The 32 best Chicago attractions
Written by Alison Lynwood

The 32 best Chicago attractions

The best Chicago attractions include museums, vast city parks, jazz clubs and theaters.

Chicago might be the Second City, but our attractions are first class. Need evidence of that fact? Look no further than the many Chicago museums, where you'll find everything from the best-preserved T.Rex skeleton ever found to paintings from Van Gogh and Picasso. Or take a stroll through our gorgeous parks and gardens, home to some of the best public art in Chicago (hello to The Bean). Or spend a day swimming in Lake Michigan's surprisingly huge freshwater waves at one of the many Chicago beaches, or see a jazz show at a bar once frequented by Al Capone, or have a Michelin-starred meal at one of the best Chicago restaurants... the list goes on. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or a lifelong Chicagoan looking to see a little more of their home city, we’ve curated a list of the very best attractions Chicago has to offer, just for you.

1. Art Institute of Chicago

What is it? Located in downtown Chicago, the Art Institute is a great art museum that is home to more than 300,000 artworks that span centuries. Why go? Here, you can find one of the world’s most iconic paintings like Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (which you may have seen in the cinematic classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and Grant Wood's American Gothic. Afterwards, explore the stunning Modern Wing, itself a work of art by architect Renzo Piano, or special exhibitions like Life and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt, featuring artworks and artifacts spanning 3,000 years.

2. Lincoln Park Zoo

What is it? It's located smack dab in the middle of Lincoln Park, and is home to more than 1,000 animals, including lions, bears, apes and red pandas! Why go? You don't even need to open your purse to come here, as it's the only remaining free zoo in Chicago, so just walk right in! It's a great place to take the kids to and requires very little planning. They even offer parties for adults at night, if that's your bag.

3. 360 CHICAGO

What is it? Sitting right at the top of the towering 875 N Michigan Avenue building (formerly the John Hancock building), this observation deck places you 1,030 feet in the air. On a clear day, visitors can see four different states (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan). Why go? If you want to do more than just take a really good look at the view then you should probably test your mettle on 360 CHICAGO’s TILT attraction, which dares guests to not freak out as the observation deck is tilted (duh) out over the busy streets below. If you’ve got a fear of heights, this may not be for you.

4. Garfield Park Conservatory

What is it? This enormous greenhouse in Garfield Park is among the largest conservatories in the United States. It provides a home for some 600 species of plants (most of which aren’t indigenous to the region). Why go? Make sure to secure a (free!) reservation online and then stop by to admire the gigantic trees that fill the Palm House, or the Jurassic Park-evoking Fern Room, designed to show you what Illinois may have looked like millions of years in the past. In the warmer months, be sure to make time to explore the sprawling outdoor gardens too.

Written by

Alison Lynwood

Alison Lynwood

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