People passing by the famous Chicago monument, USA

Things to do in  Chicago

The Third Coast’s greatest city

Poet Carl Sandburg once described Chicago as the “city of the big shoulders,” a phrase that captures the Midwestern metropolis’ sense of swaggering possibility. This is a place where skyscrapers like the Willis Tower break records, where every neighborhood has its own flavor, where dining culture is defined by Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine alongside heavy-duty Italian beef sandwiches and deep-dish pizza. From its architecture to museums, its blues and jazz communities to its theater and comedy scene, the best things to do in Chicago exist on an amplified scale.

Top 15 attractions in Chicago

Chicago Riverwalk

Connecting Lake Michigan to downtown, the Chicago Riverwalk is an open-air pedestrian-friendly walkway that runs along the Chicago River. Composed of six main sections, the Riverwalk is a main hub for entertainment. Head to the Marina Plaza section for restaurants, outdoor seating, and boat access. Take a stroll through a series of piers and floating wetland gardens at the Riverbank, or head to the Water Plaza where the kids can splash in water fountains.More

Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower (Sears Tower)

Once the world’s tallest building, Willis Tower is still way up in the clouds. Though it functions as an office building, the skyscraper’s 103rd-floor Skydeck Chicago draws 1.7 million annual visitors for a trip out onto The Ledge, an enclosed glass balcony extending 4 feet (1.2 meters) out over the city, as well as panoramic views that—on clear days—extend as far as Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin.More

The Magnificent Mile

Fashion, architecture, and history in Chicago come together on this renowned stretch of Michigan Avenue nicknamed the Magnificent Mile. As you walk from the Chicago River to Oak Street, you’ll pass several Windy City landmarks, including the Water Tower, John Hancock Center, and Tribune Tower, as well as numerous luxury brand retailers.More

Navy Pier

Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations—and with good reason. The 3,300-foot (1,010-meter) pier jutting into the waters of Lake Michigan, originally constructed in 1916 as a freight dock and public space, encompasses almost 50 acres (20 hectares) of exhibits, rides, parks, and family attractions.More

Chicago River

Winding its way through the heart of the Windy City, the Chicago River flows past some of the city’s most notable architecture, including the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), Wrigley Building, and Navy Pier. The river also offers opportunities for exploration, such as river cruises, kayaking, and canoeing, along a revamped riverfront.More

Millennium Park

Located just a block away from Lake Michigan in the heart of downtown Chicago, Millennium Park showcases world-class art, music, architecture, and landscape design. Completed in 2004, the 24.5-acre (10-hectare) park is one of Chicago’s most popular destinations, drawing 25 million visitors per year.More

Wrigley Building

The 1920s were an important time for Chicago architecture, and when the Wrigley Building opened in 1925, it set the pace for the city’s development. When owner William Wrigley Jr. (of the Wrigley gum company) scouted locations for the building that would become his company’s headquarters, he chose a unique triangle shape of land that eventually became the bustling Magnificent Mile.More

Chicago Theatre

The historic Chicago Theatre, which dates back to 1921, is a popular downtown architectural landmark. With its famous dazzling marquee, French baroque architecture, and lobby modeled on a Versailles chapel, this picturesque structure today hosts concerts and comedy shows, as well as daily tours of its spectacular interior.More

Tribune Tower

Once home to the Chicago Tribune, this neo-Gothic landmark was built as a result of the International Design Competition in 1922. Before this 462-foot (141-meter) building was constructed, reporters from the paper brought back pieces of rock from important landmarks around the world like the Taj Mahal, the Hagia Sophia, the Great Wall of China, and more.More

Field Museum

With more than 20 million artifacts, the Field Museum is an engaging museum filled with both interactive and imaginative displays. The big attraction is the Tyrannosaurus rex named "Sue," a 13 foot (4 meter) tall, 41 ft (13 m) long beast who menaces the grand space with ferocious aplomb. The most complete T-Rex ever discovered, it takes its name from Sue Hendrickson, the fossil-hunter who found the 90 percent complete skeleton in South Dakota in 1990.Dinosaurs loom large in the Field Museum. At the Evolving Planet exhibit, you can also watch staff paleontologists clean up fossils, learn about the evolution of the massive reptiles, and even learn about Homo sapien's evolutionary ties to the extinct beasts. Away from the prehistoric giants, the “Inside Ancient Egypt” exhibit recreates an Egyptian burial chamber on three levels. The mastaba (tomb) contains 23 actual mummies. The bottom level, with its twisting caverns, is especially worthwhile. Those reeds growing in the stream are real.Other displays worth your time include “Underground Adventure,” a vast exhibit exploring the habitats of animals and insects that live underground, and the “Pawnee Earth Lodge,” which allows visitors to explore a complete dwelling of the Great Plains tribe.More

Marina City

A distinctive feature of the Chicago skyline since the 1960s, the twin concrete columns of Marina City were once the tallest residential buildings in the world. Their scalloped “corn cob” exterior made them instantly recognizable and a popular setting in movies like Batman Begins,Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Blues Brothers.More

Adler Planetarium

Part of Chicago’s Museum Campus in Grant Park, the Adler Planetarium dates to 1930 when Chicago businessman Max Adler opened it as the first planetarium in the western hemisphere. See its family-friendly planetarium shows, celestial artifacts, and the immersive Grainger Sky Theater, which opened in 2011.More

Art Institute of Chicago

Located in Chicago’s Grant Park, the Art Institute showcases 300,000 works of art ranging from ancient works to pieces created by today’s foremost artists. More than 1.5 million visitors from across the globe flock to the museum annually, making it one of Chicago’s most-visited destinations.More

