Six Best Attractions in Chicago

6 Best Attractions in Chicago

6 Best Attractions in Chicago

Best Attractions in Chicago

Six Best Attractions in Chicago

Chicago – the windy city;  the very name is donned in romance and adventure – from the fatal beauty Roxi Hart to the deadly Al Capone and classic movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  American culture is invariably tied to this midwestern Metropolis, a giant in the heart of the United States.  The sheer size and variety of options might make a visit here seem overwhelming.  If you are planning a trip to Chicago, with a plethora of attractions competing for your attention and a limited amount of time to explore,  it may be difficult to choose which ones are worth a visit and decide on what to do in Chicago.

To help make planning your trip to Chicago easier, we have compiled a list of the six must-see attractions in Chicago. These are some of the best places to visit in Chicago and we think are the very cream of the crop.  These sites are sure to give you amazing memories (and beautiful pictures) to take home. So here are Chicago attractions – Things to do in Chicago, best places to go in Chicago.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

Best Attractions in Chicago

The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is one of many leisure cruises available on the Chicago River, but the only one we recommend as one of the best Chicago attractions.  The cruise is run by the connected, not for profit foundation and is staffed with volunteer guides. All volunteer guides are qualified and enthusiastic docents with endless knowledge of the city’s history and architecture.  Their knowledge is vast, and their joy of sharing it is contagious.  After the cruise, you might walk around Chicago, and even those that are natives might see their hometown with a new sense of appreciation for the “museum of architecture” that surrounds you.  All proceeds from the cruise will go to support the Chicago Architecture Foundation and help keep Chicago beautiful. Try to book in advance as tours for best times do sell out quickly. To book the cruise click here.

The Shedd Aquarium

Best Attractions in Chicago

The Shedd Aquarium is a huge, rescue oriented aquarium that both entertains you and makes you feel good about your visit.  It is one of the best places to visit in Chicago. Its giant rooms host dozens of exhibits including some very unusual ones that you may have never seen before.  Here you can find both beluga whales and dolphins, all rescued from the wild where they could no longer survive.  Although we tend to be very careful about visiting any aquarium or center that hosts marine mammals, the reputation of this hundred-year-old aquarium is far beyond reproach in regards to conservation, rescue, and research. Here, you can enjoy seeing animals you wouldn’t normally be able to in a fun and educational way.

Best Attractions in Chicago

If you are traveling without kids, visit the Shedd on Wednesday evenings in the summer for jazz nights  – these give the locals and visitors a chance to stroll the aquarium rooms in relative peace and adult company.  But, don’t let the little ones detract you from visiting here whenever you can – it’s definitely one major Chicago attraction worth seeing.

The Chicago Riverwalk

Best Attractions in Chicago

Most great cities are based on a waterway, and Chicago is no exception.  Originally founded in 1833 the city of Chicago became prominent due to its location on the Chicago River, which allowed for easy access for goods and people from the great lakes region.  The Chicago Riverwalk is a large public space along the river that provides locals and tourists with a place to stroll, jog, eat and catch a river cruise.   We suggest taking a leisurely walk around and if the mood suits you stop by City Winery to try a glass of California River Walk wine.  Take the time to enjoy your wine with a beautiful view of the water.  The Riverwalk is a relaxing, uncrowded space (that goes on for nearly a mile) and a fantastic way to spend a few hours in between the more intense attractions.

Museum of Science and Industry

Best Attractions in Chicago

In the tradition of the great American science museums such as the Smithsonian and Museum of Natural History in NYC, Chicago’s answer is its very own Museum of Science and Industry.  Just as those two museums are must-sees on your visit to DC and NYC,  this one is a must for anyone visiting Chicago.  As a combination of science museum and children’s museum, it offers exhibits oriented to adults, to kids and to those young at heart.

Best Attractions in Chicago

There is something for everyone at the Museum of Science and Industry.  Architecture fans will appreciate the Great Hall where four exhibit halls meet under vaulted ceilings.  Of particular interest to any history buff is the dramatic U-505 exhibit that tells the true story of a capture that helped to turn the tide of World War II.  This exhibit ends at the foot of the actual U boat captured from the Nazis and a tour inside is available for a small additional fee.  If you’d like to tour the U-boat be sure to purchase tickets in advance online as they do sell out rather quickly.  Other exhibits of interest in this museum include the simulated tornado and a special exhibit on human anatomy that features realistic replicas of human systems and even a detailed timeline of human embryos represented with high-quality medical models.

