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How To

Kill Time

Canceled flights, crazy long delays—you didn’t plan to spend the day at the airport, but here you are. The good news: You’ve got the run of the place, since travelers at O’Hare can walk freely among all three domestic terminals, and Midway, of course, has only one.

If You’re Delayed …

  at O’Hare at Midway

for 1 hour
Get a mani-pedi. At the Terminal Getaway Spa, near Gate B12 in Terminal 1 or Gate H1 in Terminal 3, the standard manicure takes 20 minutes ($25), and the pedicure adds half an hour ($45). Practice a few sun salutations in the yoga room. Opened in September in Concourse C, it offers the airport’s best respite. The bamboo-floored room is usually pretty empty—at least when desperate college couples aren’t using it for, um, private time (or so said an airport security guy). Yoga mats are provided free of charge.
for 2 hour Pick up last-minute gifts at Hoypoloi Gallery, the Chinatown boutique with locations in Terminal 1 (Gate B6) and Terminal 2 (Gate E3). From hand-blown glass animals (from $5) to limited edition Dr. Seuss lithographs (from $225), no one will know you almost forgot to bring presents. Shopping options are limited—unless you’ve got a relative who collects snow globes—but Marketwalk Chicago, in the Midway Boulevard just past security, carries Fossil jewelry, Vera Bradley handbags, and Crabtree & Evelyn bath products.
for 3 hours Buy a day pass to an airport lounge. There are eight in the domestic terminals. The passes, most of which are $50, include free snacks, house drinks, and Wi-Fi. Opt for American Airlines’ Admirals Club, in the crosswalk between Terminal 3’s Gates H6 and K6, or the United Club at Gate C16 in Terminal 1, both of which have showers and kid playrooms. Grab a table at Harry Caray’s. Even during slow periods, it can take 20 minutes to score a seat at the airport’s only full-service restaurant, but with three hours to kill, you’ve got the time. Nurse your boredom with a beer at a table with a good view of the eight TVs.
for 4 hours Take a trip to the Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Go Airport Express runs shuttles directly to the mall. Buy a ticket at O’Hare (ticket counters are near baggage claim in all four terminals), and your ride will arrive within 15 minutes ($18 round trip). It’s a five-minute drive, and there’s decent food and more than 130 stores, including DVF and Gucci, with discount prices. Just be sure you have room in your suitcase for your new purchases. There’s not much for you. Pass the time in Concourse C, which is the quietest and least crowded because it has only three gates and far fewer flights in and out.

How to Score FREE Wi-Fi

Both airports charge for ­Wi-Fi—$6.95 for 24 hours—but you can get a short stint online for free. Click “Get online now” on the Boingo homepage (you’ll be taken there automatically when you launch your browser), and scroll down to “Complimentary Wi-Fi.” You’ll have to answer a survey question as part of an advertisement (ours was “Are you an IT business traveler?”), but that’ll buy you 20 minutes of surfing—just enough time to watch all seven sex scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey.


Take a Hike

Got a few minutes till boarding? Get your workout in. Walk these routes to burn some calories before you get stuffed into your plane seat for hours. And no cheating by taking moving walkways!

O’Hare Terminal 1

Starting at security, pass through the underground walkway (zenning out on the neon light sculpture overhead), walk the whole Concourse C hallway, and then go back underground, swing down Concourse B, and return to security. 1 mile

O’Hare Terminal 3

Starting at security, loop down Concourse H, cross the walkway over to Concourse K, and walk down Concourse K and back up to security. Extra points for not snagging a Reggio’s slice at the giant food court you’ll pass. 1.1 miles


Starting at security, walk each concourse to the end and back to cover the whole airport. 1.75 miles


Airport Smackdown

O’Hare Midway
Passengers in 2014
70.1 million 21.2 million
Flights in 2014
881,933 249,252
4 1
188 43
Food and drink spots
122 28
8 5
69 11
Parking spaces
25,863 11,312
8 2
17 0
Charging stations
21 8
Shoe hospitals
5 2
18 4
Airline lounges
15 0

How to Freshen Up

A day pass to the Hilton’s fitness center—connected to O’Hare near the domestic terminals—is $20 and gives you access to the club’s showers (and workout equipment, steam room, sauna, and lap pool). The catch: You’ll have to pass back through security.


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