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    Blues Tour Frequently Asked Questions List
    (click links to see the answers)

    * *Where is the bus?
    * *Where does the tour start?
    * *Why do you have reserved departure times?
    * *My friends have tickets for a different departure time than me.    Can I just get on the same bus that they are on?
    * *How old do I have to be to participate in the tour?
    * *What time does the tour start?
    * *What does the ticket price include?
    * *Do I have to drink?
    * *Can I bring drinks on the bus?
    * *How much money should I bring?
    * *Is there food available?
    * *Where can I park?
    * *How long can I stay at each club?
    * *May I take pictures of the bands?
    * *What hotels can I stay at?

    Where is the bus?
    There are several point-to-point shuttle bus routes running continuously from approximately 8:00 pm to approximately 2:00 am, whose routes interconnect at the participating venues. You may transfer between routes at any venue, and a map and schedule are distributed to ticketholders showing the routes and departure times at each location.
    Click here to go back to FAQ list

    Where does the tour start?
    You may start at any of the participating venues. You should purchase your ticket from the venue at which you wish to start. Tickets purchased online via will start downtown, at the “hub” location, Lizzie McNeil’s, 400 N. McClurg Court. Bus space will only be guaranteed at the venue at which you purchased tickets (i.e., if you bought your tix at Lee’s Unleaded, you will be assured a seat on the first bus to leave there, but not at Linda’s Place, and vice versa). We will, however, make best effort to accommodate you on the next unreserved bus seat at any venue, regardless of where you purchased your ticket. It is, however, best to show up at the location specified on your ticket (where you are guaranteed a seat at the scheduled departure time) to avoid delays and to be assured of seating at the scheduled departure time on your ticket.

    You will receive a bus route map and schedule and an admission marker upon entry at the first venue. If you are arriving by taxi or public transit, you may want to purchase tickets from the venue farthest from home, start there, and then finish the evening closest to home, to make the trip home shorter. Your ticket (whether purchased online or from one of the venues) will indicate the starting point (the venue’s address) and starting time for your tour. All tickets purchased online through Chicago Blues Tour website, via the Earlybird program, Eventbrite, ETix, or Ticketweb will start at either the “advance party” location, Congress Hotel Tap, 520 S. Michigan, or Lizzie McNeil’s, 400 N. McClurg Court. If you purchase your ticket through one of the venues, you must start at the venue from whom the ticket was purchased and at the time stated on the ticket. The address and time will be clearly stated on your ticket.

    Why do you have reserved departure times?
    We use a reserved departure-time system in order to ensure a smooth boarding process (imagine boarding a 747 jumbo jet without any assigned seats or a check-in process, and you’ll understand why we do it this way). The departure time will be shown in the “section”, (e.g., 710_TO_LEES leaves at 7:10 PM, so your check-in time would be no later than 6:30PM). We ask you to arrive 40 minutes before departure time to check in, because this creates a gradual flow of arrivals and keeps the check-in lines short, as well as avoiding capacity issues at the boarding location. If everyone arrives at once, overcrowding can be a problem, and the city of Chicago has become much more strict in enforcing capacity rules in recent years. We also offer “EARLYBIRD” and “ADVANCE RESERVED” boarding which not only allows you to see one hour to 90 minutes more of music, and distributes the crowd to outlying clubs early in the evening, which eases the logistics of moving people around as the shuttle routes begin. Some of the smaller clubs get very crowded later in the evening, and might have to turn people away if they reach their (limited) capacity, and so we send buses there early to ensure that as many people as possible will be able to enjoy their delights.
    The buses for the January 2010 tour, 01/16/2010, will have ‘EARLYBIRD’ and ‘ADVANCE RESERVED’ boarding at the “advance party” location, The Congress Hotel Tap, 520 S. Michigan, and the “hub” location, Lizzie McNeil’s (click the address for a mapquest map), 400 N. McClurg Court, from 6:30 to 7:50 pm, before the buses get in place for the tour, so you may start at that location if you have purchased an advance ticket (check the BluesLine at 866-LIVEBLUES on tour day to see if day-of-event tickets are available for the downtown boarding, sellouts can and do occur). All advance “EARLYBIRD” program, “ADVANCE RESERVED” (Eventbrite, Ticketweb and E-Tix) tickets will require that you CHECK IN forty (40) minutes before the boarding time on your ticket, i.e., if your ticket says boarding time is 8:00, show up at 7:20 p.m., if it says 7:40 p.m., show up at 7:00, etc. “GENERAL ADMISSION” tickets go on sale when the reserved deparutes are sold out, and are for boarding at 8:30 and later only. Persons holding “GENERAL ADMISSION” tickets do not have reserved seats, and may not arrive before 8PM. They may board any shuttle bus with an available seat at 8:30PM or after, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

