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Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

Grawn, Michigan
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Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

Will be our first time in Brookfield and the Milwaukee area. Bringing our young children ages 7 & 9. Looking to plan a day trip to Chicago and would rather not drive because of traffic/big city driving and also because the kids would enjoy a train ride.

If coming from Brookfield what is my easiest & closest spot to take either the Amtrak or the Metra ??(if it goes to Chicago. The website is confusing to me).

Thanks for any help!!

10 replies to this topic
Chicago Suburbs
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1. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

Amtrak from downtown Milwaukee to Union Station in Chicago; Metra from Kenosha to Ogilvie Station in Chicago, which is a couple of blocks north of Union Station. Metrarail.com.

Milwaukee
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2. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

The closest station to Brookfield for Amtrak is downtown Milwaukee. There is also a station at the Milwaukee airport, which is a little further, but may be an easier drive.

Metra only goes as far as Kenosha, which is just north of the Illinois border. The problem with Metra is it is a commuter line, so after 8:49 am there is not another train to Chicago until 2:49 pm. So you would have to get a real early start for a day trip to Chicago. Metra is much cheaper than Amtrak.

The Amtrak website should be pretty straight forward, but I agree the Metra site is confusing. You have to know the route, which for Kenosha is the Union Pacific/ North line. If you click on that line you can see the schedule.

If you have more questions feel free to ask.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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3. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

I recommended Amtrak from downtown Milwaukee. An adult fare is about $40 round trip. Even though it's much cheaper, Metra leaves from Kenosha, which means you'd have to drive at least 45 mins too the station. I've done the trip once, and I found it more trouble than it's worth (you get that far and you might as well keep going all the way to Chicago). Amtrak from Milwaukee to Chicago (Union Station) is very easy - not to mention trains are much more frequent. Trains from Kenosha are pretty sporadic.

Wisconsin
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4. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

I actually have found Metra to be a better choice for me. You do have to drive a bit farther, but it costs half as much and there are more scheduled trains especially if you are traveling early or late in the day. Kenosha is the closest stop, but I also consider Antioch IL, which is also pretty easy to get to from I-94 and opens up an entire extra schedule of possible travel times.

Another advantage of Metra, if you travel on Weekends, Kids ride free.

If you don't want to drive that far, then I'd compare Amtrak with Megabus and Greyhound Express, which are usually less expensive than the train with similar travel times.

Edited: 01 June 2012, 02:04
Chicago Suburbs
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5. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

Far fewer trains run from Antioch than Kenosha. They are on different lines. No trains run from Antioch on weekends.

Grawn, Michigan
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6. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

Great info thank you all. Still deciding what is best. My husband won't love the idea of amtraks prices but I'm guessing if we did drive ourselves, parking in Chicago would be pricey anyhow. Is kenosha a big area? Fairly easy driving to get to that point? Dumb question but is it a paid parking lot or what for where you leave your car there? Thanks in advance again!

Wisconsin
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7. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

RTA --

Ooh, MegaBus! I forgot about that super affordable option! Although the scheduled times may not work for this poster, it is a good service for others to keep in mind.

Edited: 01 June 2012, 05:08
Milwaukee
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8. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

The advantage of trains over buses to Chicago is that there is not as much traffic on the train tracks. I would definitely recommend the train over bus unless budget is a big issue.

Megabus may be a cheap option, but you do have to reserve ahead, as I understand to get the best rates.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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9. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

I agree with przyk regarding the traffic issue with the buses. If you do decide to drive to Kenosha, it's a fairly easy, straightforward drive. 94 all the way to Hwy 158, basically all the way to the lake (that's the part that seems to take the longest). Kenosha isn't a really big area, so you'd have no trouble finding and getting into the station. Not sure about parking (pretty sure it's a pay lot), but the Metra website given in one of the earlier posts should be able to tell you the info.

Wisconsin
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10. Re: Day trip to Chicago: Amtrak or Metra?

Megabus estimates the trip from Milwaukee to Chicago at 2 hours compared to 1.5 for Amtrak, with both starting at the Intermodal Station in Milwaukee and ending at Union Station in Chicago. Obviously a bus is more likely to get stuck in a traffic jam, but there traffic delays on the rails too, but both schedules reflect it. The big difference is price, where Megabus is typically $8-10 each way, and less if you buy way in advance, where Amtrak is $23 each way.

Don't get me wrong, all things being equal, I'd rather take the train, but if a bus can get me there for half the price, I'll typically take the bus on a relatively short drive like this.

For metra parking, the stations typically have parking available for $1.50 or $2 a day, although I don't remember the specifics at Kenosha.

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