The Navy Pier

Best Attractions in Chicago

Originally completed in 1916, the Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s oldest public spaces, and as such it does not disappoint.  A perfect view of downtown Chicago is laid out before you as you stroll down the 3300 feet that make up the pier.  A plethora of activities and restaurants line the pier, from the Children’s museum to restaurants and more beer gardens than you can count.  Day cruise ships line the pier, a Ferris wheel dominates the skyline, and there are plenty of spots to just sit down take in the local scene.  We’d say the best time to visit one of the must-see attractions in Chicago is during sunset, as the sky slowly turns from blue to red to black,  the prominent Chicago skyline is a view you will not soon forget.

The Willis Tower’s Skydeck

Best Attractions in Chicago

The Willis Tower’s Skydeck, which many consider one of the top attractions in Chicago is one of the top-rated tourist attractions in Chicago. But in our opinion, it is a bit of a tourist trap. The lines to get here are lengthy, but understandable since it’s such a popular attraction.  The unexpected disappointment, however, comes at the top.  Although the views are extraordinary (as with any such building), there are no places to sit, a long line to get to one of the few windows that does not have bars guarding it, and no restaurant or other places to relax and take in the view.  The only benches available are by the bathroom, away from even the windows that have bars on them to prevent visitors from getting too close.  If you have visited the Empire State building, the Eiffel tower or the Toronto CN tower you are probably used to having a variety of things to do once you get to the top; that is not the case here. The goal at Willis Tower seems to be to get you in and out as quickly as possible.  It’s truly a shame because the views really are beautiful, therefore this attraction may still be worth visiting if you have the time and don’t mind waiting in lines.  Just know what to expect when you get to the top.

Bonus – Rooftop bar at Cambria Hotel

Best Attractions in Chicago

The rooftop bar at Cambria Hotel.  This hip hotel right off the famous Michigan Avenue (Chicago’s Magnificent Mile) was recently redesigned, and its rooftop bar is now one of those attractions in Chicago that is considered the coolest places in the city to take in a drink and magnificent views.  We recommend this bar as one of the best (unadvertised) stops in the Windy City and it should be one of the top things to do in Chicago & places to visit in Chicago!

How many of these attractions in Chicago have you visited? If you have not been to Chicago then we suggest you plan a trip to Chicago soon!


Author Bio: This is a guest post by Viktoria. Viktoria is a traveler, photographer, writer, entrepreneur and a mother of two kids.  She is based in NYC and travels every month to locations both local and exotic.  To follow her visit her blog: or follow her on Instagram @traveltipster. 

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55 thoughts on “Six Best Attractions in Chicago

  1. candy Reply

    Only one I haven’t done is the river walk. Done part of it but not all. Renting a bike would be fun.

  2. Marysa Reply

    I haven’t been to Chicago, but I think it would make for a fun road trip. I don’t think there would be any shortage of things to do! I’d love to visit Shedd Aquarium.

  3. Amy Smith Reply

    Chicago is a really fun town. I grew up outside the city and have always love going back, year after year. Not just by myself, but I love to bring friends who have never been to the area before! It can be rather fun watching North Carolinians seeing the city for the first time!! I agree with all of these. I have never been to the bar but I have been to the others. Millineum Park is REALLY awesome, especially if you have kids!

  4. Alli Smith Reply

    I’ve always wanted to take a stroll down the Chicago Riverwalk. I’ve only been to the airport in Chicago on a layover. I’d love to visit all these attractions.

  5. Jeanette Reply

    You named off two of my most favorite places in Chicago. I love the shed aquarium and I love their science Museum. They do such a good job with both of those things. I could never get tired of going to them.

  6. Tomi C Reply

    Chicago is one of my fave cities to visit. There’s lots to see and do. I’ve been to most of these places and highly recommend each of them. The Navy Pier is one of our fave spots to visit. Our kids love that Children’s Museum.

  7. Sarah Bailey Reply

    What some amazing sounding things to do in Chicago I would absolutely love to visit The Shedd Aquarium myself, I bet that has some amazing sights to see.

  8. Lisa Reply

    Navy Pier and the Skydeck are my two must see’s when in Chicago. What a great list of attractions.

  9. Claudia Krusch Reply

    I loved my trip to Chicago last year. We have an amazing time. I would love to go back and see The Shedd Aquarium.

  10. Sreekar Reply

    My brother just came back from there and showed me similar photos. He seemed to love cycling along the Riverwalk the most! Nice pics by the way! You seem to have covered the important ones!

  11. Rhonda Albom Reply

    The Shedd Aquarium sounds really informative. I’m glad that it has such a good reputation – there’s been so much revealing of bad aquarium practices lately that you have to wonder if there are any left that focuses more on the animals than the visitors.

