April 7, 2019 – NOTE: This article was originally posted 21 May 2018. It is now updated for April, 2019:
Your Packing List
You’ve probably already packed, right? But just in case, did you remember to:
● Contact your credit card companies and provide them a travel alert
● Bring cash for those vendors who don’t accept credit cards. Avoid the high ATM fees and lines at McCormick Place; bring cash from home or another ATM/cash point.
● Tell USPS (or a neighbor/friend) to hold your mail.
● Bring bottled water and snacks. They will likely be healthier and cheaper than convention center food, and you won’t waste time looking for a place to eat when you can instead be eating while waiting in line for your next panel.
● Portable charger for your electronics and additional memory cards
● Health essentials: hand sanitizer, lotion, lip balm, aspirin, medicines, etc.
● Sales tax is high at 10.25% (Illinois sales tax is 6.25%, Cook County is 1.75%, Chicago is 1.25%, plus a 1% “special tax”). So consider purchasing essentials in your home state instead.
● Yes, you can bring a backpack. But no rolling luggage larger than 22”L x 14”W x 9”H, trolleys or handcarts. See the FAQ’s section of StarWarsCelebration.com
Also, there is a coat check for your coats, bags and other small items for a check fee of $3 or $4 per day.
● Extra change of clothes for you-know-who-you-are or for kids
● Umbrella & protective gear (it’s going to rain)
● Stuff to trade, whether it’s swag or cool stuff others might want (patches, buttons, stickers, etc)
● Protective sleeves for your autographs and photo-ops.
● A sturdy folder or 3-ring binder with your itinerary, flight and hotel confirmations, schedule of panels and autograph/photo times, purchase list, To Do List, floor plans, pen/paper
● An extendable poster tube for your posters or lightsabers
● Packing material (cardboard, tape, etc) if you wish to ship any large items home
● Extra shopping bags (Chicago charges seven cents per paper or plastic bag)
● For overseas travelers: Scan and email yourself a copy of your passport and ID cards – in case you lose the originals. Or print a copy. Makes replacing them that much easier.
● Avoid using a debit card in case you are hacked. A credit/charge card offers much more protection. Also, do you really need an RFID-blocking wallet? Slate.com says “No”.
Chicago’s McCormick Place: How to Get There
McCormick Place is North America’s largest convention center. Star Wars Celebration will be held in the West Building and, for large panels, in the WinTrust Arena.
Note the main entrance at the West Building of McCormick Place. Additional entrances will open later in the day after the first surge of attendees has been screened.
for more information regarding directions, parking options ($36 prepaid per day!) and public transportation.
The closest CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) station, Cermack-McCormick Place on the Green Line, is within walking distance. Estimated walk time is about 8-9 minutes for the one mile walk on East Cermack Road.
Ride-sharing such as Uber/Lyft or using a taxi will save you some walking and better protection from Chicago’s mercurial weather. Click below for:
● Uber fare estimator
● Taxi fare esimator
The most budget-friendly option is public transportation. Visit the CTA’s (Chicago Transit Authority) planning site to help navigate from point to point. The CTA site also lists current fare prices.
In short, a single-ride disposable “Ventra Ticket” (bus and rail) costs $3.00. A single-ride bus-only fare is $2.50. A 1-day unlimited ride (bus and rail) disposal Ventra Ticket is $10.00, good for 24 hours from time of activation. A 1-Day CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Fun Pass costs $10.00 and a 3-Day CTA Pass is $20.00. A 7-day unlimited CTA Pass is $27.00. You can research these and other fare options at this link HERE.
A lot of hotels are on or near Michigan Avenue. Taking the bus (especially bus No. 3/King Drive) is oftentimes faster than taking the “L” – and there’s a convenient bus stop just steps from the main entrance to McCormick Place West. Use Google Maps to find your bus stops.
A separate and free bus shuttle service is being offered between McCormick Place and certain hotels, mostly in the upper Loop area of Chicago. However, pick-up and drop-off times and frequency might not work for some people’s schedules. Find details at StarWarsCelebration.com.
And if you’re thinking of driving a car, think carefully. Besides heavy morning traffic and sometimes bad driving weather, parking is very expensive. Even for those who have prepaid to use a lot at McCormick, stories are rife of later-arriving drivers looking fruitlessly for a parking spot, only to end up driving elsewhere. Public transportation will be kinder on your nerves and wallet.
NOTE: Some of the prices in the above 2012 video have increased.
Chicago Weather in April
Of course it will be chilly and sometimes windy. It’s Chicago in April! The average high is 56° F (13°C) and the average low is 43° (6°C). Bring your umbrella and extra shoes as the unpredictable weather averages 9 rainy days in April. And listen to your mother: “Dress in layers“. Freezing outside might be too-warm inside, so you can remove or add clothing layers as necessary. Click HERE for a daily or 10-day weather forecast.
Sunrise time is 6:17 AM and sunset is 7:27 PM (April 11th).
Autograph and Photo-Op Prices for 2019
For those who have booked multiple autograph and photo-op times with your favorite Star Wars celebrities, do not panic if the schedules seem impossible. Yes, it’s common to have conflicts and overlapping autograph or photo-op times. There are 61 celebrities, after all.
While trying to get from one celebrity to another (plus the endless lines) may seem stressful, breathe in and out … and relax. If you miss an appointment, you can always get in line for a later time or another day. And if you still miss a celebrity and it’s not your fault, Topps will provide you a refund after the convention is over.
If you have a double- or triple-autograph conflict (e.g., three celebrities all within 30 minutes of each other), a good strategy is to get in line as early as possible; choose the celebrity with the shortest line (oftentimes the less popular signers); and if you are in a high priority group (1 or 2), sometimes a ReedPOP volunteer will walk you near the front of the line before lower-numbered groups if you explain your predicament. Ask nicely. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Relax.
As for photo-ops, the lines move very quickly. You might just have 10-15 seconds to pose with the celebrity before a professional photographer. So your photo-op reservations should take priority over most all autographs since the overall time-window is small. By contrast, autograph lines are slow-moving and you can always join the end of a line.
Click HERE to see 2019 Autograph and Photo-Op prices.
To compare the Celebration Orlando 2017 autograph prices, click HERE.
Other Things to See and Do in Chicago (Besides Attending Star Wars Celebration)