Chicago Tourist Attractions

The must see list

chicago tourist attractions

The windy city was always a place on our bucket list to visit. We enjoyed the sites to this wonderful city just last November.  Was very cold at that time but managed to see a lot in 5 days.  Chicago has so much to offer so here is my list of top Chicago tourist attractions.

 


Willis Tower

chicago must see attractionsThe Willis tower or the Sears Tower, as the the locals still affectionately call it, is Chicago’s no.1 iconic building.  When it it was completed in 1973 at a height of 442.1 m (1,450 ft) it was the tallest building in the world. This record would be held until 1998 when the Petronas Towers in Malaysia were built.  In 1992, antennas were added to bring the total height to  527 m(1,724 ft)

This was the first building we looked out for when we arrived. We didn’t see the top of the tower from street level until a day later when the mist cleared.  It was until then, literally in the clouds.  The Sky Deck on the 103rd floor gives the best views of the city as you can walk around the entire floor.

On the Sky Deck are 4 glass boxes called “The Ledge” that extend 4.3 ft out from the building.  If you have the nerve, you are literally walking outside the building at a height of 1,353 ft.  An incredible experience that is a must.

This should be one of the first Chicago tourist attractions on your list as you really get your bearings of downtown when looking out.  But check the the weather a day before visiting as this attraction is all about the visibility from the top.

Nearest Train Station
Quincy/Wells (Brown, Orange, Pink & Purple lines)

Nearest Bus Stop
Adams & S.Wacker (No: 1, 7, 28, 126, 134, 135, 136, 151, 156) 

 

 


Architecture River Cruise

chicago must see attractionsThe buildings in Chicago are amazing. Having been to New York and Hong Kong, I thought I’d seen it all.  But I still found Chicago had the edge for sheer diversity of the old and new together in harmony.  For this reason, the architecture river cruises are part of my Chicago must see attractions.

The on board guide will  take you through historic stories and fascinating facts about these incredible buildings.  This cruise is a great way to get photos of some iconic buildings close up.  I think that some of my best photos were probably taken on this river cruise.

Depending on what month you go, it can get really cold on the boat so wrap up warm!

Nearest Bus Stops (for pickup point):
Wacker\Michigan (2, 6, 120, 121, 134, 135, 136,146, 148) 

 

 


875 North Michigan Avenue (Hancock Tower)

chicago must see attractionsThis other iconic building which most people know as the Hancock Tower, was built in 1969 and was the tallest in Chicago until the Sears Tower was built.  It stands at 343.7m (1,128 ft) or 457 m (1,500 ft) with the antennas.

Like the Willis Tower, it has a viewing deck where the views are amazing and you can walk around the whole floor.  At 1000ft, it is called the 360 Chicago Observation deck, found on the 94th. Another one of Chicago must see attractions

The 360 also has it’s own nerve-jangler in the tilt.  This is a moving window you hold onto that tilts you out the building at a 45 degree angle. Again, not for the feint-hearted.

Nearest Train Station
Chicago – Red Line

Nearest Bus Stops
Chesnut & Miles Van Der Rohe (125)
Michigan & Chesnut (143, 146, 147, 148, 151) 

 

 


 Navy Pier

chicago must see attractions

Head down to navy pier and you can do a few things in one place.  The obvious and most striking is the centennial wheel, a ferris wheel standing at 196 feet.  A great view of the Chicago skyline can been seen from the top.

Other attractions that can be found on the pier are the Chicago Children’s museum, the Funhouse Maze, the Crystal Gardens, an iMax Theatre, bars, restaurants and much more. You can spend a whole day here if you go at the right time of year.

Nearest Bus Stop:
Navy Pier Terminal (2, 29, 65, 66, 124 ) 

 

 


Cloud Gate

chicago must see attractionsThis strange looking sculpture by artist Sir Anish Kapoor, can be found in the plaza at Milenium Park.  It has acquired the nickname of “The Bean” for obvious reasons.  Inspired by liquid mercury, it is made of 168 stainless steel plates with invisible seems and highly polished to reflect it’s surroundings.   A great photo opportunity for not only the sculpture itself, but the quirky looking photos you can get from it’s reflections.

Nearest Bus Stop:
Michigan/Madison (3, 4, 6, 26 ,143, 850, 851, 855, 856) 

 

 


Lincoln Park Zoo

chicago must see attractionsThis wonderful zoo takes up most of Lincoln park, boasting some big animals such as gorillas, big cats & polar bears to name a few.  It was a joy to walk around and most surprising of all, it is free to get in.  There is also the Lincoln Park Conservatory next door that contains thousands of plants in a hot house. This is also free admission.  I consider the Zoo the best of the free Chicago tourist attractions that we came across.

Nearest Bus Stop:
Stockton\Webster (151, 156)

 

 

 


The Shedd Aquarium

chicago must see attractionsHaving been to a few different aquariums around the world, I was wondering if this one would just be more of the same.  It wasn’t.  First of all, the place is huge so give yourself a few hours if you want to see everything.  The exhibits are well laid and informative. The other thing that stood out was the location. It sits right on the edge of Lake Michigan so you get wonderful views of the lake from the Dolphinarium through it’s huge windows.  And from outside, you get some of the best views of the Chicago skyline.