    IN ORDER TO EXPEDITE CHECK-IN at Lizzie McNeil’s, AND AVOID OVERCROWDING, PLEASE DO NOT SHOW UP ANY EARLIER than 40 minutes before the departure time on your ticket. “Advance Party” attendees may show up as early as 5PM, although check-in times will still be 40 minutes prior to departure. It is required that you start the tour at the departure location for which you purchased your tickets, since we try to balance the bus loads so everyone has a seat, and your advance ticket guarantees a seat at the time and location stated on your ticket. At the end of the night, all buses will return to the downtown “hub” at Lizzie McNeil’s. If you start downtown and need to return to your parked car before the tour is over, take one of the shuttle routes running through Lizzie McNeil’s. If you start at the Congress Hotel Tap and need to return there, take one of the routes going to Lizzie McNeil’s and ask the bus driver to re-route via the Congress Hotel to drop you off. If you start on the south side, make sure you pay attention to the schedule which will be given to you at the beginning of the night so you can determine how to end the night at the location you desire.
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    My friends have tickets for a different departure time than me. Can I just get on the same bus that they are on?
    The short answer is NO. Please review the rest of the FAQ to understand why we have reserved seating and departure times. If you want to try to sign up for “stand-by” admission, you can show up at an earlier time than your assigned check-in time, and IF WE HAVE NO-SHOWS (AND THUS SPARE CAPACITY), we will admit you and allow you to sign up for the “stand-by” list. It is then your responsibility to pay attention when the tour guide announces that they are boarding the departure for which you are on “stand-by”, and once all reserved passengers have been boarded, the “stand-by” list for that departure time will be boarded IN THE ORDER THAT THEY SIGNED UP FOR STAND-BY. THIS IN NO WAY ENSURES THAT YOU WILL BE BOARDED, NOR DOES SHOWING UP EARLY GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL BE ADMITTED FOR STAND-BY. We very strongly recommend that you get tickets at the same time as your friends, because once a departure time is sold out, it’s no longer available, “sold out” means just that – there are no more seats available on that bus. You may also want to bring a cell phone so that you can call one of your friends later and try to arrange to meet up with them by taking shuttle routes to the same club later during the evening.
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    How old do I have to be to participate in the tour?
    While Ilinois law requires you to prove you are 21 years of age or older to enter any establishment that serves alcohol (as all of the tour venues do), some exceptions are made by some venues for minors accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. We cannot guarantee admittance of any minors to any venue on the tour, so you should check with individual venues by calling them beforehand (phone numbers for all the venues are posted at the “Clubs and Performers” link) as to their policy regarding minors accompanied by a legal guardian. The no-refunds ticket policy remains in force for any tickets purchased on behalf of minors, whether or not they attend the tour.
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    What time does the tour start?
    You may start the tour at any time from 8:30 pm to 10:30 pm (unless you’ve purchased an advance “EARLYBIRD” ticket or “ADVANCE RESERVED” ticket, which entitles you to depart earlier). It is recommended to start as early as possible, in order to sample as many venues as possible; please take our advice and purchase advance tickets if you start downtown, or at least call the BluesLine at 866-LIVEBLUES to check available start times before arriving at the door without a ticket. If you start downtown, you should CHECK IN forty (40) minutes before your ticket’s boarding time in order to receive boarding passes and instructions. At the participating clubs, “GENERAL ADMISSION” departures will begin between at 8:30 p.m., and you may board any shuttle bus during the course of the evening, but it is recommended to get on the first bus available, in order to get to the most venues during the evening. To avoid becoming stranded at the end of the night, you should begin to consider how to travel to your final destination around midnight, as some destinations may require transferring from one route to another. If you want to return downtown at the end of the night, please keep in mind that after their last scheduled pickup, all the buses will return downtown, but may re-route on the way back to ensure no one is left stranded anywhere. They will NOT take you to anywhere but the original downtown boarding location.
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    What does the ticket price include?
    The ticket ($45) includes all admission charges to the participating venues as well as shuttle bus transportation. No drinks or food are included in the ticket price, and you should calculate purchasing drinks into the budget for your evening. Reserved Tickets are strongly recommended, and can be purchased in advance right up to the start of the tour, while supplies last. Sometimes tickets sell out so it’s best to get tix in advance, but you can take your chances showing up at the door. “Stand-by” tickets are also sometimes available even when the tour is sold out. No-shows almost always occur, and their seats become available for “stand-bys”, according to the “stand-by” procedure outlined elsewhere in this FAQ.
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    Do I have to drink?
    Keep in mind that these venues (including the “hub” venue, Wabash Tap) make their money by selling drinks. You don’t have to drink alcohol, but please don’t take a seat on Saturday night and then not purchase anything during the peak hours during which these venues pay the rent. I have had some reports recently that blues tour attendees have been taking the unusual approach of ordering tap water, to avoid purchasing a drink. The venues have been instructed to sell you bottled water if this is your request. These are businesses, not charities, and if you want them to be able to pay the band that you are enjoying, they need to make money, so at least purchase a soft drink while you are taking up a seat during peak business hours. Please don’t forget to tip!
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    Can I bring drinks on the bus?
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    How much money should I bring?
    If you figure on one or more drinks at each venue over the course of the entire evening, some light food and a souvenir t-shirt, you should figure on $80 to $100. If you have already eaten, buy no souvenirs and are a light drinker, you could do well with $50 to $60. Please don’t forget to tip, those servers work hard for their money, especially on tour night!
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    Is there food available?
    Some venues on the tour have food.
    Lizzie McNeil’s has a grill menu available. Lee’s Unleaded often features some tremendous chili, and generally Linda’s has some light food available. One of my 3 favorite BBQ places in town is 3 blocks west of Checkerboard on 53rd Street. BIBS & RIBS has long been a favorite with the University of Chicago crowd, and has a wide following. They generally do both Beef and Pork ribs, with a tangy sauce that seems to have a hint of Worcestershire. They do carry out, you can call ahead and pick it up, and Checkerboard doesn’t have any problem with you carrying food in. Here’s a link and another link to a PDF of their menu.

