10 Top Things to Do in Chicago

View of the Chicago skyline around the Chicago Theatre

Cory Giguere 

Chicago boasts a large number of tourist attractions, but there is undoubtedly a select handful that is by far the most popular with visitors.

Located on Lake Michigan in Illinois, Chicago ranks with New York City and Las Angeles as cities that draw visitors for the U.S. and internationally. People come to see it's bold architecture and skyscrapers such as the John Hancock Center, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower.

Chicago is known for its skyline, the museums, and the parks. Here are some of the most significant tourist destinations in the Windy City, which range from Lincoln Park Zoo to President Obama's Hyde Park home.

01 of 10

Watch the Water Show at Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago, Illinois
Andre Gallant/The Image Bank/Getty Images
301 S Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
+1 312-742-7529

Opened May 26, 192 7, the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park is one of Chicago's most recognizable landmarks, and its hourly water show in the summer is fun for young and old. Donated to the city by Kate Buckingham, the Buckingham Fountain is Chicago's centerpiece along the Lake Michigan shore and is a popular destination spot for visitors and locals alike. Made out of gorgeous pink Georgia marble, the real attraction of the fountain is the water, light, and music show that takes place every hour. Controlled by a computer in its underground pump room, it's a dazzling display that makes for a fantastic photo opportunity and a picture perfect background—which is why you'll inevitably see a wedding party having portraits taken there during milder weather.

02 of 10

Get Your Thrills on the 360 Chicago Observation Deck

360 Chicago Observation Deck

 Cory Giguere 

875 N Michigan Avenue, 94th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
+1 888-875-8439

The 360 Chicago Observation Deck (formerly John Hancock Observatory) may not be as high as the Willis Tower Skydeck, but at 1,000 feet up, the view of Chicago is still breathtaking. The observation deck located in the historic John Hancock Building is the place to go for breathtaking 360-degree views of Lake Michigan and the city.

If that isn't enough, they offer "Chicago's highest thrill ride," an enclosed moving platform the will tilt you over the streets below from the 94th floor.

After the scenic thrills, enjoy a cocktail at the Signature Room on the 95th floor.

03 of 10

Visit the Animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Cory Giguere 

2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
+1 312-742-2000

Nestled among lagoons and mature trees, Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the most beautiful in the country, featuring historical architecture and world-class wildlife exhibits. It's easy to spend an entire day at this tranquil, intimate destination and forget that the bustling city of Chicago is right beyond its boundaries.

Open 365 days a year with free admission to all, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a premier Chicago attraction.

04 of 10

Stroll Millennium Park

The Cloud Gate at Chicago's Millennium Park

Cory Giguere 

201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602, USA
+1 312-742-1168

Millennium Park is now one of the highlights of the city and rivals the Lincoln Park Zoo as Chicago's best free attraction. The Bean (officially known as Cloud Gate) is quickly on its way to becoming Chicago's most recognizable icon. It is located on the east side of downtown, bordered on the west by Michigan Avenue, on the east by Columbus Drive, on the north by Randolph Street, and on the south by Monroe Street. Primary Chicago public transportation to the park is either the Michigan Avenue CTA bus #151 or the Red Line subway train, Randolph stop. Admission to Millennium Park is free and is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Have Fun at Navy Pier


 Cory Giguere

Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

Originally a shipping and recreational facility, Navy Pier has a rich history and has evolved into one of the most popular spots for people visiting Chicago. Navy Pier is separated into these areas: Gateway Park, Family Pavilion, South Arcade, Navy Pier Park and Festival Hall.

One of the fun areas of Navy Pier to take kids to is the Family Pavilion, home to the 50,000-square-foot Chicago Children's Museum, an IMAX Theater, the Crystal Gardens indoor botanical park and numerous restaurants and shops.

In another section, you can catch harbor cruises. Navy Pier and its park is the place to go for summer concerts, high-flying rides like the huge Ferris wheel, and a miniature golf course.

06 of 10

Drive by President Obama's Home


 Cory Giguere 

5046 S Greenwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60615, USA

The Obamas' home address is 5046 S. Greenwood Ave., and it's located in Hyde Park on the South Side. It's also about a five-minute drive to the Museum of Science and Industry.

The former president's home is in a lovely historic neighborhood. You can visit Burnham Park where the Obama family often walked. The park greenery starts just South of Grant Park and is best known for its beautiful harbor and skateboarding park. Also in the park is Promontory Point, a peninsula designed by landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, where you can get some amazing views of the Chicago skyline.

07 of 10

Visit Sea Life at Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
+1 312-939-2438

With almost two million visitors a year, the Shedd Aquarium easily qualifies as one of Chicago's most popular attractions. And rightly so—it's one of the premier aquariums in the country. A word to the wise: get there early, or you may be greeted with a long line snaking out the door and all the way down the aquarium's steps. Shedd Aquarium is part of Chicago's Museum Campus.

08 of 10

Go Out on the Ledge at Willis Tower Skydeck

View from the Willis Tower deck (formerly the Sears Tower)

 Cory Giguere 

Willis Tower Skydeck, Chicago, IL 60606, USA

Soaring at 110 stories tall, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is the tallest building in North America and remains a huge tourist attraction, namely due to the Sears Tower Skydeck observatory offering a view of Chicago at 1,353 feet (412 meters).

On the 103rd floor, you'll be awed by the views extending to four states as you stand in clear observation boxes which include the scary "Ledge." Those who are not afraid of heights can step outside (while in the observation box) and look down. The Ledge’s glass boxes extend out 4.3 feet from the Skydeck.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Relive Baseball History at Wrigley Field

Exterior of Wrigley Field

 Cory Giguere 

1060 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613, USA
+1 773-404-2827

Games at Wrigley Field consistently sell out; it's home of the Chicago Cubs. Fans and tourists come to soak in the history of the United States' second oldest ballpark and enjoy the party atmosphere of the crowd, especially in the bleacher seats.

10 of 10

Explore Egypt at The Field Museum

The famous Field Museum is a natural history museum in the Grant Park's Museum Campus. Popular things to see include the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit, where you can go into a reconstruction of a three-story Egyptian tomb. Kids always want to visit SUE, the museum's T. rex, the largest, most complete T. rex fossil ever unearthed.

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Top Things to Do in Chicago