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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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!
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