Fly Chicago. 2007-04-28. 
  13. ^ "Chicago Midway Airport – 1954". YouTube. 2007-12-02. 
  14. ^ "Southwest Airlines Fact Sheet: Top Ten Airports". Southwest Airlines. 2007-05-12. 
  15. ^ "Early History/Post O'hare history". The Tracon. 2007-04-06. 
  16. ^ "New Midway Terminal". 2007-04-06. 
  17. ^ "ATA Facts". ATA Airlines. 2007-12-01. Archived from the original on 2008-03-28. 
  18. ^ "ATA announces new service to Oakland & Ontario, CA" (PDF). ATA airlines. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. 
  19. ^ Pierceall, Kimberly (April 3, 2008). "ATA Airlines goes out of business with little effect on Ontario airport". The Press-Enterprise. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  20. ^ Midway Airport deal falls apart: Consortium can't borrow cash needed to finance deal – Chicago Tribune – April 21, 2009
  21. ^ "2005 North America Final Traffic Report: Total Passengers". Airports Council International North America. 2007-04-08. Archived from the original on 2008-01-03. 
  22. ^ "Southwest's Daily Departures from MDW". Southwest Airlines. 
  23. ^ "'It's a nightmare' for air travel". Chicago Tribune. 2007-08-07. 
  24. ^ "Customer Satisfaction with Airports Declines Sharply Amid an Industry Fraught with Flight Delays". J.D. Power and Associates. 2008-05-20. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. 
  25. ^ "MDW FAA Information Effective 11 February 2010". AirNav. 2010-02-11. 
  26. ^ "Chicago Midway International Airport". Airnav. 2010-02-11. 
  27. ^ "Monthly Operations, Passengers, Cargo Summary By Class For December 2008". City of Chicago. 2009-01-21. 
  28. ^ "Midway Airlines". Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2007-04-27. 
  29. ^ "American to pull out of Chicago Midway". USA Today. 2007-04-06. 
  30. ^ "United to pull out of Chicago Midway". USA Today. 2007-04-06. 
  31. ^ "Big Sky Airlines Service". Big Sky Airlines. 2007-04-06. Archived from the original on 2007-04-06. 
  32. ^ "Mesa Airlines Service". The Quincy Whig. 2007-11-30. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. 
  33. ^ a b c "Boy dies as jet skids off runway". BBC News. December 9, 2005. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  34. ^ "Map of "L" Train". Chicago Transit Authority. 2007-08. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Chicago/Southwest Side article)

From Wikitravel

Chicago's Union Stock Yard Gate
Chicago's Union Stock Yard Gate

The Southwest Side of Chicago is far off the beaten path. Plenty of visitors know Midway Airport, but never see anything beyond. Truth be told, there isn't a lot to see. But the Southwest Side does hold some interest as the former home to the infamous Union Stock Yards as well as a pretty long list of hidden culinary gems well worth the trek.


The Southwest Side is large enough where you cannot understand it without understanding its neighborhoods—it is united only by its blue-collar character, proximity to the airport, and of course, the White Sox.

The Back of the Yards is a loose term encompassing the community areas of McKinley Park, Brighton Park, and New City, referring to the area's history as the home to the vast hordes of immigrant laborers in the Union Stock Yards of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Though the stock yards are long gone, the blue-collar character remains. The actual stock yards were located in the heart of New City between Ashland Ave and Halsted from Pershing Rd (39th St) to 47th St. Today the site is marked by the Union Stock Yard Gate and a large industrial park. The area surrounding the park is comprised of predominantly Mexican-American neighborhoods and has some good food on offer. Canaryville (between Halsted and Wentworth from Pershing to 49th) is an Irish-American neighborhood with a notoriously violent reputation. McKinley Park, on the other hand, is experiencing gentrification as younger Chicagoans are priced out of "hipper" neighborhoods.

The Union Stock Yards

The massive meatpacking industry of the Union Stock Yards developed alongside the technological innovation of the refrigerated railway car. Livestock of the agrarian Midwest were brought to the rail hub of Chicago and its stock yards to be processed and shipped off around the country. At its peak, the Union Stock Yards processed about 82% of the meat consumed in the United States!

The stock yards played a huge role in the development of the city. With the enormous wealth they brought in came some of the world's first global companies, capitalizing on the abundance of animal byproducts for use in commercial goods and technological innovations in transport, refrigeration, and the beginnings of the assembly line. Even more important to modern-day Chicago, the yards ave birth to the modern hedging industry needed to manage the inherent risks in agricultural commodities trade, establishing Chicago as a premiere world center for finance.

