One of the most important things to do in Chicago, Illinois is visiting Millenium Park.
Apart from being a pleasant urban oasis, this park is also home to the famed Cloud Gate and to many other fun attractions.
The visitors can enjoy a wide choice of live concerts, open-air exhibitions, and beautiful gardens.
In wintertime, the place becomes even more beautiful and magical.
The ice-skating rink opens in November and since 2015 this is also where the Chicago Christmas Tree is located.
Millennium Park is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m and there is no admission fee.
As mentioned above, the Cloud Gate, often called the Bean is situated in the heart of Millenium Park.
Dating back to 2006, this iconic sculpture was created by Sir Anish Kapoor and has quickly become one of the most popular attractions in Chicago.
Made of stainless steel, it features a reflective surface and is photographed by thousands of tourists and locals every day.
No trip to Chicago can be considered complete without taking at least one selfie with the Cloud Gate in the background.
Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower
One of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, the Willis Tower is hard to miss.
This 110-story building, built in 1973 is an integral part of the urban architecture of Chicago.
Home to a variety of offices and a workplace for thousands of people, the Willis Tower is also a very popular tourist spot.
The Willis Tower Skydeck located on the 103rd floor is the best place in the whole city to admire the sweeping views of Chicago.
Stepping into the extended glass boxes is a one-of-kind experience and offers unique photo opportunities as well.
The Willis Tower is open every day and the admission ticket is $26.
One of the most quintessential Chicago attractions is certainly the Navy Pier.
This vibrant area offers a wide choice of entertainment options and you could easily spend a whole day exploring it.
The families with children will love the fun rides, games, and carousels, and of course the iconic Centennial Wheel as well.
The dining options at Navy Pier are endless and Starbucks, Riva Crabhouese and America’s Dog & Burger are only a few of a long list of places available.
If you love art you should know that Navy Pier is home to a permanent art collection and also to seasonal displays.
Make sure to check the official website for updates regarding upcoming events and art exhibitions.
The Art Institute of Chicago
One of the best things to do in Chicago, Illinois is paying a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.
There is no better place in the whole city to learn more about art and to admire fascinating exhibitions.
The Art Institute of Chicago features works of artists such as Claude Monet, Archibald Motley, El Greco, Rufino Tamayo, and much more.
The permanent collection includes nearly 300,000 works and there is always a wide choice of temporary events and exhibitions available.
The admission fee for the Art Institute of Chicago is $25.
John Hancock Center (875 North Michigan Avenue)
Another important part of the Chicago skyline is 875 North Michigan Avenue.
The highlight of the structure, completed in 1969, is without a doubt the 360 Chicago Observation Deck.
It offers wonderful 360-degree views of the city and is also home to Bar 94 where you can enjoy a drink in a one-of-a-kind setting.
The admission view for the observation deck is $20.
875 North Michigan Avenue is also home to The Cheesecake Factory and to Starbucks.
Learn all about marine life, sea animals, wild reef, and much more at the Shedd Aquarium.
Enjoy all the unique exhibits with animals and fish from all over the world.
Meet the dolphins, beluga whales, sea otters, and California sea lions at the Abbott Oceanarium.
Admire the beautiful sea turtles, green anaconda, and emerald tree boa.
Children can learn more about sharks and prehistoric sea creatures thanks to the 4-D effects.
The ticket price for adults is $39.95 and $29.95 for children plus $4.95 for the 4-D upgrade.
Shedd Aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lincoln Park Zoo
When it comes to the best things to do in Chicago, Illinois, Park Zoo is another important location to remember.
Come face to face with numerous animals from all over the world and learn all about conservation.
Admire some of the most unique birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.
A broad range of exhibits includes antelope and zebra area, penguins exhibit, and bear habitat just to name a few.
Lincoln Park Zoo is a fun place to visit for both, adults and children and the entrance is free of charge.
If you’re looking for a pleasant oasis in the middle of the city you should visit Grant Park.
Because of its large size, Grand Park comes with many tranquil spots but also with a wide choice of entertainment at the same time.
In fact, it is home to numerous gardens with stunning flowers, Petrillo Music Shell, Buckingham Fountain, skate plaza, marinas and harbors, and much more.
There is even a special dog park available where our four-legged friends can run around and play.
Grant Park is also home to a great many monuments and sculptures.
No matter if you’re looking for fun activities or simply want to enjoy a quiet walk, Grant Park is an excellent location to visit.
Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry offers a wide selection of interesting exhibits for adults and for children alike.
You’ll learn new fascinating facts about a variety of subjects such as submarines, storms, ships, trains, ancient caves, and more.
The youngest visitors will definitely enjoy the Fairy Castle that will boost their imagination and the interactive exhibition about Marvel heroes.
You could spend days at the Museum of Science and Industry, exploring different areas, seeing all there is to see and acquiring knowledge.
Field Museum of Natural History
Another interesting museum to add to our list of things to do in Chicago, Illinois is the Field Museum.
Founded in 1921, this place will take you back in time and provide a valuable history lesson.
Learn all there is to know about dinosaurs at Elizabeth Morse Genius Hall of Dinosaurs and meet Máximo the Titanosaur from over 100 million years ago.
