This post has information on the best things to do in Chicago, including nighttime, free, as well as family-friendly events and activities. But before you take a look at all these great activities, let us help you get downtown from Chicago’s two major airports: Midway and O’Hare.
Planning a visit to Chicago can be overwhelming with the sheer number of world-class attractions. Our suggestions for the top things to do in Chicago are listed below.
For more ideas on top popular attractions, check out our comparison guide on tourist discount passes, which could help you save money on entry fees.
Chicago has multiple well-loved professional sports teams, which means that no matter when you come to the city there will most likely be a game happening somewhere.
Click here to see all the matches in Chicago.
Many of these teams will play evening games during their regular seasons, so this could be an excellent activity to enjoy after dark.
For more things to do in the evening, please read our nighttime activities section.
One of the top things Chicago is known for is the diverse and impressive architecture you’ll find around the city. Learn about the different styles and time periods on a guided Architecture Tour of Chicago.
Just as there are many diverse bridges, buildings, and structures, there are diverse ways of seeing it all and learning about the architects.
The biggest architecture enthusiasts will enjoy the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s over 3-hour bus tour.
There is an abundance of great venues where you can find live music in Chicago. The city has a wealth of local bands and also frequently attracts big-name artists.
If you’re interested in going to a concert, make sure to check and see what’s on at the following venues:
Click here to find all the concerts in the city. No matter the genre you’re into, we’re sure you’ll find it!
The best introduction to Chicago is to take a tour.
Free Tours by Foot offers walking tours of Chicago of various neighborhoods, including the Loop, the Riverwalk, and specialty tours like an evening Chicago Ghost Tour.
If you’re looking for something a bit more exciting than walking, there are many ways to explore the city:
Foodies can get excited about Chicago’s culinary culture on food tours, as well. You can sample your way through different neighborhoods with these self-guided food tours:
Chicago’s theatre scene is a close second to New York’s Broadway (well, we think so!). Find all the theatrical performances in Chicago here.
We also recommend taking a tour of the Chicago Theatre before or after catching a show.
The crowd-pleasing Blue Man Group has year-round shows in Chicago. If you book soon enough, you could get seats in the Splash Zone and end up covered in colorful paint!
The best way to see a show on a budget is during Chicago’s Theatre Week.
One of the most well-known attractions in Chicago is the Navy Pier.
It is a highlight of visitors’ visits to the Lake Michigan shore at any time of year, thanks to Winter Wonderland when it’s cold out and fireworks in the summer.
Here you’ll find boat tours (it’s an actual pier), the Chicago Children’s Museum, restaurants, and entertainment.
Find out more about how you can spend a few hours at the pier with our post about things to do at the Navy Pier.
Chicago has an impressive skyline day or night. And you can see it all from a birds-eye view and marvel at the architecture from one of the city’s observation decks.
The main Observation Decks in Chicago are:
Each is included for free on at least a few of the tourist attraction discount passes.
From river cruises to the waters of Lake Michigan, there are multiple boat tours available to take.
One of the most popular options is to have an enjoyable lunch or dinner on the water to relax and have fun with your travel buddies or family.
These lunch and dinner cruises usually last 2 to 3 hours.
From interesting architecture and museums to public art and sports stadiums, Chicago has plenty of popular attractions to see.
Some of the Popular Attractions Include:
For a list of even more fun attractions take a look at the section below.
Visitors can save up to 50% on retail admission prices with a Chicago tourist pass. These services provide heavy discounts at some of the most popular attractions in the city.
Here are a few of the sites you can visit with various discount passes, which include great year-round activities such as:
If you plan to visit even a few of these attractions, you could easily save quite a few dollars as well as time, since select attractions on these cards have skip-the-line passes.
To find out which city pass will save you the most, read our full post.
Honorable Mention: Take a Food Tour
If you want help finding the best dishes in Chicago, consider taking a Secret Food Tour. This outing includes tastings at 6 different locations, giving you a good sense for the most popular meals in the city.
Guests can expect to enjoy samples of deep dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, pierogis, multiple chocolates and more.
In addition to all the great food, you can also get an upgraded drink package if you’re interested in having a few good brews along the way.
Alternatively, if you’re more interested in trying out local drinks, you can also take their Secret Beer Tour, which includes a variety of ales and even a few snacks!
For even more great options, check our post covering Chicago food tours.
Chicago has some exciting nightlife and entertainment to enjoy, from tours to live music and open-late attractions.
See our full post on things to do in Chicago at night for more ideas on what to do.
For more detail, take a look at our full post on things to do in Chicago at night.
There are plenty of things to see and do while visiting Chicago on a budget!
Read our full free things to do in Chicago post for more details. Listed in this section are our top 10 free activities:
For more budget-friendly activities, check out our full free things to do in Chicago post.
Visiting Chicago with the kids? Here are our top ten ideas for family-friendly activities.
Make sure you read our full family-friendly post for more trip inspiration!
For more things to do with the kids, read our family-friendly activities in Chicago post.
Below is a list of many of the best things to see and places to visit in Chicago.
For in-depth information on how to visit these attractions, simply click on the site’s name and you will find ticket prices, tips on getting discounts, and what you can see while there.
Top Chicago Attractions:
We think any time is the best time to visit Chicago. See our monthly posts to see what’s happening when you are in town.
Winter Season (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb)
Springtime (March, April, May)
Summer in the City (June July, Aug)
Fall (Sept, Oct)