Best Things to Do in Chicago – Your Guide to the Windy City
Did you know that Chicago was the most visited city in the US after New York in 2018, with nearly 60 million domestic and international visitors? And it’s no wonder given the sheer number of different things to do in Chicago, from spending a day at some of its incredible museums and parks to watching a game of its great sports teams such as the Bulls or the White Sox. Or just wandering at its magnificent skyline full of skyscrapers. But the Windy City is so much more than a mecca for tourists. It is a place with a long and exciting history and fantastic entertainment options designed to satisfy even the pickiest of its 2.7 million residents.
Moving to Chicago will provide you with access to more than 600 parks, 26 miles of lakefront, approximately 60 museums, and over 220 music venues. Pack up your fancy clothes, but also comfy shoes, because when you are in the Windy City, you can hike in the morning and dance the night away, all in the same day. If you’re not familiar with this incredible metropolis, stay with us as we guide you through its most famous attractions, places to see and visit, and venues when you can have the tastiest meals you’ve ever had.
Take a Journey of Discovery at Field Museum
Field Museum of Natural History, also known as FMNG, is one of the largest museums of natural history in the world. Since it opened in 1894, FMNG collection has grown to almost 40 million artifacts and specimens. Did you know that the mollusk collection is among the five largest in North America and that the fish collection is among the largest in the world? A variety of exhibitions make this a perfect spot for people of all ages. That’s why even those who don’t like history might find an exhibition that will pique their interest.
Don’t Miss the Most Popular Exhibitions at Field
There are exhibitions in the museum that can help you better understand the world you’re living in, from ancient cultures to the latest scientific discoveries. If you are moving with kids, take them to see Titanosaur 3D story of Maximo, so that they could learn about long-necked sauropods and their journey on Earth in the Cretaceous period. If you are a fan of 3D projections, there is also one about ancient Egypt. Nevertheless, one of the most impressive exhibitions is located in Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet. Within 27,000 square feet, you get to learn about every step of evolution.
Check out Art Institute and See Collections That Span Centuries
Art Institute was founded in 1879 and, since then, has been devoted to collecting, preserving, and interpreting art from all around the world. The Institute is a tourist hotspot, and approximately 1.5 million people visit it every year. Permanent collections have nearly 300,000 art pieces, but the Institute hosts special exhibitions as well. You can stop by and learn about the nomadic culture of South Asia, see how the famous painter Monet was inspired by the metropolis, and check out Nancy Rubins’s metal constructions.
United Center Will Be a Part of Your Favorite Sports Memories
Chicagoans love their sports teams. That might be the reason why Sporting News named the metropolis the “Best Sports City” in the US in 1993, 2006, and 2010. No matter if you are a football, basketball, hockey, or soccer fan, you will certainly find a team to cheer for. That’s where United Center, a vast indoor arena, plays a major role. Fans of the NBA can watch the world-famous Bulls or cheer for NHL Blackhawks while they play their games on modern and renovated courts.
Stroll Through Jackson Park
Have you unpacked after the move and put everything in its place? After all that hard work, you could use a breather, so put on some comfy shoes and take a stroll through Jackson Park. With 500-acre of green space, here you can play golf, use other playing fields, walk around woodland trails or check out the boat harbor. If you are moving with your dog, there are vast open spaces for them to run around and enjoy a day in the sun. Jackson has a long history, which can be observed in many hidden and not-so-hidden features around the area.
Spend the Day in the Park Snapping Some Beautiful Photos
Jackson is utilized in many ways. From a gymnasium to a fitness center and flower garden, there are so many activities you can take part in. Nevertheless, if you want to spend a day walking around and taking beautiful photos, you can start with gilded bronze sculpture, the Statue of The Republic, a famous landmark of the metropolis. You can also admire a permanent installation called Skylanding by Yoko Ono.
Feel the Spanish Vibes While Visiting the Wrigley Building
The Wrigley Building was modeled after the cathedral called Giralda Tower, located in Seville, Spain. Completed in 1921, this 27 stories high building became a landmark of the metropolis pretty fast. Check with the building security when you can get inside and explore the interior courtyard that offers marvelous river views.
Spend the Day at Lincoln Park Zoo
Within 35 acres of space, you will find one of the few free admission zoos in the US – Lincoln Zoo. Make a day out of the visit, because you should not rush through the exhibitions and fun activities that the Zoo offers.
The zoo is home to many mammal species such as Bactrian camel, American black bear, rhinoceros, and giraffe. If you are a fan of reptiles, you can check out dwarf crocodiles, rattlesnakes, pythons, chameleons, and turtles. Also, your children can enjoy some kid-friendly activities that will help them connect with nature.
