Things to do in Chicago - Complete Travel Guide

Richard Tao, Unsplash
March 13
Written by Carlos Rivera

Discover the best things to do in Chicago and explore all that this amazing destination has to offer. A complete guide with recommendations on what to see, where to go, and what to do in Chicago.

As a bustling hub of activity, Chicago is the city that thrills. This Windy City is packed with exciting 'things to do in Chicago' and see, making it a top destination for travelers. From its majestic architectures to vibrant food scene, it's a treasure map of experiences. Embarking on a journey here simply means treating your senses with nothing but the best. So, if you've been pondering over 'what to see in Chicago', brace yourself for surprises.

Whether you are a culture enthusiast, a nature lover, or a foodie, Chicago caters all. This Chicago guide is your compass to the city's soul, helping you explore its nook and corner effortlessly. And remember, each corner unturned is a secret waiting to be discovered. So, are you ready to mark the 'places to visit in Chicago' on your travel map?

Get swept away by the melting pot of cultures, the energetic city life, and the warm people. Dive head-first in the Chicago way of life and let it bewitch you. Because Chicago is not just a place on the map, it's a feeling in millions of hearts!

1. Millennium Park

Natural Spaces and Parks
a person standing on a street corner with a traffic light in the background
Millennium Park / Wicker Woodsong, Unsplash

Millennium Park is one of Chicago's most iconic landmarks. Located in the heart of the city, it offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages and interests.

Marvel at the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as "The Bean", which has become the park's iconic symbol. This public artwork designed by Anish Kapoor reflects the city's skyline and provides a unique opportunity to capture stunning photographs.

Enjoy the park's beautiful gardens, such as the Lurie Garden, which offers an oasis of tranquility amidst the urban bustle. Explore the trails and discover a variety of native and exotic plants, as well as a serene waterfall.

2. Willis Tower

Historical Monuments and Architecture
New York City during daytime
Willis Tower / Cody Engel, Unsplash

Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is an iconic landmark on the Chicago skyline. Standing at 1,450 feet tall, it was the tallest building in the world for 25 years.

From the glass observation decks located on the upper floors, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city and Lake Michigan. It's an awe-inspiring experience that you can't miss if you're in Chicago!

In addition to the stunning views, the architecture of Willis Tower is also a draw in itself. Designed by architect Bruce Graham, its unique structure has made a significant impact on the history of modern architecture.

3. Magnificent Mile

Shopping and Commerce
brown and blue high rise building
Magnificent Mile / Engin Yapici, Unsplash

The Magnificent Mile is a vibrant avenue located in downtown Chicago that offers a unique experience for visitors. Known for its stunning architecture and wide variety of luxury shops, this avenue is a must-visit destination for shopping and culture lovers.

Stroll along the streets of the Magnificent Mile and marvel at the iconic buildings that surround it, such as the Wrigley Building and the Water Tower. Additionally, you can indulge in a diverse culinary scene, ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants to street food vendors.

In addition to its shops and restaurants, the Magnificent Mile is also home to several tourist attractions, such as the Art Institute of Chicago. Here, art enthusiasts can enjoy a vast collection of masterpieces from around the world.

4. Chicago Theatre

Entertainment and Pop Culture
different cars on road near buildings
Chicago Theatre / Yu-Shao Wu, Unsplash

Things to do in Chicago:

The Chicago Theatre is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. This famous theater, built in 1921, is renowned for its beautiful French Renaissance-style architecture and its iconic marquee sign. Known as 'The Wonder Theatre of the World', the Chicago Theatre has witnessed countless musical performances, plays, and cultural events throughout the years.

While the theater has had its ups and downs throughout history, it was carefully restored in the 1980s and continues to be a major cultural destination in the city. It currently offers a wide range of events, from music concerts to screenings of classic films and comedy shows.

Visiting the Chicago Theatre is a unique opportunity to explore its magnificent architecture, dive into its rich history, and enjoy an unforgettable experience in the heart of Chicago.

5. Chicago-style Deep-Dish Pizza

Food and Markets$$$

Discover the authentic Chicago-style Deep-Dish Pizza, a delicious culinary specialty that you cannot miss during your visit to the Windy City. This famous pizza is known for its thick and fluffy crust, which is parboiled before being baked, creating a crispy outer layer and a soft interior bread. But what really sets it apart is the generous filling of melted cheese, tomato sauce, and your choice of toppings.

Chicago-style Deep-Dish Pizza is a feast for pizza lovers. Every bite is an explosion of flavors, with layers of melted cheese, rich and savory sauce, and a hearty topping that includes sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and more. Whatever your choice, this pizza will leave you satisfied and craving for more.