Further technological innovations, however, spelled doom for Chicago's centralized stock yards. The rise of interstate trucking and fast point to point shipping of meat allowed for livestock to be slaughtered where they were raised and then quickly delivered to consumers without the Chicago middleman.

Chicagoans don't lament the loss of the yards, regardless of the number of jobs they provided — the stench of manure and death was suffocating across the greater part of the city. And the environmental degradation catalogued by Upton Sinclair was extreme. The south fork of the Chicago River's South Branch (just west of Racine Ave) became known as Bubbly Creek for the methane and hydrogen sulfide gas from decomposition bubbling through the grease, chemicals, blood, and guts. It wasn't pretty.

Centered around one very large and fabulous park, Marquette Park is an ethnically mixed neighborhood divided between mostly African-Americans east of the park and Mexican-Americans immediately west of the park, along with some Polish and Lithuanian-Americans. Further west, the area becomes more ethnically inclusive, with median income playing a more prominent role in residency. Aside from the park (and its golf course), the neighborhood is alluring mostly for its great Mexican food, as well its rare-in-America Lithuanian dining. This neighborhood was once dominated by a big, wealthy, Lithuanian-American community, but its demographics began to shift dramatically following Martin Luther King Jr's anti-segregation marches (which at the time met with violence from residents). Accompanying desegregation in this neighborhood was characteristic "white flight," which put an end to the "Lithuanian Gold Coast" and heralded a more open neighborhood which recently has become a major destination in the United States for Mexican immigrants.

Around Midway, you'll find Chicago's second airport, surrounded by an ethnically diverse collection of neighborhoods. This section of town is home to a large, established Polish community, as well as more recently arrived Mexican communities. The neighborhoods of Archer Heights, Garfield Ridge, and Clearing are important centers of Polish culture in the United States; you are likely to hear as much Polish as English while walking around these neighborhoods. Points of interest are pretty spread out, but the food and nightlife sure beats the airport hotels. And you don't have to venture too far to find one-in-a-million pizza, or some Croatian baked goods.

In the southeast are a couple of far-flung African-American neighborhoods: Auburn Gresham and Washington Heights. Aside from the Obama family's now famous church, they have far less of interest to travelers, but both are nice enough neighborhoods and have some good places to eat if you find yourself in the area.

Englewood also deserves a mention, but mostly as a warning — it is a large, impoverished, and relatively violent neighborhood with just about nothing to offer a traveler. It is generally best to just roll through on one of the main roads (e.g., 55th St) or to avoid the area altogether.

Get in

By plane

Midway Airport (IATA: MDW) [1] plays second fiddle to the Chicago giant that is O'Hare International, but it nonetheless services a lot of domestic flights and is a more convenient point of entry. Just about everyone coming into this part of Chicago goes through this airport, which primarily serves domestic flights on low-cost carriers — it is the hub for Southwest Airlines.

Parking rates

  • Hourly Parking: $4 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour
  • Daily Parking: $4 for the first hour, each day is $25.
  • Economy Parking: $2 for the first hour, $5 for two hours, and $12 per day (or just over 2 hours!)

Note: parking charges are incurred after 10 minutes in all lots, save the cell phone waiting area.

By train

The CTA Orange Line runs through the district on its way from the Loop, providing quick and easy access to Midway Airport, as well as some northern areas of the Southwest Side from the Loop, but keep in mind that a bus transfer will likely be necessary to get you from the L station to anywhere other than the airport. Travel time is about 25-30 minutes from the Loop to Midway, but you may wait up to 30 minutes between trains during off peak hours.

Metra's Rock Island commuter rail line serves the southernmost neighborhoods of the district, and can get you to Auburn-Gresham or Washington Heights. But again, keep in mind that you will need to take a bus from the station to your destination. Trains depart from the downtown LaSalle Station. A ride to the Gresham station costs just over $2, to Longwood or Washington Heights, just over $3.

The Metra Southwest Service goes straight from Union Station in the Near West Side to the Ashburn neighborhood, where it stops twice at "Wrightwood" and "Ashburn." Only take this train if you are going to Ashburn, not if you are going to the airport, as its stops are on the other end of the district.

By bus

CTA bus route #62, which travels along Archer Ave from McCormick Center in the Near South to Midway, is probably the most convenient route into the Southwest Side from downtown Chicago. Other important routes include the city-spanning north south routes along Halsted, Ashland, Western, Pulaski, and Cicero: #8, #9, #49, #54, and #53. The major east west routes are #47, #55, and #63, which as you might expect run the lengths of 47th, 55th, and 63rd streets.

