Among the United States’ largest cities, Chicago is an amazing city known for its bold architecture and a skyline punctuated by some of the most famous skyscrapers, such as the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, 1,451-ft Willis Tower, and the iconic John Hancock Center. The city is also famous for its museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago. If you are visiting Chicago, you will not be disappointed by the number of exciting things you can do. This is a brief guide to help you find the best things to do in Chicago.
Top 22 Things To Do In Chicago
If you are wondering what to do in Chicago during your trip, do not worry as there are countless fun and exciting attractions in the city. Here is a look at the top 10 things to do in Chicago.
1. Parks – Wander!
Everyone is always looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy a new city, so it is only natural that this list starts with one of the best free things to do in Chicago. The Chicago Park District, the country’s oldest and one of the largest park districts, operates 580 parks stretching out across 8,100 acres of municipal parkland. Some of the popular parks to explore are Grant Park, Lincoln Park, Jackson Park, and Humboldt Park.
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2. Garfield Park Conservatory – Roam Inside A Tropical Paradise
Even when the weather outside is cold, you will always be warm and toasty inside the Garfield Park Conservatory. With over 100,000 plants inside, this gorgeous glass structure is an amazing place to visit. Admission is always free – although donations are always welcome. Make sure that you do not miss the tropical paradise created in the conservatory’s largest room, the Palm House, as well as the Fern Room. Visiting the conservatory is one of the top things to do in Chicago for sure.
3. Millennium Park Events – Attend Art Exhibitions And Concerts
If you are looking for fun things to do in downtown Chicago, you should check out public art and concerts at Millennium Park. The crown jewel of the Windy City’s front yard, this famous park is home to iconic public art installations like Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate. In the summer, you can enjoy free concerts and movie screenings at Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Visiting Millennium Park should definitely be on top of your list of fun things to do in Chicago for adults.
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4. Lincoln Park Zoo – Meet Queer Animals And Birds
If you are with the family, one of the most awesome things to do in Chicago in March with kids is visiting Lincoln Park Zoo. They will love every minute of it. The park is home to over 1,000 critters, and you do not have to pay any entry fee! The expansive Regenstein Macaque Forests and the historic McCormick Bird House are highlights of the zoo and a must-see when you visit the Lincoln Park Zoo.
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5. Art Institute Of Chicago – Step Back In History
You cannot visit the Windy City without seeing one of its most famous museums – the Art Institute of Chicago. This is home to masterpieces from every era, from Andy Warhol’s print of Elizabeth Taylor to the iconic painting ‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat. You will find the Medieval armory interesting as well with its impressive collection of suits of armor, swords, and crossbows. Make sure that going to the Art Institute is on your list of things to do in Chicago.
6. Springtime Events – Witness Famous Festivals
As the weather gets warmer in Chicago, you will find many fun and exciting things to do in Chicago in the spring. This is when you can explore the city and experience its vibrant culture with outdoor beer fests, farmers’ markets, and film festivals. Visiting the city by the lake during this time of the year is sure to make you fall in love with it, especially when you take the time to enjoy all of the outdoor events that pop up all over the city in spring.
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7. Summer Hot Spots – Beat The Heat
Are you trying to find fun things to do in Chicago in August? You will not be disappointed by the number of activities you can enjoy in the city in the summer. You can watch the acrobats on display at the Chicago Dancing Festival and the stunt planes at the Chicago Air and Water Show. Other top things to do in Chicago during this season include joining the crowds at Lollapalooza, the Food Truck Social or Sausage Fest.
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8. Robie House – Take A Tour Of Wright’s Architecture
The Robie House is where you can explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Wright enthusiasts may head to nearby Oak Park, but you do not have to leave the city to see the finest works of the renowned architect. Located in Hyde Park, the house exemplifies Wright’s signature Prairie School style, both inside and out. The Frank Lloyd Trust leads a tour inside the historic home five days a week – do not miss it!
9. Lakefront Trail – Relax Amidst Nature
If you are looking for things to do in Chicago this weekend, you should walk or bike along the beach on Lakefront Trail. There is an 18-mile path along the Lake Michigan coast connecting neighborhoods throughout the city. Once you are on the path, you will find pedestrians taking leisurely strolls, joggers getting fit and bicyclists whizzing by. Lakefront Trail is a great place to relax and people-watch and one of the best things to do in Chicago in June to enjoy the last few days of your trip.
