Best of Chicago: the Metra Electric

Best of Chicago: the Metra Electric
The Metra Electric District is in orange at the bottom of the diagram.

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My husband and daughter and I moved to Chicago two years ago. I’ve lived a lot of places, from Anchorage, Alaska, to Kansas City, Missouri, from Fort Worth, Texas to Albuquerque, NM, but I have to say I’ve never fallen so hard for a place as I have for Chicago.

When I saw the movie “The Vow” with my sister-in-law, I recognized Chicago from the parking meters, and I swear that my heart raced with the excitement. I haven’t felt this way about anything since I had a crush on Tom VanBuskirk in high school. I go weak in the knees just thinking about the city.

I’ve never really been a big city type. I mostly grew up in rural places and cities of half a million or fewer people. I’ve mostly lived in the big open spaces of the desert southwest. Cities have always unnerved and intimidated me.

But this city. Chicago. It’s different.

When we moved here, dear friends let us live in their basement for more than a month while we got ourselves situated. We live in Flossmoor now, a community in the southern suburbs of the city.

The old train station is now a brew pub.

The old train station is now a brew pub.

That month in the city, in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area, ruined me for the suburbs. I love our little community, but I fantasize about the city. The rhythm of Chicago is  perfect.

So, drum roll please, my favorite place/event/activity (because it’s all of these things) is the Metra Electric, the train that gets me from Flossmoor Station to Millennium Station, from the suburbs to the Miracle Mile, from the burbs to the bean.

Call me sentimental, but waiting on a platform for a train that drops me off at the Randolph Street Station is better than waiting for the movie to begin at the theatre. I feel like a real Chicagoan when I get on the train with my 10-ride ticket or, even better, my weekend pass.

I love sitting by the window so I can watch the suburbs roll by. The houses get closer together the as we approach the city. I always imagine what lives the people around me lead. I shamelessly listen to their conversations and observe their behavior.

By the time we get to Millennium, we’ve stopped at two of the best locations that Chicago has to offer.

Under the tracks at the 55th/56th/57th Street stop.

Under the tracks at the 55th/56th/57th Street stop.

55th/56th/57th Street Station: If you get off here, you can walk to the University of Chicago, Powell’s Bookstore, and the Science and Industry Museum. In fact, the Metra Electric Line is the best way to get to the Science and Industry Museum.

The Museum Campus: It is exactly what it says, access to the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum. This is also a great stop for getting to Soldier Field. The views of the city are amazing from this area.

And then, we pull into Millennium. As we climb up the stairs to the city, we’re hit with the noise and bustle of street life. The smell of caramel corn from the station below clings to us. The Art Institute is just a few blocks away. Grant Park and the Bean are nearby, too. The Lake, which we’ve seen glimpses of along the the way, is close by. And, of course, the shopping is everywhere.

Get a weekend pass, and you can cruise up and down the Metra Electric as many times as you want on Saturday and Sunday for $7. It’s a bargain.

At 11:17 every night, the Metra Electric pulls into Flossmoor Station. I hear it from my bedroom window, and I know that it’s time to put my book away, turn out the light, and go to sleep.

The Metra is my metronome and Grandfather clock, the sound of home.

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