How to Travel From Minneapolis to Chicago by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Man walking through glass and steel Skyway at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Minnesota, Midwest, USA

 

Barry Winike / Getty Images

If you want to travel from Minneapolis to Chicago, you have several ways to choose from depending on whether you want to get there fast or take the slower route and save some money. Despite both cities being in the Midwest, they are still quite far away from each other at about 400 miles apart. Flying is a popular and usually cheap option, with airfare costs often costing less than the much slower train or bus.

  Time Cost Best For
Train 8 hours from $58 Comfortable and scenic
Bus 8 hours, 30 minutes from $49 Occasional deals
Flight 1 hour, 30 minutes from $35 Fast and affordable
Car 6 hours, 15 minutes 408 miles Flexibility

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Minneapolis to Chicago?

With the competition from budget airlines like Sun Country Airlines, flying is usually the cheapest way to travel from Minneapolis to Chicago (however, occasional sales from Megabus sometimes offer super low fares, so don't neglect looking at the bus). The cheapest flights are usually around $35 and airlines that fly the route direct include Sun Country Airlines, American, Delta, and United. There are usually at least a dozen nonstop options each day, so if your plans are flexible, finding a deal shouldn't be difficult.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Minneapolis to Chicago?

The fastest way to get from Minneapolis to Chicago is also to fly. Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport is right in the middle of the Twin Cities metro area, and flights only take 1 hour and 30 minutes. While the flight is short, you still will need to get to the airport at least an hour before your flight and go through the often time-consuming TSA process. Still, even with this extra time factored in, flying is faster by many hours than the bus, train, and driving.

Cars on highway with Minneapolis skyline in the distance, Minneapolis, MN

AlexiusHoratius / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

 

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

It takes about six hours and 15 minutes to drive between Minneapolis and Chicago, but could take longer depending on traffic conditions and how many stops you make along the way. For the fastest route, take I-94 east from Minneapolis. You can stay on this highway for basically the entire time, but note that I-94 merges with I-90 at about 200 miles into the trip, so you'll need to keep to the right to stay on I-90.

Amtrak station at Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota

IngolfBLN / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

 

How Long Is the Train Ride?

Taking about eight hours and costing at least $58, the Amtrak train is neither the fastest nor cheapest way to get to Chicago from Minneapolis. However, if you are looking to avoid flying out of a fear of flying or environmental concerns, it's a much more comfortable alternative to the bus. You'll have the option to walk around, eat in the dining car, or even upgrade to the sleeper car, so you can lie down and get some rest along the way. The train also takes a more scenic route along the Mississippi River, so you may be able to enjoy some lovely nature scenes outside the window.

Is There a Bus That Goes From Minneapolis to Chicago?

Direct bus service is available between Minneapolis and Chicago, but it's a long journey and not particularly cheap, either. Megabus and Greyhound both offer daily trips, with fares usually starting around $50. Bus service is direct between the two cities but takes at least eight hours and 30 minutes and possibly much longer with traffic, so it also uses up an entire day of your travels. Even though flights are usually cheaper—and much faster—Megabus occasionally offers super discounted tickets, sometimes for as low as $5, so definitely take look in case you can snag one of these unbeatable deals.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Chicago?

Famously cold and windy Chicago, is best visited during the spring or fall, particularly in April or September. Although, if you want to see the river turn green for St. Patrick's Day, you should plan a trip for March. While summers in Chicago do get hot, it can be a nice time to visit. However, hotel rates tend to be more expensive than at other times of year.

If you want to catch the city in a festive moment, try visiting during the Chicago Auto Show in February, Gay Pride Parade in June, or the Lollapalooza Music Festival in August. If you plan on spending the holidays in Chicago, there is plenty going on in the city to ring in the season from over-the-top Christmas light displays to the opening of the city's seasonal ice skating rinks.

What's the Most Scenic Route to Chicago?

The road from Minneapolis to Chicago crosses Wisconsin, but too often many people don't take the time to explore this state. If you're traveling in the fall, you can plan a road trip to explore Wisconsin's scenic fall foliage destinations or maybe set out on a quest to try some unique Wisconsinite foods like fried cheese curds or Polish doughnuts. If you don't want to stray too far from I-94/I-90 route, you should still plan to stop in Madison, Wisconsin's capital city, which has some great cafes and steak houses worth checking out.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

From O'Hare International Airport (ORD), it's easy to get to downtown Chicago via the Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) Blue Line. Trains run 24 hours per day and you can connect to other parts of the city. When you arrive at the airport, follow the signs that say "Train to City" and take the pedestrian walkway to the train station. The fare for a one way ticket is $2.50. If you plan on making use of public transit throughout your trip to Chicago, you may want to purchase a multi-day pass to save some money.

What Is There to Do in Chicago?

If it's your first time visiting Chicago, you'll have to pay a visit to Cloud Gate, aka "the bean" in Millennium Park, as well as Navy Pier, a shopping and dining destination that sits on the Chicago River. For the best views of the city and Lake Michigan, take a trip to the top of the Willis Tower.

If you're on a budget, there are many ways to explore the city on the cheap, such as renting a bike and riding around or getting a low-cost ticket to watch baseball at Wrigley Field. First-time visitors should also take advantage of Chicago Greeter, a free service that provides complimentary tours to anyone who can show proof that they're a tourist with booked accommodation in Chicago.

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