Chicago

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Logan Square’s residents cheered the reopening of this 1915-built movie house, which has been refurbished in all of its Art Deco glory. Film showings range from new releases to indies and cult classics.

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.

Even if you’re not traveling by train, Chicago’s Union Station is a destination in and of itself. Originally designed by the celebrated architect Daniel Burhma, the Great Hall, with its 18 Corinthian columns, pink marble floor, and five-story vaulted ceiling, is breathtaking.

River North’s neighborhood blues bar, Blue Chicago is notorious for its songstresses. Grana Louise, Big Time Sarah, Laretha Weathersby, Dimetria Taylor, and Shirley Johnson are just some of the blues women who shake up the stage. Catch remarkable acts, nightly.

Those on the hunt for soul classics—as well as classic and contemporary jazz, funk, and reggae beats—can easily kill a day digging in this renowned record shop’s bins overflowing with CDs, LPs, 45s, and other music of the nondigital and downloadable variety.

This delightful nonprofit boutique sells fair-trade and eco-friendly clothing, jewelry, housewares, and foodstuffs from artisans in more than 60 countries. Pick up a recycled messenger rice bag made by artisans in Cambodia or a Tornillo wood platter made by Peruvian carvers.

The airy, bright atmosphere of Greektown’s Atropolis is a welcome respite from the concrete of the city.