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A view of the Chicago skyline pictured from Lincoln Park.

Things to do in  Chicago

The Third Coast's greatest city

Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago—the largest city in Illinois and the third largest in the United States—offers a wealth of art, music, historical, and architectural experiences. Culture lovers can stroll through Millennium Park and the Loop to view outdoor art (including the iconic “Bean”), tour world-class museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, or cruise the Chicago River to see modern landmark gems. To meet the locals, buy a ticket for a ball game; catch some live blues or jazz (both of which have deep roots in Chicago) at a club; or laugh at the comedy acts at Second City, where many top comedians launched their careers.

Top 15 attractions in Chicago

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

Chicago Loop

Chicago’s central business district, the Loop, is home to many of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, from museums and skyscrapers to parks and outdoor sculptures. Renowned for highlights like Grant Park, City Hall, and the Willis Tower, the Loop attracts both locals and visitors with its culture and entertainment offerings.More

360 Chicago Observation Deck (Formerly John Hancock Observatory)

Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago offers an interactive experience of the Windy City’s history and culture on the way up to its 94th-floor observation deck. From here, sweeping views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan are enhanced by Tilt—moving glass lookouts that that literally tilt you out 1,000 feet (305 meters) above the Magnificent Mile.More

Hard Rock Cafe Chicago

The Hard Rock Cafe Chicago has been serving the Chicago River North area since its opening in 1986. River North borders the Magnificent Mile, is just across from the Loop, and a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue, a vibrant and popular dining and nightlife district.Be sure to order Hard Rock’s signature food offerings like the Legendary Burger and drinks like Rockarita. Check the menu for house made local entrees that have a touch of Chicago flavor as well.Like other Hard Rock Cafes around the world, the Hard Rock Cafe Chicago features music memorabilia on the walls, with an emphasis on funky styles. Be sure to tour the restaurant and see various guitars, platinum records, and more.There are numerous concerts and events taking place at the cafethroughout the year, so be sure to check the Hard Rock Cafe Chicago events page for details and reservations.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

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

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
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Recent reviews from experiences in Chicago

Absolute must-do in Chicago!
Kristen_S, Jan 2023
90-Minute Chicago River Architecture Tour
Brilliant way to see Chicago!
Chi Tour Food Tour
Derrick_T, Jan 2023
Chicago Favorites Ultimate Food & Walking Tour
I would definitely recommend it to anyone going to Chicago & wanting to see a bit of the city while sampling some pretty damn good food.
Great Chicago Tour!!
Michele_H, Jan 2023
Chicago City Minibus Tour
This tour was a way to see all the landmarks, beautiful architecture, and learn of the history of the city.
Great Experience & Tip for Winter Tours
Lisa_S, Dec 2022
Gangsters and Ghosts Tour in Chicago
If going on this tour during the cold Chicago winter, I recommend snow boots, thermal underwear, gloves/hat, good winter coat so you can thoroughly enjoy the tour.
The Best Tour!
Antonia_S, Dec 2022
Downtown Chicago Walking Pizza Tour
If you’re in Chicago or going to visit you must book this tour.
Great way to see stunning architecture and learn more about Chicago
Larry_B, Dec 2022
45-Minute Chicago River Architecture Tour from Magnificent Mile
It was a cold December afternoon, so the 45 minute cruise was just enough to see some amazing architecture and learn more about the city of Chicago.
Diana_M, Dec 2022
45-Minute Chicago River Architecture Tour from Magnificent Mile
It was a terrific way to see the city and we so enjoyed it.
Entertaining and educational very interesting
Jubaira_M, Dec 2022
90-Minute Chicago River Architecture Tour
Although, it’s freezing on the deck due to winter, still all worthwhile.
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All about Chicago

When to visit

After being cooped up all winter, Chicago is ready to party when the sun comes out (sometime during May). Summer highlights include the annual Taste of Chicago, Chicago Blues Festival, Andersonville’s Midsommarfest, and the Chicago Air and Water Show. Alternatively, fall brings fewer crowds and brisker weather, perfect for exploring neighborhoods on foot and watching the trees turn colors along the quaint neighborhood streets.

Getting around

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is your best friend when traveling around Chicago. You’ll see many references to “the Loop,” the circle elevated train tracks that define the city’s downtown area. From there, train lines (both underground and elevated) shoot out to the airport and the nearby suburbs. The CTA also has a robust network of bus lines that make all corners of the city easily accessible. The Loop itself is very walkable, and if you’re there in the dead of winter and your toes are frozen, hailing a cab is a cinch.

Traveler tips

The best place for a chargrilled Chicago hot dog after bar closing time (2am) is the Weiner’s Circle in Lincoln Park. The dog is served with a pickle, tomato wedges, chopped onions, sweet peppers, celery salt, and a side of major sass from the counterperson. If you know what’s good for you, never ever ask for ketchup—Chicago is a mustard town.

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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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