I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Chicago, Illinois, for the American Library Association’s Annual Conference! My husband and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and check off a National Park in our National Parks Passport Book. We absolutely loved our visit and can’t wait to see how it continues to grow!
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Check out the activities you can do at the National Park and read about how to prepare for your trip!
Getting There | Transportation Options
Getting to Pullman National Historical Park was not hard for us but it was definitely a bit out of our way.
We were staying around the border of downtown Chicago, in Chinatown at the Jaslin Hotel. There weren’t many public transportation options (except for the train) so we ended up taking an Uber to the National Park from where we were staying. It was about a thirty-minute drive for us but it really depends on traffic.
We went on Thursday between 11 AM and 1 PM, and I think that was the right choice. There weren’t many tours happening and we pretty much had the place to ourselves! It was a great time to walk around and explore without the pressure of other people.
For more transportation options, check out the Pullman National Historical Park’s website.
On our way back to downtown Chicago, we took the Metra Train back. While it was an easy trip to do at the last minute, since we could buy tickets on our phone, we waited an additional ten to fifteen minutes for the train since it was running behind schedule. It was my first time in a double-decker train and it was a surprisingly comfortable journey back to downtown Chicago.
Exploring Pullman National Historical Park in Chicago, IL
When the Uber first arrived at the Pullman National Historical Park, we were dropped off across the street from the main building. Kyle immediately realized the National Park was behind us but I was completely confused about where we were!
Once I turned around and saw the National Park, it truly felt like a movie scene! The Pullman National Historical Park, formerly known as the Pullman National Monument, is a gorgeous sight to behold! The main administrative building rises high in the sky with a stunning peak! There’s not too many nearby competing tall buildings so it truly stands out against the sky.
The Pullman National Historical Park is a recent addition to the National Park system. It was announced by then-President Barack Obama in 2015. As far as National Parks go, Pullman is still growing and establishing itself as a National Park. While there’s been quite a bit of updates and reinforcements to buildings, they still have many projects to be implemented!
We walked around Hotel Florence and checked out the plans they have for future renovations and updates.
The Pullman National Historical Park encompasses a wide area, from 111th Street to 115th Street. Some several buildings and spaces make up the Park. Due to our schedule, we spent much of our time near the visitor building and Hotel Florence and didn’t get a chance to explore more of the space.
If you have more time to explore, check out some of the following spaces:
- Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Areamar
- Market Hall
- Pullman Firehouse
- Greenstone Church (Greenstone United Methodist Church)
- Historic Pullman Wheelworks
- National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum
Touring Pullman National Historical Park | Chicago, IL
When we visited Pullman National Historical Park, we arrived just before 11 AM when one of their tours began. Walking towards the Visitor Center, we actually saw a tour group come out and started running to make sure we hadn’t missed it!
The National Park Rangers told us we hadn’t missed it (it had been a school group we saw) and would be happy to give us a tour! We ended up being the only ones on the tour and we were guided by Abby (Abbie?), a student who was interning for the summer. We were her fourth tour, I believe, and she gave so much enthusiasm for the space!
The tour is not very long and is a slow trek around the Visitor Center area. I would love to see the tour expand to include other buildings, like Market Hall and Greenstone Church, because we did not realize those were available to explore until after our trip when we researched the National Park a little more.
The Visitor Center at Pullman National Historical Park
Wandering around the Visitor Centers of each National Park is one of my favorite things to do. Some Parks have a ton of history to share and do their best to showcase historical events and local connections, others have a greater focus on nature, while the larger National Parks are layers and layers of various topics to explore.
Pullman National Historical Park’s Visitor Center had a fun entrance to their exhibits with an interior Pullman train design on full display, including seats! As you continue through the exhibit, you learn about planned company towns, innovations in housing, developments in trains and train service, and so much more!
There’s a section dedicated to housing developments and the development of the company town. My favorite part was the accessible map they had in the middle of the room! It was at a height accessible to wheelchair users and it used different texture patterns to show the different properties on the National Park.
Pullman National Historical Park was a fun one to visit!
As one of the newer National Parks, the Visitor Center has great facilities for guests and is accessible to a variety of people. The sidewalks are wide and there are ramps integrated into the design around the Visitor Center.
Pullman National Historical Park covers a wide amount of space, stretching from 111th Street to 115th Street so make sure you set aside plenty of time to explore the beautiful buildings and spaces!