Chicago is a great weekend destination and there’s so much to see in and around the city. It was a hard job to choose what we think are the best places to visit, but eventually, we chose ten of the best places to visit in Chicago.
The Magnificent Mile
The magnificent mile is one of Chicago’s most popular attractions. It has hotels, restaurants, things to do, and an amazing atmosphere to soak in.
A good place to start is to take a ride on the magnificent Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier where you can see the surroundings from one thousand feet in the air. Get your bearings and an overview before you start to explore the Magnificent Mile.
The Magnificent Mile runs from the Chicago River to Oak Street. The area was redeveloped just after the Great Depression and War by Arthur Rubloff and William Zeckendorf who purchased the area and constructed a plan to renovate the best older buildings and to build spectacular new ones as well. It was such an extraordinary plan that it was naturally referred to as the Magnificent Mile
People come from all over the world to walk the famous strip with its diverse range of businesses and attractions. Stores like Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Chanel, and Burberry mix with diverse eateries ranging from Donus Stores to upscale dining. There are several attractions in the area as well, such as Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, and the IMAX Theater. The Magnificent Mile is a wonderful place to spend the day.
Navy Pier is the “People’s Pier” a true treasure that sits on Chicago’s waterfront. The atmosphere of the place is something special and unlike anywhere else in Chicago. They also run partnerships and programs that showcase Chicago’s culture and treasures. Navy Pier is a Not for Profit and it exists to serve the community.
Amazingly, it is one of the most visited destinations in the world. It was reopened in 1995 and between then and 2016 it attracted over 9.3 million guests. Originally the pier was built for shipping and recreation it has become a premier entertainment and exhibition venue. Daniel Burnham set the plan in motion in the early years of the 20th century.
“The lakefront by right belongs to the people… it should be made so alluring that it will become the fixed habit of the people to seek its restful presence at every opportunity.”
Navy pier has undoubtedly achieved this dream and between 1916 and 1941 it became a major commercial and cultural success on the lakefront drawing 3.2 million people for live bands, musical acts, concerts plays and so much more. it also served as a pier for package freighters and excursion boats until the arrival of the Great Depression.
From 1942 to 1965 the pier had two major tenants, the US Navy and the University of Illinois. These tenants kept the structure alive during and after the war. When the University moved out, once again the structure was at risk, and the original plan needed to be revised.
From 1990 to 2011 the Pier is reborn as a cultural and commercial center, with the removal of the old shipping facilities. No longer is the pier a place for shipping it is now a destination in its own right.
The final renovation in 2011 modernized the format and added much more green space, making it an attractive destination once more serving the people of Chicago.
Whether you are visiting Chicago for the first time or revisiting; there is one place where you can take in the whole city and get your bearings of not only the center of the city but also the surrounding area, and that is Chicago Observation Deck.
The Observation Tower is so much more than just a place to view the city. They have a program of events that make a trip to the observation deck so much more, with photographers, guides, yoga instructors, magicians, artists, and musicians to locally produced beer and spirits.
The observation deck features High definition interactive touch screens that are available in 6 different languages.
A themed city walking tour with a difference, where you can become part of the world of Chicago Ghost and Gangsters.
Chicago has an international reputation for its Gangster stories from the 1920s until the 1930s with tales of murder and mayhem. Incidents connected with gangsters took place almost and many famous Gangster Shootouts.
The Gangster Tour tells tales of the history behind famous Gangsters and the murders they committed. You also get to visit the modern-day crime scenes where reminders of these tales still exist.
You can take a stroll through the home of the Chicago Cubs and see behind the scenes at Wrigley Field. During the tour, you will have the opportunity to view the field from the nest seats in the house. There are tours on both game days and on-game days starting in March each year.
Non-Game Day Tours
You may be able to visit:
- The Seating Bowl
- Press Box
- Visitors Clubhouse
- Cubs Clubhouse
- Cubs Dugout
- A chance to step on the field
You may be able to visit
- The Seating Bowl
- Press Box
- Batting Cage
- A chance to step on the field
The average length of these tours is 75-90 minutes
Your chance to experience wildlife in the center of Chicago. The Zoo reopens March 5-7th 2021 after they finish an extensive remodel job. Driving by a I saw many Painting Companies in Chicago surrounding the zoo.
In normal years 3.7 million people visit the zoo. Outside the Pandemic the zoo is open 365 days every year and admission is free. There is always something happening at the zoo and it is a fun place to visit,
The zoo is very unusual in that admission is free. This is achieved because 80% of the operating costs are covered by zoo members, donors, and visitors. They also get a subsidy from the Chicago Park District to cover the remaining costs.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is home to over 200 species of animals and is committed to animal care and welfare. The zoo features a natural plant ecosystem and is full of plants, trees, and flowers.
