Best Things to Do in Chicago
This guide to the best things to do in Chicago offers a great medley of modern wonders and cultural offerings. Beautiful skyscraper scenes are a given, with great cityscapes that you can take in from various leisure spots on the shore of Lake Michigan. Looking for the best panoramas? Try the Skyline Walk at Adler Planetarium.
The Magnificent Mile and the Chicago Riverwalk let you experience Chicago from up close. You can get a great overview of the so-called “Windy City” from sky-high observation lounges. There are also many kid-friendly landmarks, art galleries, and cultural venues, so everyone can have a fun time in the city. Here are some great things to do in Chicago to help get you started.
What are the best things to do in Chicago?
The Chicago Loop’s art-filled urban park
Enter Chicago’s great “front lawn” – Millennium Park. The public space is where you can find some of the city’s most iconic scenery. Stroll through the blooming perennial Lurie Gardens, which are enclosed by a 15-foot-high hedge. Admire art installations along the tree-lined Chase Promenade, with different exhibitions held throughout the year. A must-see is Cloud Gate, fondly nicknamed “The Bean” for its shape. This giant sculpture features a smoothly polished mirror-like stainless steel surface, reflecting the skyscraper scene around it.
Location: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602, USA
Open: Daily from 6 am to 11 pm
Phone: +1 312-742-1168
A one-stop entertainment spot with an iconic Ferris wheel
The Navy Pier is a great spot for families to head to on Chicago’s Michigan lakefront. The pier juts out for over 3,000 ft into the lake and is filled with green spaces, shops, exhibitions, and restaurants. One of the pier’s main features that also dominates its skyline is the Centennial Wheel. This Ferris wheel is open daily, but the coolest experience must be during the Navy Pier Summer Fireworks that display in sync to music over Lake Michigan every Wednesday and Saturday.
Location: Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Open: Daily from 10 am to 8 pm
Phone: +1 800-595-7437
3.875 North Michigan
Experience the best views from this iconic skyscraper
875 North Michigan Avenue is a 100-storey skyscraper in the Magnificent Mile district of Chicago. The glistening building is one of Chicago’s tallest structures and one of the most recognisable in the world. The Observation Deck on the 94th floor provides a 360-degree vista of the city. If you visit on a clear, sunny day, your views stretch for 80 miles – into 4 different states!
Apart from the views, thrill-seekers can brave “The Tilt” attraction. You are tilted outwards while standing on an enclosed glass and steel platform, allowing you to see Chicago from a never-before-seen angle. Skip the queues and buy tickets for the attraction online. If adrenaline rushes aren’t your kind of fun, there is a café and bar where you can relax with a craft beer or cocktail.
Location: 875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
For a sightseeing trip through the heart of the city
Before the flows of the Chicago River meet Lake Michigan, it runs through most of The Loop. One of the best ways to see the city from up close is the Chicago Riverwalk, a gentrified waterfront path through downtown, along the river’s south bank. Start your walks from Lake Shore Drive and up to Lake Street. Along the way, you have plenty of restaurants, park gardens, and bridges, where you can pause and take in the high-rise city views.
Location: Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Open: Daily from 6 am to 11 pm
Phone: +1 877-300-6746
Travel through space, then back to Earth for Chicago’s sweeping skyline
Founded in 1930, Adler Planetarium is a monumental science facility occupying the north-eastern tip of Chicago’s Northerly Island. It has a vintage charm with its prominent planetarium dome and Art Deco exterior embellished with bronze zodiac reliefs. From inside the dome, you can travel through the universe through the Grainger Sky Theater’s digital projection. Scenic offerings outside include the 12th Street Beach, the boat docks of Burnham Harbor, and ultimately, the Skyline Walk from where you can take in the best views of Chicago.
Location: 1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 6 pm
Phone: +1 312-922-7827
Chicago’s bustling commercial heart
If you’re looking for the most luxurious shopping scene in Chicago, head down to the Magnificent Mile. It’s part of North Michigan Avenue, where you can find a series of upscale shops, hip dining spots and some of Chicago’s finest big-brand hotels, such as the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, The Conrad, and Park Hyatt. Grand malls here include Nordstrom, and Water Tower Place, which houses a Macy’s. Come in the summer and you can experience the Gardens of The Magnificent Mile festival, where its blooming planters are sometimes graced with designer fashion.
Location: Magnificent Mile, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Enjoy thrilling city views from up high
This feature lets you literally stand on the edge of the 103rd-floor of one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, at over 1,300 feet high, overlooking the Chicago cityscape. You can get a good view from the The Skydeck observatory, but the real highlight is the appropriately named ‘The Ledge’. You step into either of the 2 glass boxes which extend out, with your feet seemingly hovering over the dizzying heights below. Another similar sensation that lets you experience the heights over the city is 360 Chicago, a 94th-floor observatory at the John Hancock Building. Rather than stationery, its lookout is a tilting glass enclosure for added thrills.
Location: 233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606, USA
Open: Daily from 9 am to 10 pm
Phone: +1 312-875-9696
See the most complete T-Rex fossil
Just south of Shedd Aquarium, you can deepen your knowledge of the animal kingdom, geology, and palaeontology at the Field Museum of Natural History. Permanent exhibitions showcase everything from the evolution of life on Earth and the diversity of mammals on the world’s continents to human history in the Ancient Americas. Among the main highlights are Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil the world has ever seen, and Maximo, the largest dinosaur that ever lived.
Location: 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm
Phone: +1 312-922-9410
Plenty of waterside fun for the whole family
Chicago Harbor is the collective name for all the piers, marinas, waterways, and lakes along the city's lakefront. There are plenty of things to do here that won’t cost you a dime. You can stroll the Navy Pier and take in all the views and the comings and goings of yachts. The popular pier juts out into the lake a few blocks east of Downtown Chicago.
If the weather is pleasant, sun-seekers can spend the day on North Avenue Beach, located in Lincoln Park on Lake Michigan. For a quiet morning, the prettily landscaped Garden of the Phoenix will leave you feeling refreshed and renewed.
Evenings out in Chicago for music or comedic acts
A high-rise Chicago landmark that features French Baroque architecture 7 stories tall, the Chicago Theatre is where you can watch the latest rock bands, Broadway musicals, as well as comedic acts perform. These range from hit TV musical series brought to life onstage such as Bring It! Live, to performances of rock to synth-pop bands, and hilarious nights with wisecracking acts such as Russel Peters. Ticket prices vary per event and your chosen seating level, but start from around $40.
Location: 175 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Open: Most evening showtimes start at 7 pm
Phone: +1 312-462-6300