Connect With Nature at the Farm-In-The-Zoo
When moving from one urban place to another, you don’t have too many opportunities to enjoy all the benefits of smaller and rural locations. If you want your kids to be in touch with nature, take them to Farm-In-The-Zoo, where they can experience a bit of a country lifestyle.
All the visitors can partake in gardening demonstrations, see animals such as chickens, ponies, goats, and cows. Make sure you don’t miss: singalong with Mr. Singer and his jamboree, harvesting vegetables, and a typical farm day.
Adler Planetarium Is for Everyone Curious About the Outer Space
Famous British sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe, or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” Join other Chicagoans in the pursuit of knowledge about outer space, because that is what Adler Planetarium is for. From Astronomy in Culture to Space Visualization Lab, you will find something that will blow your mind.
Shows You Shouldn’t Miss
Every day is a new opportunity for you to learn, so make the best out of it. When you are in Adler Planetarium, make sure you see:
- Destination Solar System takes you on a deep space voyage. You will travel a million miles to the hottest and coldest corners of the Solar System.
- Imagine the Moon explores how this satellite has inspired humanity. You will listen about glowing sky disks, other worlds that share an origin with Earth, and other myths that are inspired by the Moon.
- One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure is a journey you will take with Elmo and Big Bird to the Moon and back. This might seem like a childlike activity, but really, nobody is too old for an adventure with Elmo.
- Planet Nine gives us an insight into Pluto, the former planet on the far end of the Solar System.
- Skywatch Live shows you a sky over the metropolis, beyond the bright lights. You will get to see the location in a way you never saw it before.
- Welcome To The Universe will help you obtain a more profound understanding of our planet. Presenters will guide you through the Andromeda Galaxy and other galaxies of the Coma Cluster to the hidden corners of the Universe.
If you want to spend a day learning, get yourself a ticket for Adler Planetarium; you will need $50 for an unlimited experience, but some tickets, depending on the number of entrances, can be bought for a lower price.
Visit Shedd Aquarium and Look Nature in the Eye
Can you imagine five million gallons of water that are home to over 32,000 animals? If you can’t, just go to Shedd Aquarium and see it in person. This is the first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection. Have you ever wondered how a beluga whale looks up close? Or stingrays, dolphins, and octopuses? Wonder no more, they are all residents of the Aquarium.
The Aquarium has many programs and events suitable for youth, adults, teens, and families. Also, during your visit, you can have close encounters with animals, watch 4-D movies, and see dolphins put on a show.
Don’t Be Afraid of Checking out Graceland Cemetery
Visiting a cemetery seems spooky, right? Well, not in Chi-Town. Graceland Cemetery is not like the others, because many tombs are of great architectural and artistic interest. Go check it out and find Getty Tomb, and Martin Ryerson Mausoleum, both designed by “father of skyscrapers,” architect Louis Sullivan. The cemetery is also famous for the two statues, Eternal Silence and the Crusader, both made by sculptor Lorado Taft.
Walk Around the Loop
The Loop happens to be one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago. Due to its revitalization, it has attracted numerous new residents and businesses. The Chicago River and Lake Michigan border the area, but it is also home to several parks and trails by the water, giving you plenty of chances to walk around and enjoy the outdoors.
Maggie Daley Park Is All About Outdoor Activities
This location features a quarter-mile long ice skating ribbon, tennis courts, and rock climbing walls. Don’t leave all of your good shoes in storage; you will need them to explore the area. Also, when you are moving with pets, know that the Watering Hole is a themed play space where you can take your furry friend to run around.
Millennium Park Is an Entertainment Center
Millennium Park is one of the top tourist destinations in Windy City. If you are wondering why, just remember that there are plenty of exciting events throughout the year that happen here. This is the home of the Grant Park Music Festival, the only free outdoor classical music festival. There are art performing and musical events all year-round, as well as fitness activities like yoga.
Riverwalk Is an Outdoor Art Gallery
Whenever you go to take a walk down by the river, take a camera with you and snap a photo or two of some public pieces art that are spread all through the pedestrian trail. The most famous one is the Art on theMart, the largest video-projection installation in the world. Here you can easily go kayaking or hop on a cruising boat and enjoy the panoramic views of the area.
A Boat Tour Can Be Fun
Would you like to see the metropolis from a place you have never seen it before? Luckily, with a boat tour, you can have an unforgettable day exploring the famous landmarks and hidden gems of the metropolis. Depending on your free time, budget, and overall interests, there are more than a few rides you can take.
Boat Tours Are Some of the Best Things to Do in Chicago
If you are too busy, but you still want to relax for a bit, try Shoreline Sightseeing Classic Lake Tour that is just 40 minutes long. It is narrated, and you will get to learn a thing or two while looking at Navy Pier and Lake Michigan.
