Chicago, known as the Windy City, is a city that has a lot to explore, taste, and experience both as a local and a tourist.
Whether you have some free time during a work conference or are planning a family trip for a long weekend here, Chicago will offer you history, sports, culture, nightlife and of course shopping.
If you have a trip planned to Chicago but not really sure where to begin in your research of what to do, check out ten cool things to do in the Windy City.
Top Places To Visit In Chicago
There are so many amazing places to visit in Chicago, whether exploring for a short trip or in for a longer stay. In addition there are also plenty of tours in Chicago to help you make the most of your visit.
Take a river cruise down Chicago River
One of the best ways to explore Chicago, get a lay of the land, and learn about its history is to take a boat tour of the river. One tour that is particularly great is an architecture river cruise.
This cruise lets you cruise down the Chicago River and see some of the city’s famous architecture by water. A guide is on board leading the 1-hour tour providing history and trivia about the buildings and sites such as the Navy Pier and the John Hancock Building.
The boats are equipped with restrooms and even better – a full bar! Cruises run daily from the Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue and tickets can be purchased online or in person.
Explore the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave)
Shop ‘til you drop on the Magnificent Mile. This upscale section of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue running form the Chicago River to Oak Street is known for its fabulous shopping, restaurants and high-end hotels.
See Millennium Park and take a picture with ‘the bean’
If you went to Chicago and didn’t take a picture with ‘the bean’, did you really even go to Chicago? Seriously, this is one of those Instagram-things you have to do when you’re visiting Chicago.
However Millennium Park has a lot more to offer than just the bean. It’s actually the northern section of Grant Park and renamed Millennium Park and filled with sculptures, fountains and even an open-air stage for concerts.
There are ample spots for the kids to play in playgrounds, park benches to sit on, beautiful gardens to walk through and in the winter even an ice skating rink. Lots of great thing to do here, so this is an absolute must!
Go to the Navy Pier
The Navy Pier is one of those iconic Chicago landmarks you need to visit. It’s a hotspot for tourists and families filled with little shops to purchase souvenirs, cafes and restaurants and even has a few small amusement ride for kids.
Or if you’re looking to get out of the elements, head inside to see a movie at the IMAX Theater. Kids can ride a ferris wheel, play at a mini golf course, or take a ride on swings.
There are also plenty of parks and gardens across the area adjacent for the pier to sit and enjoy the day or even pack a few snacks to refuel from your explorations.
Go to the Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the largest and oldest art museums in the country. Located in Grant Park, it has an incredibly impressive collection of some of the world’s most famous artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and Rembrandt.
Originally constructed for the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, the building and the iconic two bronze lions that guard the entrance are spectacular to see for themselves.
Go to the Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo is home to more than 1,100 animals and over 200 species and better yet – it’s free! Yup, a free zoo, one of the last of its kind.
Whether you love penguins, wolves, kangaroos, gorillas, flamingos, or polar bears, the zoo will provide excitement and awe to kids and adults alike.
The zoo is spread throughout indoor and outdoor exhibits in the shadows of the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago.
Catch a gab at Wrigley Field
Home to the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field is a must for any baseball enthusiast out there. The field is historic and really beautiful, even if you’re not the biggest baseball fan.
If you happen to be in town when there’s a home game, definitely grab some tickets. There’s nothing more Americana than a box of Crackerjacks and a baseball game in a historic field!
Explore the Adler Planetarium
A unique experience in Chicago is to take a little science class as the Adler Planetarium. You can take a virtual tour through time and space in the Sky Theater, or explore the exhibits talking about meteorites and outer space.
If you’re a fan of space and space exploration, this is a really interesting place to visit. Tickets can be purchased in advance online or you can purchase them at the door.
Live on the edge at Willis Tower Skydeck
This one is for the daredevils out there! If you want to literally live on the ‘ledge’ then try out the Skydeck. The Willis Tower is 110 stories tall and the Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor and offers incredible views of the city and beyond.
On a clear day, you can see up to 50 miles out which means you can see Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, pretty neat. However the biggest draw to Willis Tower is the clear glass balcony that extends off the building, literally standing over Chicago’s busy street 103 floor below.
The lines build up quickly, so it’s recommended to get there as soon as they open or even a little before to beat the queue.
Gangsters and ghosts tour of Chicago
It’s not a secret that Chicago’s history is full of colorful history of gangster and mob activity. Imagine the Roaring 20s and Chicago teeming with speakeasies, gangsters like Al Capone, and bootleggers running the city; it must’ve been a pretty wild time!
Take a guided 2-hour tour exploring Chicago’s dark past in some of its most mob-frequented areas and places. Some of the stops along the tour include The Loop (the area associated with the most crime and hauntings from the gangster era), Millennium Park, the Palmer House, and the Chicago Riverwalk.
Tickets can be purchased online and the departure point is at 71 E Wacker Dr. Chicago, IL 60601.
Chicago has so many things to offer, even more than this list of ten great things to do. Whether you have a few hours or a few days to explore, Chicago is a fantastic city to get out and explore.
Each trip offers a little something different, so check out as much as you can and soak up the Windy City.
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