ORD Airport Guide
Navigate one of the busiest airports in the country with these helpful tips.
The second busiest airport in the United States, and one of the busiest in the world, is a United Airlines hub in the heart of the Midwest. O’Hare International Airport saw its highest number of passengers in a year, 79.8 million, in 2017 and doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. The airport is a common layover destination with plenty to do inside and around the airport to keep every traveler entertained.
Before you go: Whether you have a two-hour layover or eight-hour layover, you’ll have no trouble filling your downtime with activity. But with four passenger terminals, 191 gates and nearly 130 dining options, a little research will go a long way.
What to eat: Just outside of Chicago city limits, the airport offers a number of Chicago staples. Check out Tortas Frontera from celebrity Chef Rick Bayless. The hot spot features hand-crafted tortas and hand-shaken margaritas, all categorized as quick-service food. The Publican Tavern, an offshoot of the West Loop beer-focused meatery; Wicker Park Sushi Bar; and Billy Goat Tavern also offer a taste of Chicago for those just passing through. If you’re looking for something sweet, Garrett’s Popcorn is always a good choice, along with Nuts on Clark and Sarah’s Candies.
Where to hang out: With shopping options in every terminal, travelers can spend hours browsing the airport’s many stores. If hunting for Chicago souvenirs or local gifts for family and friends, the Field Museum Store, Chicago Sports and Vosges Haut-Chocolat offer a range of options to complete your shopping list.
O’Hare also features the first aeroponic garden in any airport around the world. Installed in 2011 and located in the Terminal 3 rotunda, visitors can relax by the garden made of 26 towers that house more than 1,100 planting spots. Who knows, that meal you’re eating may contain vegetables and herbs grown in the airport! Tortas Frontera, Wicker Park Sushi, Wolfgang Puck and Tuscany Cafe are among the restaurants that directly benefit from the garden.
Along with many other airports across the country, O’Hare features art exhibits worth exploring if you need a downtime distraction. Check out the airport’s art page to find the unique pieces scattered throughout the airport.
If you’re hoping to squeeze in a workout in between flights, purchase a day-pass to the Hilton Health Club (located in the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel – which is accessible from each domestic terminal) or check out the yoga room near the urban garden.
The airport even has a play area for little ones! The “Kids on the Fly” interactive and educational play area -- located just past security in Terminal 2 -- allows kids to explore an airplane, control tower or helicopter model … all while their parents enjoy a little time to unwind.
Where to explore: If a longer layover has you longing to venture out of the airport, head across the expressway to the Fashion Outlets of Chicago. The mall offers many recognizable brands and restaurants and is just two miles away from the airport. The concierge service offers baggage check and can print boarding passes upon request.