City guides

Must-see attractions in Chicago

Discover the rich tapestry of culture, history, and iconic landmarks that make Chicago a must-visit destination.

September 19, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 12
A view of the Chicago, IL skyline, with the Chicago river in the foreground.

Chicago, the Windy City, is more than just a bustling metropolis; it's a tapestry of culture, history, and iconic landmarks. Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, this city offers a blend of architectural marvels, world-class museums, and vibrant neighborhoods. If you're planning a trip to Chicago, here's a list of some of the top attractions you shouldn't miss.

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate, affectionately known as "The Bean," is more than just a stainless steel sculpture. It's an emblem of Chicago's modern artistic spirit. Reflecting the city's skyline, this masterpiece by Anish Kapoor offers visitors a unique interactive experience. As you approach it, the curvature distorts the reflections, making it a favorite spot for photography. But it's not just about taking pictures; walking beneath its 12-foot arch, you're enveloped in a warped world where the sky meets the ground. 

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago isn't just a museum; it's an institution. As one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, it boasts a collection that spans 5,000 years. From the ancient Egyptian artifacts to the modern American masterpieces, every corridor and gallery whispers tales of creativity. The museum's Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections are particularly renowned, featuring works by artists like Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh. Whether you're an art connoisseur or a casual observer, the institute promises a journey of discovery and inspiration. 

Navy Pier

Navy Pier is Chicago's playground. Extending over the waters of Lake Michigan, this 3,300-foot-long pier is a hub of entertainment. Originally opened in 1916 as a shipping and recreational facility, it has now transformed into a mecca of fun and leisure. From the iconic Ferris wheel that offers panoramic views of the city to the Chicago Children's Museum that sparks young imaginations, there's no shortage of activities. And when hunger strikes, a plethora of eateries serving everything from gourmet dishes to classic Chicago-style pizza awaits. 

Willis Tower Skydeck

The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, isn't just another skyscraper. It's an architectural marvel that once held the title of the world's tallest building. The Skydeck on the 103rd floor is not for the faint-hearted. As you step onto the Ledge, a glass balcony extending four feet outside the tower, you'll feel like you're floating in the air. With the city sprawled beneath your feet, it's a view and an experience that's hard to match. 

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is Chicago's artistic heart. Spanning 24.5 acres, it's more than just a green space in the city's downtown. It's where art, music, and nature converge. The park is home to several artistic installations, but the Crown Fountain and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stand out. While the fountain showcases interactive art with its giant LED screens displaying Chicagoans' faces, the pavilion, with its avant-garde design, hosts numerous concerts and events, making the park a lively spot throughout the year.

Chicago Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is more than just a scenic pathway; it's the city's lifeline. Stretching for 1.25 miles along the Chicago River, this pedestrian trail offers a serene escape from the urban hustle. As you meander along, you'll encounter a series of spaces each with its own unique vibe. From wine bars and eateries to public art installations and boat rentals, there's something for everyone. The Riverwalk also serves as a vantage point for some of Chicago's most iconic buildings, making it a favorite spot for architecture enthusiasts. Whether you're looking to relax, dine, or simply soak in the views, the Riverwalk has got you covered. 

Lincoln Park Zoo

Nestled in the heart of the city, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a testament to Chicago's commitment to wildlife conservation. Founded in 1868, it's one of the oldest zoos in the U.S., yet it's constantly evolving. Spread over 35 acres, the zoo houses over 1,000 animals from around the world. From African lions and Arctic polar bears to local farm animals, the diverse range of species ensures an enriching experience. The zoo's design, with its naturalistic habitats, ensures the animals feel at home. And the best part? It's open 365 days a year and is free for all, making wildlife accessible to everyone.

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center is not just a building; it's a celebration of the city's rich cultural tapestry. Built in 1897, its architecture is a blend of neoclassical and Renaissance styles, making it a visual treat. But what truly sets it apart are its interiors, especially the two stained-glass domes. As you step inside, a plethora of cultural events, exhibitions, and performances await. From classical music concerts to contemporary art exhibitions, the center is a hub of creativity. It's a place where cultures converge, and art is democratized, ensuring everyone gets a slice of Chicago's vibrant cultural scene. 

Museum of Science and Industry

Dive into a world where science comes alive at the Museum of Science and Industry. Housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the museum is a blend of history and innovation. With over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space, it's one of the largest science museums in the world. Interactive exhibits like the Coal Mine, U-505 Submarine, and the Science Storms ensure that learning is fun and engaging. Whether you're curious about space exploration, genetics, or transportation, the museum promises a day of discovery. 

Shedd Aquarium

At the Shedd Aquarium, the wonders of the aquatic world come to life. Established in 1930, it's one of the largest indoor aquariums globally, housing over 32,000 marine animals. As you navigate through its various zones, you'll journey from the Amazon rainforests to the depths of the Pacific Ocean. The aquarium's commitment to conservation and education is evident in its interactive exhibits and animal encounters. Whether you're watching a dolphin show, touching a stingray, or simply gazing at the mesmerizing jellyfish, the Shedd Aquarium offers a deep dive into the mysteries of the marine world.

Chicago, with its blend of history, culture, and modernity, promises an experience like no other. Each attraction, each landmark, and each neighborhood tells a story, waiting to be discovered. So, as you chart your journey through the Windy City, remember to take a moment, soak in the views, and let the city's magic envelop you. Safe travels!


*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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