10. Empty Bottle – Drink Up!
The Empty Bottle is one of the most famous drinking holes in the Windy City. If you are looking for hipster things to do in Chicago at night, you should make sure to visit the Empty Bottle and enjoy one of the many gigs with talented rock bands that take place regularly. In fact, performing in this well-known bar is a rite of passage for bands from all over the city and country, so it is definitely a place you should go to during your trip.
11. Steppenwolf Theatre Company – Catch A Show
Located in the basement of the Highland Park church, works to enhance a platform for the hardworking ethos of the community of Chicago theatre. You can surely catch a show almost every night of the week at any of the three stages in Lincoln Park. If you’re just in time for a spectacular show, you can also witness some of the major actors like Michael Shannon, Rainn Wilson, and Michael Cera.
12. Woolly Mammoth Antiques – Get Spooked Out!
The mere sight of the antiques lying in this store can shoot some serious jitters down your spine. Objects resurrected from the past, or simply put, things which used to be living at some point of time can be easily found here. You can also find a lot of skulls and bones here along with a bunch of anatomy items. If you do wish to see something spooky yet intriguing, this is the place you ought to be!
13. Birrieria Zaragoza – Treat Your Tummy
Specializing in goat cuisines, this Birrieria claims to use a different approach when it comes to cooking one of the top dishes like birria tatemada. Giving a tough competition to all the other birrierias in the surrounding regions, the delectable meals attract tourists from far off. If you’re one of the crazy goat meat lovers, don’t miss out on goat tacos, salsa and a perfectly laced cinnamon coffee here!
14. United Center – Watch A Game Or Two
Looking for things to do in Chicago with kids? Well, look no more! A perfect venue hosting various hockey and basketball games, this place is best visited during the on-season. Even though you cannot spot Michael Jordan playing at this venue, plenty of other big stars can easily be spotted during the playing hours.
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15. Music Box Theatre – Watch An Art Film
If you’re an art film fan, then Music Box Theatre is your next stop for all the fun and frenzy that awaits you in Chicago! Featuring documentaries and art-house movies, and cult classics that are not to be missed. This is surely one of those relaxing things to do in Chicago where you can just enjoy some fresh butter popcorn and watch what you like!
16. Lake Cruises – Sail Away!
Pick from Lake Michigan or Chicago River’s selection of cruises from gentle boat tours to thrilling speedboat rides and tame the waters of this beautiful city. Sit back and relax while the turquoise waters and the towering skyscrapers pass you by. While the Classic Lake Tour is a 40-minute sightseeing trip with recorded commentary of what the experience offers, the speedboat will take you around on a 75 minutes Architecture Tour starting on the lake and ending at the Willis Tower. The Chicago River Architecture Cruise is much slower and accompanied by an expert guide so that you can know all about the 40 Chicago attractions you pass on the way at ease and also get clear views of the same.
17. Skydeck – See Chicago From The Clouds
Wondering what to do in Chicago while climbing the 442-meter Willis Tower? Well, you can also catch up on the history of one of the tallest buildings in the world via the Chicago Skydeck Experience Ticket. It doesn’t just help you skip the queue, but also lets you in on the history of this place by showing you a movie detailing the 45-year history of this tower as well as other famous Chicago attractions. Once at the Ledge on top, you’ll be greeted with flabbergasting views extending over 50 miles and over 4 states.
18. Riverwalk – Walk Amidst Art
If you’re a fan or art and creativity, one of the most fun activities in Chicago for you would be to head over to Riverwalk along the main branch of Chicago River as it cuts through the downtown. As a step towards productive and engaging urban planning, the 1.25 miles long stretch of Riverwalk is made up of six coves/rooms up to Wolf Point. A walk down this lane will take you past photo setups, head-turning works of public art, bright graffiti panels, large-scale installations like Ellen Lanyon’s Gateway, ceramic tile murals, and much more. When here, you can also indulge in a cruise ride by getting into a water taxi or rowing an urban kayak down the river yourself.
19. John Hancock Center – Get ‘Tilted’ Views Of The City
The John Hancock Center is essentially a 344-meter skyscraper located on the Magnificent Mile. It’s a prominent structure that serves as a symbol to represent Chicago and is seen in almost every movie shot for and in Chicago. A pretty interesting sight to witness, it gives you views of its bizarre X-shaped bracing zigzag facades on a closer look. When here, you can either go up to the 360 Chicago Viewing Deck on the 94th floor to get a closer look at the architecture and the city. There are a few cafes and bars up here where you can sit, talk, and have some fine food and drinks with stunning views to look at by your side. Other than cafes and bars, this building also has glass capsules tilted at different angles to give you breathtaking bird’s eye views of the city 300 meters below. It’s among the only Chicago attractions that allow these kinds of privileges to tourists.
