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Lollapalooza: Cheap Parking

If you have to drive to Lollapalooza, and you don't mind walking, you don't have to pay the price of a steak dinner. There are a couple of garages just north of the river that are $8 for the day. The closer one is Sterling Self Park on Kinzie between LaSalle & Clark. The other is a couple of blocks west on the northeast corner of Kinzie and Wells. I plan on leaving my car there overnight for the whopping price of $16.

Where's the Best Parking?

That's a question I receive - and ask - frequently. And no wonder. Parking in Chicago is an ever-loving nightmare, especially downtown. Street parking is rare, and garage prices elicit sticker-shock from the uninitiated and the experienced alike. Then there's finding a garage in the first place; you certainly don't want to be searching for one while you're driving around the Loop or Gold Coast.
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The Basics: Grid, Schmid?

Ask Chicagoans how the city is laid out and they'll tell you "oh, it's simple. It's a grid," and then you wonder if they've ever actually seen a map of Chicago. For one, there's Lake Michigan. Its shore isn't exactly a straight line. Then the multiple branches of the Chicago River and the interstate system cause havoc with their curves. Add to the mix some diagonal streets and it certainly doesn't look like a grid.

Still, the basic idea is there, and there are a few conventions that do make navigating Chicago a bit easier.

The Grid
The underlying structure really is a grid, and this is where you'll want to start when figuring out how to get around Chicago.

  1. The numbering system starts at State and Madison. That intersection is in the Loop, which is the center of downtown.
  2. Grant Park is just two blocks east of that intersection. East of that is the shoreline of Lake Michigan, which cuts west as you head north. That means there are more addresses west of State Street than there are east (until you get to the far south side).
  3. The most important thing to remember about the grid is that every 800 is a mile. So, 800 N State Street is one mile north of Madison, and 800 W Madison is one mile west of State. 
The Rest
Over the top of those straight north-south east-west streets are diagonal streets, highways, and the river. These can create some quirky little areas that seem to have a mind all their own and present a bit of a challenge when getting from point A to point B.

  1. Chicago's diagonal streets are a little like spokes on a wheel. On the north side Clark, Lincoln, Clybourn, Elston, and Milwaukee run NW - SE, and on the south side Ogden and Archer run SW - NE. 
  2. The highways cut through the city and therefore that nicely laid out grid. Still, there are several ways to get across. As a general idea, every 400 block leads over or under.
  3. The river and its branches also have frequent crossing points. Like the highways, away from the downtown area they're at about every 400. Downtown there are so many bridges you can practically hop from one to the next. OK, not really, but we do have the most movable bridges in the world.
There you have it. Despite all those hinks that make navigating the city a bit wonky, if you remember the grid it really does help you find your way around the Windy City.

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