Downtown Chicago, also known as The Loop, is the cultural hub of the city. You’ll find architecturally significant skyscrapers, the theater district, museums, public art, and world-renowned parks. It is also one of the densest business districts in the country. A mix of famous architecture from the early 1900s, modern buildings, and cutting-edge public artwork, add to the entrepreneurial and creative atmosphere of downtown.
Given The Loop’s density and famous attractions, it’s important to have a parking plan to make the most of your time downtown. Use this guide to find the best parking options for you, whether you’re a tourist, commuting for work, or playing hooky like Ferris Bueller.
Downtown Chicago Online Parking Reservations
Explore parking options in downtown Chicago and use SpotHero to book a guaranteed space in advance!
Best Places To Park in Downtown Chicago
|Name||Address||Reserve Online?||Nearby Attractions|
|Millennium Park Garage||5 S. Columbus||Book Now!||Millennium Park|
|Wabash Randolph Garage||20 E. Randolph||Book Now!||Richard J. Daley Center|
|Grant Park N. Garage||25 N. Michigan||Book Now!||Millennium Park|
|Mid Continental Garage||55 E. Monroe St||Book Now!||Hilton Palmer House Hotel|
|210 N. Wells Self Park Garage||210 N. Wells||Book Now!||Merchandise Mart, Chicago Riverwalk|
|South Loop Garage||318 S. Federal St||Book Now!||Rookery Building|
|Adams & Wabash Self Park Garage||17 E. Adams St||Book Now!||The Art Institute of Chicago|
|55 E Jackson Blvd – Valet Garage||55 E. Jackson||Book Now!||The Art Institute of Chicago, Buckingham Fountain|
|Prudential Plaza Garage||398 E. Lake St||Book Now!||Chicago Bean, Millennium Park|
|181 W Monroe St Garage||181 W. Monroe St.||Book Now!||Willis Tower|
|111 S Wacker Garage||111 S. Wacker Dr||Book Now!||Lyric Opera of Chicago|
|180 N Franklin St Garage||180 N. Franklin St||Book Now!||James. R Thompson Center|
Chicago parking tickets are far too easy to receive due to confusing signage and seasonal parking restrictions. The best thing you can do when finding street parking downtown is to be meticulously aware of signs. If you’re new to Chicago, or are visiting with a car, keep the following situations in mind:
In the winter, look out for signs indicating whether or not it’s legal to park on a street depending how much snow is on the ground. If a couple inches of snow have fallen, your best bet is to opt for a parking garage – both for the safety of your car and for the possibility that the street needs to be cleared.
In the summer, the two main reasons street parking may not be permitted are street cleanings and construction. Many blocks have specific days and hours that parking is not permitted, based on when street cleanings are scheduled. Keep an eye out for signage indicating these restricted signs.
Find more on general parking information for all of Chicago, like the details of the Chicago vehicle sticker, how to retrieve a towed car, and more.
Best Parking Spots: The Theater District Garage at 181 North Dearborn Street stands out. It’s in a great location for Downtown Chicago, right next to bustling shopping on State Street and the Theater District. Plus, EV charging is available. If you have an electric car, you know how valuable a charging station is.
If you’re up for street parking, the area north of Millennium Park at Stetson Avenue and Lake Street is a great option as well.
- Always, always look out for signage about parking restrictions when parking on the street. Restrictions typically have to do with weather, time limits, and street cleaning.
- If you have a truck or van, search for parking garages that accept oversize vehicles. You may have to call parking garages directly beforehand.
- Due to the density of Downtown Chicago, finding and reserving a parking spot in advance will make parking much less stressful and more affordable.
Street Parking Overview
While there are stretches of metered parking downtown, the density of the neighborhood makes it a challenge to find an available spot. If you do score a spot on the street, be on the lookout for signs with parking regulations to avoid parking tickets.
Most street parking in Downtown Chicago has a time limit. Feeding the meter for more time won’t count if you exceed the maximum amount of time allowed. You have to move your car after the maximum parking time, even if that means moving it one spot down. Otherwise, you’ll risk getting a parking ticket.
Best Bets for Street Parking
- Find free street parking on the east side of Wacker Drive between Van Buren and Jackson.
- This location is just a block south of Willis Tower, perfect for a couple hours of sightseeing.
