Keeping Your Sanity When Delayed at Chicago O’Hare Airport

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is the eighth busiest airport by passenger traffic in the world, and a major embarkation point for international flights. Unfortunately, the airport also has a reputation for crushing travel delays. I visit ORD around eight times per month, so it’s somewhat like a home away from home for me. Here are several places in O’Hare that you can check out if you have a little extra time on a layover, or if you get the dreaded “Your flight has been delayed until ***” text.

Kids on The Fly Exhibit
Looking for a place for the kids to run off some steam (and hopefully need a nap on the plane)? Head to the Kids on the Fly exhibit, sponsored by the Chicago Children’s Museum. This large gated playground area is located in Terminal 2, near the entrance to the E and F gates.

Kids can pretend to fly a plane, climb to the control tower, or load up some bags into the cargo hold in this aviation themed playground. My children are ages 3 and 7, and this is their favorite part of flying through Chicago O’Hare Airport. There are benches for parents to relax and take a break, but no food or drink is allowed in the area.

ORD Flight Delays - Find fun at the flight-themed playground at Chicago O'Hare Airport
If you experience a delay at Chicago O’Hare Airport, find fun at the flight-themed playground!

Airport Yoga Room
Need a reprieve when you realize your flight is hours away? This hidden gem of an airport escape is located on the Mezzanine level of Terminal 3. The Yoga Room is open from 6 am to 10 pm every day and is a relaxing environment to decompress or try out some of the yoga poses rotating through on the video monitors. Yoga mats and blocks are provided, along with sanitizing wipes. There are additional monitors located inside displaying flight information so you don’t get too caught up to miss your flight. I have visited this area several times and have never seen it full.

The Sky’s the Limit by Michael Hayden
Ok, so technically this is an underground tunnel to connect Concourses B and C, but it also features a mile-long kinetic light sculpture composed of 466 neon light tubes set to the tune of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. There are moving walkways and tall escalators, which equate to fun for my easily amused children. The hallway doesn’t take long to get through, unless you’re sprinting it to make a connection, in which case it seems like an eternity.

Food Therapy

Vosges Chocolate
In my experience, chocolate can take the edge off most flight delays. Located in Terminal 3 in the H/K gates, and in Terminal 2 in the B gates is a sweet escape from airport stress. With truffle flavors like Black Pearl, a decadent mix of wasabi, ginger, and dark chocolate topped with black sesame seeds or Naga, sweet Indian curry powder and milk chocolate, you can’t go wrong. Ask for a sample and sometimes the nice clerks will give you a handful of pre-wrapped chocolates that you can use to keep your kids out of your truffles. Score!

Garrett’s Popcorn
A trip through Chicago would not be complete without trying Garrett’s famous Chicago mix popcorn, CheeseCorn and CaramelCrisp mixed together. If the line looks long, don’t worry. It goes by quickly, and the short wait is totally worth it. Grab some extra napkins because while the mix is delicious, it’s also messy.

Stranded Overnight at ORD?!
In the event that your flight is delayed beyond repair, and you find yourself with an unplanned evening in Chicago, don’t despair. Book a room at Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport and wait it out until the next morning in plushy comfort. The hotel is located on the ORD campus and features blackout curtains and soundproof windows, so you can sleep well without worrying about missing your new flight.

Being delayed is never something that you wish for when planning a vacation, but one way to look at it is that you’re still spending time with your family. Make the most of your time together and have a good attitude, and you’ll have memories of bonding over the obstacles!

Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.

Know Before You Go

  • Chicago’s nickname is “The Windy City.”
  • Make sure to visit Millennium Park so that you can see the world-famous Bean!
  • Avoid visiting in the winter if you aren’t a fan of cold weather! The weather warms up around May.

The Sky’s the Limit photo by Paul VanDerWerf / CC BY 2.0

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Rachel S. Are you interested in traveling to Chicago? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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