This post lists the top 10 things to do in Chicago. Actually, the list gives dozens of ideas for you to take in the night in the Windy City. You’re in Chicago, why not enjoy the nightlife? Check out our Chicago Visitors Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Chicago attractions.
Coming to Chicago with the family? Check below our Top 10 Things to do for a special section on Things to Do in Chicago at Night with Kids!
Ghost tours, a stroll on the Riverwalk, and architecture cruises on the Chicago River are just some of the great nighttime tours that you could take.
Free Tours By Foot offers this pay what you like walking tour seasonally, so check out the calendar and see what other tours we have!
The Chicago Theatre District offers a variety of live performances at renowned venues. The Chicago Theatre presents top-billing shows and concerts, Goodman Theatre is the largest and oldest non-profit theatre in Chicago, and the Broadway in Chicago playhouses present New York’s most popular musicals.
In the mood for dining and a show? Check out Tommy Gun’s Garage Dinner and Show to be transported back to the roaring 20s.
Tip: On a budget and looking to save on ticket prices? Goldstar, Groupon or LivingSocial all offer discounts on the hottest shows in town! The Goodman offers half-price tickets in the mezzanine day of performance! All discounts subject to availability.
Every third Thursday of the month from 6 pm until 10 pm, visit Adler Planetarium for full access to unlimited shows and exhibits, as well as themed guests and lectures that change each month. You won’t find a better nighttime view anywhere in Chicago. Cocktails, alcoholic beverages, and snacks are all available to purchase. Great date night idea!
4. Meet the Blue Man Group
The Blue Man Group mixes music, humor, and technology to create an electric experience that has captured audiences of all ages worldwide for over 25 years! Conveniently located at the Briar Street Theatre at 3313 N. Halsted, you and your family/friends can have a wild night you’ll never forget!
Tip: Book early and reserve the Splash Zone seats. Get ready to be covered in neon colors as the group sends paint splattering out of one-of-a-kind instruments while you and your friends dance and shout!
No matter what time of year, there’s a game going on somewhere! Be part of the Crosstown Classic, where Northsiders cheer on the Cubs at Wrigley Field and Southsiders root for the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
6. Experience Live Music
There are endless choices for live music in a city as large as Chicago, from local bands at hundreds of bars and restaurants to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the most renowned symphonies in the world.
Visiting Chicago and looking to have a night out? Why not do something outrageous, like going to one of the many celebrated high-end clubs? Smart Bar offers techno and electro styles, Primary Nightclub has an impressive dance floor and LED screen, The Mid has two levels of fun, and The Underground hosts VIPs and celebrity athletes and movie stars.
Chicago Helicopter Experience offers nighttime public helicopter tours above Lake Michigan starting at $178 a person! Operating year round Wednesdays through Sundays, you can marvel at the beautiful Buckingham Fountain, Navy Pier, and the cityscape lit up!
Private tours are also available, and can really make for a memorable evening. The Helicopters seat up to 6 guests, so gather friends and book your tour now.
The Windy City is famous for generating some of the biggest legends of comedy: Steve Carell, Jim Belushi, Steven Colbert, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bill Murray…the list goes on!
Don’t leave Chicago without going to a night show at Second City, iO, or Annoyance Theater, which all offer extremely affordable tickets! You’re likely to recognize some celebrities, and may even catch them performing!
No, really! The Chicago Riverwalk is a hidden gem of Chicago Downtown. Open 24 hours, you can stroll along six blocks of a continuously landscaped path along the Chicago River any time of night.
From State Street to Lake Street, each block has its own identity, separated by overhead bridges. If you want a romantic spot to take in the twinkling city, you’ll find it at the Riverwalk!
Join us from April through October on our free Chicago Riverwalk Tour.
You don’t have to stay in with the kids after the sun goes down in Chicago. There are many fun things to do in the evening that the whole family will enjoy. Here are some of our favorite activities that are good clean fun after dark, and the kids can come, too!
Try an Escape Room
Room Escape Adventures 410 S. Michigan Ave., Closest L stop: State/Van Buren Brown Line; recommended ages 8 and up
Escape rooms have become very popular group activities recently. Guests enter into pulse-pounding environments and will work together to find clues to escape the room within a certain period of time. Room Escape Adventures is conveniently located on Michigan Ave. Games at Room Escape Adventures include escaping a room with a zombie, and cracking a code on New Year’s Eve 1999 before Y2K hits!
Tip: Book your spots at their website, and Free Tours By Foot customers can enter the code FREEFOOT for $5 off their booking!
Family-friendly improv comedy
ComedySportz 929 W. Belmont Ave., Closest L stop: Belmont Red/Brown line; All ages welcome
Chicago is a popular destination for comedy lovers, and it is double the fun when the comedy is made up on the spot! One of Chicago’s top improv comedy options is ComedySportz, in which two comedy teams “compete” for laughs, encouraging the audience’s participation and suggestions. The comedy is safe for the whole family; in fact, the comedy teams are penalized in their competition if they accidentally say anything naughty! Shows are 8pm Thursdays and Fridays, and 6pm and 10pm Saturdays.
