Chicago skyline

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is a large city in area, covering 234 square miles and housing almost 3 million people, making it the third most populous city in the United States.

The Windy City, as it is often called, is recognized as the capital of the Midwest and despite its size and population density is a grand city with abundant elegant architecture, wide roads and open spaces, giving the city a more sedate feel than you might expect from a city of its size. It is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The city's waterfront includes a number of parks and over 20 public beaches, offering plenty of recreational opportunities.

Attractions of note in the city include Navy Pier offering visitors traditional pier entertainment along its boardwalk with a giant Ferris wheel, boat tours, plus shopping and dining. Discover the architecture that Chicago is known for on the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady. Docents (CAF certified volunteer tour guides) will show you over 50 influential buildings that helped shaped and build Chicago in to the city that it is now. The Millennium Park, immediately adjacent to the GEDC 2013 Conference site, offers an array of music, art and architecture set in landscaped grounds. The Skydeck Chicago on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) and the Hancock Observatory on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center will give you and your guests plenty to talk about with astonishing views across the entire city and the vast Lake Michigan.  

As you would find in any city of Chicago's size, there are zoos, museums, theaters, and excellent architecture, too.

Chicago has plenty to offer the sports fan, with two major league baseball teams, a national football team, and one of the best basketball teams in the world. The location of the city, right on the shores of one of the largest lakes in the world, means that water sports, boating, yachting are all popular, with many races scheduled throughout the milder months.

Chicago is very easy to get around, with a rigid grid system making your destination easy to find. A free trolley bus system makes it cheap for tourists, too, with clearly marked trolley bus stops dotted around the city.


Early History

The city’s first non-native settler, a fugitive slave named Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, arrived in the late 1700’s and made a home on the land that would eventually become Chicago.

Over time, his small settlement grew, and caught the interest of the U.S. government, who erected Fort Dearborn at the meeting point of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. The Fort (which is now the Michigan Avenue Bridge) was destroyed by the Native Americans in 1812 but quickly rebuilt. Chicago continued to grow, and was incorporated as a city in 1837.

Chicago’s location made it an ideal shipping base for the Midwest, but the swampy land and brutal winters made building the city difficult. Settlers persevered, rail lines soon arrived, and eventually Chicago became the nation’s center for inland shipping.

As time rolled on into the mid 1800’s, Chicago boomed into a lively cosmopolitan city. But, in 1871, the city was devastated by fire and almost completely destroyed.

Late 19th Century to Early 20th Century

In the summer of 1871 a small fire started in a barn on the city’s south side. The old legend has it that a cow kicked over a lantern, but no one actually knows what started the famous inferno. The Great Chicago Fire swept across the city, consuming all the wooden buildings for 25 hours, killing nearly 300 people, leaving 100,000 without homes, and destroying nearly 18,000 buildings. But the city rebuilt, bigger and better, and with steel buildings that reached for the sky.

The early 1900’s saw the beginning of a long period of gang violence and political corruption that still marks Chicago, but in the late 1930’s things began to turn around when Chicago hosted its second World’s Fair. The city became an important center for broadcasting and a haven for Jazz musicians. When World War II began, the city hosted a temporary Navy base at Navy Pier, bringing jobs and prosperity to the city once more.

Modern Day

The 1960’s ushered in another era of success. High-rise buildings like the John Hancock Center and, later, the Sears (now Willis) Tower were erected and the city skyline that we know now took shape. Today Chicago is a modern city with a bustling downtown and unique neighborhoods, not just a city of industry but a dynamic livable home as well.

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Obtaining a Visa

Visa Information

Non-US citizens/residents traveling to the US to attend GEDC2013 may require a visa. For more information, please visit the U.S. Department of State's  webpage. As the conference organizers cannot intervene with U.S. embassies and consulates on behalf of prospective attendees, please familiarize yourself with visa requirements as early as possible, well in advance (typically several months) of the meeting. Some embassies or consulates may have long wait times for scheduling a visa interview; current visa wait times can be found here.

