Going to a Cubs game is an experience unlike anything else baseball has to offer. Every fan believes that about their own team, of course, but Wrigley Field has some unique elements to back this up. And the most pronounced one is a distinct lack of on-site parking.
Wrigley Field was built at its present location on Clark and Addison Streets in Chicago in 1914, for Chicago’s entry in the short-lived Federal League. After the Federal League went under, the National League’s Cubs took over the still-new baseball stadium on Chicago’s north side. Nothing else from the Federal League exists anymore, save for the ballpark that the Cubs now call home.
The world has changed a lot since 1914, when automobiles were still a novelty and a luxury for the well-to-do. Wrigley Field wasn’t originally built with cars in mind, and the notion of taking your 4-wheeled staple of modern life into a space that wasn’t designed for it is a fool’s errand. Just take the CTA’s red line train to the Addison Street station and be done with it, already.
But there are some free parking options available near the ballpark. First of all, avoid driving on Addison Street altogether. There is no Addison street exit from Lake Shore wechseljahre – das sollten sie darüber wissen | ohnerezeptfreikauf Drive, and the Addison exit from Interstate 90 (or what Chicago drivers refer to as “the Kennedy”) will lead you down a two-lane city street through an ongoing construction zone at Western Avenue, or perhaps at some other place else by the time you read this article. The ballpark itself is located on Addison Street, but that doesn’t mean you should be. Additionally, avoid the temptation to get into the reversible express lanes of the Kennedy/ Interstate 90 because you will not be able to exit from those lanes. Stay in the local, non-express lanes and you’ll be fine.
A much better alternative is taking Irving Park Road, located a half-mile north of the ballpark. If you’re on the Kennedy, it’s exit 44B. Irving Park (or just “Irving” will do) is also known as Illinois Route 19, so it’s a four-lane road, as opposed to the two lanes on Addison. And trust me, it makes a huge difference when it comes to moving traffic. The Irving Park exit off of Lake Shore Drive comes after Fullerton and Belmont if you’re heading north, and after Wilson and Montrose if you’re heading south. Either road, either direction, the suggestion is the same: Irving Park is definitely your best bet.
Navigating Chicago makes a lot more sense when you know where Lake Michigan is, because it tells you which way is east. When you get off the highway at Irving Park, you want to head east toward the lake and the ballpark. If you see high rises off in the distance, you’re heading the right way. There’s about a three-mile stretch of Irving Park to cover, and construction zones can pop up at any time, so be patient as you go.
Cross street-names like Cicero, Central Park, Kedzie, and California are a tell-tale sign that you’re moving in the right direction. House and business numbers are also dropping as you go, because of the grid system that Chicago follows. If a street address is 4500, for example, on Irving Park it means you’re 45 blocks west of State Street. Wrigley Field is at 1060 West Addison Street, so there’s 35 blocks separating the two streets from east to west. There are also eight blocks to a mile, so at 4500 West Irving Park you’re about four miles west of the park. The cross-streets at four-way intersections will tell you the name of the street, and its coordinate on the grid system underneath. “Kedzie Ave. 3200 W,” for example, is 32 blocks west of State Street, and about 22 blocks (or 2.5 miles) west of the Wrigley Field.
This is all by way of helping you get to the best place to put your car on game day. The best options are usually the cheapest ones, because Cubs tickets aren’t cheap these days, and food and drink at or around the ballpark will set you back a little ways, as well. Spending less money on parking leaves more money to spend on beer or nachos or whatever else you want to have while watching the game.
When you get to California Street, located at 2800 West, it’s time to start paying attention. There’s a remote parking lot nearby that offers the best price possible: FREE. Yes, free parking is available, at a spacious lot located on Rockwell Street and Irving Park. How spacious? A thousand spots are available during all night and weekend games, including the playoffs. Friday games don’t count, however, so if you have tickets for a Friday afternoon game, this option won’t apply to you. But if it’s a night or a weekend game, this is a place to park for free, and there’s no good reason to pass it up.
After crossing California, there will be a row of brick townhouses on the passenger’s side of your car, and a public park on the driver’s side (It’s called Horner Park, if you need to know). The road will then rise as it takes you over the Chicago River, and at the bottom of that rise is the remote parking lot. Turn right and follow the other cars back into the parking lot.
The lot is located a couple of miles away from the ballpark, but a shuttle runs fans over to the park every few minutes. The shuttle, like the parking itself, is absolutely free, but the driver would probably appreciate a tip if you are so inclined. The driver who doesn’t appreciate a tip probably hasn’t been born yet.
