Chicago Travel Guide

USA  #3 in Best Weekend Getaways
Credit

Courtesy of jaskoomerovic/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Best Things To Do in Chicago

Chicago has all the offerings you'd expect from a major city: world-class museums, vibrant shopping districts and ample nightlife venues, just to name a few. If you're here to learn, plan to spend a fair amount of time in Grant Park: This area is home to such notable institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago and The Field Museum. For a more Windy City-centric education, start your vacation with an architecture river cruise – which can provide background on Chicago's famous skyscrapers like the Willis Tower and Tribune Tower – before exploring the city's innovative roots at the Museum of Science and Industry. Just save time for some of the city's quintessential experiences like catching a game at Wrigley Field and window-shopping along The Magnificent Mile.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated March 15, 2019

  • #1
    Millennium Park
    View all Photos
    #1 in Chicago
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    A first-time visit to Chicago isn't complete without a stop at Millennium Park. Situated in the Loop just north of the Art Institute of Chicago, this 24.5-acre space is used to showcase cutting-edge art, architecture and landscaping; it also acts as a backdrop for concerts and festivals. Most visitors come to

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain
    View all Photos
    #2 in Chicago
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Often referred to as "Chicago's front yard," Grant Park is a 319-acre swath of green space that starts at the eastern edge of the Loop and stretches down to the northern fringes of the Near South Side. First-time visitors should plan on spending a fair amount of time in Grant

    ...Read More »
  • #3
    Lincoln Park Zoo
    View all Photos
    #3 in Chicago
    Zoos and Aquariums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located 2 miles north of the Loop in the North Side neighborhood of Lincoln Park, the Lincoln Park Zoo is home to dozens of species, such as zebras, sloths and hippos. Visitors can view the zoo's furry (or scaly) friends in their natural habitats: Check out the gorillas in the

    ...Read More »
  • #4
    The Magnificent Mile
    View all Photos
    #4 in Chicago
    Cafes, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you can feel your credit card burning a hole through your wallet, make your way to The Magnificent Mile. This portion of Michigan Avenue – which stretches between Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago River – beckons to shopaholics with department stores and luxury retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue,

    ...Read More »
  • #5
    Museum of Science and Industry
    View all Photos
    #5 in Chicago
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Chicago's extensive Museum of Science and Industry pays tribute to the city's innovative roots, showcasing more than 35,000 artifacts and a variety of hands-on exhibits meant to inspire creativity. The museum resides in the 14-acre former Palace of Fine Arts, which hosted the famous World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. The

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    Navy Pier
    View all Photos
    #6 in Chicago
    Amusement Parks, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Extending out onto Lake Michigan, Navy Pier offers plenty in the way of family-friendly entertainment. The first thing you'll spot once you set foot on the pier is the towering Ferris wheel (which stands 196 feet tall); you'll also find a swing-seat ride and a carousel. Once the kids have

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    Art Institute of Chicago
    View all Photos
    #7 in Chicago
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Home to one of the country's most impressive collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art (plus works from numerous other genres), the expansive Art Institute of Chicago features more than 300,000 works from all over the world in its permanent collection. You'll find pieces created in the Byzantine era, as well

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    The Field Museum
    View all Photos
    #8 in Chicago
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This extensive natural history museum occupies half an acre of Grant Park's Museum Campus and houses extensive exhibits that showcase artifacts from multiple eras and destinations, making it a must-see for kids (as well as any fans of the "Indiana Jones" movies). Some of the most popular parts of the museum

    ...Read More »
  • #9
    360 CHICAGO Observation Deck
    View all Photos
    #9 in Chicago
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of Chicago's most notable attractions is its skyline, and one of the best places to experience it is at the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck. Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 CHICAGO towers 1,000 feet over The Magnificent Milefrom its location on the 94th floor of the John Hancock

    ...Read More »
  • #10
    The Chicago Riverwalk
    View all Photos
    #10 in Chicago
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    When the weather warms up in Chicago, there are few better places to enjoy the outdoors than the Chicago Riverwalk. The 1.25-mile pedestrian walkway on the south bank of the Chicago River is the perfect place to take a walk and observe the city skyline. Plus, there are numerous activity

    ...Read More »
  • #11
    Chicago Architecture River Cruise
    View all Photos
    #11 in Chicago
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    A visit to 360 CHICAGO or Skydeck Chicago will give you a good overview of the city's layout. But if you want to learn more about Chicago's sky-high buildings, tag along on an architecture river cruise. During a river cruise, you'll gain great views and historical insight about well-known structures like The Wrigley Building,

    ...Read More »
  • #12
    The Chicago Theatre
    View all Photos
    #12 in Chicago
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Aside from Cloud Gate and Buckingham Fountain, The Chicago Theatre's red and yellow marquee is perhaps one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. Illuminating North State Street at the northern edge of the Loop, The Chicago Theatre first opened its doors in 1921 as an extravagant movie theater and performance venue.

