Welcome to the Windy City, otherwise known as Chicago! From mesmerizing historical landmarks to unique gastronomical experiences, there is so much culture and adventure awaiting you in this vibrant city. Whether you're a first-time traveler or are returning for your fifth visit, there is no shortage of things to do in Chicago.
To help make sure that you get the most out of your trip - without being overwhelmed by too many options - we've curated a list of our favorite activities and attractions.
Take a tour through breathtaking architecture like the Willis Tower Skydeck, dine at some of the world's best restaurants, and watch shows at renowned theaters; whatever it is that you enjoy doing and want an exciting experience while visiting the city on Lake Michigan, these are easily some of the best things to do in Chicago!
1. Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the world's largest and oldest museums, when you're planning a trip to Chicago, you must learn everything you can about the Art Institute of Chicago. It's one of the largest and oldest museums in the United States, and it is also the most famous. The museum's impressive collection will impress art enthusiasts of all levels. You can learn all about the history of painting and the evolution of techniques from the early Renaissance to the modern era by visiting this landmark.
The Art Institute of Chicago is home to more than 300,000 pieces of art from around the world. There's an exhibit on European armor, as well as an interactive display on the evolution of modern art. It also has a number of performance programs and daily gallery tours that can help you get the most out of your visit. For a family trip, you and the children can participate in the Ryan Learning Center and do fun art-making activities together.
2. Navy Pier
Navy Pier is a tourist hotspot in Chicago, and it's best to visit the pier during the day. Your best bet is to check out a free concert or play at one of the stages there. The best time to come for a good price on a ticket is during the weekdays because night shows tend to be much more expensive. But you can also catch many amazing daytime shows!
For those looking for an exciting nightlife spot, Navy Pier offers plenty of bars and clubs that stay open late into the evening where you can enjoy drinks with your friends or just have fun! This place also lets visitors see everything from live animal shows to musical performances from well-known artists from around the world. If you're looking for a great place to take pictures, then be sure to visit the pier's signature Ferris wheel also.
3. Willis Tower
Formerly called the Sears Tower, Willis Tower is a popular tourist destination because of its height and the views it offers. The tower stands at 1,451 feet tall, making it the tallest building in North America. It's best to visit Willis Tower during the day so you can take in all the sights around Chicago. Tickets are more expensive when you visit at night.
The Skydeck on the 103rd floor is open from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm most days, and there's an extra fee for those who want to go up. But if you're looking for an adrenaline rush, then be sure to check out The Ledge which is a glass box that extends 4 feet out from the side of the building! If you're not feeling that adventurous, then you can still enjoy the views of the city from high up by taking a trip to Willis Tower.
4. Lincoln Park Zoo
If you're traveling with children, the best place to take them is the Lincoln Park Zoo which is free and open every day of the year! The zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals from around the world. There's also a Children's Zoo where kids can pet goats, sheep, and other friendly farm animals.
There are also plenty of places to picnic in the park so you can make a day out of your visit here. And if that's not enough, there's also an IMAX theater on-site where you can catch a movie after exploring the zoo.
5. The Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile is a popular shopping district in Chicago that's best visited during the summer when the weather is nice. This mile-long stretch of Michigan Avenue is home to some of the most famous stores and brands in the world, including Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, and Gucci.
You can also find high-end restaurants, art galleries, and luxury hotels here. If you're looking for a place to splurge on some souvenirs or just want to window shop for a few hours, then be sure to visit The Magnificent Mile.
6. Wrigley Field
If you're a fan of baseball, then be sure to add a trip to Wrigley Field to your list of things to do in Chicago. This historic stadium is home to the Cubs and has been around since 1914.
Tickets are relatively cheap, and you can often find good deals if you purchase them in advance. There's also a lot of history at Wrigley Field, so it's definitely worth a visit even if you're not a baseball fan.
7. The Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium is one of the best places to visit in Chicago if you're interested in marine life. This aquarium is home to more than 32,000 animals from around the world, including fish, dolphins, sea lions, and penguins.