#62 Archer is the one bus that runs directly from downtown to the Midway Area, but it actually doesn't stop at the airport, so if you're coming from that way, the L is a better option. From the West Side, there are convenient and direct routes along Cicero and Pulaski (#53 and #54). Bus route #55 is by far the best way to travel to Midway from the South Side, and there is a #55 express route that leaves from the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park.

A hazy skyline view over Midway Airport
A hazy skyline view over Midway Airport

The Dan Ryan Expressway runs down the eastern edge of the district, and heading west on the 55th/Garfield exit will take you directly to the airport. To get to the Union Stock Yard Gate, take the Pershing Road exit from the Dan Ryan. The Stevenson Expressway lacks exits on the main roads leading into the eastern parts of the area, but the Damen Ave exit will get you on Archer, from which you can easily get onto Western, Ashland, or Halsted. For Midway take Cicero; Pulaski is useful for exploring the areas just east of the airport.

Get around

Pretty much the only way to get around the Southwest Side by public transport is by bus, but if this is the route you choose, make a point of it to plan your route ahead of time, as distances are fairly long and the bus routes generally only run along the main streets.

A car is a handy travel companion in the Southwest Side indeed. Attractions, activities, and restaurants are generally spread apart over long distances, and free on-street parking is available just about everywhere. Taxis are also a good option, but do not expect to be able to hail one off the street — you will need to call and arrange rides in advance.

Glad he can see now
Glad he can see now

The one big sight on the Southwest Side is the Union Stock Yard Gate, and even that is a pretty small attraction for how out of the way it is. Other sights appeal to narrow sections of society. The Chicago Blues Museum has a magnificent collection for anyone interested in blues history, but it remains to be seen whether it will ever have regular hours. The Balzekas Museum is of obvious interest to Lithuanian-Americans, the Indian Building to Wayne's World fanatics and roadside kitsch-seekers, and the Archives to, well, archivists (and to those who want to trace their roots in the Midwest).

  • Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 6500 S Pulaski Rd, +1 773 582-6500 (, fax: +1 312 582-5133), [2]. 10AM-4PM daily. The Balzekas Museum has a fine collection of Lithuanian antiques, folk art, armor, coins, rare historical maps, amber jewelry, and other items exhibited chronologically. The center also includes a state-of-the-art audio-visual center and an impressive research facility for Lithuanian history and genealogy. And the gift shop is a great shopping spot for Lithuanian items. Adults: $4, seniors/students: $3, children: $1, free on Tuesday.  edit
  • Capital Cigar Store Inc (The Indian Building), 6258 S Pulaski Rd. Forget the store, this place is famous for the giant stereotypical-looking Indian statue of Wayne's World fame on the roof. In the movie, his hand is raised in greeting, but he has an arrow through his back. More recently, however, the Midwest Eye Clinic has usurped the cigar sellers, and adopted the Indian as a billboard — the arrow is gone, he now wears large glasses, and bears an odd sign reading "Eye can see now."  edit
  • Chicago Blues Museum, 3636 S Iron St, +1 773 828-8118. This museum is huge and has an excellent collection of blues paraphernalia and exhibits related to blues in Chicago today and in history. The museum also has exhibits pertaining to Chicago's African-American history in general, especially about the Bronzeville district in the 1920s and 30s. But the collection is on tour, and the museum is closed indefinitely.  edit
  • La Lotería, (4100 S Ashland Ave). The largest mural in the city (500 ft), painted by Hector Duarte and Mariah de Forest, on the south wall of the Swap-O-Rama building. You can't really see it from the street — you'll need to wander deep into the parking lot for a good look.  edit
  • National Archives & Records Administration, 7358 S Pulaski Rd, +1 773 948-9050 (, fax: +1 773 948-9050), [3]. M, W-F 8AM-4:15PM, T 8AM-8PM. The enormous Midwest branch of the National Archives is hidden away in the middle of nowhere, but its collection of records is enormous. The public has free and instant access to the census records, for those interested in their family genealogy, while historic federal documents are searchable only by researchers who have applied for a pass in advance.   edit
  • Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 W 95th St, +1 773 962-5650, [4]. This large and influential church is a long-time pillar of Chicago's South Side, and the former home to one very famous congregant, Barack Obama, who here found his religion and was baptized. Trinity United, to the dismay of its congregants, rocketed to international infamy in the space of seconds during then Senator Obama's presidential campaign, when news outlets got their hands on a fiery sermon by the then pastor Jeremiah Wright. In the now famous clip, replayed endlessly for weeks across the cable news networks, Rev. Wright cried out, "God damn America!" The ensuing characterization of the church was hardly fair, with the short clip shown out of context, and the context itself being one very much alien to most Americans, who had not had any experience of the often radical social justice traditions of the African American Church. In part because he was unhappy to see his former congregation harassed by reporters, and in part because his increasingly flamboyant pastor was continuing to embarrass and hurt his campaign, Obama left the church, allowing things to calm down over time, and for the congregation to get back to its purposes of worship and charity.  edit
  • The Union Stock Yard Gate, 4200 S Peoria St. This limestone structure marks the entrance to the now defunct Union Stock Yards that dominated this section of Chicago (and the meatpacking industry of the country) in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. The current stone gate replaced an original wooden gate, designed by the legendary architect John Root, of Burnham and Root (who you'll know well if you read Devil in the White City). Look on the front of the gate for Sherman, a prize winning bull — the Second City's second most famous bovine, right on the heels of Mrs. O Leary's Cow.  edit
  • Stock Yards Firefighter Memorial. The stock yards produced an awful lot of grease, with a good amount of chemicals added to the mix. Unsurprisingly, the place caught on fire now and then. 1910 saw a particularly ferocious blaze, which took the lives of 21 firefighters on this spot, just behind the gate. The memorial is dedicated to all Chicago firefighters who have lost their lives, 530 at the time of the dedication in 2004; their names are inscribed on the base.  edit
The lagoon at Marquette Park
The lagoon at Marquette Park
  • Marquette Park, 6734 S Kedzie Ave, +1 312 747-6469. 7AM-11PM daily. Marquette Park is huge and is a good place to get away from the urban commotion of the city. Ice skating (on the lagoon) and cross-country skiing are both possibilities during the winter. During the summer, it's likely the South Side's favorite place for a picnic or a pick-up game of soccer (or more accurately in these parts, futból). The park is also home to the Ashburn Prairie, a fine specimen of the native plant species of the area.  edit
  • Marquette Park Golf Course, 6734 S Kedzie Ave, +1 312 747-2761. Sunrise-sunset daily. The hidden gem that is Marquette's public golf course is considered one of Chicago's most beautiful. You will feel miles away from the city. Nine holes, 3,187 yards. Weekdays: $8-12, Weekends: $9-13.  edit
  • Sherman Park, 1301 W 52nd St. Sunrise-sunset daily. Although lesser known than Marquette Park, this 60 acre park is historically and aesthetically its equal. Designed by Daniel Burnham & Co (architects) and the Olmsted Brothers (landscape artists) and located on (a rather unsafe stretch of) historic Garfield Boulevard, this park not only provides open green space and a beautiful lagoon, but also classically designed architecture, and a glimpse into the past (as well as the future) of the Back of the Yards area.  edit
The giant Ford City Mall
The giant Ford City Mall

The Southwest Side is not an enticing shopping destination, unless the endless strip malls on Cicero are your thing. Even Midway Airport lacks a duty free shop, as it only serves a few international flights to Mexico. But if you find yourself here and need something, you can almost certainly find it on Cicero.

  • Ford City Mall, 73rd St & Cicero Ave, +1 773 767-6400, [5]. M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 10AM-6PM. This mall has a bit of history to its name. In its former life it produced engines for bomber planes during World War II under Ford Company management, and later car engines. If the mall fails to satisfy your needs, rest assured the Cicero Avenue strip malls extending endlessly to the south will.  edit
  • Izzy Rizzy's House of Tricks, 6034 S Pulaski Rd, +1 773 735-7370 (, fax: +1 773 581-4626), [6]. M-F 10AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-7PM. You also might want to take a gander at Izzy Rizzy's. The kids will love you if you take them here. Magic kits, fake dog doo, Santa costumes, whoopee cushions galore.  edit
  • Sanchez Brothers Western Clothes, 1942 W 47th St, +1 773 254-4090. 10AM-8PM daily. Live out your mariachi fantasies here. The Sanchez Brothers carry all sorts of specialty clothing for Mexican bands, from cowboy hats to iguana skin boots! $20-5,000.  edit
  • Video Strip, 3307 S Archer Ave, +1 773 927-4307, [7]. 11AM-midnight daily. A McKinley Park video rentals shop with an eccentric collection of DVDs. If you are staying anywhere nearby, they will actually deliver the rentals to you.  edit
Flying over Midway
Flying over Midway

The Southwest Side excels in three culinary areas: Mexican, Polish/Bohemian, and Chicago-style fast food. Avoid the airport hotel restaurants like the plague — there are far better (and more fairly priced) places to eat nearby. If you have a car, drop whatever you are doing and head down Pulaski Ave to Vito & Nick's for the "best pizza, anywhere." If stuck at the airport, Gold Coast Dogs will give you a bonafide Chicago Hot Dog.

