Chicago O’Hare International Airport is located just northwest of downtown Chicago, Illinois. This Midwestern hub is one of the busiest airports in the world.
I’m a Chicago local here to help you navigate Chicago O’Hare Airport, whether you’re flying in to experience all the fun things to do in Chicago or just passing through. This article goes over interesting facts and history, the layout of ORD, and insights on transportation and nearby places to stay.
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Chicago O’Hare Airport History
The origins of Chicago O’Hare International Airport date back to WWII. At that time, it was called “Douglas Airport,” a manufacturing plant with an airfield and train connections. It was primarily used to build C-54s for WWII. The Douglas Airport location was previously known as Orchard Place, which used to be farming land.
Once WWII ended, the military and city of Chicago took over operations at Douglas Airport and massive redesigns and expansions took place. The latest airport designs and ideas of the time were implemented. For example, it made use of underground fueling, provided access to the highway and train system, and featured concourses and jet bridges.
In 1955, Chicago O’Hare began serving passengers. ORD continued to grow with the introduction of new jet planes since ORD offered more space than Chicago’s other airport, Midway. By 1961, O’Hare had become the second busiest airport in America.
O’Hare’s terminals expanded significantly between the 1980s and 1990s. United Airlines has a hub at ORD in Terminal 1 and American Airlines has a hub in Terminal 3. Terminal 5 was added in 1993 and serves as the main terminal for international flights from around the world. O’Hare has eight runways in all, with six parallel runways and four terminals in total.
Today, O’Hare continues to be one of the busiest airports in America, and even the world. It’s the gateway into America’s Midwest, and it serves millions of travelers every year. ORD connects people to the best of Chicago, from museums and parks, to food, and more.
Facts About Chicago O’Hare Airport
🛬 O’Hare is one of the busiest airports in the US: Chicago O’Hare Airport consistently ranks as the 3rd or 4th busiest airport in America.
✈️ Where O’Hare gets its name: ORD Airport was officially named Chicago O’Hare Airport in 1949 after Edward Butch O’Hare, who was a US Navy Pilot. O’Hare never lived in Chicago, but his contributions to WWII were significant. He was the first Navy pilot to receive the Medal of Honor.
🍎 Why O’Hare is called ORD: The airport code ORD pays homage to the airport’s original location at Orchard Place.
🦕 There’s a dinosaur at O’Hare: O’Hare is home to a 72-foot skeleton recreation of a Brachiosaurus. You can find it in Terminal 1, Concourse B.
🚆 You can easily reach downtown Chicago from ORD: You can easily and affordably reach Chicago’s downtown Loop by taking “the L” from O’Hare. Simply hop on the Blue Line (which is the only line there) and take it to whatever downtown train station you need.
🚇 ORD has a people mover: The Airport Transit System (ATS) is O’Hare’s people-mover train. It goes between all four terminals, and it’s necessary to reach Terminal 5 and the Multi-Modal Facility Station (MMF) for renting cars. ATS trains arrive about every five minutes.
Chicago O’Hare Airport Layout
There are four main sections to ORD: Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 3, and Terminal 5 (no, that wasn’t a typo—terminal numbers jump from 3 to 5).
Each terminal services a variety of airlines and includes options for basic shopping and dining. Terminals 1-3 are known as the domestic terminals and Terminal 5 is known as the international terminal.
Let’s cover them all:
Terminal 1 is the home of United Airlines. Both domestic and international flights are operated by United Airlines out of here. All Nippon Airways and ANA Lufthansa also operate from Terminal 1. Terminal 1 has all your typical things like check-in desks, baggage claim, and ground transportation.
Terminal 1 has 55 gates within its two concourses, B and C. These two concourses run parallel to one another. Concourse B is the concourse attached to ORD Airport’s main building. Concourse C is the satellite terminal, but it can be reached via a walkway from Concourse B.
Terminal 2 is another one of O’Hare’s domestic terminals. It has areas for check-in, baggage claim, and ground transportation. It’s specifically the designated terminal for all rideshares like Uber and Lyft. Concourses E and F can be found in Terminal 2. There are 41 gates in total.
A good selection of restaurants and shops can be found in Terminal 2. This includes local Chicago restaurants like Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi and Summer House Santa Monica.
Terminal 3 is by far the largest terminal at the Chicago airport with four concourses (G, H, K, & L) and 80 gates in total. American Airlines and Spirit Airlines are two of the biggest airlines that operate out of Terminal 3. Terminal 3 is considered a mostly domestic terminal, but Iberia Airlines and Japan Airlines also operate from here.
A wide selection of shops and restaurants can be found in Terminal 3, including a food court. You’ll also find local Chicago joints like Garrett Popcorn and Goose Island Beer Company.
