Choose Your Own Chicago Adventure
Though Chicago is most often referred to as sprawling, exciting and fun, it’s also got a fair claim to “charming.” Different neighborhoods dot the city, changing the atmosphere almost alarmingly quickly, even inside the loop. Different attractions keep the city sparkling with life during all seasons.
If you’re wondering what to do in Chicago, consider popular travel attractions, but leave some time to choose your own adventure. Get inspired by these sample itineraries to see the most of what the Windy City has to offer.
Traveling with kids
- Navy Pier – A visit to Navy Pier helps the kids let off some steam in a family-friendly environment that offers ice skating, a Ferris wheel, a children’s museum and more. There are a few free things to do at the pier, but most indoor attractions are pay.
- Lincoln Park Zoo – The zoo offers free admission daily so kids can get up close to animal species from all over the world.
- Theater – Chicago’s dazzling theater scene is perfect for older kids who want to experience some culture. Broadway in Chicago productions bring renowned productions of classic and modern musicals to Chicago stages.
- American Girl Place – Daughters will love visiting American Girl Place, home to the dolls from the American Girl series. Purchase a doll or doll attire, bring a favorite doll to the doll hospital or dine with her doll at the cafe, which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea.
- Sports – From the Cubs to the Bulls, Chicago sports can be dynamic. Take a tour of Wrigley Field or view a sports game with the family.
Traveling on a budget
When traveling on a budget, it’s important to take advantage of free and low-cost attractions. Whether you’re a college student or simply a savvy budget traveler, don’t miss these Chicago attractions:
- Millennium Park – Nestled in the heart of downtown, Chicago’s Millennium Park features walking gardens, outdoor sculptures and an outdoor music venue designed by Frank Gehry. This will give you a sneak peak of the city’s architecture, and it’s free.
- Magnificent Mile – Window shop Chicago’s esteemed shopping district to get an idea of what makes this Midwestern city tick. Seasonal free events add interest to this year-round attraction.
- Chicago Botanic Garden – Admission to this botanic garden is free, although vehicle parking is pay. Explore 20 different gardens and take the bus to save.
- Art Institute of Chicago – To see this world-famous museum for free, visit on Thursday night when there’s no admission cost.
Traveling for adults
Child-free adults will enjoy the vibrant arts and culture scene in Chicago. These attractions showcase the city’s diversity.
- Skydeck – Check out the view from above in the glass Skydeck, which offers panoramic views of Chicago.
- Architecture cruise – See Chicago’s famous architecture up close with a romantic river cruise. Knowledgeable guides provide an oral history of the city’s architectural gems. Sunset cruises enhance the ambience.
- Fine dining – Chicago offers so much more than deep dish pizza. Reserve a table at one of the city’s finest restaurants to celebrate your vacation.
- Performing arts - Theater, ballet and and contemporary dance offer entertainment for the perfect night out.
These activities represent just a handful of the top attractions in Chicago. Leave yourself time to explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods, shop, relax and recharge and see what makes Chicago so unique.