Things to Do in Chicago
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At attractions around every corner, from high-flying observatories to Millennium Park where art and music mix with lots of room to play, you'll find fun every day of the year. And special events mean there's always something new to see. Grab your family, friends, colleagues and go!
With 25 acres of awe-inspiring landscape, breathtaking architecture and an iconic display of public art, Millennium Park is Chicago’s premier green space. All year round, "The Bean" is an iconic draw for visitors and locals alike. Take a picture in front of Cloud Gate, the official name for the massive, stainless steel structure that’s become Chicago’s signature landmark. In its mirror-like surface you'll see not only your own reflection, but the stunning downtown skyline.
Navy Pier is the place where all of Chicagoland and tourists from around the world have come together since 1995 to enjoy the beauty and the thrills of a day on Lake Michigan. From rides to restaurants, exhibitions to entertainment, shopping to dining cruises and tour boats, Navy Pier has it all - in a location unlike any other! There's so much to do in our 50 acres of parks, promenades, gardens, shops, eateries and attractions.
Take a ride on our 15-story tall Ferris wheel. Catch a movie at the IMAX® Theatre. Visit three floors of hands-on fun at the Chicago Children's Museum inside the Family Pavilion. Experience any one of the cruise boat rides departing from Navy Pier's South Dock. Or unwind to the sounds of live music at Landshark Beer Garden Wednesdays – Sundays, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Navy Pier also offers dining opportunities as diverse as Chicago itself. Dine at one of the fine restaurants or sample a variety of great tastes to be found at the food court in the Family Pavilion. You can find everything from bikes to books and from souvenirs to sunglasses at the retail shops in the Family Pavilion open year-round. There is no admission to enter Navy Pier. Attractions within Navy Pier may have admission prices and those prices can be obtained from each individual attraction’s box office.
Chicago Children's Museum
Chicago Children’s Museum is a place where families and caregivers with infants and children are encouraged to create, explore, and discover together through play. The museum features three vibrant floors of exhibits and activities that provide sensory experiences and engaging educational content focusing on literacy, science, math, visual and performing arts, and health.
Some of CCM's most popular exhibits include: Dinosaur Expedition, where kids can dig for dinosaur bones in an authentic excavation pit; WaterWays, an interactive system of pulleys, pumps, and pipes showcasing the wonders of water; Kids Town, an early-learning exhibit featuring a real CTA bus, mini-grocery store and kid-sized cityscape; daily free family art workshops in the Kraft Artabounds Studio; Pritzker Playspace, an area designed specifically for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents; Play It Safe, a realistic firehouse and fire truck that invites families to learn about fire safety through play; and Skyline, a National Science Foundation-funded exhibit that explores the science, engineering, art, and technology that keep Chicago's tallest buildings standing.
Free in Chicago
Chicago is often called a friendly city – and you’ll agree when you accept the city’s warm invitation to sample such free attractions as Lincoln Park Zoo, home to more than 1,000 mammals, reptiles, and birds. Explore the peaceful gardens under glass at Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory, or take in one of the free performances at Navy Pier. To make sure you don’t miss out on anything the city has to offer, make your very first stop the Chicago Cultural Center - Chicago's Architectural Showplace for the Lively and Visual Arts.
Travel + Leisure readers voted Chicago as the nation's “Best Skyline”. It is quite stunning if we do say so ourselves. And not to brag, but we look pretty good from every angle—up in the sky from one of our skyscrapers or down below from a river boat cruise or walking tour. Everywhere you look there’s a treasure trove of architectural wonders like The Wrigley Building, the Cadillac-Palace Theater and The Jeweler’s Building. For a bird’s eye view of the city at 1,300 feet, step out onto The Ledge, a suspended glass box from the Willis Tower, at Skydeck Chicago. Or zoom up 1,000 feet for a 360-degree view of four states from the John Hancock Observatory—voted Chicago’s best view by TripAdvisor and the Chicago Tribune. You can also take in the sites while sipping on a cocktail. Views from The Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center and Sixteen at Trump International Hotel & Tower are impressive.
There are many ways to see Chicago. Find a tour that meets your style. Here are a few to get you started. Walk the city with Chicago Detours, Chicago Savvy Tours, Joyce Walks Chicago and The Chicago Architecture Foundation, which is also known for its bus and boat tours. Or look through your lens with Chicago Photo Safaris teaching you how to capture terrific shots while seeing the city. Or get a zoom with a view on a Segway sightseeing tour by Absolutely Segway, City Segway Tours and Segway Experience of Chicago. Biking tours will also cover a lot of ground. Consider Bike and Roll and Bobby’s Bike Hike. For those who like to explore on their own, consider a Metrowalkz Self-Guided Walking Tour or the Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. Hop On Hop Off Tour that covers miles of city attractions.
The Wright Stuff
No other place in the world has better examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style designs than Chicagoland. Visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in nearby Oak Park. Daily tours allow you to explore Wright's home and studio as well as the Historic District where they’re located.
Then when you are in the city, head to the University of Chicago’s campus in the beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, considered one of the most important buildings in American architecture. Then see the Glessner House, a national historic landmark in Chicago’s South Loop, where a young Wright got his inspiration. The Glessner House was designed by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and was a radical departure from the traditional Victorian architecture of its era.