The zoo also has an active role in animal conservation projects and they attempt to educate visitors on environmental issues.
In 1883 the author Mark Twain wrote some words about Chicago which even today are proving correct. His words were,
“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago. She outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them.”
Chicago had only been in existence 46 years when Twain spoke those words. By then the city had already grown from a small trading post and increased in size by 100 times. Since those days it has grown to be one of the largest cities in the USA.
Millennium Park was the top tourist destination for Chicago and the mIdwest in 2017. It offers 25 acres of mixed architecture, gardens, grand pavilions, and fountains that are delightful to wander amongst. There always seems to be a free cultural event at the park, that are created for all ages to enjoy.
Things you should not miss at Millennium Park are:
- Crown Fountain – A black granite interactive fountain with two 50 meter glass brick towers that by using LEDs display digital videos of locals as they spout water from their mouths that showers the many paddlers.
- The Bean – A Great Photo Opportunity with the glistening bean-shaped archway that distorts refections.
- Laurie Garden – which features a five-foot-wide canal with benches and gardens stretching alongside. A beautiful place to sit and enjoy peace.
- Rock Climbing at Maggie Daly Park – A fun place to enjoy a rock climbing wall.
- Plaza at the Park Grill – Chicago’s largest outdoor eatery with live music.
- Jay Pritzker Pavillion – A live music Pavillion with a brushed stainless steel canopy.
- Harris Theater for Music & Dance – Catch a show at the 21500 seater venue.
- Boeing Gallery – Enjoy outdoor art.
- Art Institute of Chicago – Visit Modern Masterpieces.
- The Taste of Terzo Piano – A fabulous restaurant on the top floor of the Art Institute.
Do not forget to check out the Chicago Cultural Center on the edge of Millennial Park for its program of free cultural events.
If you feel like visiting the suburbs of Chicago to Wilmette, you will find the Baha’i Temple. In truth, if you fly into Chicago O’Hare airport you have probably seen it as you descend. People see it and do not always know what it is, so a trip out to take a look is a great opportunity.
This Nine-Sided Temple with a large dome and radiating pathways and landscaping is the Baha’i House of Worship for North America and the oldest surviving Baha’i Temple in the World. The Temple is constructed using a unique mix of quartz stone and white cement that is enjoyed immensely by those who visit. It is ranked at 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor.
It is an impressive piece of architecture that stands adjacent to the river. The nine sides of the building represent the nine great world faiths and there is a door on each of the nine sides to symbolize access by people of any faith. The gardens are wonderful to enjoy in the summer when the temperature is right and the flowers are blooming. It is a garden meant for prayer and meditation snd there are plenty of places to sit. You are also welcome to walk on the grass. The volunteers on duty are all so friendly and welcoming.
Do remember that it is an active place of worship and respect the requests not to take photos inside or talk loudly. People of any faith are welcomed by the Baha’is are free to prayer to their own faith inside the temple as Baha’is see all religions are one and are all about unity. There is a visitor center underneath the temple and lots of information and videos about the Baha’i Faith and the construction of this Temple, or House of Worship, as they call it.
Lake Michigan Sightseeing Cruise
With this cruise, you get to see the Chicago Waterfront from a new perspective. You get to see many famous Chicago landmarks, and the 40-minute cruise is a great opportunity to enjoy a relaxing laid back activity. You will see
- John Hancock Center
- Trump Tower
- Willis Tower (Sears Tower)
- Navy Pier
There is a cash-only online bar if you want refreshments or you can take your sandwiches onboard. It is a very enjoyable activity when temperatures are higher. The tour boat contains a maximum of 200 travelers. the commentary is very educational and you will learn about all the great towers that you view.
Museum of Science and Industry
On days when the weather is not so good, you cannot beat a good museum as a back-up place to visit. Museums of science are perhaps the most appealing of all to young people. They have a variety of themes and special exhibits and events. In March 2021 they have The Marvel Universe of Superheroes, with an exhibition of over 300 Marvel related items. It is features like this when mixed with more serious exhibits that make the museum such an exciting place to visit.
There are some great historic exhibits like the U 505 Submarine tour, which is one exhibit that you will never forget. Try one of the flight and motion simulators as you experience the flights of various aircraft throughout history.
The museum also has a live stage show where you can tinker with real science experiments. the Chicago Museum of science and industry is a combination of fun and education and there is something there for everyone to enjoy. It is a great family destination to visit and share with your children.
There is so much to see in the Chicago area. Space permits just a glimpse of all the marvelous places to visit and enjoy. Believe me, there are so many more places to experience on your trip to Chicago.