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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The airy, bright atmosphere of Greektown’s Atropolis is a welcome respite from the concrete of the city.
Experience downtown at your own pace with Chicago’s Hop On Hop Off Tours. Tours leave from 14 downtown locations every 20-30 minutes. Visitors can buy tickets at various locations, including the Park Shop below the Bean in Millennium Park or online.
One of Chicago’s oldest used bookstores and a Wicker Park institution, Myopic Books offers bibliophiles more than 80,000 editions, including some collectibles.
A stellar bourbon list and a thoughtful craft beer selection make this vintage tin-ceilinged tavern worth the trip off the beaten path. Dim lighting and cool jazz set a chilled-out, retro mood. The closest thing to sports action is the free shuffleboard game in the back.