Step into the world of ancient Egypt, explore the DNA Discovery Center and admire the sculptures of Malvina Hoffman.
The admission fee for the Field Museum is $40 for adults and $29 for children.
A true paradise for all of the astronomy enthusiasts (and not only), Adler Planetarium is a great spot to add to your sightseeing itinerary.
Learning about our solar system, planets, meteorites, and the moon is easy in a place like this.
Don’t miss the fascinating and thought-provoking shows available at the Adler Planetarium as well.
Join the Skywatch Live, experience the Space Express Tours, or explore dwarf worlds.
The Planetarium features a Doane Observatory where you can admire the sky through a telescope.
Adler Planetarium is open every day from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. and the ticket price is $50 for adults and $39 for children.
One of the most quintessential Chicago attractions is without a doubt the beautiful Buckingham Fountain.
Located in Grant Park, this monument dates back to 1927 and it was donated to the city by an art collector and philanthropist, Kate Sturges Buckingham.
Both tourists and locals love to stop by the fountain and admire the stunning water and light shows.
In the Christmas season, Buckingham Fountain becomes even more magical since it is decorated with wonderful Christmas lights.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is one of the best places to visit with children in tow.
Dating back to 1857, this museum is filled with fun exhibits and activities for the little ones.
Admiring thousands of wonderful butterflies at the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, looking at the birds through binoculars, and learning how food and nature are connected are only a few of a long list of activities available.
Adults will enjoy themselves as much as the children at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
In fact, this museum ranks high on the list of the most fun things to do in Chicago with a family.
The admission fee is $9 for adults and $6 for children ages 3-12.
Chicago Water Tower (City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower)
One of the oldest landmarks in the city is the Chicago Water Tower from 1869.
Located on 806 North Michigan Avenue, the tower faced a turbulent history which includes surviving the Great Chicago Fire and undergoing two renovations.
Nowadays Chicago Water Tower is home to the City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower.
No matter if you’re a big art fan or not it is highly recommended to visit this unique gallery.
It displays a selection of wonderful paintings by talented local artists.
The City Gallery is open daily and there is no admission fee.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the greatest American architects, a founder of organic architecture and often called the “man who built America”.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is a perfect place to learn more about his life, work and family.
Visitors will be able to go inside Wright’s drafting room, where many of his famous projects and works were actually created.
The tour will also include exploring the architect’s office and library where he received his clients.
Once your visit at Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is over we recommend taking some time to explore Oak Park a bit more.
Some of the interesting attractions available there are the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, Oak Park Conservatory, and Unity Temple.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Enter the world of art and creativity by paying a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Spend a pleasant morning or afternoon admiring unique exhibitions and collections from amazing artists.
With more than 2,500 artworks on display this museum is a real paradise for all of the art lovers out there.
Some artists featured include Andy Warhol, Kerry James Marshall, Jeanne Dunning, Howardena Pindell and much more.
The opening hours of MCA are: Friday from 11 a.m to 6 p.m, Saturday – Sunday from 11 a.m to 6 p.m and Monday to Thursday closed.
Chicago Children’s Museum
One of the best things to do in Chicago when traveling with children is visiting the Children’s Museum.
They offer a broad choice of fun activities for babies, toddlers and for older children as well.
The young visitors will improve their creativity by joining art studios and dinosaur expeditions.
Little babies and their parents will love Pritzker Playspace where they can learn through play and increase imagination.
Children who are nine and older can enjoy climbing at the Cloud Buster and at the Kovler Family Climbing Schooner.
The Tinkering Lab, on the other hand, is a wonderful place to work on DIY projects and learn new skills.
Oak Street Beach
As you’ve probably noticed Chicago isn’t all about tall skyscrapers and hectic lifestyle.
The city is home to a wide array of museums, galleries, zoos, monuments, and parks.
Another fantastic spot ideal for relaxing, taking a walk, and catching a break from all the hustle and bustle of big city life is certainly Oak Street Beach.
Especially if you’re planning to visit Chicago during summer, this location is not to be missed.
Soak in on the much needed Vitamin D, enjoy a delicious meal with a view, or simply take a nice walk along the beach.
Whatever you’ll decide to do we’re sure you’re not going to regret adding Oak Street Beach to your list of the best things to do in Chicago, Illinois.
Garfield Park Conservatory
Last but not least there is the Garfield Park Conservatory – a real oasis in the middle of the city.
Enter the world of lush flora and admire a variety of plants from all over the world.
The visitors will enjoy large outdoor gardens, a palm house, a “Persian Pool” with lily pads, the Desert House with cacti and succulents and much much more.
Garfield Park Conservatory is also home to many permanent installations and exhibits such as the Zellij Fountain, Bulls with Maidens statue or the labyrinth, just to name a few.
20 Best Things to Do in Chicago, Illinois - Comments and opinions
Hi, thanks for this curated list! What are the best things to do in Chicago in winter? I typically visit it in July, but I’d like to spend some days also during Christmas. I heard it can get extremely cold, but I hope it’s still fine for visiting the city.