Layover Guide: What to Do in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport

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Chicago O’Hare (ORD) is one of two airports that serve the Chicagoland area. And beyond that, O’Hare has quickly grown into one of the busiest and most well-known airports in the world. If you need to pass the time during a long layover or if you arrive early for your flight out of this famous travel terminal, visit some of the top eateries, kid areas, and other hotspots at ORD.

Chicago O’Hare Has a Vast Array of Restaurants

Chicago O’Hare offers more than a score of restaurants scattered nearby its four terminals. From popular Mexican restaurants like Tortas Frontera to iconic Chicago-style hot dogs like America’s Dog, ORD offers diverse selections. In addition, O’Hare provides traditional fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King for those who want a quicker option.

Tortas Frontera

Voted Critic’s Choice Best Reason to Fly Again 2011 by TimeOut Chicago’s “Eat Out Awards,” award-winning chef Rick Bayliss’s Tortas Frontera serves authentic Mexican cuisine. Here are some of the savory tortas available at its three locations inside ORD airport:

  • The Cubana: Pulled pork with bacon, black beans, and chipotle mustard
  • Chipotle Chicken: Antibiotic-free chicken served with cilantro crema, black beans, avocado, arugula, and other natural ingredients
  • Crispy Chicken Milanesa: Crispy chicken breasts with Napa cabbage, onions, and avocado tomatillo salsa

Tortas also partners with top-quality local suppliers of all natural, sustainably produced meats and dairy products, organic produce, artisan bread, and stone-ground masa tortillas.

Garrett Popcorn at Chicago O’Hare

Garrett Popcorn Shops have been a Chicago Tradition Since 1949, with a shop located at ORD airport’s Terminal 1 near gate B7. Sold in iconic tin tubs and bags, Garrett Popcorn comes in numerous flavors:

  • Garrett Mix: Chicago-style popcorn, a mix of cheddar and caramel flavors
  • Caramel Crisp: Savory caramel flavor with brown sugar
  • Buttery Popcorn: Garrett’s signature kernels with coconut oil
  • Pecan Caramel Crisp: Signature Caramel Crisp, but with pecans
  • Macadamia Caramel Crisp: Caramel Crisp with roasted macadamia nuts

In addition to the unique popcorn flavors, Garrett Popcorn sells mint chocolates in various sizes and chocolate caramels with Himalayan salt to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Goose Island at Chicago O’Hare

The Goose Island Brewing Company brews its beer and root beer using 32 fermenters and more than 15 different yeasts. Founded in 1995, Goose Island Brewing Company produces various handcrafted beers and spirits you can enjoy at two ORD airport terminals:

  • Honker’s Ale: A spicy ale
  • Matilda: A fruity and spicy Belgian style ale made with a rare yeast
  • Goose Island Seasonal Selections: Limited-time beers featured during different times of year

While waiting for your connecting flight at Chicago O’Hare, you can also enjoy artisan chicken salads and paninis at Goose Island Brewing Company.

Kid’s Play Areas at Chicago O’Hare

It’s not uncommon for travelers and passengers to encounter hours-long layovers. And if you have small children, these lengthy layovers can prove challenging. Fortunately, Chicago O’Hare has places for parents to unwind while their kids play.

The Butch O’Hare Family Lounge

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, O’Hare ranked higher than Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for flight operations in 2018. This means that there’s a high chance more travelers will have little ones in tow. O’Hare has a dedicated family lounge at Terminal 2: the Butch O’Hare Family Lounge, a free and safe 1,800-square-foot area.

The Butch O’Hare Family Lounge features colorful seating for kids, along with routinely scheduled entertainment, such as musicians. There is even dedicated stroller parking within the confines of the Butch O’Hare Family Lounge.

Chicago’s Children Museum at ORD Airport

The Chicago Children’s Museum has a different location at Terminal 2. In 1995, Chicago’s Children’s Museum added “Kids on the Fly” near Terminal 5, and in 2003, it received Nickelodeon Magazine’sMost Awesome Airport Play Area” award. Here, kids can play with model airplanes, helicopters, and control towers.

In 2005, ORD instituted the Play It Safe playpen. The Play It Safe playpen averages more than 150 visits per day, and it provides a fire safety exhibit courtesy of the Chicago Fire Department.

Field Museum of Natural History at Chicago O’Hare

The Field Museum of Natural History operates a store inside Chicago O’Hare. Exhibits such as a 72-foot display of a brachiosaurus skeleton are available to occupy children’s attention. The Field Museum store is located near Terminal 1, and it offers handcrafted gifts, jewelry, books, and educational toys.