  12. Lois Alter Mark Reply

    Chicago is such a great city, and I was just there again a few weeks ago. I did the Architectural Boat Ride for the second time and loved it just as much as I did the first time! I still have to get to the Aquarium, which looks fantastic!

  13. Margarita Ibbott Reply

    One of my all time favorite American cities. I spent three birthday in a row visiting Chicago, I love it so much.
    Best tip are those architecture tours from the water. I’ll have to try the Riverwalk next time.

  14. Lauren Reply

    I’ve been to Chicago so many times but I still haven’t checked out some of these spots… Although I have been on the Architecture tour and it was phenomenal!! One of my favourite travel experiences.

  15. Sadie Reply

    Chicago is one of our favorite places to visit! I took our daughter for her 7th birthday and she loved it, though it was freezing cold (in March).

  16. Gabby Reply

    I’ve only been to Chicago as a kid but this post definitely shows me I need to return as an adult… asap!

  17. Tina Butler Reply

    I visited Chicago back in 2013 for a work trip. It was a short visit so I did not get to do much site seeing. You shared some very interesting and fun places.

  18. Megan Jerrard Reply

    I’ve not yet made it to Chicago but I’ve heard a lot about the big bean – that’s Chicago right? Wasn’t aware of other things to do in the city though, so it’s great to read through your list. The Aquarium sounds great, as does the riverwalk – would love to rent some bikes to ride along the river promenade. And I would definitely stop by The Willis Tower’s Skydeck – what a view! Cool to know to head to the rooftop bar at Cambria Hotel at the evning’s end 🙂

  19. Kavita Favelle | Kavey Eats Reply

    Chicago has been on my list for many years. I’ve visited well over 30 US States but Illinois is not one of them, not yet anyway! I love the look of the river walk, I always love aquariums as well as science and natural history museums and I love your suggestions for views over the city.

  20. Susan R Reply

    I haven’t been to Chicago in years but would love to return and see how it has changed. The rooftop bar at the Cambria looks very relaxing. I’d also like to see Navy Pier.

  21. Anne Slater-Brooks Reply

    I cannot believe that the only one of these I made it to on my visit was Navy Pier. So wish I had visited the riverwalk as looks like a great place to run

  22. Lara Dunning Reply

    I grew up outside of Chicago and have been to many of these sights. My sister used to work at the Shedd Aquarium and I got to go behind the scenes, which was really cool. I still can’t get used to the name change for the Willis Tower – it will always be the Sears Tower to me. I have yet to go on the cruise. Good to know the tip about the rooftop bar!

  23. Our Family World Reply

    Chicago is definitely an exciting city to visit. I would love to visit the Museum of Science and Industry. That would be so cool. Riding a bike along the Chicago Riverwalk is something I would really love to do! Thanks for letting me know about these places and activities to do in Chicago.

  24. Danik Reply

    Chicago is high up on my list of cities to explore in the USA and looks fantastic. Cant wait to take them lakeshore walks and check out the parks there. Loving your post. 🙂

  25. Brandi H Reply

    It looks like Chicago has built up since I lived there 20 years ago. I would love to go back and visit some of these places.

  26. nathalie salcedo Reply

    I’d love to see Chicago. And it is definitely a great place to visit too.
    I’d like to come and check out the Riverwalk, it could be a best place to walk and ponder :)))

  27. Elisa Reply

    I have never been to Chicago but this looks like a great list to introduce any tourist to the city. I particularly love your mention of The Shedd zoo specifically after you mentioned how careful you are about visiting any aquarium or center that hosts marine mammals. It sounds like they are doing fantastic work there.

  28. Meagan Reply

    Somehow, I’ve never been to Chicago! But as someone who enjoys photography, your article makes me think I’d prefer the River Walk and the Skydeck/anywhere I’d get a rooftop view. We’re turning our focus to more US destinations in 2018, sooo maybe we’ll get to put your recommendations to work… thank you so much for sharing!

  29. Chantell Collins Reply

    I have been reading a lot about Chicago lately – it must be a sign! I have visited the windy city twice but would go back in a heartbeat. Out of these attractions, I have only been to Navy Pier but I would love to visit a few of your suggestions.

  30. Danni L Reply

    I agree The Willis Tower’s Skydeck really is a tourist trap, I wish they’d handle the queues better. I hadn’t thought of grabbing views from a rooftop bar instead, but that’s an idea.

