The Blue Line consists of a 19.5 miles long line which extends through Chicago's Loop from O'Hare International Airport at the far northwest end of the city, through downtown as the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway, and across the West Side to its southwest end at Forest Park. It is the CTA's second busiest rail line. The route's full length is 34.6 miles, with a total of 33 stations, and about 176,400 people riding it daily during the work week! It runs 7-days-a-week and 24-hours-a-day and barrels through Chicago in an hour and a half.

Starting in the Southwest end (Forest Park Branch):

FOREST PARK: The Forest Park stop of the Blue Line drops you off at the outskirts of Chicago. Somewhat in walking distance is the Forest Park Library, the Forest Park Community Center, the beautiful and historical Concordia Cemetery, and the actual park called Forest Park.

HARLEM: The Harlem station sits on the borders of Forest Park and Oak Park. The Ferrara Pan Candy Company (the maker of our old original favorites, like Atomic Fireballs, Original Boston Baked Beans, LemonHeads and Red Hots is right off of this stop on the Blue Line! Although I don't know yet if there is a way you can arrange for an actual tour (stay tuned, more information in later posts!), you can go on a virtual tour of the factory by going to www.ferrarapan.com.

OAK PARK: Just south of the Blue Line Oak Park station is the Oak Park Conservatory, a free indoor park where 20,000 bedded plants are grown and can be seen year-round. The Conservatory holds many kid-orientated and family-centered events during the year (March's KidFest is March 4th this year- 2012- from Noon to 4pm), and has exhibits for both kids and adults to enjoy.

AUSTIN: A couple blocks north of this station is the historic Columbus Park, which was named a National Historic Landmark in 2003. A small lagoon and golf course can be found on its northeastern corner, as well as birding areas, fishing areas, playgrounds and baseball/softball diamonds. More information and tips about Chicago's extensive park districts in later posts! :)



Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica
KEDZIE-HOMAN: The Kedzie/Homan stop on the Blue Line is surrounded by parks (just a couple blocks away and north west is Garfield Park, which is filled with beautiful architecture, gardens, walking paths and wildlife) and homes. Just a short walk away is a beautiful Roman Catholic Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, designed in the Italian Renaissance architectural style in the late 1800's and early 1900s. More information on the beautiful Chicago cathedral and church architecture in later posts.


ILLINOIS MEDICAL DISTRICT: This stop is smack dab in the middle of the medical district of Chicago- this is where you find the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, Rush University Medical Center, University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine, University of Illinois Chicago Medical Center and Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Besides that, across the highway is Malcom X College, the United Center (where Chicago's Black Hawks play) and the Mexican Consulate.

RACINE: Racine station connects us to the far west side of University of Illinois Chicago's campus, and just a little bit further south, Little Italy. In Little Italy, you can visit to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, enjoy a frozen lemonade from Mario's Italian Lemonade, a Italian beef sandwich at Al's No. 1 Italian Beef, walk around Conte di Savoia Italian grocer and deli, buy some pasta and cannoli at Scafuri's bakery, and stroll in Arrigo (Peanut) Park to see the statue of Columbus.

UIC-HALSTED: This station allows you to see the rest of UIC's vast campus and Greektown- a neighborhood acclaimed for its nightlife with its many bars and restaurants.

CLINTON: Besides the many train and bus stations surrounding this station, the Clinton stop of the Blue Line is also home to the Old Chicago Main Post Office, a retired old building that has been filmed in many Chicago-based movies such as Batman Begins, The Dark Night, and Transformers; Dark of the Moon.

LASALLE: Close Up 2 is a jazz club in the south Loop area, just a block away from the LaSalle station of the Blue Line, where smooth and contemporary jazz is played by a live jazz band, and as of now, there's no cover! Go to www.closeup2jazz.com‎/calendars/February2012.html to see this month's and next month's shows!

(Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway)

Alexander Calder's 'Flamingo'
JACKSON: Home of the Kluczynki Federal Building, American artist Alexander Calder's famous 'Flamingo' sculpture sitting in front of it, the Jackson stop of the Blue Line is surrounded by the glass and steel of Chicago's federal buildings. Transferring free to the Red Line is possible at this station through an underground tunnel connecting both Red and Blue station platforms.

MONROE: The Inland Steel Building is one of the city;s defining commercial high-rises of the post World War II era of modern architecture, being the first skyscraper to be built in the Chicago Loop following the Great Depression. It was designated a Chicago landmark in 1998.
Daley Plaza, Home of Chicago's Picasso

WASHINGTON: The Washington stop of the Blue Line is apart of the Chicago's Pedway system, connecting the Richard J. Daley Center and Plaza to Millennium Station and other buildings within the Loop. You can find the magnificent Picasso sculpture, an untitled work of art that is known for it's jungle-gym type characteristics. Many days you will find its visitors climbing on and sliding down its slanted, slide-like base.

CLARK/LAKE: Clark and Lake is the easiest spot to transfer from the Blue Line to all of the elevated trains (except the Red line). Outside of this stop, the James. R. Thompson Center, Richard J. Daley Center and Plaza and Chicago City Hall is just a block a way. It is overall the busiest stop on the 'El', serving over 17,500 passengers a day.

Northwest (O'Hare Branch):

GRAND: The Grand station serves the Fulton River District of
Chicago, and you can find restaurants, nightlife, bars and lounges, and some shopping. The Blue Line begins its trek up Milwaukee Avenue starting at Grand, and will continue until the Logan Square stop.

CHICAGO: The Chicago stop is the gateway to West Town in a vibrant corner filled with restaurants and pubs. You can get a better look at the feel of this particular stop at http://www.chicagodramatistsbluelineart.org/neighborhood.html, where a local artist talks about his inspiration of his art that hangs in the station's lobby, and the cultural and historical significance of the neighborhood it serves. St. John Cantius is the beautiful dark cathedral that can be seen from the steps of this station. Its latin-liturgy, beautiful sacred art, and architectural richness is breath-taking.

DIVISION: The Division station lets you off at the Polonia Triangle (aka the Polish Triangle), the Milwaukee, Ashland and Division intersection on the borders of Wicker Park and West Town. Polonia Triangle was considered to be the center of Chicago's Polish Downtown, the city's oldest and most prominent Polish settlement. The former "Polish Broadway" down Division street is growing to be an increasingly thriving business district, full of nightclubs, restaurants and cafes. This artistic community is home to the famous Chopin Theatre, an American for-profit cultural organization, where in 1990 it was restored and is now vibrant with life. http://www.chopintheatre.com/

DAMEN: Damen stop lets you off right into the hustle-and-bustle of Wicker Park. Down the street is Myopic Bookstore, one of Chicago's oldest and largest used book store with three floors of books and over 80,000 titles. Semi-weekly you can watch local poets recite and read (usually on Saturday), and The Myopic Improvised/Experimental Music series on mondays is a treat for any eccentric music enthusiast to enjoy. Just further down the street you'll find Reckless Records, a quirky record store that occasionally hosts live performances and has really affordable prices. Scattered all around are tasty restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, shops and resale stores. A high concentration of vintage-centered clothing and furniture shops can be found in this area, and the back-to-the-future, 90's themed Wormhole Cafe is a neighborhood favorite. The activity on this corner makes it one of the hardest intersections to pass through during rush hour and lunch-time, and the attractions around this stop brings eccentric, quirky foot traffic.

90 Miles Cuban Cafe's Jabarito sandwich with fried yucca- YUM!
WESTERN: Western station drops you off in the corners of Bucktown and Logan Square. A couple blocks away is 90 Miles Cuban Cafe (My personal favorite restaurant) where Latin music, cuisine, movies and dancing can be found- like a piece of Cuba in the middle of Chicago! Vintage antiques and a beautiful patio ambiance makes this the best restaurant for a romantic date.
A couple blocks in the opposite direction is Margie's Candies, a 'legendary' half candy store, half ice cream parlor, with over fifty varieties of sundaes. The shop's decor has remained unchanged since it was founded in 1921. Some of its trademark features are its multiple original Tiffany lamps, a marble soda fountain, and old-fashioned booths with miniature jukeboxes.

