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7 Things to do on a layover at Chicago O’Hare Airport

  • Air Travel
  • Renee Martin
  • 6 minutes

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If you’re someone who travels across America often, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that sooner or later, you’ll need to change planes at Chicago O’Hare Airport. Given their notoriety for flight delays, it’s also pretty reasonable to assume that at some point in your travels, you’ll find yourself stuck at the O’Hare Airport. To be honest, you can’t really fault the airport – some of the delays happen because of the weather. Chicago is not called the Windy City for nothing! Some of the delays occur because of the huge numbers of connecting flights O’Hare handles each day. O’Hare Airport is a hub for American and United Airlines and handles 2,520 flights a day on average. The good news is that a layover at Chicago O’Hare Airport can be pretty cool, with plenty of things you can do in the airport and nearby. Here’s our guide to how you can rock your layover at Chicago Airport!

ORD Airport layover

What to do on your layover at O’Hare Airport


1.    Feast on great food

Chicago Hot Dog at O'Hare Airport

Chicago has far more to offer the discerning palate other than the famous deep-dish pizza. Other than the ubiquitous McDonald’s outposts in every terminal, you’ll also find Uno’s Pizza Express at Terminals 1 and 2 and Wolfgang Puck Cafes at Terminals 1 and 5.  Argo Tea and Garrett Popcorn Shops are available for some light refreshment at Terminals 2 and 3, as are Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. Enjoy locally-brewed beer from Goose Island Beer Company, and munch on Chicago Style Hot Dogs. No O’Hare Airport food list will be complete without the famed Tortas Frontera from local celeb chef Rick Bayless. Other traveler favorites to enjoy on your layover at Chicago O’Hare Airport are the Beaudevin Wine Bar, Berghoff Café, and Billy Goat Tavern and Grill. For a taste of something international, head over to the Thai Big Bowl (Thai & Chinese), Wow Bao (Chinese), or Tocco (Italian.

2.    Stroll around the Urban Garden

Urban Garden O'Hare Airport

You read that right! There’s a refreshing slice of greenery to be enjoyed at the O’Hare Airport Urban Garden – the world’s first aeroponic garden in an airport. The garden is on the mezzanine level of the O’Hare Rotunda Building in Terminal 3. The garden boasts house over 1,100 planting spots that ticketed passengers can view and enjoy. The urban garden grows many different herbs and vegetables – cilantro, chives, oregano, thyme, chives, lettuce, green beans, and snap beans. Some of the restaurants mentioned above, like Tortas Frontera, Wolfgang Puck, Wicker Park Sushi, and Tuscany Café, use this fresh produce to feed hungry travelers! This one has to be a must on your list of things to do at O’Hare Airport.

3.    Appreciate amazing airport art

O'Hare Airport art

O’Hare Airport has always been highly rated by art-loving travelers. There are impressive art exhibits, part of Chicago’s world-famous public art program, and are displayed across the airport. O’Hare Art is displayed in the form of sculptures, paintings, murals, and exhibits. Enjoy the art at O’Hare and explore Chicago’s rich culture on your layover at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

4.    Get your yoga on

yoga room O'Hare

There is nothing quite like a good stretch before settling the cramped airplane seats! O’Hare’s free yoga room is the perfect place for passengers looking for a quiet place to relax, unwind, and find their Zen. In fact, Chicago O’Hare was one of the first airports in the country to offer yoga facilities to weary travelers. The room comes equipped with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and frosted glass windows. The yoga room is on the Mezzanine Level of the Terminal 3 Rotunda.

5.    Get your shopping done

O'Hare Airport shopping

While O’Hare might not offer the kind of shopping experience that airports like LAX do, it still provides pretty decent shopping options. If brands are your thing, there are plenty of options, including Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, Coach, and Brooks Brothers. There are several Barbara’s Bookstores offering plenty of reading material. If you want to grab Chicago-themed souvenirs, there are two Field Museums stores. There are also three Vosges Haut-Chocolats to satisfy your sweet tooth!

6.    Just lounge about

O'Hare Airport lounge

Want a taste of how the other side lives? Well, at O’Hare, you can! Several lounges here will allow travelers, even those with economy tickets, to enter for a price. This will allow you to relax in comfortable chairs and eat some yummy food, away from the hustle and bustle of the airport.  Air France VIP Lounge, American Airlines Admirals Club, Swissport Lounge, and United Club are some of the lounges that will allow you in by paying at the door or by buying a single-use pass online. You may also use your lounge membership program to gain access.

7.    Get Out of O’Hare!

Explore Chicago City

As awesome as the ORD Airport, maybe, sometimes, you just need to step out of the airport more so if your layover is pretty long. O’Hare makes it pretty easy for you to explore your surroundings with the CTA Blue Line. The L Train from Terminal 2 will get you downtown in less than an hour. You can get to downtown Chicago in roughly half an hour on a cab or rideshare outside of peak hours.

7 Things to do on a layover at Chicago O'Hare Airport

Once you’re outside the airport, you can explore some of Chicago’s world-class museums, including Field Music, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. Snap a picture at the very Instagram-worthy Bean sculpture in Millennium Park. Clamber atop the SkyDeck and take in the gorgeous views. If you have enough time, you could even go on a Chicago Riverboat cruise and take in the famous Chicago skyline. Sports can head over to the Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs, or Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears. Keep in mind that there’s plenty to do in Chicago, and you may tend to lose track of time!

O’Hare Travel Tips:

If you want spend time enjoying all that O’Hare Airport has to offer, be sure to reach the airport early. Make sure you book your ORD parking ahead of your travel so that there’s no last-minute hurrying. 

Avoid public transportation and services like rideshares or taxis as far as possible – opt instead to drive yourself to the airport if you need to catch a flight. You can further minimize your risk by booking your contactless O’Hare airport parking spot online.


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