Shoreline Sightseeing boat tours are for those who would love to see as many landmarks as possible, and some of them are 875 North Michigan Avenue and Aon Center.
Are you a fan of fireworks? Every Wednesday and Saturday during summer, there is a Mercury 3D fireworks cruise that provides you with a unique vantage point of the festivities that are happening over the Navy Pier. Hop on a boat and see why so many people stare at the sky, expecting an eruption of color.
Lake Michigan Is a Hot Spot for Tourists and Locals
If you ever feel cooped up in your new home, put on some good walking shoes and take a stroll around Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes of North America. Tourism plays a major role in the lakes’ development; that’s why you will encounter plenty of cafe shops, restaurants, and other tourist attractions. If you are moving for a relationship, this is a perfect spot to take out your loved one for a romantic evening. The shore is very walkable, and scenery might take your breath away.
Navy Pier Is an Iconic Landmark
Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot long marina that has a space of over 50 acres filled with gardens, parks, exhibition facilities, and family attractions. Mark Wednesday and Saturday as days when you can see fireworks over the Pier, but also take a walk around and see many outdoor art installations. And if you walk far enough, you can see naval vessel USS Chicago. When you get tired of all the walking, check some of the cool rides.
Have a Spin at the Carousel
Outdoor attractions such as Light Tower Ride, Pepsi Wave Swinger, and remote control boats are some of the things that attract many tourists throughout the year. If you want to wake up your inner child, hop on a carousel and have a spin.
Did you know that the trademark Ferris wheel is state-of-the-art technology, and is the only one of its kind in the US? Similar ones operate in Baku and Hong Kong.
Experience a full sensory maze and navigate through 4,000 square feet of tunnels in Funhouse Maze or check Crystal Gardens botanical garden with a six-story glass atrium and a 50-foot arched ceiling.
The Second City Can Provide Laughter for All
Laughter is the best medicine, and if you are ever in need of a good one, see a show at the Second City. This improvisational comedy enterprise was once a starting ground for famous comedians such as Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. There are three stages, and you can go online and check when the next show is; you won’t regret spending time giggling at the sketches by hilarious comedians.
Baha’ I House of Worship Is an Architectural Sensation
You don’t have to be a believer to appreciate one of the ten Bahai Temples in the world. The detailed structure was designed by the architect Louis Bourgeois, and it features a 138-foot dome that is covered in lace-style carvings. The architect incorporated sacred number nine into his design; that’s why the building has nine pillars, nine fountains, nine-pointed stars, and nine entrances.
Enjoy Foreign and Classic Films at Music Box Theatre
For all of you movie buffs living in the metropolis, there is a place where you can catch foreign, cult, independent, and classic films, and that place is called Music Box Theater. This movie house, built in 1929, is one of a handful that survived the urbanization of the metropolis. Enjoy old and new movies in the Mediterranean-inspired auditorium under a simulated sky with stars and clouds.
Get Inspired in the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
The metropolis is filled with many marvelous architectural creations. If you are a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and his Prairie School of Design, you might find a studio and home visit inspirational. Check out walking tours that talk about Wright’s legacy and work. Besides the home and studio, you can visit The Rookery Light Court, Unity Temple, Frederick C. Robie House, and Emil Bach House and marvel at the Wright’s creations.
Embrace Nature in the Garfield Park Conservatory
Some of the best places to live in Chicago are well connected with the rest of the area; that’s why no matter where you are, if you ship your car, the Garfield Park Conservatory will be close by. It is the world’s third-largest garden under glass, and it has eight indoor gardens you can check out. With more than 80 types of palm trees, ferns, cactuses, and succulents, you will be able to see and learn about a variety of plants.
Willis Tower Skydeck Can Give You an Adrenaline-Pumping Experience
Are you an adrenaline junkie looking for a new thrill? If the answer is yes, don’t waste time, go to Willis Tower and check the iconic Skydeck. When you are in one of the tallest buildings in the metropolis, you will get the opportunity to walk on a glass balcony that is hanging on the 103rd floor of the Tower. If the breathtaking view doesn’t get your adrenaline pumping, you should look down and see the streets below your feet.
From Dance to Music Events, You Can Find Everything at Auditorium Theatre
The Auditorium Theater can be a great place to kick back and relax while enjoying a play, dance, or music performance. You will be inside a remarkable construction, designed with perfect acoustics and elaborate decorating details. This place seems to be a high-class venue, but if you are worried that it will make a dip in your already calculated cost of living in Chicago, you should know that tickets are more than affordable. There are individual and discount ticket programs you can check out.
Drop by Morton Arboretum and Enjoy Nature
Morton Arboretum was envisioned as a great outdoor museum of trees. Today visitors can enjoy these 1,700 acres of space that features native trees as well as rare imported species. If you are an outdoor enthusiast and you love botanic, you can spend a day walking around more than 222,000 plants from all around the globe. Don’t forget to drop by the installation of giant wooden trolls from European folklore, and snap a photo or two.
