Located on the far northwest side of Chicago, Illinois, Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is about 17 miles from the downtown Loop. It serves the city alongside Midway International Airport, which is about 10 miles closer to downtown but considerably smaller than ORD. O’Hare vies with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the annual “busiest airport in the world” designations as measured by passengers and by number of take-offs and landings. It last held the former title in 1998, and the latter in 2014. It serves over 200 destinations in the United States and abroad, and is a hub for American and United and a focus city for Frontier and Spirit airlines. With nine runways, O’Hare has the most of any international airport in the world.
First built in 1942, the airport was originally a factory for planes during World War II. There the Douglas Company manufactured C-54 Skymasters: cargo and passenger transport planes with four engines. The company left after the war ended, but the airfield remained, and was called Orchard Field Airport, after a nearby farming community named Orchard Place. (It’s from this original name that the abbreviation ORD comes.) It was renamed O’Hare in 1949 to honor Edward “Butch” O’Hare, a naval aviator during World War II. The airport grew substantially in the late 1950s—commercial passenger flights began in 1955—after the older Midway Airport became overcrowded and its older terminal was deemed ill-equipped to service jets.
O’Hare’s public transportation connectivity is one of the best systems in the country. Chicago’s L and Metra systems provide rail service to O’Hare: the airport is the terminus of the L’s Blue Line and Metra North Central Service stops at the O’Hare Transfer station, where shuttle buses connect it to the airport’s transit system. Regional buses, some traveling as far as Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana, also serve the airport. It’s also accessible by car via I-190.
While its flight delay record isn’t great, passengers in limbo can enjoy ORD’s impressive collection of public art. In Terminal 1, Concourse B, there’s a skeleton model of a Brachiosaurus, and a colorful light display by Michael Hayden will illuminate your run to your gate.