    Taste Entertainment Center has a full grill menu, as does The Water Hole.

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    Where can I park?
    We strongly recommend taking public transportation, Saturday night in the Loop can be a driver’s nightmare.

    Parking is always at a premium during these events, so it is best to arrive early if you wish to find parking, or use public transportation, which is our recommendation. If you start downtown, there are $10 all-night automated lots at Wabash and 9th and Grant Park South. Commuter rail lines stop nearby; Union Station is a short cab ride away from Congress Hotel Tap, and LaSalle Station is a bit closer. The Ogilvie Center Station is cab-ride distance from Lizzie McNeil’s, which is in the area just west of Navy Pier. The Red Lines’ “Jackson” CTA stop is less than 4 blocks away from Congress Hotel Tap, as is the Green/Orange Line’s “Adams” stop. The “Van Buren” stop on the Metra Electric is about 1 block away from Congress Hotel Tap. The Red Line stop at Grand Avenue is within 4 blocks of Lizzie McNeil’s, and #72 Grand Avenue buses as well as all Michigan Avenue buses stop within 2 blocks. You can get very good and precise directions from any location to any location in the city from the RTA Travel and Information Service at 312-836-7000.

    There are many many cabs in the Loop, but the easiest way to get a cab at the end of the evening is to walk over to one of the cab stands on Michigan Avenue, or just go to one of the nearby hotels, where cabs usually are standing right outside. There usually are also cab stands at the commuter-train stations such as LaSalle Station, Union Station, and the Ogilvie Center.

    For those who wish to start on the south side, Lee’s Unleaded Blues and Linda’s Place have ample street parking nearby; Checkerboard Lounge has a large metered parking lot ($1 per hour until 9PM) and is 1 block from the 53rd St. stop on the Metra Electric rail line as well.  Taste Entertainment Center has a very large monitored parking lot.  On the West side, Rosa’s Lounge has limited street slant-parking around the corner on St. Louis Street, and The Water Hole has an ample street parking. There is paid flat-lot parking around Lizzie McNeil’s, expect to pay overnight rates of $10 to $12, and probably double that amount around The Congress Hotel Tap. Parking around For The Good Times Lounge is tough, although some street spots can be found if you’re lucky.

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    How long can I stay at each club?
    You may stay as long as you wish, but don’t “outsmart the tour”. Just be sure to pay attention to the time, so you can plan how to return to your car, or get to the club you wish to end the night at, which may be the one nearest your home. The buses will not run extra trips after the scheduled ones, nor will they re-route to different clubs, so if you need to make a connection to switch buses, make sure you allow enough time to get to the connection point. Since the goal of the tour is to sample as any bands and clubs as possible, we recommend that you just keep boarding buses as they arrive, and you’ll get to quite a few, if not all, of the clubs. When we say “don’t outsmart the tour” here’s what we mean – we’ve designed the tour schedules to distribute people around, but not for point-to-point transportation (i.e., “I want to go from Lee’s Unleaded to Linda’s Place”). Just keep getting on the shuttles and you’ll see a lot of music in just a few hours with little effort. We try to coordinate the music schedules with the bus schedules, so diverting from just boarding the buses and moving around “outsmarts” the tour’s design. We remind you one last time: watch the schedule of routes so you don’t get stranded…If you want to return downtown at the end of the night, please keep in mind that after their last scheduled pickup, the buses return downtown. They will NOT take you to anywhere but the original downtown boarding location, Lizzie McNeil’s, or by special request (please ask upon boarding, not during the trip) to the Congress Hotel Tap.
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    May I take pictures of the bands?
    As a general rule, it is best to ask permission both from the management of the venue and the performers. In general, it won’t be a problem, but it is common courtesy. If you have a picturephone or other mobile device, and you use it to take pictures of performers or you and your friends having fun on the tour, feel free to post it to our live flickr stream by emailing it to It will post to our website and Facebook page within a matter of minutes (please keep nudity to a minimum), and become part of our online archival record of the Chicago Blues Tour.
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    What hotels can I stay at?

    We strongly recommend the Congress Plaza Hotel, which will hold a block of rooms for the Blues Tour until the deadline of December 19.  You can take a video tour by clicking this link.


    Since we will have an advance party at the hotel as well as an earlybird departure, the Congress Plaza Hotel will be very convenient, and the rate of $79 per night for a double is a great rate for downtown Chicago.

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