Top 10 attractions in Chicago

Fun fact: Chicago has the most moveable bridges than any other city in the world.

by Sharon

Famously known as the windy city, Chicago boasts beautiful attractions ranging from magnificent architecture, fabulous lakefront, beautiful outdoor spaces, cultural and historical institutions, world-class museums, and endless shopping options. With the broad array of things to see and do, Chicago promises a valuable time with family and friends to remember for ages. The beautiful skyline is one of the city’s remarkable features, reflecting beautiful photographs for its visitors.

Visitors can wine and dine in one of the vibrant restaurants in the city, learn more about history and culture, as well as explore the beautiful beaches that stretch along the waterfront.

A visit to Chicago is not complete without an experience of some of the city’s skyscrapers, such as the 360 Chicago observation wheel, which gives beautiful views of the city. Chicago is indeed a touristy city with numerous activities to engage in. This article will cover the top ten attractions you should consider on your next visit to the city. Let’s get started!

The top 10 attractions in Chicago

1. Navy Pier

navy pier

Navy Pier

Navy Pier, a 3,300-foot-long pier situated on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, is a top attraction in Chicago that boasts an array of family attractions, diverse arts, gardens, cultural treasures, and more. Initially designed for shipping and recreational activities, this place has evolved into a giant entertainment and exposition center over the years.

One of the first attractions that catch your attention in Navy Pier is the 200-foot giant Centennial observation wheel, one piece of Chicago’s treasured history. Soar to the heights and experience Chicago’s beautiful skylines and the whole city’s views. The historic carousel rides, speedboat tours, architecture, and sightseeing would be much fun to top up your experience.

If you are visiting with kids, a look into the children’s museum would be great for the kids to have a good time with the fun activities like digging bones on a dinosaur expedition, dressing up as a firefighter, panting in an art studio, amongst others.
A tour into the crystal Gardens, one of the city’s only indoor green spaces, would send you to a deep appreciation of the peace and beauty that comes with nature.

Adults would also enjoy watching actors perform the classics in the Shakespeare Theater or catch a movie at the 3D IMAX Theater. There are many shopping and unique dining experiences to explore also. Sable hotel would be a perfect place to spend your night and wake up to the Lake views at dawn.

2. Art Institute of Chicago

art institute of chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

At downtown Chicago sits the art institute of Chicago, one of the world’s most excellent art museums that owe its existence to the 1893 world expo. The institute is a world-class museum with thousands of diverse artworks, artifacts, writings, reference materials, books, and other resources. This is the place to be if you are visiting Chicago for history and art.

Most visitors who tour the institute are impressed by the impressionist and post-impressionist painting collections. Some of the museum’s iconic collections include Grant Wood’s American Gothic, George Seurat’s ‘A Sunday on La,’ and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. A walk into the museum’s modern wing gives you more exposure to the contemporary masterpieces by famous artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, and Magritte.

The institute also hosts exhibitions on a wide variety of subjects from time to time and showcases a ton of art genres and artists. And through the galleries, you also get exposure to various arts from different parts of the world, stretching from Africa, Asia, Japan, ancient Greece, and America at Large.

3. Millennium Park

millenium park

Millennium park

Whether a local or visiting Chicago for the first time, Millennium Park is a spot you do not want to miss. The Park initially had the intent of celebrating the third millennium, and currently, it is well known for its beautiful landscape, exquisite architecture, and beautiful pieces of public art.

One of the top fascinating attractions here is the cloud gate, famously known as the bean due to its bean-like shape. The 110-ton sculpture forged from stainless steel had its design inspired by liquid mercury. Most people who visit the Park go back with spectacular photos and ‘selfies’ reflections of the Chicago Skyline. Big thanks to the ‘bean’ creator, Artis Anish Kapoor.

The crown fountain is also a fantastic sight that features two fifty-foot towers that confront each other. The towers’ LED screens project different faces of Chicago citizens, perfectly aligned with spouts such that it creates an illusion of mouths spitting water on passersby. Kids enjoy playing around and getting soaked; get prepared to carry extra clothing with you.
A tour into the beautiful serene Lurie gardens, which span about 3.5 acres, would be breathtaking. The lawn in front of the Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavillion would also be a nice place to relax and enjoy live music and performances.

Other activities include visiting the Boeing Galleries, where the contemporary sculpture is displayed outdoors, bicycle and bike tours, and more. A dine at an award-winning restaurant with American cuisine in the Park Grill would also spice up your Millennium Park experience.

4. Museum of Science and Industry

museum of science & industry

Museum of Science & Industry

This is another place you do not want to miss during your visit. The museum of science and industry is the largest in America and feasibly the most impressive museum in Chicago. The museum sits in a 14-acre palace of fine arts, and you sure will get mesmerized by the colossal equipment it accommodates.

The museum is not a place to go and keep your mouth shut with the vast array of activities and hands-on exhibits to engage in. There is more to learn about the war of currents. The famous world Columbia exposition in 1983 brought together some of the most outstanding scientists, including Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. At the time, they competed to prove whether the direct or alternating current was effective.

Curiosity would get you to standing before a 40-foot Tornado, exploring different science experiments and various magical places. The German Submarine, captured during World War II, is another part where you can climb aboard and walk through the interior points. Again, the lighting and sound effects give you an image of the war.

The museum also features exhibits and the Omnimax Theater, which hosts some of the live demonstrations. Other activities would include running into a human-sized hamster wheel and exploring distant stars and planets at the Henry Crown Space Center. Curious minds and science lovers would enjoy a day or two in this museum.