  • Birriería Zaragoza, 4852 S Pulaski Ave, +1 773 523-3700. M,W-F 10AM-7PM, Sa-Su 8AM-4PM. This little South Side birriería has lately found itself featured in just about every major Chicago magazine and newspaper, and while this is surprising, it is not unwarranted. The birria tatemada on order is shredded goat, first steamed for hours and then oven roasted, coated with a mild mole, served in tacos, or "en plato" in a tomato consommé. The owner is an artist first, business owner second, who has studied his narrow trade on a level unique in the city. $2-10.  edit
  • Bobak's Sausage Company, 5275 S Archer Ave, +1 773 735-5334, [8]. M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 8AM-7PM. It's unclear whether the restaurant will ever re-open, but there are tables inside the store for people who like to enjoy sausage at the source, along with other Polish favorites. $5/lb. of hot food.  edit
  • Harold's Chicken Shack. The great South Side fried chicken chain is cheap, usually a little dirty, and always delicious. Crowded at meal times. $2-5.  edit
  • 917 W 87th St, +1 773 224-4621. 11AM-3AM daily.
  • 10259 S Halsted St, +1 773 568-5906. M-Th 10AM-midnight, F-Sa 10AM-1AM, Su 11AM-10PM.
  • 2521 W 63rd St, +1 773 778-9659. Su-Th 11AM-2:30AM, F-Sa 11AM-4AM.
  • La Cecina, 1934 W 47th St, +1 773 927-9444. 9AM-10PM daily. Come to La Cecina for la cecina — a Guerrero-style salt-dried steak that is rehydrated with a marinade and then grilled. But if you are less in the mood for culinary refinement, and more in the mood for eating bull testicles, well, you are in the right place. $2-10.  edit
  • Lindy's & Gertie's, 3685 S Archer Ave, +1 773 927-7807. M-Th 10:30AM-10PM, F 10:30AM-midnight, Sa 11AM-midnight, Su noon-10PM. Who could go wrong with a South Side institution (since 1924) serving chili, ice cream, and beer? The interior is somewhat of a historic landmark itself, since it's barely been renovated since the roaring twenties. $2-7.  edit
  • Nicky's, 5801 S Kedzie Ave, +1 773 436-6458. M-Sa 10:30AM-12:30AM, Su 11AM-10PM. Nicky's is another one of those legendary South Side fast food institutions rich with local tradition and absent quality controls — for the real deal, you'll want to come to this one, the original. You'll never be starved for Chicago fast food options in this part of the city, but it's worth seeking out a Nicky's for a reliably great gyros or the legendary Big Baby. Whether Chicago came up with this double decker hamburger as a challenge for the invading Big Mac, or for its predecessor the Big Boy is uncertain. Either way the toasted buns, condiments on the bottom, and most crucially, Maxwell Street-style greasy grilled onions all add up to a tasty treat. (Alas, Nicky's hot dogs suffer from rumored estrangement from Vienna Beef.) $1-8.  edit
  • Paletería Flamingo, 2635 W 51st St, +1 773 434-3917. 11AM-10PM daily. Endless (Mexican) flavors of ice cream and Italian ice to choose from — try horchata or maybe cinnamon-apple pie. $1-5.  edit
  • Pticek & Son Bakery, 5523 S Narragansett Ave, +1 773 585-5500, [9]. T-F 4:30AM-6PM, Sa 4:30AM-5PM. A small Croatian bakery with a good range of unfamiliar treats (and some rather familiar, gooey chocolate chip cookies). 25¢-$4.  edit
  • Racine Bakery, 6216 W Archer Ave, +1 773 581-2258. M-F 6AM-7PM, Sa 6AM-6PM, Su 6AM-5PM. A nice big crowded Polish bakery, with all sorts of pastries, meat/potato pies, jams, mushrooms, juices, and anything else you are missing from Silesia. 25¢-$8.  edit
  • Taquería Atotonilco #2, 1659 W 47th St, +1 773 247-5870. M-Th 9AM-1AM, F 9AM-3AM, Sa 8AM-4AM, Su 8AM-1AM. A mostly take-out taquería with a reasonably large seating section that cooks the real deal. $2-4.  edit
  • Three Sons, 6200 S Archer Ave, +1 773 585-2767. 5AM-11PM daily. An affordable American diner, but since it's in the neighborhood it's in, the best options are in that little Polish section. Full bar. $3-8.  edit
  • Windy City Hot Dogs, 4205 W 63rd St, +1 773 581-0332. M-Sa 10AM-10PM, Su 11AM-8PM. The place in the area to get your Chicago-style fast food: hot dogs and Italian Beef. $2-4.  edit