CALIFORNIA: The California Stop on the OHare branch of the Blue Line is located in the tip of Little Puerto Rico. Underneath the tracks is a quaint little 50-cent bakery that smells gorgeous and filled to the gills with yummy pastries that you can buy for only 50 cents! Just a walk down Milwaukee is Congress Theater, a beautiful historic theater used to host some of the biggest names in music.

LOGAN SQUARE: Logan Square station is just blocks away from the Illinois Centennial Monument, whose architect, Henry Bacon, also designed the Lincoln Memorial. The community and square was named for General John A. Logan, who served in the Civil War and later in Congress. The Blue Line goes underground again for a couple of stops as it continues its trek towards O'Hare International Airport.



IRVING PARK: The Irving Park stop of the Blue Line services the residential areas of Irving Park, and the many historical buildings within this neighborhood, some dating as far back as 1870s. Independence Park is just a couple blocks away and is filled with beautiful walkways and playgrounds and during the summer many neighborhood events like 'Movies in the Park' and fireworks make it the community focal point in Old Irving Park. This area is an architectural wonder as vintage homes of many types are being restored. The Villa District is a Chicago historic landmark district that contains over 120 homes, and during the summer and fall months, guided walking tours of the neighborhood that present the history, architecture and special features of this Chicago Landmark District are held and conducted by neighborhood residents that are trained by Chicago Architecture Foundation docents.

MONTROSE: In the neighborhood of Mayfair, Montrose station of the Blue Line drops you off near Six Corners, which is a long walk or a short bus ride away. Six Corners is located at the intersection of Irving Park Rd, Cicero Ave and Milwaukee Ave, and is largest commercial center in Chicago outside of the Loop.

JEFFERSON PARK: In the 1860s, Jefferson Park was called "the Gateway to Chicago" because of the many truck farms throughout the area, where farmers would truck their produce into Jefferson Park to sell their produce to the locals, and travel through the neighborhood, up and down Milwaukee Avenue to other parts of the city. About a quarter of its residents are of Polish decent, and in the center of Jefferson Park is Chicago's own Polish Cultural Center.
Another Jefferson Park attraction is Gateway Theatre. Gateway Theatre is the sole-surviving atmospheric-style theatre in the Chicago area. When it opened in 1930, it was said to be "the most acoustically perfect theater in the world". Now it is the chief venue for Polish Cinema in Chicago. Films, musical concerts, plays, athletic competitions, seminars, dance recitals, children's plays, choir competitions, the annual Polish Film Festival of America, and Candidates' Nights are just some of the many programs presented in the theater.


CUMBERLAND: Just a couple blocks away from the Cumberland stop is the Catherine Chevalier Woods, a good way to take a break from the city and enter the serenity of the forest. Among the trees you can find beautiful unpaved walkways through the wild life.

ROSEMONT: Rosemont station is the first and only stop of the Pace Bus #284 Six Flags Great America Express, where it begins in Schaumburg and continues on to the amusement park. The Pace Bus #222 Allstate Arena Express also stops at this station, and continues on to the arena, where the Chicago Rush, the Arena Football League, DePaul University's men's basketball team, the Chicago Wolves, the AHL, and the Chicago Sky, of the WNBA practice and play.

O'HARE: If you've never entered O'Hare International Airport from the O'Hare Blue Line station, or entered the Blue Line from O'Hare, its an experience every new Chicago-ian should venture to take. The architecture of this particular station and its set up in relation to the airport is particularly interesting.

 Whether you are traveling to O'Hare, Forest Park, or anywhere in between, I would encourage you to look out the windows as you travel and note the location and the look of the skyline from that particular area. Especially on your way out to Forest Park on a clear night or evening, the brightening skyline and Sears/Willis tower is directly behind you and gradually getting smaller- so breath-taking! :)

What else would you like to see?

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