The best part is that there's something for everyone here. You can explore the aquarium on your own or take a guided tour. There are also interactive exhibits where you can touch marine animals and learn more about them. And if you get hungry or thirsty, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes on-site where you can get a bite to eat or drink.
8. Millennium Park
Millennium Park is a popular destination in Chicago for locals and tourists alike. This 24-acre park was built in 2004 and is home to several famous landmarks, including the Cloud Gate sculpture, the Crown Fountain, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
The best time to visit Millennium Park is during the summer when all the fountains are turned on and there's a concert or event happening at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. But even if you visit during the off-season, there's still plenty to see and do there. Be sure to check out the Lurie Garden and the skyscrapers around the park for some amazing views of Chicago.
9. Chicago Riverwalk
The best way to see Chicago's beautiful skyline is while walking along the Chicago Riverwalk. This riverwalk is a 1.25-mile stretch of public riverwalk located along the south bank of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago.
You can also find plenty of restaurants and shops there, so it's best visited during the summer when you can take full advantage of all its amenities!
10. Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center is a beautiful building that's best known for its huge Tiffany stained-glass dome. This center is home to several art galleries, performance spaces, and cultural exhibits.
You can also take free tours of the building or attend a free concert or event. The Chicago Cultural Center is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the history and culture of Chicago.
11. North Avenue Beach
If you're looking for a place to relax and enjoy the sun, then be sure to visit North Avenue Beach. This beach is located on the north side of Chicago and is a great place to go swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
You can also find several restaurants and cafes near the beach if you want to grab a bite to eat or drink. And be sure to check out the Lincoln Park Zoo which is right next door!
12. 360° Chicago Observation Deck
If you want to get a bird's-eye view of Chicago, then be sure to visit the 360 Chicago Observation Deck. This deck is located in the John Hancock Center and offers amazing views of the city from its 94th floor.
You can also find several restaurants and shops in the John Hancock Center. So if you're looking for a fun activity to do in Chicago, then be sure to visit the 360 Chicago Observation Deck.
13. Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain
Grant Park is another beautiful green space in Chicago that's best visited during the summer. You can find several museums in this park, including the Field Museum of Natural History which has exhibits about dinosaurs, sea life, ancient Egypt, and more.
Buckingham Fountain is also a must-see attraction here because it's one of the largest fountains in the world! You can see fireworks at Buckingham Fountain on Wednesdays from May to August at 9:00 pm. But even if you don't catch a show, it's still worth stopping by to see this impressive fountain display as well as Grant Park.
14. Chicago Water Tower
The Chicago Water Tower is a historic landmark in the city that's best known for its limestone architecture. This tower was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and it now serves as a museum about the fire.
You can also find several stores and restaurants in the area around the water tower. So if you're looking for some souvenirs or just want to take a break from sightseeing, then be sure to visit the Chicago Water Tower.
15. Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park is a beautiful park in Chicago that's best visited in the summer. This park is huge and has something for everyone! You can find playgrounds, a skating rink, a water park, a climbing wall, and more here.
This park is perfect for families with kids because there's something for everyone to enjoy. And be sure to check out the amazing views of the city from the top of the climbing wall!
16. Chicago Theatre
The Chicago Theatre is a beautiful theatre in the city that's best known for its architecture and murals. This theatre was built in 1921 and is now a National Historic Landmark.
You can find several shows, concerts, and events at the Chicago Theatre. And be sure to check out its beautiful mural on the outside of the building!
17. Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is a fantastic place to visit when in Chicago. This massive museum is best known for its interactive exhibits that are designed to teach the public about different scientific fields. The museum also features a planetarium, planetarium IMAX theater, and more.
In addition to these special exhibits, this museum has a large collection of vintage toys from around the world, interactive science exhibits, and lots of fun hands-on activities. If you want a memorable experience with your family while in Chicago, then be sure to make time for this museum!