Italian Beef at Windy City Dogs
Italian Beef at Windy City Dogs
  • Giordano's, 6314 S Cicero Ave, +1 773 585-6100, [10]. Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight. Located at the southeastern corner of Midway Airport, if you have a layover and want to try real Chicago pizza, take any bus south along Cicero Ave, or you could take a good walk, to the best Chicago chain around for stuffed Chicago pizza. $14-25.  edit
  • Lagniappe - A Creole Cajun Joynt, 1525 W 79th St, +1 773 994-6375, [11]. Tu-Th 11AM-8PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM. A small little joynt that serves incredible gumbo! The Cajun seafood entrees are also excellent, and $5 wangs 'n waffles always sounds just about right. $5-15.  edit
  • Leon's Bar B Que The Original, 1158 W 59th St, +1 773 778-7828. Su-Th 11AM-2AM, F-Sa 11AM-4AM. This is the most famous South Side barbecue joint, and has fed hungry ribs-lovers since Leon Finney opened it up in 1940. The links are incredible. Leon's also serves good deep dish pizza. Carryout only; no seating. $3-15.  edit
  • Los Delfines Restaurant, 2750 W 63rd St, +1 773 737-4900. 10AM-8:30PM daily. Tasty Mexican food focusing on the seafood, with a full bar, open late. $9-14.  edit
  • Los Gallos #2, 4252 S Archer Ave, +1 773 254-2081. M-Th 8AM-1:30AM, F-Sa 8AM-3:30AM, Su 7AM-1:30AM. Deceptively appearing to be a small nondescript Brighton Park taquería, this place is actually a culinary find of the first order. Breakfast is good, so is the menudo, but the delicious specialty is the Jaliscan-style carne en su juego (roughly: steak soup). The steak is roasted separate from the broth, and then joins a cornucopia of limes, bacon, beans, cilantro, onions, habanero peppers, and radishes. Unless you are planning to feed a family, get the smallest available portion, and make it clear that you want to eat here. $3-12.  edit
  • Restaurante El Patio, 4527 S Ashland Ave, +1 773 847-2595. 8AM-9:30PM daily. Excellent food and warm, friendly service in this Mexican restaurant. The seafood on offer is especially good. $8-14.  edit
  • Rhythm & Spice Restaurant, 2501 W 79th St, +1 773 402-9666, [12]. T-W 10AM-4PM, F-Sa 10AM-9PM. A very friendly and authentic Jamaican restaurant with great fish dishes $8-14.  edit
  • Seklycia, 2711 W 71st St, +1 773 476-1680. M-Sa 7AM-9PM, Su 8AM-8PM. One of the last handful of Lithuanian outposts in the city. A small Lithuanian diner catering to older Lithuanian-Americans in the neighborhood that serves fantastic apple pancakes and other traditional Lithuanian dishes at reasonable prices. $7-12.  edit
  • Szalas Restaurant, 5214 S Archer Ave, +1 773 582-0300, [13]. noon-11PM daily, bar until 2AM on F-Su. The name means "chalet" in Polish, and that's how the restaurant is designed; not a random quirk, though, because they serve food specific to the Polish highlands. To get in, you'll need to pull the rope over the door to ring the bell. The food's delicious, but plan to hibernate after wading through a hearty meal. $10-30.  edit
  • Valentina's, 4506 W 63rd St, +1 773 284-5529. Su-Th 9AM-11PM, F-Sa 9AM-midnight. This place, just a few blocks from Midway, serves wonderful taco platters. And the margaritas are just fine too. The decor is light and cheery, on-street parking is plentiful, and service is friendly, all making this a wonderful place to hang out, relax, and have some top-notch Mexican food. $8-15.  edit
  • Vito & Nick's, 8433 S Pulaski Rd, +1 773 735-2050, [14]. M-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-1AM, Su noon-11PM. It's a quiet, family-style eatery with a few older patrons chit-chatting at the bar. Widely regarded on the South Side as serving the best thin crust pizza in the city; it bears the slogan "the best pizza... anywhere," and that may well be true — to be clear, this may be the best pizza in the world. The South Side accents are thick, the decor with its shag carpeted walls and Christmas lights is South Side chic in its purest form — this is an experience to be had. Cash only, sometimes closes early if things are slow. $6-15.  edit
A delicious birria en plato
A delicious birria en plato