Letter of Invitation

If you need a personal letter of invitation, please contact Ms. Judy Liudahl, Senior Administrative Assistant for the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, with the subject line “GEDC 2013 Invitation Letter.”

All invitation letters will be sent via regular mail as most embassies and consulates do not accept invitation letters by email or fax. Please allow 14 days for the letter to be sent out to you and please provide the following information in your request:

  • Full name (please specify family name and given name)
  • Title (Professor, Dr, Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, etc.)
  • Organization
  • Full mailing address
  • Telephone and fax numbers
  • Email address

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Chicago has a choice of two airports, with the O'Hare International Airport (ORD) being the biggest and most popular. O'Hare Airport is located on the northwestern side of the Chicago Loop, while the Midway Airport is closer to the city center, and sited to the southwest. Both airports are easy to reach from downtown Chicago and offer an array of transport options, including color-coded CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) bus lines (blue for O'Hare, orange for Midway).

Air Transportation


Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

O’Hare International Airport is North America’s major international gateway airport, servicing over 67 million passengers to and from over 200 destinations around the globe.

Terminal Information

O'Hare Airport has four large terminal buildings, serving many important American and international airlines.

  • Terminal 1 - serves international and American airlines, with Concourse B and gates B1 through B22 and also Concourse C with gates C1 to C31
  • Terminal 2 - serves international, American and Canadian airlines, with Concourse F and gates F1 to F12
  • Terminal 3 - serves international, American and Canadian airlines, with Concourse L and gates L1 to L10
  • Terminal 5 / International Terminal - serves many international and American airlines, with Concourse M and gates M1 to M21

Midway International Airport (MDW)

Midway International Airport is the nation’s premier point-to-point airport, offering value-oriented leisure and business travel to over 60 destinations.

Chicago Midway Airport MDW is the City of Chicago's, as well as the State's second-largest Airport, after O'Hare, and is becoming one of the fastest growing airports in North America.

The Airport is readily accessible from Chicago's center in less than 30 minutes via the Stevenson Expressway. It is located 10 miles from downtown Chicago, Illinois. The Stevenson Expressway (I-55) connects northeast to I-90/I-94, and southwest to I-294. between Interstates Hwys I-55.

With five runways, and an estimated 19.5 million passengers in 2012, Chicago Midway Airport is served by many low-cost carriers, as well as by major domestic airlines, offering direct and connecting flights to many points in the U.S. and Canada, with connections around the world.

The passenger terminal at Chicago Midway Airport has three concourses -
A, B & C

Public Transportation

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system. On an average weekday, 1.6 million rides are taken on CTA. The CTA is a regional transit system that serves 35* suburbs, in addition to the City of Chicago, and provides 83 percent of the public transit trips in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area either with direct service or connecting service to Metra and Pace.

On the rapid transit system, it’s 1,200 rail cars operate over eight routes and 224.1 miles of track. CTA trains make about 2,145 trips each day and serve 145 stations.

Chicago is one of the few cities in the world that has rail service to two major airports. CTA’s Blue Line ‘L’ can take customers to O’Hare International Airport. Orange Line trains, which operate clockwise on the Loop ‘L’ structure, travel to Midway Airport.

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Foreign Currency Exchanges

Find foreign currency exchanges in Chicago

International travelers who wish to exchange foreign currency can do so at these locations, among others:

O'Hare International Airport

Foreign currency exchange outlets are located in the lower levels of Terminal 3 and the International Terminal (Terminal 5).

Midway International Airport

Several Bureaux de Change outlets are situated in various locations.

American Express Travel Service

605 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 105 (Entrance East on Ohio St.)

Bank of America

135 S. LaSalle St.
Note: Bank of America account required to exchange foreign currency

Charter One Bank

71 S. Wacker Dr., 29th Floor

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