Chicago - Attractions
Attractions and Sightseeing
A city that continues to astound many on a number of different levels, Chicago has something to offer almost every traveler. From the magnificent architecture that has made it famous throughout the world to the hundreds of free activities for families, it’s a template for other cities that long to be tourist destinations.
Sightseeing In Chicago
When it comes to sightseeing in Chicago, most people start with The Loop. The Loop is essentially the inner circle of Chicago’s downtown core. If you are staying at a downtown hotel, as most people do when they come for conventions or for a vacation, you can simply ask the front desk at your hotel which attractions in The Loop are in which direction and set out on foot. Chicago has an excellent blend of public transit, taxis and walkable streets, so you can enjoy much of what there is to see here without having to get in a car.
The Loop features an interesting mix of business people going about their day, convention folk who are doing the half business, half tourist bit, and tourists checking out the various museums, beaches and other things to do. You can spend many an hour during the day soaking in the buzz from the clamor of the big city and stay in this neighborhood at night for the restaurants, clubs and general sleeplessness a city of this size offers. If you love the big city, the Loop will likely be the focus of your Chicago vacation.
You don’t have to be brave to hop in a canoe or kayak and take a trip down the Chicago River, but it sure helps. This is the ultimate way to experience how big and how intimidating the skyline here really is. Not only will you get some amazing pictures, you are sure to see some wildlife in various areas, too. There has been a real push in recent years to build more parks and more sustainable housing on the banks of the river, and this green revolution has only made this journey even more of a must for tourists and for locals, alike.
Andersonville is one of the most charming and notable neighborhoods in the city. It is a confluence of many different cultures that have come and gone from this patch of land over the years. You will find a bustling Swedish community here, alongside a Middle Eastern contingent right next to a vibrant gay community. The result is that you have delis, craft shops, can’t miss café’s and then nightlife all packed into one area. Many GLBT tourists find that Andersonville takes a full day or more to explore, so make a point to go out of your way and check out this charming community.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Address: 2200 N. Cannon Dr., Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL
The Lincoln Park Zoo is not only one of the best known zoos in the Midwest, it is free, each and every day. Chicago is actually known around the country for having so many low cost and free attractions, especially ones that the younger set will enjoy. If you’ve visited the zoo and are looking for other fun things that won’t cost too much, check out the Navy Pier and Millennium Park. Both spots are beautiful and will have you clicking away on your camera. Transit serves both areas well but it is a good idea to stay away late at night as the lighting can be poor in places.
National Museum of Mexican Art
Address: 1852 W 19th St
A visit to a truly multicultural city like Chicago isn’t complete without a trip to the beautiful National Museum of Mexican Art. This wonderful museum is packed with interesting exhibits that showcase Mexican art from different parts of the country and showcases the impact Mexican culture has had on our own over the years. The Chicago South Side Community Arts Center is another great place to go for art that focuses on minority groups and ethnic influences. Finally, the Oriental Institute is known all over the world for its authentic and educational displays and lectures on Asian culture.
Address: 233 S. Wacker Dr
Of course, no trip to Chicago is complete without a trip to The Sears Tower. This massive building held the title as the tallest in the world for quite a few years, and still does if you consider which building in the world has the highest occupied floor, it is still a must see attraction. The addition of enclosed glass perches that allow you to step out and look at the view from over 100 stories in the air have attracted a whole new wave of tourist. Just the elevator ride up to the SkyDeck is worth the visit. The deck is packed full of exhibits and information about how the building came to be and the fact that you can see four states from that high up. There is a bit of a security delay here, but it is worth it.
Address: 1060 W Addison St
Address: 1901 W Madison St
Of course, Chicago is a world class city that offers a lot to do for the sports fan in you. The teams here have experienced a good amount of success in recent years, although the loveable losers that call Wrigley Field are still waiting for their next World Series title. Visitors in the summer can check out games on both the north side and south side of the city with the White Sox and Cubs playing 82 home dates from April to September. Winter is highlighted by the NHL’s Blackhawks and the NBA’s Bulls both playing in the United Center. Perhaps the most beloved team in Chicago plays at the recently renovated Soldier’s Field. The NFL’s Bears are a big attraction here from September to December, but you may need a bit of help from your hotel concierge to get a ticket as games tend to sell out minutes after tickets go on sale. There are a handful of other sports leagues in the city, as well, including Major League Soccer and Chicago Speedway plays host to NASCAR events and other racing leagues, as well. This is one city that takes its sports very seriously.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Address: Lake Cook Rd. and U.S. 41
Address: 201 E Randolph St
It is truly amazing when you consider how huge Chicago is that there is so much in the way of green space to see here. Millennium Park was mentioned above, as was much of the space down by the Chicago River, but that’s just for starters. The Chicago Botanic Garden is on par with many similar places in Europe and the Garfield Park Conservatory is equally worth a visit, as is the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Chicago is such a green city that it is almost difficult to not run into a park as you explore downtown. The urban planners here got this city right.
Smith Museum of Stained Glass
Address: Navy Pierf
Address: 5550 S Greenwood Ave
Intuit: Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art
Address: 756 N Milwaukee Avenue
Address: 224 South Michigan Avenue
Hyde Park Art Center
Address: 5020 S. Cornell Avenue
City Gallery at Historic Water Tower
Address: 806 N. Michigan Avenue
If you are still hunting high and low for free things to do in Chicago and you have a desire to see some incredible art, you may want to consider any of the following spots. They all offer interesting and high quality art and they are all completely free. You can start at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass and see some of the most breathtaking stained glass images in the world and then move on to the Smart Museum and then on to the fascinating Intuit: Center for Intuitive & Outsider Art. Still have a desire for more? Check out the Archicenter/CitySpace Gallery, the Hyde Park Art Center and finally the City Gallery at Historic Water Tower. That is more than enough to fill an entire day, which is why people often find themselves booking several trips in a row to The Windy City.
It is important to note that the places mentioned above will easily take you two or more weeks to check out, but they represent only a small fraction of what there is to see in this amazing city. The best part about Chicago, and this is true of many European cities, is that the best time you will have is simply exploring, walking around and creating your own fun. For some, hunkering down in a café by Lake Michigan on a lazy summer’s day with a book and a cup of excellent coffee is all the fun they need.