Terminal 5 is known as the international terminal, as it mainly services international flights. However, some domestic flights do arrive and depart from here. Terminal 5 is the only terminal that isn’t connected to other terminals via a pedestrian walkway. You will need to take the Airport Transit System (ATS) to reach Terminal 5 from any other terminal inside ORD airport.
Ground Transportation from ORD to Chicago
It takes about 50 minutes to one hour to reach downtown Chicago (also known as “the Loop”) from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. There are several ways to get from the Chicago airport to the Loop. I’ll go over the best, most convenient methods of transportation once you land.
CTA Trains or the “L”
Taking the CTA train or the “L” is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to go between downtown Chicago and ORD airport. The station is connected to Terminal 2.
The Blue Line is the train you’ll need. This is the only line that goes to O’Hare, so it’s pretty easy to navigate. You’ll simply take the Blue Line all the way to O’Hare if you’re coming from downtown Chicago.
You’ll need to purchase a CTA ticket if you’re at ORD airport and headed downtown. Ticket kiosks are conveniently located at the airport train station. Then, you’ll hop on the Blue Line headed towards Forest Park. Trains come about every 5-15 minutes. Overall, taking “the L” is one of the best ways to get around Chicago.
You’ll need to go to the Multi-Modal Facility Station, also called “MMF,” if you plan on renting a car from Chicago O’Hare airport. This station can be reached by taking the Airport Transit System (ATS).
This is a train shuttle that runs between all four terminals and ends at the Multi-Modal Facility Station (MMF). It takes about 10 minutes to go from Terminal 1 to MMF. Trains run every five minutes or so.
Rental car companies that are available at ORD airport include:
- Routes Car Rental
👉 Related Reading: Driving in Chicago
Taxis are available outside of all O’Hare airport terminals right after baggage claim. Be sure to only accept taxis that line up in the designated taxi stand areas, and never accept a ride from someone who asks you if you need a ride. All licensed taxis should have meters.
A taxi ride from ORD to downtown Chicago takes about one hour and should cost around $30-$40. Arro and Curb are two taxicab services recommended by the city of Chicago. You can look out for these companies or hail these taxis via the apps.
You’ll need to exit through Terminal 2 if you want to take a Rideshare like Uber or Lyft. The designated Rideshare waiting area is between Door 2A and 2D on the upper level of Terminal 2. Rideshares from ORD airport to downtown Chicago cost about $35-$50. However, prices can go as high as $150 during surges.
Where to Stay Near Chicago O’Hare Airport
Chicago O’Hare Airport is located a little ways from the most popular neighborhoods and places to stay in Chicago. Luckily, there are a variety of hotels located super close to the airport. So, no worries if you need a place to stay while you’re en route.
Here is a list of the best Chicago hotels near Chicago O’Hare International Airport:
- Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport: This is where you’ll want to stay if proximity and convenience are most important to you. The Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport is located on airport grounds. You can walk to domestic terminals from here. Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport is also pet-friendly.
- Sheraton Suites Chicago O’Hare: Sheraton Suites at Chicago O’Hare is a highly-rated hotel located just 5 minutes away from the airport. This hotel is clean and comfortable and offers a free shuttle service to the airport.
- Staybridge Suites – Chicago O’Hare Airport, an IHG Hotel: Staybridge Suites is just a mile and a half from the ORD airport. This hotel is newly updated with clean rooms and suites available. Continental breakfast is included and there’s also an airport shuttle service.
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chicago O’Hare Airport, an IHG Hotel: Holiday Inn Express & Suites is another highly rated airport hotel. Rooms are standard and clean, and an American breakfast is included. A shuttle service is available.
- Hyatt Place Chicago O’Hare Airport: This hotel is about two miles away from Chicago O’Hare Airport and right next to Allstate Arena. Hyatt Place features clean and spacious rooms. Shuttle service is available and this hotel is pet-friendly.
FAQs About Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD)
Is O’Hare or Midway bigger?
O’Hare Airport is much bigger than Midway Airport. Chicago O’Hare Airport has four terminals and it services numerous airlines. Midway has just one terminal and services seven airlines in total.
How long does TSA take at Chicago O’Hare?
TSA takes an average of 15 minutes at Chicago O’Hare Airport. However, time spent going through TSA security can vary. You can check here to see current wait times.
Can you walk between terminals at O’Hare?
Why is it called ORD?
Chicago O’Hare Airport is called ORD as an homage to its history and its original location at Orchard Place, a former farmland.
I hope you found this airport guide helpful whether it’s your first or hundredth time flying into Chicago O’Hare Airport. Be sure to read our 5-Day Chicago itinerary if you need more tips and information on visiting the Windy City.
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