If you have found yourself with a layover at Chicago O’Hare Airport, you may now wonder what to do with your time….besides sleep! The airport is pretty old, so don’t expect anything too modern or fancy, but do expect a lot of travellers coming and going, no matter the time of day (or night). Like most airports in the U.S., amenities and facilities are pretty basic, so your situation could be rough-going for the long-term layover.
Here are ten things to do on a layover at Chicago O’Hare Airport:
1. Eat like a local
Chicago is known for its international dining scene, and that extends to its airport. Dining options range from grab-and-go to full-service, and there’s something around practically every corner, so you’re sure to find something to enjoy. Try local specialties at the Chicago Style Hot Dogs outposts, Reggio’s Chicago Style Pizzerias, and Garrett Popcorn Shops. Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless is a popular celebrity chef restaurant with 3 locations. There are a few concessions in each terminal that stay open 24 hours.
2. Relax in an airport lounge
Could you spend your layover hanging out in an airport lounge? You can! Many lounges allow travellers, regardless of airline or service class flown, to enter for a fee. Relax comfortably, eat some tasty food, and enjoy the relative quiet. To gain entry, pay at the door, buy a single-use pass online or use your lounge membership program. Locations and details are available in our Chicago O’Hare Airport Guide.
3. Go shopping
A large international airport usually means plenty of shopping opportunities, which holds true here. You’ll find plenty of well-known airport shops selling sunglasses, books and news, last-minute necessities, jewelry, technology, Duty-Free, and some boutiques. Local stores with airport outposts include two Field Museum Stores and three Vosges Haut-Chocolats.
4. Browse the art
Despite its old bones, O’Hare does an excellent job displaying unique public art throughout the airport. Find sculptures, murals, paintings, and more. The most popular spot is the oft-Instagrammed neon tunnel, “The Sky’s the Limit,” connecting Concourses B and C.
5. Hit the gym and freshen up
After all that travel, get your blood pumping or opt for a detoxifying sauna. Travellers can pay to enter the Hilton Athletic Club in the Hilton Hotel outside Terminal 2. Facilities include gym equipment, a lap pool, a sauna, a Jacuzzi, and full-service locker rooms. Even if you only want to shower and freshen up, the fee is probably worth it.
6. Enjoy a spa treatment
Terminal Gateway Spa has three locations that offer mani/pedis, facials, massage treatments and more. XpresSpa also provides speedier beauty services.
Need to stretch out after that last flight? Get your downward dog on and find your zen in the Yoga Room in the Terminal 3 Rotunda on the Mezzanine. TVs provide yoga poses if you need some prompting. Open daily, 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM.
8. Go sightseeing
Travelling light and got a long layover? One way to spend a long layover is to check out Chicago – though with transit times to and from the city, you’ll probably want at least 8 hours between flights if you’re venturing out. The L train’s Blue Line will have you in the heart of Chicago in about 45 minutes. Taxis are available, but traffic is notoriously bad, so consider your timing before shelling out for a cab.
Just to let you know, there are no airport luggage storage options, so plan ahead and pack lightly if you want to venture away from the airport.
Once you’re in the Loop, as the city center is known, here are a few activities within walking distance:
- Stroll to nearby world-class museums, including the Field Music, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Shedd Aquarium.
- Stop for a picture at the popular Bean sculpture in Millennium Park – you’ll know it when you see it.
- Take in the views from the SkyDeck at the top of the Willis Tower (formerly and better known as the Sears Tower).
- Join a Chicago River boat cruise for fascinating stories and excellent photo-ops of the world-class architecture that makes up the Chicago skyline.
- Sports fans will love touring Wrigley Field. The iconic Chicago Cubs home is a bit uptown from the Loop in Wrigleyville.
There’s plenty to do in Chicago, so watch the time! Return to the airport with enough time to process Security and make your next flight.
9. Get online
Stay connected to friends and family, update your social media accounts or surf the internet using the airport’s free WiFi. You’ll want to use your time wisely, though, as there is currently a 30-minute time limit restriction. Boo! There are options to upgrade in hourly, daily, or monthly increments.
10. Catch up on your sleep
Should you opt to catch some Z’s during your layover at O’Hare airport, you certainly won’t be the only one. In general, there are not a lot of sleep-friendly benches or chairs. A couple of exceptions: S-curved couches are inside Security in Concourse K and in the hallway connecting Concourses K and H, near Gate K6. The airport does provide cots and toiletry kits to unlucky travellers who have cancelled or significantly delayed flights, likely due to Chicago’s extreme winter weather. Rather trade cash for better quality sleep? The Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel is located on airport premises, across from Terminal 2, and it’s connected via an underground walkway and shuttle from Terminal 5. Many other hotels are located within a few minute’s drive of the airport; many offer complimentary shuttle service. See our Chicago O’Hare Airport Guide for hotel details.
These are just a few things to do on a layover at Chicago O’Hare Airport. Visit our Chicago O’Hare Airport Guide for more information about services and facilities, such as food, WiFi, mobile charging, luggage storage, nearby airport hotels, and much more.