When you visit Chicago, you cannot miss the opportunity to taste the authentic Deep-Dish Pizza. Find the best places in the city to enjoy this culinary delight and experience a gastronomic adventure that you will surely remember for a long time. Things to do in Chicago are not complete without trying its famous pizza!

6. Chicago-Style Hot Dog in Chicago

Food and Markets$$$

The Chicago-Style Hot Dog is a true delight for food lovers in Chicago. This famous hot dog features a unique combination of ingredients, making it a must-visit tourist attraction in the city.

This hot dog is served on a poppy seed bun and is loaded with unique flavors. It comes with a seasoned beef sausage, topped with mustard, chopped onions, pickles, tomato, peppers, and a hint of celery. It's a flavor explosion in every bite!

If you're looking for something to do in Chicago, you can't miss the Chicago-Style Hot Dog. Not only will it satisfy your appetite, but it also offers an authentic culinary experience that represents the city's rich history and culture.

7. Art Institute of Chicago

Museums and Art Galleries
a statue of a lion in front of Art Institute of Chicago with a large clock tower
Art Institute of Chicago / Vincent Yuan @USA, Unsplash

The Art Institute of Chicago is an iconic art museum located in the heart of Chicago. Founded in 1879, it boasts an extensive collection of world-renowned art.

The museum's collection spans a wide range of styles and periods, from ancient to contemporary art. Masterpieces such as 'Vincent van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles' and Edward Hopper's 'Nighthawks' are among the treasures on display.

The museum also houses an impressive collection of European art, including paintings by Monet, Renoir, and Picasso. Additionally, it features a section dedicated to American art, with works by Grant Wood and Georgia O'Keeffe, among other prominent artists.

9. Field Museum of Chicago

Museums and Art Galleries
brown and black round wall decor
Field Museum of Chicago / Sebastian Kurpiel, Unsplash

The Field Museum is one of the must-see attractions in Chicago. Founded in 1893, this museum houses a vast collection of artifacts and information related to natural history, anthropology, and paleontology.

At the Field Museum, visitors can explore permanent exhibits dedicated to life on Earth, with specimens of animals, plants, and minerals from around the world. It also features temporary exhibits that offer a deeper insight into specific topics.

In addition to the exhibits, the Field Museum also offers educational programs and special events for all ages. Don't miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in science and culture at this impressive museum!

10. Shedd Aquarium

Museums and Art Galleries
a statue of a man holding a fish in front of a building
Shedd Aquarium / Walter Martin, Unsplash

Shedd Aquarium is one of the main tourist attractions in Chicago.

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, the aquarium offers a wide variety of exhibits that will immerse you in the fascinating marine world.

You'll be able to admire everything from sharks to penguins, dolphins to manta rays. The aquarium also features shows and educational programs for all ages.

11. Lincoln Park Zoo

Natural Spaces and Parks$$$

Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the most popular places to visit in Chicago. Located in the beautiful park of the same name, the zoo offers residents and tourists the opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife and connect with nature.

With a diverse collection of over 1,000 animals from different species, the zoo is a sanctuary for both local and international fauna. From majestic lions to playful penguins, there is something for every animal lover at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Explore themed habitats and learn about biodiversity conservation. Additionally, the zoo offers a variety of educational programs and activities for all ages, making it an ideal place to spend the day with family or friends.

12. Wrigley Field

Entertainment and Pop Culture

Wrigley Field is a must-visit for any baseball lover in Chicago. Located in the heart of the city, this internationally renowned stadium has been the home of the Chicago Cubs for over a century. It is known for its historic charm and unique atmosphere during games.

Wrigley Field is much more than a baseball stadium, it is a symbol of the city. Its classic architecture and unique features, such as the famous ivy-covered outfield walls and the iconic manually-operated scoreboard, make it a point of interest for both sports fans and history and culture enthusiasts.

If you have the opportunity to attend a game at Wrigley Field, you won't want to miss it. The energy of the fans, the excitement of the baseball, and the beauty of the stadium all come together to create an unforgettable experience. Come and discover everything this historic venue has to offer!

13. Museum of Science and Industry

Museums and Art Galleries

The Museum of Science and Industry is a must-visit for all science and history lovers in Chicago. Located in beautiful Jackson Park, this museum offers a variety of fascinating exhibits that will immerse you in the exciting world of science and innovation.

with the 'World of Tomorrow' exhibit, where you can explore cutting-edge technology and discover how science is shaping our world. From robots to virtual reality, you'll find the latest in scientific advancements here.

Immerse yourself in history with the 'Chicago: City by the Lake' exhibit, which will take you through the city's fascinating history. Learn how Chicago has evolved from its founding to become the modern metropolis it is today. Discover key events, historical figures, and architectural transformations that have defined Chicago throughout the years.