Eat Your Way Through Chicago
You know that food is the universal language, and when you are looking for restaurants in Chicago to have a delicious meal in, you can check out some popular food tours.
For around $70, you can go on the Famous Tastes discovery, where you can try some of the well-known specialties of the metropolis. From restaurants such as Pizano’s Pizza to chocolates from Fannie May, you will see for yourself why everybody, tourists and locals, flock to these places and want to eat.
With a pizza tour, you will learn all about local joints and tourist food hot spots. After a day of eating slice after slice, every foodie will understand why pizza is such an important part of the Chicagoan lifestyle.
Bar Hopping Can Be One of the Best Things to Do in Chicago
The metropolis is not all about museums, beautiful green spaces, and galleries. With a youthful population, there are plenty of places where you can just kick back and relax while grabbing a drink.
Chicagoans know how to have fun; that’s why unique spots are popping all over. Bar hopping is an experience of its own. When you unpack and settle down, check out Janitor’s Closet, yes it looks exactly how it sounds. Nevertheless, you can order some cocktails with local ingredients and snap some cool photos. If you want to have a drink in a retro vibe location, go to The Drifter and enjoy cocktails served by bartenders in authentical clothes from a century ago. Have some shots, and enjoy a drag queen show in Kit Kat Lounge. You will be entertained by the likes of Marilyn and Joan while sipping strong martinis, is there anything better than that?
Can you find a bar that will pique your interest? Maybe you are not a cocktail-sipping kind of a person, luckily, Chicagoans are also beer lovers, and that can be seen in uncountable breweries and taprooms all over.
Don’t Miss out on Craft Beer
What better way to make friends in a new city than inviting neighbors or colleagues to grab a drink with you? Passionate beer lovers will find countless places to grab a cold one because there are around 170 breweries in Windy City.
Empirical Brewery Taproom is located Uptown, and it offers creative drinks, such as imperial IPA and ale with passion fruit. Nearby is also Half Acre Beer Company, where you can sit down, play a board game with some friends while enjoying a beer. Moody Tongue Brewery is on the other side of town, near Chinatown, and it is a spot that serves grapefruit, nectarine, caramelized chocolate churro ales.
Explore Seedy Corners With Mob and Crime Bus Tours
A while ago, residents lived in fear of mobsters and crime lords that ruled the streets. Although those times are long gone, today, you can hop on a bus and tour the most influential mob and crime spots. Learn about gangs shoot-offs, famous thieves, notorious killers, and corrupt politicians that played a huge part in shaping history.
There Are Plenty of Mob Mysteries You Can Uncover
Crime and mob tour will take you to the times when infamous mobsters such as charismatic bank robber John Dillinger and Hymie Weiss lived. You will learn about the big names in the organized crime and drive-by murder locations, all that for around $38.
Gangsters and Ghosts is a walking tour that will show you all the vice hotspots of the ’20s and ’30s. You will get to learn all about secret underground tunnels and illegal deals for $27.
Night Crimes journey is not for those with weak hearts, because you will uncover sites of gruesome murders that happened during wee hours. You will get to visit Biograph Theater where notorious John Dillinger met his maker, the spot where St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened and many other spooky locations.
Experience life of Al Capone in a private town car tour, in true mafia style, and see what was like to live in the location where this New Yorker wreaked havoc.
Did you know that besides colorful and somehow scary stories of mobsters, Chicago was home to one of the first known serial killers in the US? Dr. Henry Howard Holmes was a con artist that lured hundreds of people to the hotel, later known as Murder Castle. You can learn about his horrific crimes if you sign in for Devil and the White City tour that costs $35.
Sing-Along Some Famous Songs in a Variety of Music Venues
Well, you are settling down in a place that produced famous names such as The Smashing Pumpkins, Fall Out Boy, and Common. Music is a big part of life for every Chicagoan, that’s why there are plenty of places where you can listen to your favorite artists. No matter what kind of music you love to jam to, there will be a venue for you.
The Green Mill is a jazz club, the first one in the US, and it has been running over 100 years now. Stop by and see how this place survived Prohibition and still keeps on surprising visitors, with great music shows.
No matter when you want to listen to the soft sounds of blues, you can always go to Kingston mines, which is open seven days a week.
If a dive bar setting is more up to your alley, stop by The Empty Bottle and enjoy beer and a variety of artists from different genres. From hip-hop to experimental jazz, this place was home to all kinds of musicians.
For those who like to pull an all-nighter, there is the legendary venue Metro, which holds around 1,000 people and attracts national superstars. The spot is open until 5 am, giving you plenty of time to dance and have fun.