20. Navy Pier – Relive Your Childhood
The Navy Pier is located near Lake Michigan at the point where Chicago Portage enters it. It is essentially a multifaceted visitor hotspot occupying an area up to six city blocks and providing more fun than you can imagine. If you’re wondering what to do in Chicago with kids, take them to Navy Pier and they wouldn’t want to go back home! Everything from the Funhouse Maze, the 65-meter Centennial Ferris Wheel, an IMAX Theatre, Chicago Children’s Museum, Crystal Botanical Garden, Miller Lite Beer Garden, Chicago Shakespeare Theater can be found here for your enjoyment. Both children and adults can engage in joyous activities day and night like going about on fairground rides and amusements, watching weekly fireworks in summer, attending live music gigs at the beer garden, riding the enormous Ferris Wheel, and much more.
21. Chicago Cultural Center – Marvel At The Architecture
The Chicago Cultural Centre is quite opposite to the rest of the city in terms of its architecture that might remind you of an Arabian mosque upon entering it. It was previously home of the Chicago Public Library before being transformed into the first free municipal cultural center in the United States in 1991. Held in this striking Neoclassical building are more than 1,000 exhibitions and programs each year that are as diverse as you can imagine! You can catch great gigs in theatre, dance, music, lecture, film screenings, and even family-oriented events, all for free!
Even if you’re not here for an event, the mind-blowing architecture and design of this building are enough to blow your mind! The skills and dexterity of the nation’s top craftsmen are still visible in every fine hardwood, rare imported marble, polished brass, and mother-of-pearl that you’ll find here. The exteriors are no less inviting. While the largest stained glass Tiffany dome in the world located on the southern side of the building will take your breath away, the larger Renaissance-style dome on the north side with 50,000 glass panels will tell you why this is counted amongst the best Chicago attractions.
22. Grant Park – Go Jogging Or Biking
This park is a favorite of all joggers, walkers, and bicyclists residing in or visiting the city. It threads through all four lakes and lakeside parks of the city so it can be easily accessed. It provides entrancing views of the skyline of Chicago and is a great spot for family picnics and romantic walks with your partner amidst towering trees and colorful shrubs. The park also acts as a link between various Chicago attractions like the South Shore Cultural Center to Navy Pier and the Shedd Aquarium. It turns all the more fun in summers when people can use the park to hop from one beach to another and get a dose of greenery.
Chicago surely is an attractive city for the tourist who is forever looking to explore. And if you are one of them or have been to this city before, do let us know how your experience was or did we miss out on anything. Pack your bags and head straight for a trip to Chicago if you also wish to indulge in the above mentioned experiences in this land!
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Frequently Asked Questions about Things to Do in Chicago
Still have doubts? See if the following helps solve them:
How many days are enough in Chicago?
A 4-5 days trip is ideal to explore the prime attractions in Chicago. However, the duration of your trip depends on your preferences and interests. You can also plan a week-long trip to Chicago to explore the area and capture the ultimate vibe.
What is the best time to visit Chicago?
The best times to visit Chicago are between April and May, followed by the months of September and October. The temperatures are warm during these months with numerous festivals being hosted across.
Is it safe to visit Chicago during Covid?
Make sure that you have completed both the doses of vaccinations and get yourself tested at least 48 hours before your departure. You need to follow all the travel guidelines mentioned by the authorities.
What is the best area to stay in Chicago?
The Loop, as well as places near Hyde Park and Lincoln Park, are considered some of the best places to stay in Chicago.
What food is Chicago known for?
Chicago offers a variety of delicious delicacies and has an array of interesting cafes and restaurants at every nook and corner. Deep-dish pizza, classic Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian Beef, etc. are quite famous here.
What is Chicago known best for?
Chicago is known for its colourful vibe. The best things that this city offers are Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza along with mind-blowing jazz music.
What are the famous tourist attractions in Chicago?
The following are the most popular attractions in Chicago:
1. Millenium Park
2. Art Institute of Chicago
4. Navy Pier
5. John Hancock Observatory
6. Cloud Gate
7. The Magnificent Mile
8. Lincoln Park Zoo
Where can I go for free in Chicago?
The following are the free places in Chicago for visitors:
1. Millennium Park
2. Lincoln Park Zoo And Conservatory
3. Chicago Cultural Center
4. Buckingham Fountain
5. Garfield Park Conservatory
6. National Museum of Mexican Art
7. Oriental Institute, Smart Museum & Renaissance Society
8. Museum of Contemporary Photography
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