Grant Park

Known as “Chicago’s Front Yard,” Grant Park stretches over 300 acres (121 hectares), and is the city’s primary downtown park. Located in the Loop, Grant Park is sandwiched between Lake Michigan and soaring skyscrapers. Its cultural highlights include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum Campus, and Millennium Park.More

Chicago Cultural Center

Opened in 1897 as Chicago’s first public library, the Chicago Cultural Center is the city’s hub for arts and cultural events as well as one of the city’s most beloved architectural monuments. The center is among Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions and features more than 1,000 free concerts, films, art exhibits, and other cultural events each year.More

Trip ideas

Don’t-Miss Dishes in Chicago

Don’t-Miss Dishes in Chicago

Top activities in Chicago

90-Minute Chicago River Architecture Tour
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Chicago Architecture River Cruise

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

45-Minute Chicago River Architecture Tour from Magnificent Mile
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Chicago Crime and Mob Bus Tour
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Chicago Crime and Mob Bus Tour

Chicago CityPASS

Chicago CityPASS

Chicago Craft Brewery Barrel Bus Tour
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Big Bus Chicago Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
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All about Chicago

When to visit

Summer can bring soaring heat and humidity to Chicago, while winter is when the deep freeze sets in. For a less extreme experience of the Windy City, aim for shoulder season. Spring sees the Cubs return to Wrigley Field and makes for ideal conditions for an open-air architectural boat tour, while fall means the return of annual events like Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and the Chicago Marathon.

Getting around

Chicago is one of the Midwest’s major hubs, and the city’s two airports—O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport—make it easy to reach from a variety of domestic and international destinations. Metra trains link the city to the surrounding suburbs, while the city operates eight “L” rapid-transit train lines, as well as numerous bus lines. Taxis and rideshare services offer another way to get around, and much of Chicago is also bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

Traveler tips

Deep-dish pizza is a classic Chicago dish at the top of many visitors’ dining wishlists. But, despite its ubiquity, this hearty style of pizza isn't the only option in town. Next time you visit, don’t forget to try the ultra-thin “tavern-style” pizza, which typically comes cut into small square slices—it’s what the locals eat as an everyday staple.

Local Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
CST (UTC -6)
Country Code

A local’s pocket guide to Chicago

Claire Bullen

Born and raised in Chicago, Claire can claim city roots that go back at least three generations. The writer and editor currently calls London her home, but she's still a Chicagoan at heart.

The first thing you should do in Chicago is...

eat—after all, Chicago is a food lover’s paradise. While pizza and hot dogs are a starting point, you can find everything from top-notch Mexican food in Pilsen to exceptional dim sum in Chinatown and Michelin-starred fine-dining destinations around town.

A perfect Saturday in Chicago...

begins with brunch at Lula Cafe in Logan Square (definitely book ahead). After another coffee at Gaslight Coffee Roasters, go for a dose of culture at the Art Institute before cocktails at the Violet Hour ahead of a decadent dinner.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

the architectural boat tours, a genuinely great way to admire Chicago’s skyline and coast along the Chicago River. And don't forget deep-dish pizza—while many locals prefer tavern-style pizza, good deep-dish or stuffed pizza is special occasion-worthy.

To discover the "real" Chicago...

don’t just stay around the Loop. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods—from Chinatown to Hyde Park, Bronzeville to Humboldt Park, Lincoln Park to Wrigleyville — and the city’s real breadth and scope only come into focus when you leave downtown.

For the best view of the city...

The obvious choice is to head to the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck in the Hancock Building or the Skydeck Chicago in the Willis Tower. But for fewer crowds, venture to Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown for picture-perfect skyline views.

One thing people get wrong...

is assuming Chicago isn’t welcoming. Chicago combines big-city savvy and world-class cultural attractions with a real Midwestern warmth that comes through when you strike up a conversation with locals and listen to their stories.


People Also Ask

What is Chicago famous for?

Chicago is famous for its architecture—skyscrapers like the Willis Tower and John Hancock Center dominate its skyline, and architectural boat tours chart the Chicago River. The Windy City is also known for its signature bites like deep-dish pizza, its world-class museums, dynamic and diverse neighborhoods, and views overlooking Lake Michigan.

How can I spend a day in Chicago?

If you have just one day in Chicago, start at the Skydeck Chicago at the Willis Tower for panoramic city views. Stroll through the Loop to Millennium Park and pose near "The Bean" before exploring the Art Institute of Chicago. Be sure to try Chicago's famous deep-dish pizza before leaving.

How can I have fun in Chicago?

For a fun-filled day in Chicago, visit the attractions of Navy Pier, embark on a sightseeing boat tour of Lake Michigan, or head to the 360 Chicago Observation Deck for aerial views. Alternatively, go on a Segway tour of the Lakefront—and even see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

What is the number 1 attraction in Chicago?

Chicago's number-one attraction is Millennium Park. This relaxing green space, steps from Lake Michigan, is home to many famous public artworks, including Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate"—better known as "The Bean." Right next door is the Art Institute of Chicago, where you can continue your cultural immersion indoors.

What is there to do in Chicago in the winter?

Chicago is known for its snowy winters. For a winter-wonderland experience, discover the ice rink in Millennium Park or hit the Soldier Field Sledding Hill. Then, warm up in a top-rated museum, like the Art Institute of Chicago or Field Museum. End the evening with a musical or comedy show.

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