The Southwest Side does not rank prominently in the minds of Chicagoans when they think of city nightlife, but there are a handful of worthwhile spots, with good live music.

  • Groucho's, 8355 S Pulaski Ave, +1 773 767-4838, [15]. M-F 2PM-4AM, Sa noon-5AM, Su noon-4AM; Kitchen open until 3AM. A decent South Side rock club featuring better-known local and regional acts. As an added bonus, the kitchen serves bar food all night. Admission: $5, entrees: $5-11.  edit
  • InnExile, 5758 W 65th St, +1 773 582-3510, [16]. Su-F 8PM-2AM, Sa 8PM-3AM. Gay nightclub that attracts all sorts of people passing through next-door Midway with occasional live performances.  edit
  • Linda's Lounge (Linda's Place), 1044 W 51st St, +1 773 373-2351. A small, cozy neighborhood dive bar offering live blues and soul. The immediate area is a little rough, so make sure you have transportation lined up in advance.  edit
  • Natasha's Rome, 2441 W 69th St, +1 773 842-9816. M-F 5PM-2AM, Sa 5PM-3AM, Su 3PM-2AM. This is the nicest club in the Marquette Park neighborhood, with a laid-back bar on each of its two floors. Willie T performs live blues on Fridays, Sundays feature spoken word night, and the rest of the time there is a DJ spinning R&B and other pop music. Locals usually dominate the crowd, except on Fridays and Sundays.  edit
  • Reese's Lounge (Burnside Lounge), 1827 W 87th St, +1 773 238-1993. 11AM-2AM daily. Live DJs W-Su, Sunday nights are all-jazz. Dress nicely, it's a swanky place. Dinners $5-6.  edit
  • Tina's, 5440 S Narragansett Ave, +1 773 586-8767. M-Th 4PM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 2PM-10PM. A divey neighborhood sports bar that rises above the crowd for its thin-crust and stuffed Chicago style pizzas. Otherwise, cheap drinks and free pool are the draws.  edit
  • Tony O's Studio 31, 5147 S Archer Ave, +1 773 585-7512. Su-F 8PM-2AM, Sa 8PM-3AM. A bar/nightclub that is plenty friendly, packed on weekends, and miles away from the too-cool-to-sweat clubs downtown. No cover.  edit
  • Touch of Class, 6058 W 63rd St, +1 773 586-8177. Su-F 9AM-4AM. A neighborhood pub just west of Midway that takes pride in turning off the ear-splitting music that kills conversation in bars across the city. The atmosphere is extremely friendly and laid-back (although Notre Dame games can enliven the place up a bit).  edit


As it is an airport neighborhood, the Midway Area has a ton of hotels, which mostly fall in to two categories: bland, mid-range, three star business/airport hotels and cheap, but not seedy, motels.

  • Carlton Inn Midway, 4944 S Archer Avenue, +1 773 582-0900, +1 877 722-7586 (), [17]. Carlton Inn Midway is the only Midway hotel located a short walk (1.5 blocks) to the Orange Line L train stop- all other hotels require cabs, shuttles, or long hikes. Free airport shuttle, free parking, free internet, and free breakfast. AAA approved. Clean, comfortable rooms. $92-159.  edit
  • Crossroads Hotel, 5300 S Pulaski Rd, +1 773 581-1188. Extremely tattered but cheap. Just a couple blocks south of the Pulaski Orange Line station. Rooms from $50.  edit
  • Four Points Sheraton, 7353 S Cicero Ave, +1 773 735-4694 (fax: +1 773 581-8421), [18]. The Sheraton is comfortable enough, recently underwent a big-budget renovation, and the price is a better deal than the Midway Hotel Center offerings. $100-180.  edit
  • Mainway Midway Motel, 4849 S Cicero Ave, +1 773 735-0550. Another "tattered" budget option located about a half mile north from Midway along Cicero Ave, an easy bus ride. Rooms from $52 Su-Th, $67 F-Sa.  edit
  • Skylark Motel, 5435 S Archer Ave, +1 773 582-2100. Slightly more expensive than the other budget motels, but the extra cost may be worth it — it really is a good deal nicer. Rooms from $75.  edit

Midway Hotel Center

The Hotel Center is a hotel campus of seven individual options, located two blocks south of the airport (about a half mile from baggage claim) at 65th St and Cicero Ave. Shuttles run between all the hotels and the airport, although (despite claims to the contrary) you cannot always get a shuttle to/from the L station, so expect to have a long trip if you are heading to the city center. If you're here and looking for food, it would be a travesty of taste to go to the center's chain restaurants. Walk a block north to Giordano's for some quality Chicago-style pizza or solid Italian dishes. Better yet, get a taxi to Vito and Nick's.