14. Grant Park

Natural Spaces and Parks

Grant Park, also known as the 'Lung of Chicago', is one of the largest and most popular parks in the city. With a privileged location facing Lake Michigan, it's the perfect place to enjoy nature and the views.

In Grant Park, you'll find a variety of attractions, from the famous Buckingham Fountain to Millennium Park, where you can visit the iconic Cloud Gate, also known as 'The Bean'.

Don't miss the opportunity to attend special events held in Grant Park, such as outdoor concerts and festivals. You'll also be able to enjoy ample green areas for picnicking, walking, or simply relaxing and enjoying the scenery.

15. Adler Planetarium

Science and Education

Adler Planetarium is a must-visit for science and astronomy enthusiasts in Chicago. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, it offers an incredible stargazing experience and fascinating interactive exhibits.

At Adler Planetarium, visitors can learn about the universe and explore the history of space exploration through interactive and audiovisual exhibits. They can also observe celestial objects through powerful telescopes and enjoy film screenings at the planetarium.

With its prime location and dedication to education and scientific outreach, Adler Planetarium is the perfect place to discover the mysteries of the universe and marvel at the beauty of the starry sky.

16. The Chicago Riverwalk

Natural Spaces and Parks

Discover The Chicago Riverwalk, one of Chicago's most popular tourist attractions. This beautiful riverside promenade offers a wide range of options for everyone.

You can enjoy relaxing walks along the riverbank while admiring the city's architecture and taking in the impressive views of the river and Chicago's skyscrapers. You'll also find a wide selection of restaurants and cafes with outdoor terraces, where you can enjoy a meal or a drink while you relax by the water.

Don't miss the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities such as renting a kayak or a bike and exploring the city from a unique perspective. The Chicago Riverwalk offers an unforgettable experience for all visitors.

17. The Second City

Entertainment and Pop Culture

The Second City is an improv and theater company that has launched the careers of countless comedians and has become synonymous with smart humor and guaranteed laughs.

Its fame has spread worldwide and has become a must-visit for comedy lovers. The Second City offers a unique experience, where audiences can enjoy live performances that showcase the talent and creativity of the actors.

With its relaxed atmosphere and cozy ambiance, The Second City is the perfect place to laugh and enjoy unforgettable comedy nights in Chicago.

18. Garfield Park Conservatory

Natural Spaces and Parks

Welcome to the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago!

This impressive place is a must-visit for all nature and beauty lovers. Located in the heart of the city, the conservatory offers a unique experience where you can admire a wide variety of exotic plants and beautiful flowers in a serene and lush environment.

The Garfield Park Conservatory features several themed gardens, each with its own charm and special ambiance. From the Palm House to the Aroid House, each corner will surprise you with its beauty and serenity.

19. Lakefront Trail in Chicago

Natural Spaces and Parks

The Lakefront Trail is one of the main tourist attractions in Chicago. Considered one of the most beautiful coastal trails in the United States, it offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy stunning views of Lake Michigan as they traverse its over 29 kilometers of length.

Whether you're walking, running, or biking, the Lakefront Trail is perfect for nature lovers and those looking to enjoy outdoor activities in a spectacular setting.

In addition, this trail connects several parks and beaches in the city, making it also ideal for relaxing and enjoying a picnic day or sunbathing on the beach. Don't forget to bring your camera to capture the incredible views this wonderful place has to offer!

20. Chicago Botanic Garden

Natural Spaces and Parks

Discover natural beauty at Chicago Botanic Garden:

Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the most popular places to visit in the city. Spanning 385 acres, this botanical garden is an oasis of tranquility amidst the urban hustle and bustle.

At Chicago Botanic Garden, you can explore a wide variety of themed gardens, each with its own collection of plants and flowers. From rose gardens to Japanese gardens and native prairie gardens, you'll find stunning natural beauty here.

In addition to the gardens, the botanical garden also hosts exhibitions and special events, making it a perfect place to enjoy nature and learn more about plants and conservation.

21. Museum Campus

Museums and Art Galleries$$$

Museum Campus is one of the top destinations for culture enthusiasts in Chicago. Located at the southern end of Grant Park, this impressive complex is home to three of the city's best museums: the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium.

The Field Museum will take you on a journey through natural history with its stunning exhibits on dinosaurs, ancient cultures, and biodiversity conservation. At the Adler Planetarium, you can explore the mysteries of the universe and enjoy amazing projections in its planetarium. Lastly, the Shedd Aquarium offers you the opportunity to dive into the fascinating underwater world through its aquariums and interactive displays.

In addition to these incredible museums, Museum Campus also features beautiful parks where you can relax, have a picnic, and enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline. Immerse yourself in nature at Northerly Island Park or take a stroll through Burnham Park to experience a peaceful and rejuvenating atmosphere.