26 Things to Do in Chicago
Wondering what to do in Chicago? Here’s a list of 26 suggestions
If you’re traveling to the “Windy City,” there are many things to do and sights to see. From parks and museums to restaurants, specialty shops, and indie bookstores, you may find the city has plenty to keep you entertained regardless of your interests. But if you’d like to get an idea for what’s available before you start packing, take a look at our list of 26 things to do in Chicago. We’ve broken a list down into sections to make everything more digestible and easier to navigate. We won’t tell you what to do in Chicago. That’s up to you to decide!
Parks in Chicago
If you visit Chicago, you might enjoy visiting one of its large and historic parks. Chicago is filled with beautiful green parks,. There are several, but here are three you might consider visiting.
1. Visit Lincoln Park
At a whopping 1,208 acres, Lincoln Park is the largest public park in the city of Chicago. Located on the north side of the city, it borders Lake Michigan and features a shoreline that stretches seven miles. Within Lincoln park are many museums, nature reserves, sports fields, and even a driving range and golf course. Lincoln Park is one of the most visited parks in the nation behind only the National Mall and Memorial Parks in the nation’s capital, and Central Park in New York City.
2. See Grant Park
A fourth the size of Lincoln Park, Grant Park is still large, occupying 319 acres. It is often referred to as “Chicago’s front yard.” Like Lincoln Park, it also borders Lake Michigan. Grant Park houses a number of amazing landmarks and features including Buckingham Fountain, a number of beautiful gardens, sporting facilities, a skate park, and a dog park. It’s also home to a number of the city’s most renowned museums including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum. The Shedd Aquarium is also found in Grant Park and might be a great option if you’re looking for what to do in Chicago with children.
3. Wander Through Millennium Park
Formerly home to railyards and parking lots, Millennium Park is now a big draw. Covering just over 24 acres of Grant Park, Millennium Park features plenty of public art. Perhaps the most famous sculpture is a large stainless steel sculpture entitled Cloud Gate that reflects the Chicago skyline. It’s sometimes also called The Bean for its unique shape and it’s often on people’s list of things to do in Chicago.
Museums in Chicago
Visiting museums might be one of the more interesting things to do in Chicago. Chicago boasts a number of famous museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you visit Chicago, you might enjoy dedicating some time to wandering some of its historic museums.
4. Spend a Day at The Art Institute of Chicago
With a span of approximately 1,000,000 square feet, you could easily spend an entire day at the Art Institute of Chicago, the second largest museum in the country. The museum features a wide display of artwork. You might find beautiful stained glass windows, enjoy Renaissance and Impressionist art, or marvel at one of the stunning sculptures. Whether you like artists like Seurat and Renoir, or prefer contemporary art, you’ll likely find something to enjoy at the Art Institute of Chicago.
5. See Dinosaurs and Mummies at the Field Museum
The Field Museum is a gigantic natural history museum. It features everything from dinosaur bones (including “Sue” the T. Rex) to mummies and 3D movies. Also found within the museum is the Grainger Hall of Gems. For a unique experience, you can visit the Fossil Prep Lab and see how scientists uncover ancient fossils that have been hidden for millions of years.
6. See a Lot Quickly at The Museum of Contemporary Art
While fairly small in size, the Museum of Contemporary Art is packed full. It may be a great option if you are strapped for time but still want to see some interesting pieces as it is just steps off of the Magnificent Mile. You’ll find art from many famous artists. You might also see some work from local Chicago-based artists that are on the rise.
Theaters in Chicago
If you’re looking to catch a show in Chicago, there are a number of amazing options. From the historic Music Box Theatre and Chicago Theatre, to the newer Neo-Futurarium, there’s something for everyone’s taste. Seeing a show might make a great addition to your personal list of things to do in Chicago.
7. See a movie at the historic Music Box Theatre
The Music Box Theatre opened in 1929, and it still has the original outside design and architecture. The Theatre was built to mimic an open-air Tuscan palazzo and it features a ceiling that’s dark blue with stars and clouds. You might expect to see classic or seasonal movies if you plan to visit the theatre.
8. Let Loose at Neo-Futurarium
If you’re looking for an entertaining, fast-paced theater production, you just might find it at Neo-Futurarium. The venue is located in uptown Chicago and it aims to put on productions that are unconventional and brimming with spontaneity.
9. Enjoy A Performance at Chicago Theatre
The Chicago Theatre was built in 1921. That makes it even older than the Music Box Theatre. Once a destination for movies, the Chicago Theatre now houses everything from comedians to speakers, and stage plays to pop music concerts.
Restaurants in Chicago
You don’t want to miss out on some of the best eats in Chicago. Whether you’re looking for a fancy dinner or a good old-fashioned Italian Beef Sandwich, you can probably find it. We’ll highlight Alinea, Al’s Italian Beef, and Hot “G” Dog.
10. Enjoy a Night Out at the World-Famous Alinea
Renovated in 2016, Alinea is the three-Michelin-starred restaurant by Chef Grant Achatz. The exceptional cuisine at Alinea might just be worth the trip to Chicago. Exquisite taste, creative presentation, and exceptional service all come together to create amazing experiences at Alinea.
11. Head to Al’s #1 Italian Beef in Little Italy for Authentic Eats
The original Al’s #1 Italian Beef location is on Taylor Street. An “Italian Beef” with thin-sliced beef and char grilled sausage goes well with cheese-covered fries. The location that opened in 1938 has now been franchised.
12. Eat a One-of-a-kind Sausage at Hot “G” Dog
Serving all kinds of hot dogs and sausages, many might say Hot “G” Dog is a must-try. Whether you’re after a classic hot dog or duck sausage, you can find it at Hot “G” Dog.
