preloadA happy couple walking through a terminal with their luggage in tow.

There are two major airports in Chicago: O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). O'Hare is Chicago's main airport, but the smaller Midway provides a less-crowded airport experience. Each of Chicago's airports has its pros and cons; this guide can help determine which one is the best one for you.


Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

Chicago O'Hare International Airport is Chicago's main airport. With more than 43.7 million passengers traveling through the airport annually, O'Hare was ranked the ninth busiest airport in the world in 2023 by data company OAG. It's a popular layover airport for those connecting to or from smaller cities in the U.S.

The inside of a passenger tunnel features colourful walls and winding and bright ceilings.

Location and transportation options to downtown Chicago

O'Hare is located 15 miles from downtown Chicago.

Drive

It can take anywhere from 25 minutes to more than an hour to drive from downtown Chicago to O'Hare and vice versa, depending on traffic. Parking rates range from around $15 to $22 per day, and most major car rental companies are stationed here.

Taxi/rideshare

There's a taxi stand outside of O'Hare, or you can use rideshare services, which have designated pickup zones. As with self-driving, the trip can take anywhere from 25 minutes to more than an hour. Rates start around $40 for both taxis and rideshares, but rideshare pricing can surge to well over $100 during peak travel hours.

Train

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line has a stop at O'Hare, and the trains run 24 hours per day. The Blue Line takes you to the Loop, where you can connect to other trains and buses. The journey between O'Hare and downtown Chicago costs $5 one-way and takes approximately 45 minutes.

Bus

A variety of bus companies offer shuttles to and from O'Hare, connecting travelers to both downtown Chicago and suburban destinations. Prices and travel times vary.

Airlines, destinations and terminals

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A tattooed man with a backpack looking out the large glass windows of an airport terminal.

An impressive 47 airlines service O'Hare, flying nonstop to more than 150 U.S. cities and more than 60 international destinations. Both United and American Airlines are hubbed here. There are four terminals: Terminal 5 is considered the international terminal, though international flights may depart out of the other terminals.

  • Terminal 1: All Nippon, Lufthansa, United Airlines
  • Terminal 2: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Southern Airways Express
  • Terminal 3: Aer Lingus, Cape Air, Contour Airlines, Denver Air Connection (Key Lime Air), Iberia, Japan Airlines (JAL), Spirit Airlines
  • Terminal 5: Aeromexico, Air France, Air India, Air New Zealand, Air Serbia, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Avianca Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Copa Airlines, Delta Air Lines, EVA Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Finnair, Frontier, Iberia, Icelandair, Japan Airlines (JAL), KLM, Korean Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, SWISS, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Southwest, Sun Country, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, VivaAerobus, Volaris, Westjet.

Restaurants and shops

A side-view shot of a young man wearing casual clothing exploring a duty free shop in an airport in Toulouse, France before catching his flight. The man is smelling aftershave.

O'Hare is heavy on the restaurants and a little light on shopping, though you'll find Duty Free here. Businesses open and close at various times, generally between the window of 5:00 am and 11:00 pm.

Top restaurants include:

For unique shopping, visit the Field Museum store (Terminal 1) or Hoypoloi An Uncommon Gallery (Terminals 1 and 2).

Lounges

Business travel - Indian businessman waiting in an airport lounge
  • Terminal 1: United offers three United Clubs and one United Polaris Lounge in Terminal 1.
  • Terminal 2: There is a United Club and a USO Lounge in Terminal 2.
  • Terminal 3: American Airlines offers three Admirals Clubs and one Flagship Lounge in Terminal 3. There's also a USO Lounge.
  • Terminal 5: Lounges in Terminal 5 include British Airways First Lounge, British Airways Terraces Lounge, Delta Sky Club, SAS Lounge, and Swissport Lounge. A LOT Polish Business Class Lounge will open in 2024.

Things to do at O'Hare

  • Pick up some Chicago popcorn at Nuts on Clark or Garrett. We'll leave it to the Chicagoans to share which one they think is best…
  • Between Terminals 2 and 3 is the Tower Farm, an indoor hydroponic garden that grows up to 1,110 plants at a time. Its crops are used in many of the airport's restaurants. A bit of greenery on a long travel day is a welcome sight!
  • If you have a long layover, pop over to the Hilton Chicago O'Hare, where you can pay $15 for a guest pass to its health club. There's a pool, hot tub, steam room, sauna and gym.

Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

Chicago Midway International Airport is Chicago's second-largest airport, with approximately 19 million passengers flying through it annually. Though it's technically an international airport, it primarily services domestic destinations, most commonly via Southwest Airlines.

Location and transportation options to downtown Chicago

Chicago Metro Loop Line heading towards to Chicago Midway International Airport

Midway is located 11 miles from downtown Chicago.

Drive

It takes anywhere from 25 minutes to more than an hour to drive between downtown Chicago and Midway, depending on traffic. Parking costs between $15 and $40 per day, and rental cars from most major companies are available.

Taxi/rideshare

Taxi stands are available at Midway, or you can take a rideshare like Uber or Lyft via the designated pick-up zones. Prices for both start around $35 and go up from there, depending on traffic. Rideshare services also incorporate surge pricing for high-demand periods that could cause the fare to rise dramatically, potentially even doubling.

Train

The CTA Orange Line has a stop at Midway. The Orange Line costs $2.50 per one-way ride, and it runs from approximately 4:00 am to 4:30 am to approximately 1:00 am. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes to get between Midway and downtown Chicago.

Bus

The CTA operates numerous bus routes from Midway, including the overnight N62 Archer bus, which you can take instead of the Orange Line train during its off hours. The bus fare is $2.25, and travel times vary depending on the route.

Airlines, destinations and terminals

A happy mother greeting her daughter as she arrives at an airport.
A woman working on her laptop at the airport, her brown bag on a chair next to her.

Midway only has one terminal with three concourses. Seven airlines service the airport flying nonstop to more than 70 U.S. cities and more than 10 international destinations in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Southwest Airlines is hubbed here.

  • Concourse A: Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Porter Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Volaris
  • Concourse B: Southwest Airlines
  • Concourse C: Avelo Airlines, Frontier

Restaurants and shops

Shot of a couple at a cafe - Brazilian ethnicity

Midway has numerous restaurants and a handful of shops to entertain you during your visit. Though opening hours vary per business, they might be open as early as 5:00 am and as late as 10:00 pm. Restaurant recommendations include burgers at Billy Goat Tavern (Concourse A), sushi at Arami (Concourse A) and tacos at BIG & little's (Concourse B). Shopping recommendations include iconic toy store FAO Schwarz (Concourse A), a MAC Cosmetics boutique (Central Market) and the Build-a-Bear Workshop vending machine (Central Market).

Lounges

There's a USO Lounge in Concourse C at Midway. The first public-access club, the Club MDW, is scheduled to open in late 2024.

What to do at Midway

A young woman delving into a brown paper bag with an outline of a doughnut on it.
Smiling woman looking at cosmetics section of duty free shop in an airport
  • The airport is named for the Battle of Midway in World War II, and it has a small exhibit memorializing the event, plus a SBD Dauntless bomber suspended from the ceiling in Concourse A.
  • If you need to get a stretch in, visit the yoga room in Concourse C.
  • Throughout the airport are works of art as part of the Chicago Public Art program. Of particular note is the Tuskegee Airmen Commemorative, a tribute to the legendary group of Black military aviators from World War II.

Best Chicago airport to fly into

A passenger plane gracefully lands on a beautifully lit runway during a stunning sunrise.

O'Hare and Midway provide vastly different experiences, and choosing the best depends on your specific set of circumstances. Overall, many Chicagoans prefer Midway for its smaller scale, as there are fewer crowds. By the same token, Midway is much more limited than O'Hare in terms of airlines, destinations, lounges and frequency of flights.

If Midway offers the flights you need at the price you desire, you'll likely have a more hassle-free airport experience. But many travelers, particularly those traveling internationally, will have to choose O'Hare by default.

For more airport information, discover the full collection of KAYAK's airport guides.

How this guide was created

I've been a travel writer for the better part of a decade, and I typically fly around 200,000 miles each year. This guide shares my experiences at ORD and MDW, as well as takes into consideration reviews and tips from other frequent travelers.

Disclaimer: Prices and information are correct as of 02.03.2024 and may vary with time.

About the author

Stefanie WaldekStefanie Waldek is a freelance space, travel, and design writer based in Saratoga Springs, NY. Her words have appeared in Space.com, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, and House Beautiful, among other publications. An expert in aviation and expedition cruising, Stefanie is frequently up in the air or on the sea, likely en route to Antarctica or the Arctic.

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