  31. Elisa Reply

    I am architect and I studied the architecture in Chicago at the uni so this would be my point number one. I could start with your proposed river walk and then wander around the city with the most interesting buildings marked on my map. The river walk and the rooftop bar look also very appealing to me

  32. Paige Wunder Reply

    Chicago is my favorite big city in the U.S. – I love that it still has the amazing midwest feel. However, I’ve missed out on most of this list! I’ve only done Willis Tower + Navy Pier. I’d love to do an architectural cruise, though. It’s just such a cool city filled with awesome opportunities to explore!

  33. Divyakshi Gupta Reply

    Great post Viktoria!! 🙂 So nice of you to share the best cruise recommendation! Loved the fact that the cruise is run by the right kind of people who are enthusiastic and willing to share their knowledge on the city. I am hesitant to visit aquariums too and I am so glad you listed something that I will not regret going to because of their conservation efforts! The riverwalk seems like it is the best way to soak up the feel of Chicago! The great hall of the musuem looks like an architectural delight! Not having a place to sit at Willis deck with such incredible views is definitely a disappointment! I loved how you saved the best for the last! 😀

  34. Kim-Ling Richardson Reply

    We haven’t been to Chicago yet, but it’s on our wishlist. I think my first stop would have to be the Shed Aquarium to see the beluga whales and then hang out for the evening jazz! The rooftop bar at Cambria Hotel also sounds like a good place to visit, and I love the views from Willis Tower. What a shame there isn’t much else to see/do once you are at the top though!

  35. Nisha Reply

    I have not been to Chicago yet. These points are more reasons for me to go there. The Science Museum does sound very interesting among others.

  36. Danielle Desir Reply

    Happy to see that the River Walk is on this list! On my recent trip to Chicago I discovered it but didn’t have a chance to walk the full length. This is something that I’m looking forward to especially photo wise.

  37. Suruchi Reply

    All the attractions in Chicago looks exciting as well as worth visiting. River walk is what we would love doing to get the real feel of chicago. Science museum is what I cant miss on and the views from the navy pier will be amazing. Rooftop bar is where we would love spending our evenings. Thanks for sharing this amazing list.

  38. Kirstie Reply

    Actually, what caught my attention was the bonus one. The Rooftop Bar! That seems like a fab place to enjoy the view. Thank you.

  39. Jitaditya Reply

    Lovely snippets of a city I knew but yet I was not familiar with. I finally understand the meaning of the song, Chicago- My Kind of Town, by Sinatra.

    Although it is a very big and famous city, it always came across to me a too big and commercial. That’s why I like these intimate portraits of yours… such as the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier…

  40. Koen Reply

    Great post ! Chicago is high on our travel list. We can def use this for our planning. Love the level of detail. The aquarium looks very fun to visit.

  41. neha Reply

    All of them are beautiful. The Shedd Aquarium and river walk really held my attention in particular. I should remember these for my own trip to Chicago, not going to miss them

  42. Kevin Wagar Reply

    Chicago is one of the coolest cities in the US. And that’s saying a lot! The aquarium is awesome. I didn’t get to the science museum though. I’ll need to do that next time.

  43. SindhuMurthy Reply

    I had never considered Chicago as a travel destination and now I wonder how! I m totally sold on the Shedd Aquarium part. I would so love to visit the rehab for marine animals.

  44. Angelina Reply

    Some great tips, especially the one about Willis Tower’s Skydeck and the secret roof top bar at the Cambria hotel. I’ll keep those in mind should I head east!

  45. Sreeram Reply

    Chicago river walk seems quite interesting. I will be there in the second week of November and this is quite handy to spend my time in Chicago.

  46. Jenn Reply

    The navy pier and Willis Tower’s Skydec look amazing. That’s too bad though on the skydec there are long lines and try to get you in and out. Definitely wouldn’t mind having a glass of wine and taking in the view at Cambria Hotel 🙂

  47. Ami Reply

    I havent been to Chicago as yet though Ash my hubby has and he says its a lovely place. Now I know what he means when he says that I will love the riverside there. And I know that I will also, like that aquarium. Hope to get there sometime. Cheers

  48. Kim Reply

    Thank you for this! My husband and I have been interested in visiting Chicago since we watched the last season of Married At First Sight, which was filmed there. This list will be very handy when we get there!

  49. Jenn and Ed Coleman Reply

    I was just looking at a friend’s map of the Chicago Waterfront and lost a bet on what building was what (I said Shedd’s, he said Navy Pier). There is just so much to do in that little space between Shedd’s and the Navy Pier. We haven’t been to Chicago in for ever but we’ll have to take a long weekend to visit. It’s such an amazing city and (especially if the weather is nice) you can see everything by foot.

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