5. Lincoln Park zoo

lincoln park zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo

The incredible Lincoln Park zoo situated in the middle of the expansive Lincoln Park is a great place to tour individually, with friends, or with family. The zoo spans over 35 acres which are home to more than 200 unique species. Aside from being a top attraction, the zoo is free to the public every day, which is affordable.

The zoo hosts different exhibits to showcase the beautiful animals and ecosystems from around the world. A walk into the Regenstein center would introduce you to the African apes. Many visitors find the experience of watching the gorillas and chimpanzees play around very exhilarating. The Kolver seal pool is also a place to get an up-close of the harbor seals.

Away from the animals, the zoo features more than 2,000 individual plants across 1,200 species which beautify the 49-acre landscape. From the fantastic floral displays to the hydrogenous 100-year oak trees, the gardens create a home to native birds, insects, and turtles.

6. The Magnificent Mile

the magnificent mile

The magnificent mile

A visit to Chicago is not complete without setting your toes into the Magnificent Mile. It stretches from oak street to Chicago River, with massive skyscrapers and historic buildings amidst Michigan Avenue.

You can take a bus or walk downtown to get the best views of the streets, which are full of vibrant restaurants, top-rated hotels such as the Intercontinental hotel of Chicago, luxury shops, boutiques, and numerous art galleries. With the diverse brands available, you can be sure to get something from a brand you admire the most.

You can also explore some of the nearby highly rated attractions in Chicago; The Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, and the Chicago Master Tower being one of the longest-standing buildings in Michigan Avenue. Further, one of the buildings that survived the 1871 great Chicago fire.

A visit to the Plaza America would also be fantastic to explore the great nature and statues around.

7. 360 Chicago observation deck

360 chicago observation deck

360 Chicago observation deck

Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago is an excellent observation deck to experience Chicago’s beautiful skyline and views. The giant glass-walled observation deck is on the 94th floor of the John Hancock center building, which gives unparalleled sights of the city’s streets, fantastic architecture, and Lake Michigan. In fact, for a short-lived holiday in Chicago, this place would be convenient to get a glimpse of the whole city.

For more experience of the heights, you could try out an intense tilt ride. The tilt tilts you outwards at an angle where you experience 1030 feet above Chicago and views 55 miles away in any direction. Unfortunately, this is not something interesting for people with acrophobia.

Inside the observation deck, you could grab a classic cocktail or local favorites from bar 94 and enjoy the city’s views while relaxing. The deck further has HD interactive learning screens and exhibits in seven different languages. You can learn about the history of various city sites here and the construction of the John Hancock building.

8. Field Museum of Natural History

field museum of natural history

field museum of natural history

Alongside the shores of Lake Michigan is the Field Museum, originally known as the Columbian Museum of Chicago, which opened doors to the public in 1921. Its existence grew out of the items on display during the 1893 Columbian exposition. The museum later changed its name to honor Marshall Field, the principal benefactor of the museum.

The museum currently houses close to 40 million specimens and artifacts as well as exhibitions. Away from the museum’s history, there is so much to explore here.

Most visitors do not leave the museum without staring at the world’s real Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton called Sue. Sue is forty feet long from the nose to the tail and has 58 terrifying teeth.

There are numerous exhibits where you get to explore an extensive collection of animals of all sizes, from African elephants and giraffes to some American collections. The ancient Egypt exhibit is a must-visit to discover some historical artifacts of some of the distinct processes. Some parts of the show include a three-story replica of an Egyptian tomb and the restoring Earth area in the Abbot hall of conservation.

The museum also has the plants of the world exhibits and much to explore.

9. Shedd Aquarium

shedd aquarium

Shedd aquarium

Being one of the world’s largest aquariums, Shedd is an incredible place to visit with family and friends. The aquarium houses nearly 32,000 aquatic lives, some of which you probably have not seen anywhere in any aquarium. The adorable penguins, Piranhas, whales, sharks, and the giant pacific octopus are among the creatures you will encounter face to face.

There is an array of experiences to engage such as stingray feeding in the stingray touch tank, penguin encounters, touch experiences, to mention a few. The exhibits are pretty exciting, with a lot going on. Head over to the Caribbean Reef exhibition, where you can watch tropical fish swim through a gallon aquarium. The Polar play zone would fill every kid’s heart with happiness, where they dress up their favorite animal costumes and take a virtual tour in a submarine and touch some of the sea stars.

There are more exhibits and the world’s most strange animals to encounter in the aquarium.

10. Chicago Riverwalk and Lake Front Trail

chicago riverwalk

Chicago Riverwalk

To get more adventure of the city’s beautiful skylines, Riverwalk is the perfect place to be. The Chicago River runs amidst the city, where visitors can stroll alongside the green spaces. The River features different activities such as boat tours and Kayaking, where you can get more insights into the city’s most attractive landscapes.

Heading to McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum, there is more to learn about the River’s history and encounters with the most famous moving bridges in the city. The Riverwalk also has art displays, public gardens, and numerous dining options where you can grab a meal at one of the restaurants.

The lakefront poses this paved path that stretches along the western shore of Lake Michigan. The trail is dotted with the most well-known lakeside parks, beaches, and other attractions like Navy Pier and Lincoln Park. Visitors come here to stroll, skate, or cycle down the trail as they enjoy the city’s beautiful scenery.

Final note

There is plenty of attractions to explore in Chicago, with the famous experience of its beautiful skyline that spices up your visit. This article highlights the top ten attractions worth visiting, whether as a local or a tourist.

Some attractions are free to visit, such as the Lincoln zoo, while others require access at a fee. With that, be sure to check on their official websites to familiarize yourself with the prices. Then, plan your visit to the windy city and be sure to learn a lot about the city’s history and have fun from height rides to boat tours and walks along the city’s beautiful streets.

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