In years gone by, the remote parking lot was located a bit closer to Wrigley Field, but it had fewer spaces available (the current lot has 1,000 available spots) and it cost $6 per car. This new larger space and eliminated pricing came as a tradeoff for the extensive construction work being done in the area around the ballpark itself. There are port-a-potties available in the lot, and this type of open space simply isn’t available near Clark and Addison. So why not take advantage of it?
But what about all the bars you want to go see? The shuttle won’t take you to Murphy’s Bleachers or Yak-Zies or any of the other local watering holes, but it will take you to the park and you can walk from there. Nobody really cares how you get to the bars anyway, so long as you get there in the first place. The first shuttle runs to the ballpark two-and-a-half hours before the game, so there’s plenty of time to make the Clark Street scene, if that’s what you want to do.
But taking the shuttle back to this free lot has a much shorter window of one hour after the game is over. If you stay at the park until the game is over, and then think you can stop in at a bar before the shuttle deadline happens, good luck. You’re more likely to find a blue lobster in the ocean than an uncrowded bar in Wrigleyville following a Cubs game. There’s always the option of taking a cab or an Uber back to the lot, but that defeats at least some of the reason for parking for free in the first place. And no, the lot is too far away to walk, especially if you don’t know the city and/or you’ve had a few beers already.
For those coming off of Lake Shore Drive, there are a couple of things to point out. First, the addresses will get larger because you’re driving west, and away from Lake Michigan. You’ll be counter-intuitively driving away from the ballpark if you want to do the remote parking lot on Irving, but freelancing in the neighborhood around the ballpark is a very bad idea. Chicago is filled with tow-truck drivers who will gladly remind you of the error of your ways, and the City of Chicago needs all the parking revenue it can get nowadays. Just stay in your car and keep heading west. You can thank me later.
There will probably be tour buses lining both sides of Irving Park once you pass under the CTA tracks. This is where they are allowed to be during the game, but that does not mean cars are able to park there. In fact, street signs will specifically tell you that parking cars on that stretch of Irving Park is not allowed. There’s also a gas station at the corner of Clark Street and Irving Park, but the prices for late-season and playoff games is probably out of your price range, and nobody will shuttle you to the park from there, either.
Cross-streets like Southport, Ashland, and Ravenswood will appear as you make your way toward the remote parking lot. And it will be hard to head away from the ballpark. too. But again, practically any side street you might want to find parking on will be fraught with peril. Residential parking zone permits will prevent you from putting your car on any street within walking distance of the ballpark, without again risking a tow and a costly fine from the City. When you come to Western Avenue (located at 2400 West, and marked with several brick buildings on the passenger’s side), you’re almost there. Get in the left lane and turn at the next red light, just before crossing over the river.
If parking for free in a remote lot and riding a shuttle bus to the ballpark doesn’t appeal to you, there are a couple of other options to search for. The most important thing to consider, though, is where things are in relation to the park itself. At the risk of over-generalizing the lay of the land around the ballpark, you aren’t going to be able to leave your car anywhere south of the ballpark, or east or west, either. Too many parking zones, and too many people who live in the neighborhood already. Heading north of the park is your best bet, and that means you want to find your way to Montrose Avenue.
Montrose is located at 4400 North on the city’s grid, making it a half-mile further north of the ballpark than Irving Park. This means an additional walk to Wrigley itself, but the idea is to keep your money, isn’t it?
Montrose runs along the northern edge of Graceland Cemetery, where Ernie Banks is buried. There’s an imposing brick wall to let you know where the cemetery is. All along that street, from the CTA tracks on the east to Clark Street on the west, there are no parking zones, no metered parking, and no signs telling you not to park there. Parallel parking skills are crucial here, but the reward is a spot that won’t cost you any money. Unlike Irving Park Road to the south, cars can park on Montrose, and buses cannot.
Once the car is parked and locked (and please don’t forget that step), you can walk east to Kenmore Avenue–which is just past the CTA tracks–and then walk south toward the ballpark. After looping around Buena Park Circle and then crossing over Irving Park Road, you’ll probably see lots of Cubs fans heading toward the ballpark. One scenic detour is worth taking when you come to Byron Street. Take a very slight right and walk down AltaVista Terrace (shown below), which feels like it should be somewhere other than Chicago. The houses are touching against each other, and each shares an architectural style with another unit on the other side of the street. At the end of the block is Grace Street, where the ballpark journey continues.
The Cubs’ success in 2015 and beyond has brought a new level of excitement to the old neighborhood known as Wrigleyville, and GameHedge wants to help you be a part of it by offering tickets backed with the Good Game Guarantee, and also giving local tips from a seasoned Cubs fan and Chicago resident. Let’s all enjoy this, while the opportunity still exists.
By: R. Lincoln Harris