What to do in Chicago?
Chicago is the third most-populous city in the United States. There is a lot you can do in the Windy city — whether you’re into music, architecture or sightseeing, there will be something for you.
Of course, choosing between so many activities can become hectic quite easily. That’s why I put together this list of things to do for your upcoming visit to Chicago. It’s in no particular order but I would highly recommend checking off the river cruise and one of the two observation deck first. If you have any recommendations for my next trip, please send them to me using the comments section.
If you’ve ever travelled to a large American city, you might know about CityPASS. This pass will give you access to top Chicago attractions at a fraction of the price — and you’ll be able to skip most waiting lines at the coveted sites.
These recommendations are part of my Ultimate Chicago Travel Guide, If you need recommendations please head over to my other Chicago articles about what to eat, where to drink the best coffee, where to stay and where to shop.
Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise
Begin your trip in the city with a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise to get a better sense of the city. The river cruises run from spring until late in the fall and are a must do in Chicago, especially if it’s your first time. I did the Architecture Tour twice with Chicago’s First Lady and I definitely recommend going in the daytime if you plan on taking pictures — if you schedule in the evening, bring a DSLR camera with you because your smartphone won’t be enough.
Get up to the 103th floor at Skydeck Chicago and see the city from the highest point. Step on the clear glass ledge to get a spectacular view at your feet!
Experience another view of the city at 360 CHICAGO + TILT!
360 CHICAGO, which some might know as John Hancock Observatory is another observation deck in the Windy City. You can go just for the view or to experience TILT, an attraction that will allow you to see Chicago from a totally different perspective.
Each big city I know has a great park in the middle of the city. Just think about New York City and its famous Central Park. Right at the heart of Chicago is Millenium Park, this great patch of greenery that allows tourists and Chicagoans to enjoy nature or even experience an outdoor music show at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Cloud Gate, also known as The Bean, is one of the most popular attractions in Chicago. This public sculpture was created by Anish Kapoor, a famous British artist. It has been seen in many movies, commercials and such. People gather around the sculpture to take pictures, videos and have fun with the distortions the artwork produces.
Ice Skating Rink at Millenium Park
If you go in Chicago during the Winter, you’ll have the pleasure to skate in this beautiful setting, right by The Bean at the Ice Skating Rink. You can even rent ice skates on site.
Chicago Cultural Center
When you’re done skating, right across the street is this fabulous building called Chicago Cultural Center. Back when it was built, it was home to Chicago’s first central public library. Nowadays, a ton of cultural events take place there.
Chicago Architecture Biennial
If you’re an architecture fan like me, you’ll be happy to know the Chicago Architecture Biennial is taking place until January 7th. It takes place inside Chicago Cultural Center and it’s completely free. The theme this year is Make New History and you’ll find different artwork to portray this thematic.
Watch a musical at CIBC Theatre
I was lucky enough to watch the famous Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical which has been critically acclaimed since it first began. It’s definitely an expensive activity, especially if you’re traveling with your family, but trust me it’s worth every penny. I was on the edge of my seat during all the performance.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
If you are into contemporary art, this one is for you. MCA or Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates its 50th anniversary and there’s a lot going on this year at the museum. As the exhibits change frequently, I can’t recommend a specific one, but take a look at the schedule prior to your visit.
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. There’s always a wide variety of exhibitions so everyone will find something they like. If you’re an architecture lover, the modern wing — created by Renzo Piano — is something to see.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio
Again, if you’re into architecture, visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park is a must do. Plan at least half a day for this visit.
Exotic plants in the middle of the city at Garfield Park Conservatory
Everyone loves a good greenhouse, right? It’s usually not the first place you think of when you’re visiting a city for the first time, but Garfield Park Conservatory is worth the detour. It’s one of the largest greenhouse conservatories in the United States and has over 2 acres of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Lincoln Park is Chicago’s largest public park. This park goes along the lakefront of Chicago, facing Lake Michigan. There are plenty of activities you can do from a simple walk to beach yoga
North Avenue Beach
Inside Lincoln Park is this beautiful beach where you can swim, run or do whatever you like after a long day in the city. While it’s not the hottest water I’ve ever swam into, it’s definitely very tolerable on a hot summer day.
Here are more recommendations for your upcoming visit to Chicago
What to eat in Chicago?
Where to have coffee in Chicago?
Where to stay in Chicago?
Where to shop in Chicago?