  • Chicago Marriott Midway, 6520 S Cicero Ave, +1 708 594-5500, +1 800 228-9292 (fax: +1 708 594-5510), [19]. A fine business hotel, albeit a small step down from the usual Marriot standards. $140-220.  edit
  • Courtyard Chicago Midway Airport, 6610 S Cicero Ave, +1 708 563-0200 (fax: +1 708 728-2841), [20]. Recently renovated, but not quite as nice as the Marriott itself. $110-220.  edit
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Chicago Midway Airport, 6630 S Cicero Ave, +1 708 594-0090 (fax: +1 708 728-2842), [21]. This location is notably nicer than most Fairfield Inns, probably closer to a three-star than a two-star. Free wireless. $110-210.   edit
  • Hampton Inn Chicago Midway Airport, 6540 S Cicero Ave, +1 708 496-1900 (fax: +1 708 496-1997), [22]. Recently renovated, bland three star hotel. $130-240.  edit
  • Hilton Garden Inn Midway Airport, 6530 S Cicero Ave, +1 708 496-2700 (fax: +1 708 496-8820), [23]. Three star hotel with free high speed wireless. $110-200.  edit
  • Holiday Inn Express, 6500 S Cicero Ave, +1 708 458-0202, [24]. Probably the best option of the seven (although the differences between them are pretty slight), and has a curious New Orleans theme. $140-210.  edit
  • Sleep Inn, 6650 S Cicero Ave, +1 708 594-0001 (fax: +1 708 594-0058), [25]. The most price competitive option in the hotel center has a few less frills, and like the others is a bit overpriced, but perfectly sufficient. And the continental breakfast is actually good (waffles!). $85-180.  edit


Midway Airport offers high speed wireless in several lounges, restaurants, and Air Tran gates, but it is only available to Boingo [26] subscribers. All the following branches of the Chicago Public Library also offer free public internet access.

  • Back of the Yards Library, 1743 W 47th St, +1 312 747-8367. M,W 9AM-9PM, T,Th 10AM-6PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
  • Brighton Park Library, 4314 S Archer Ave, +1 312 747-0666. M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
  • Carter G Woodson Library, 9525 S Halsted St, +1 312 747-6900. M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 1PM-5PM.  edit
  • Clearing Branch Library, 6423 W 63rd St, +1 312 747-5657. M-Th 9AM-9PM F-Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
  • Gage Park Library, 2807 W 55th St, +1 312 747-0032. M,W noon-8PM, Tu,Th-Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
  • McKinley Park Branch Library, 1915 W 35th St, +1 312 747-6082. M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
  • Scottsdale Branch Library, 4101 W 79th St, +1 312 747-0193. M-Th 9AM-9PM F-Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
  • Thurgood Marshall Branch Library, 7506 S Racine Ave, +1 312 747-5927. M-Th 9AM-8PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
  • West Lawn Branch Library, 4020 W 63rd St, +1 312 747-7381. M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
  • Wrightwood-Ashburn Branch Library, 8530 S Kedzie Ave, +1 312 747-2696. M-F 9AM-9PM, Sa 9AM-5PM.  edit
A stark sort of beauty in Englewood, churches amid vacant lots
A stark sort of beauty in Englewood, churches amid vacant lots

As you would expect in such a large district of the city, crime levels vary throughout. The northern and western neighborhoods, while sometimes looking gritty, should not worry you in the slightest. Marquette Park is quite safe as well, although it deteriorates a bit southeast of the actual park. Englewood, on the other hand, is a huge neighborhood notorious among Chicagoans for murders, random beatings, and what have you. Auburn-Gresham and Washington Heights rest somewhere in the middle, but they're fairly quiet and peaceful — violent crime is not happening on main streets during the day.

  • If your flight is not on the departures display, perhaps you were looking for O'Hare International Airport? If so, grab a cab and hope for the best. Most taxis have special rates for the MDW-ORD trip, which should cost about $50-60 at the cheapest and take about an hour. If time is not an issue, you can take the Orange Line to the Loop and transfer to the Blue Line to O'Hare for just $2.25, but it will take two hours or more.
  • If you are staying downtown and just want to get some authentic Mexican food, there are great options closer by in the West Side's Pilsen neighborhood.
  • While you are out this far from the city center, why not head even further south to the Far Southwest Side to dig the Irish pubs and brogues.
  • Hop on the CTA Orange Line and head downtown to the Loop to escape the outskirts and see the city you recognize from the postcards.
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