Things to do in Chicago
Chicago’s diverse blend of design, art, culture, music, and architecture means you’ll never run out of things to do in Chicago. For a relaxing, loosely structured day, visit Millennium Park to take in views of the Chicago waterfront and admire Cloud Gate, Chicago’s famous reflective bean sculpture. Stimulate your artistic side with a visit to Museum Campus, which houses three museums in one, and showcases the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton, among other amazing treasures. One of the most popular things to do in Chicago is to visit the Chicago Blues Festival. Taking place over three days and across five stages, this festival, celebrating Chicago’s foundational role in the blues movement, draws more than half a million fans from around the world to celebrate the scene’s past, present and future. Created in 1984 to honor Muddy Waters, one of the progenitors of the Chicago blues style, the festival has hosted famous performers like BB King, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, and Chuck Berry. (Jazz lovers can take in the Chicago Jazz Festival, too).
More cerebral Chicago activities come courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which operates nearly 90 different tours, which you can take by boat, by bus, or on foot, and which cover everything from the city’s ultramodern skyscrapers to the historic downtown district and tours of various neighbourhoods. The foundation also organizes an Appetite for Design series, which merges culinary and architectural appreciation at some of Chicago’s top restaurants.
A space dedicated to more than 90 merchants and their wares, Andersonville Galleria is a truly distinct destination in the city. This neighborhood favorite sells clothing, jewelry, artwork, housewares, accessories, antiques, and gourmet treats; and supports small, local retailers.
In a neighborhood dotted with music venues, this instrument shop fits right in. Even if you’re not in the market for a vintage Fender, the sheer number of guitars in this place is remarkable, making it seem more a museum than a store.
On a clear, warm day, admire Chicago’s architecture from a unique vantage point: the Chicago River. Wateriders offers guided kayak tours through downtown Chicago for a truly one-of-a-kind sightseeing experience that includes Willis Tower, Wrigley Building, and Merchandise Mart.
Founded by two Polish brothers, Gene’s boasts 40 varieties of artisan smoked meats and naturally cased sausages, prepared in-house, as well as an equally impressive assortment of imported beers and wines, and European candies, condiments, and foodstuffs for picnicking.
Specializing in artisanal cheese, bread, and wine, Pastoral is a neighborhood favorite. Its sandwiches, made with crusty bread from beloved Bennison’s Bakery and stacked with top-quality meats and cheeses, are some of the best in the city.
Owned by a mother and daughter team, Tula sells a well-edited collection of European and contemporary designs in a charming vintage brownstone. Find the perfect open back sweater, linen scarf, and beaded clutch in this welcoming boutique.
Chicago Gallery News provides free tours of River North’s many galleries on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet the guide on the corner of Franklin and Chicago (in front of the Starbucks) for a tour of four art galleries.
Always wished you could play the washboard? The Old Town School can help. They also offer lessons in playing the guitar, saxophone, or djembe drums, as well as gospel singing and Flamenco and hip-hop dancing, to name a few.
It’s only fitting that Chicago—home to the second-largest Mexican population in the United States—would have a world-class museum dedicated to Latino arts.
Specializing in outsider and contemporary pop art, Mars Gallery is said to possess a special energy due to its location atop a purported vortex within the earth. Whether you’re a believer of the energetic vortex or not, the regular exhibitions are worth a visit to this one-of-a-kind gallery.
Amid countless coffee chains, Fabcakes is a welcome change for your caffeine fix. Red velvet-draped walls add to the cozy atmosphere of this café, where customers enjoy freshly baked goods and lattes flavored with homemade syrups, like pepper-fig and vanilla-rose.
Housed in a former gear factory, the Lillstreet Art Center, founded in 1975, accommodates students, teachers, and lovers of art in this spacious brick building. The gallery and gift shop showcase the work of both emerging and recognized artists.