    ...Read More »
  • #13
    Maggie Daley Park
    View all Photos
    #13 in Chicago
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Maggie Daley Park is an expansive property located just east of Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. The massive green space offers numerous activities for both kids and adults on-site, including a climbing wall, a mini-golf course, a playground, a public garden, an ice skating rink (during the winter) and a

    ...Read More »
  • #14
    Shedd Aquarium
    View all Photos
    #14 in Chicago
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Shedd Aquarium is one of the world's largest indoor aquariums, housing around 32,000 creatures. While you're here, you can feel stingrays float beneath your fingers, listen to sea lions bark and learn all about a variety of turtles. A visit to Shedd Aquarium will lead you through a cornucopia of

    ...Read More »
  • #15
    Skydeck Chicago
    View all Photos
    #15 in Chicago
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Nearly 2 million people make their way to Willis Tower's Skydeck Chicago each year, and it's easy to see why. Occupying the 103rd floor – that's nine floors higher than360 CHICAGO – of the 110-story Willis Tower (the second-tallest building in North America after One World Trade Center), Skydeck Chicago boasts

    ...Read More »
  • #16
    Wrigley Field
    View all Photos
    #16 in Chicago
    Sports, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Any fan of "Saturday Night Live" knows that Chicagoans take their love of sports very seriously. So for a real taste of Chicago culture, head north of the Loop to Wrigley Field to see "da Cubs" play ball. History buffs will also appreciate this sports treasure, which was built in

    ...Read More »
  • #17
    The Second City
    View all Photos
    #17 in Chicago
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you've seen a sketch comedy show or hilarious movie in the last 30 years, it's likely that someone from The Second City appeared in it. The Second City is one of the world's most iconic improvisational comedy theaters, and it has helped launch the careers of numerous famous comedians,

    ...Read More »
  • #18
    North Avenue Beach
    View all Photos
    #18 in Chicago
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located in Lincoln Park directly on Lake Michigan, North Avenue Beach is one of the most popular swimming spots in Chicago. The sandy beach has volleyball courts, plenty of space for visitors to stretch out and multiple things to do near nearby, plus it offers spectacular views of the city

    ...Read More »
  • #19
    Goose Island Beer Company Tour
    View all Photos
    #19 in Chicago
    Tours, Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours, Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Goose Island Beer Company is a well-known brewery with nationwide distribution, and it is a leader in Chicago's booming beer culture. Its repertoire of brews includes lagers, porters, IPAs and saisons, and its two Chicago locations offer tours and tastings. At the main brewery on West Fulton Street, visitors

    ...Read More »
  • Chicago Crime Tours
    View all Photos
    Churches/Religious Sites, Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Until relatively recently, notorious mobsters like Al Capone and John Dillinger were the characters who may have come to mind when someone mentioned the Windy City. Chicago Crime Tours takes visitors on a bus tour highlighting these gangsters' lives. The route weaves across the city, highlighting memorable crime scenes and

    ...Read More »
  • The 606
    View all Photos
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Dividing Chicago's Logan Square and Humboldt Parkneighborhoods, The 606 is a former industrial rail line that's been transformed into a nature trail and a public space. In addition to being an excellent place to enjoy the outdoors, the 2.7-mile-long park hosts an assortment of events and shows for visitors to

    ...Read More »

Explore More of Chicago

Recommended

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

Zach WatsonApril 18, 2019

50 Awesome Vacation Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Consider these vacation ideas for your next getaway.

Holly JohnsonApril 11, 2019

The 13 Best National Parks in California

You won't regret adding one of these national parks to your California itinerary.

Rachel CenterApril 10, 2019

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

Plan a getaway to these special destinations to soak up culture, cuisine and quaint atmospheres.

Gwen PratesiApril 8, 2019

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerApril 3, 2019

The 11 Best Utah National Parks and Monuments to Visit

From birding to bouldering to boating, Utah's national parks have it all.

Zach WatsonApril 2, 2019

The 30 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Get an up-close look at wild creatures in natural settings at America's top animal parks.

Kyle McCarthyMarch 28, 2019

15 Scenic Train Rides to Add to Your Bucket List

Climb aboard these locomotives for jaw-dropping views.

Christine SmithMarch 26, 2019

13 Top Places to Visit in Tuscany, Italy

Ditch the crowded streets of Rome or Milan and head to Italy's picturesque countryside.

Lyn MettlerMarch 25, 2019

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

Holly JohnsonMarch 14, 2019