Donut Shops in Chicago
No meal is complete without dessert. You might try out one of Chicago’s famous donut shops to find a sweet treat after you eat.
13. Do Donuts Right at Do-Rite Donuts
Whether you’re looking for a classic chocolate or pistachio donut, or a chicken donut sandwich, you may find it at Do-Rite. Some call it one of the best donut destinations in the nation.
14. Try a Strawberry Donut at Roeser’s
If you want a donut that not only tastes good, but looks great, Roeser’s may be a good place. Some people say they really nail it when it comes to presentation, and that their donuts are to die for.
15. Try Something New at Dinkel’s Bakery
Dinkel’s Bakery is a German bakery and cafe that has been around since 1922. Whether you’re after a decadent cake donut or a savory pretzel sandwich, you may find it at Dinkel’s.
Landmarks and Attractions in Chicago
Chicago has a number of famous landmarks and attractions. We won’t mention them all, but a few of the more notable ones include Navy Pier, the Skydeck, and the Magnificent Mile.
16. Have Some Fun at Navy Pier
Enjoy some time on Lake Michigan on a dinner cruise or tour boat that sets sail from Navy Pier. You may also enjoy the large ferris wheel, shopping, restaurants and entertainment at the pier. In the summer, there are often firework displays near the pier. On the pier, you’ll also find the Chicago Children’s Museum. The pier opened to the public in 1916.
17. Step Onto the Ledge at the Skydeck at Willis Tower
Willis Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere at 1,450 feet tall, not including the twin antenna towers. Visitors can step onto a transparent glass ledge on the 103rd floor Skydeck and look down at the city below. Conquer your fear of heights and get an incredible view while doing so.
18. Enjoy Shopping Along the Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile is brimming with restaurants, stores, hotels, and entertainment experiences. You might enjoy shopping at any of its numerous stores, or grab a bite to eat at on it its many restaurants. If you’d like to stay in the area, the Magnificent Mile has a number of hotels. You’ll also find museums close by and several seasonal activities.
Beaches in Chicago
While Chicago seems to offer all of the draw of a big city, it also has a number of nice lakeshore beaches. Visit the popular North Avenue Beach, or take some time away at the slightly less crowded Montrose Beach. If neither of these suits your fancy, there are several other beaches to explore.
19. Enjoy a Great View of the City From North Avenue Beach
Enjoy Lake Michigan from North Avenue Beach. In warmer weather, many like walking along the beach, renting kayaks or paddle boards, or taking a dip. In the summer, it’s the site of the Chicago Air & Water Show. North Avenue Beach also offers a great view of the city, but it might be one of the more popular beaches, so it may become crowded in the summer.
20. Take Your Dog to Montrose Beach
Located in uptown, many say Montrose Beach is less crowded. The Beach offers free Wi-Fi and a fenced-in dog area. Volleyball and kayaking are common activities at Montrose Beach. There is also a nature area nearby.
Nature Spots in Chicago
Whether you’re looking to walk along the beautiful Chicago River or relax in nature, there are a number of destinations you might find suitable. Whether it’s the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, Garfield Park Conservatory, or the Lincoln Park Zoo, you’ll find plenty of natural wonders that might make your list of things to do in Chicago.
21. Find Peace at Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
Located in Lincoln Park, the pond was worked on by Alfred Caldwell in the 1930s. In the late 1990s, the landscape was restored. Winding paths and a pavilion surround the beautiful lily pool. A hidden garden and the relaxing sounds of a waterfall make it a beautiful and serene place to rest and meditate.
22. Escape to Garfield Park Conservatory
Leave the commotion and pace of the city and experience Garfield Park Conservatory. The indoor gardens house thousands of species of plants from across the globe. Inside, temperatures are warm year round. In the warmer months, 10 acres of outdoor gardens give plenty to explore. Children play areas are also available.
23. Walk Along the Chicago Riverwalk
Completed in 2016, the Chicago Riverwalk is 1.25 miles long and goes past a number of photo opportunities, public art, and historic buildings. You may also find kayaks, water taxis, and cycleboats along the Riverwalk.
24. Visit Lincoln Park Zoo
Around since 1868, Lincoln Park Zoo is home to nearly 200 different species. The great ape and bear habitats are guest favorites, and you’ll also find giraffes, pygmy hippos, flamingos and more. State-of-the-art habitats are designed to create space and choices based on the species’ natural history. The best part? Lincoln Park Zoo is the nation’s only privately-managed free admission zoo!
Record Shops and Indie Bookstores in Chicago
If you’re looking to explore some vintage record shops for a taste of the city, there are a number of places you might consider. Similarly, if you’re in the mood for an indie bookstore, there are plenty to choose from.
25. Explore Vintage Record Shops or Indie Bookstores
If you’re wanting to grab some vinyl or just look around, Reckless Records in Wicker Park, Hyde Park Records, and Dusty Groove are some of the local favorites. For the book lovers, Myopic Books, The Armadillo’s Pillow, and Challengers Comics might offer some good times and great finds.
Tours in Chicago
There are a number of tours in Chicago if you are looking for an expert-guided educational adventure. Tours are a great way to see the sights and get detailed historical information and interesting facts.
26. Take Part in One of Chicago’s Unique Tours
Whether it’s the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise Aboard Chicago’s First Lady, or a tour of the Skydeck at Willis Tower, chances are that you might find a guided adventure that suits your group well. Minibus and food tours might be on the list of ones you’ll consider.
Things to Do In Chicago: The List Goes On
There are so many things to do in Chicago that you might find yourself with a very long list of amazing sights to see and memorable experiences to consider. With options ranging from the Skydeck to historic parks, theaters, restaurants, and tours, there might just be something for everyone in your group. Take the time to soak it all in, and you may have a number of wonderful experiences when you visit Chicago.
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