- Monday through Friday, there’s no parking allowed between 7 a.m-9 a.m. and 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
- Free street parking is available on both sides of Clark Street between Madison and Adams.
- This area is in the heart of the Loop, only a couple blocks west of State Street, the popular shopping stretch, and walking distance to Grant and Millennium Park.
- Monday through Friday, there’s no parking allowed between 7 a.m-9 a.m. and 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
- There’s free street parking on the west side of Franklin between Randolph and Washington.
- This location is walking distance to Chicago government buildings, like City Hall and The Daley Center.
Downtown Chicago Parking Meter Locations and Rate Areas
All metered parking in Downtown Chicago costs between $4-$6.50 per hour. Click here for an interactive version of the map above.
Find more information about metered parking in Downtown Chicago, like disability parking and pay station hours, here.
Paying for Metered Parking in Downtown Chicago
You can pay for metered parking in Downtown Chicago at the pay stations located in the parking zone where you are parking. You should see a sign pointing to the direction of the pay station. Quarters, credit/debit/pre-paid cards are all accepted.
Another option is to download the city’s street parking app, ParkChicago, which allows you to pay from your smartphone. But its best feature is the ability to extend the time on your meter without having to go back to your car, especially in the winter!
Downtown Chicago Residential Parking Zone
Residential parking is only available in the southern area of Downtown Chicago. Click here to see Chicago’s residential parking map.
To park in a residential zone, you’ll need either a Chicago City Vehicle Sticker with Residential Zone Parking or a Daily Residential Parking Permit for guests. Some zones require a residential permit at all times, while others only require permit at certain times of day or night. Find more information about city vehicle stickers here.
Snow plows clear snow almost daily to maintain Downtown Chicago’s streets in the winter. That being said, street parking is prohibited when there’s over 2 inches of snow. Don’t carry a ruler with you? Your best bet is to avoid street parking altogether when it’s snowing or when snow is on the ground. Park in a parking garage or lot instead.
The city also puts overnight parking bans in place during the winter so that the streets can be plowed at night. Check the City of Chicago website in the winter for more information about when exactly those bans are in place.
The Art Institute of Chicago: Founded in 1879, soon after the Great Fire of 1871, the Art Institute played a vital role in growing the city into an architectural and cultural destination. The museum is now home to some of the most famous works of art in the world.
The Art Institute is located on Michigan Avenue in the heart of downtown, so finding parking is a challenge if you don’t have a plan. The museum offers valet parking at the Modern Wing entrance for $28 (cash only). To save money, we suggest reserving parking in a garage or lot in advance.
Affordable garage or lot parking within walking distance of the Art Institute include:
Seven Lions Valet
124 S Wabash Avenue Garage
Harold Washington Library: The Harold Washington Library is Chicago’s main public library. Some fun activities at the library include researching your family history with their genealogy databases, checking out one of their monthly art tours, and exploring the Winter Garden on the 9th floor.
For parking, the library suggests a couple nearby garages and lots. The most affordable parking option near the library is:
601 S Dearborn Street Lot
The Field Museum: Built for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the Field Museum is easily one of the most interesting buildings to visit in Chicago. Now, the history museum attracts thousands of visitors year-round. Also near the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium are worth checking out.
The Field Museum offers campus parking at nearby garages and lots, such as the Soldier Field North Garage and wheelchair-accessible parking. View the museum’s parking options here.
If you’re looking to save money, check out our tips on visiting (and parking) at the Field Museum at almost no cost.
SkyDeck Chicago at Willis Tower: The Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, at 1,451 feet is the tallest building in Chicago and the second tallest building in the United States. Located on the 103rd floor, the Skydeck has interactive exhibits and The Ledge, a famous glass balcony that you can step onto and look down on the city below.
While there is some street parking available near Willis Tower, it’s unlikely it will be available. Skydeck suggests parking at the 211 W Adams Garage, which is open 24 hours a day. Reserve parking for this garage here.
- CTA – Chicago’s public transportation site with parking information near city trains and buses.
- Parknav – Helps parkers find the best street parking with real-time predictive data.
- ParkMe – Helps parkers find off- and on-street parking using full-time researchers and a predictive algorithm.
- Cityofchicago.org – City website with parking information, such as laws, restrictions, permits, and more.
- SpotHero – Find and reserve parking in advance with this free on-demand parking app.
- Parkopedia – Browse street and off-street parking rates with an interactive map.