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.

Located at the south end of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Chicago History Museum features exhibitions about the city’s compelling past.

A friendly neighborhood hangout, Café Marianao serves sandwiches and café con leche in a bustling, bilingual atmosphere. Even if your Spanish is rusty, the satiating effect of a cubano doble will break down any language barriers.

A Lakeview institution, Schubas Tavern has featured nightly live music for more than 20 years. The building itself, constructed by the Schlitz Brewery more than 100 years ago, is a Chicago Historic Landmark, and on the exterior two old Schlitz globe logos are still visible.

Started in the mid-seventies in a church basement by Jeff Perry, Terry Kinney, and Gary Sinise, the famed Steppenwolf Theater Company now has 43 ensemble members, including John Malkovich, Joan Allen, and John Mahoney, and puts on early 700 performances, annually.

This neighborhood favorite offers a selection of delicacies. Choose from a variety of savory pies from the deli: lamp and potato; spinach and feta; parsley, olive, and cheese; and many more. Opt for pistachio, walnut, and almond baklava for dessert.

Founded by two Chicago women designers, Wolfbait & B-girls sells the wares of more than 170 local artisans.

Wrigleyville is the primary destination for many travelers to Chicago. Cubs fans flock to Wrigley Field on game day despite their beloved team’s infamous defeats. Experience the Cubbies’ home field up close in the daily tours offered at Wrigley.

Visit this urban ecosystem at Lincoln Park Zoo, where birds, fish, frogs, turtles, and insects frolic among native plants. Visitors enjoy free admission and a truly restful lull from the bustling city. For the curious, the park’s website offers a field guide.

At the south end of Andersonville, Hopleaf features a variety of craft brews and Belgian beers on draft, as well as more than 250 bottled beers. Come for the beer, but stay for the mussels, steamed Belgium-style in Whittekerke white ale and served with frites and aioli.

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.