Check out this review on Trip Advisor: “We took a 4, 7 and 9 year old to the show and they all loved it! The 7 year old loved it the best because he got to participate on stage. We all laughed a lot and will remember this night!”
Tip: the comedians will ask for suggestions from the audience before most skits; be ready to shout out something that will make their next skit crazy!
See a Play
There are many touring shows in and out of Chicago through Broadway in Chicago or a Hot Tix Booth. Here are some tips to find discount tickets. You never know when there will be a hit musical or family-friendly show! There are a few fantastic local shows that are consistently here in Chicago. Barrel of Monkey’s performs a family-friendly show called “That’s Weird Grandma” every Monday night that will get everyone to giggle. If your kiddos are very young, try Emerald City Theatre Company or the Chicago Children’s Theatre.
Waveland Bowl, 3700 N. Western Ave., Closest L stop: Addison Brown Line; bowlers of all ages welcome
Bowling is always a great option for a family outing, and it is even more fun when the alley goes dark! When a bowling alley goes “cosmic”, the lights go down, black lights glow, and the music gets everyone dancing in between their turns. Waveland Bowl has cosmic bowling every night Thursday-Monday at different hours. The alley is open until 1am during the week, and 3am on weekends. With snacks and dinner options at Alley Dogs, the family can spent the whole evening eating and bowling under black lights!
Check out this Yelp review from one recent guest: “Love this Chicago institution! Love the staff, the owners, the facilities. The location is great too.”
Tip: Save money on the kids’ admission by registering at kidsbowlfree.com, and kids 14 and under bowl two games free! This is good from May 1 through October 1.
Paint your own pottery
Glazed Expressions 717 W. Armitage Ave, Closest L stop: Armitage Brown Line; painters of all ages (who are careful with breakable pottery) are welcome
Young artists will love the opportunity to paint and decorate a piece of pottery. At Glazed Expressions in Lincoln Park kids and adults can select pottery to paint and explore their artistic sides until their work is perfect for them! Stop by after taking our Lincoln Park walking tour.
Tip: Make sure to arrive at least two hours before closing time (9pm Wed-Sat, 6pm Sun, 7pm M-T), because art always takes longer than we expect!
Tip #2: Your artwork will not be ready to take home that night! It will be glazed and heated in the kiln after you are finished. It will be ready to be picked up after 7 days, and you must pick it up after a week, but before a month later. Plan accordingly!
Dinner at a kid-friendly restaurant
SafeHouse Chicago, 60 E. Ontario St. Closest L stop: Grand/State Red line; EscapeHouse recommends ages 14 and up, but younger children can participate
Chicago needs no introduction when it comes to food, and some restaurants have created an entire experience for the whole family. A fun option for the entire night is SafeHouse Chicago, a spy-themed restaurant that lets kids explore secret passageways while they are waiting for their food. After dinner, another popular escape room, EscapeHouse Chicago, is right next door, with 2 experiences to choose from: escaping the White House, or escaping the Safe House.
Tip: Spend the whole afternoon and evening on the Mag Mile! Book our Magnificent Mile walking tour for the afternoon, and then enjoy some shopping, prior to dinner and the escape room at night.
Enjoy a Musical performance
Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., closest L stop: Western Brown Line; recommended ages 12 and up, all ages for Kid Concerts
There are a lot of options to see and hear some live music in Chicago. If you want to bring the kids out in the evening, the Old Town School of Folk Music is kid-friendly, as it is also a music education center. It has concerts that have reasonable start times. Be on the lookout for Kid Concerts and the frequent Teen Open Mic nights!
There is not a bad seat in the house. Here’s what one Yelper wrote about the concert experience: “Kudos to the superb acoustics and intimacy that the Old Town School of Folk Music concert hall provides that maximize the musicians’ connection with the audience.”
Watch Loyola basketball
Loyola Rambers basketball – Gentile Arena, 6525 N. Sheridan Ave; closest L stop: Loyola Red Line
Everyone knows about Chicago’s major sports teams: the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, and Blackhawks. Why not try a different atmosphere and see last year’s local Final Four heroes? This is a budget friendly experience! The Loyola University Ramblers basketball men’s and women’s teams are sure to make Gentile Arena on the city’s far north side an exciting place to be this upcoming season.
School spirit is sure to be at an all-time high! Purchase tickets for upcoming games through the Loyola Ramblers website for games that begin in November.
Family Fun at Navy Pier
Navy Pier 600 E. Grand Ave.; nearest L stop: Grand/State Red Line
No list of evening activities for the whole family would be complete without highlighting Navy Pier. One of the most visible images along Chicago’s lakeshore is the Centennial Wheel, a giant ferris wheel in Pier Park that gives an incredible view of the city- especially with the glittering lights at night. Navy Pier hosts the Chicago Children’s Museum, which has extended hours on Thursdays, open until 8pm and is free admission from 5-8pm. And finally, the entire family can enjoy a movie at the Imax, or a show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. During the summertime- stick around for the fireworks that are on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Tip: Admission into Navy Pier is free; each ride will require paid tickets. Parking can be pricey, so be on the lookout for the seasonally-operated Free Navy Pier Trolley Service, which stops at the Grand/State Red Line stop.