Nearest Bus Stop:
Solidarity Drive\Aquarium (146)

 

 

 


Art Institute of Chicago

chicago must see attractionsIf you enjoy art, this museum will not disappoint.  The building has almost a million square feet covering four floors of paintings, sculptures, modern art and photography.  You will find work by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Picasso & Rodin to name but a few.

It is laid out very well but you may need to decide on the route you are going to take. As we didn’t have as much time here as we would have liked, we looked for specific artists which made for a lot of walking back and forth between galleries.

Voted on Trip Advisor as the #1 attraction in Chicago, this is one of the main Chicago must see attractions on the list.

Nearest Train Station
Adam\Wabash (Brown, Orange, Green, Pink & Purple lines)

Nearest Bus Stop:
Michigan/Monroe (3, 4, 6, 26 ,143)

 

 


Others Chicago tourist attractions to consider

Field Museum


A natural history museum filled with taxidermy displays, dinosaurs and artefacts

Rookery Building


Famous building with sky lit lobby made up of ironwork windows, rails and spiral staircases

Magnificent Mile


A walk up Michigan Avenue where you will find upscale shops, restaurants and famous buildings

Water Taxi

A great way to see the skyline from the water and not too expensive

Union Station

Rail terminal with stunning interior decor and that ‘Untouchables’ staircase

River Walk

A lovely walk along the river from Lake Shore Drive through to  Lake Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Other cities in this list

San Francisco Tourist Attractions

Sydney Tourist Attractions

Vancouver Tourist Attractions

24 Comments

  1. This list is awesome!

    My wife is from Illinois, so I have flown into Chicago plenty of times. But I have never really had the chance to see the city!

    I was excited by a number of the things on your list, especially the Lincoln Park Zoo which is free, and the Shedd Aquarium. I love animals, and those sound like they are worth visiting. I also need to see the Navy Pier, and although many of my friends have taken a picture with “The Bean” I still need to.

    Thanks for the guide!

  2. Awesome. I’m going to visit the windy city in a few months. Now I know what to do there. Looks great and i’m going at the right time weather wise. My wife will the the magnificent mile and we’ll check out the river cruse. Do you have any suggestions on how we could get a discount on a tour?

    • Hi Dave,

      When we went, we wanted to see as much as possible so went for a Chicago CityPass as this gives many attractions in one.  If you can handle too much fun you can save quite a bit.

      Adam

  3. Chicago sounds like a lovely trip to make. I have been there a long time ago for business but never got to really see it.

    I think that the Architectural River Cruise sounds pretty neat. Learning about the history of the buildings is always fascinating to me.

    Willis Tower also would be fun to go to. The glass boxes on the sky deck would be very cool to walk out on. Okay probably a little scary but it has to be worth it for sure.

    I also think that the Shedd Aquarium would have to be a must see if I went just for the views of Lake Michigan and seeing the skyline.

    Since you have also been to New York City how does Chicago compare to it? I have been to New York city myself so was just wondering?

    • Hi Donna,

      They are quite different cities in my opinion. I love New York for it’s vibrancy and 24 hour buzz.  I found downtown Chicago a little more laid back and not as busy, especially early mornings. We took a walk through Millennium park at 7:30am and could count the people we saw on one hand. They both have spectacular architecture but I think Chicago has the edge on this for me. And the buildings along the river also create lovely riverside views that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

      Adam

  4. This list is awesome. I will travel to the United States soon and I have to go to Chicago for some days. I bookmarked your page. I will work a lot, but I will visit The Shedd Aquarium and will go to the Architecture River Cruise. I really this kind of cruise trip. I am sure that it will be a very good program. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • Thanks you for your reply. An amazing city. You won’t be disapointed with th river cuise!

  5. I knew of Chicago, everyone does. Now I have reasons to go and things I want to see. Thanks for posting this.

    Aquariums are my thing.  I have been to more than a few but never the one in Chicago. Fact is, I didn’t even know Chicago has one. The Sky boxes look to be worth trying, too.

    Tim

  6. Hi Adam,

    This is a great representation of Chicago Tourist Attractions. I know those attraction will be a perfect choice for spending holidays. I am sure many of my friends will be interested on this. But they need a perfect plan to visit those places. Can you give us an idea about holiday duration? How long time one need to visit those places perfectly ? Thanks for sharing this information.

    • We went for 5 nights and found this enought to do most of the big attractions. The Union train station also gives you a great transport hub to move on to other places afterwards. Thanks

  7. Hi there 🙂 I heard a lot of bad stuff about Chicago. It looks like an amazing and wonderful city, but I heard that it is a very dangerous city. Now I don’t really what to think about this place. Maybe you might tell me something more? Is Chicago worth to see? Should I be afraid of going there?

    • Hi, most big cities have a bad side but if you stick to downtown, you’ll be fine. Never saw any issues while I was there. If you avoid Chicago because of worry, you’re really missing out on a wonderful city. Thanks

  8. Personally I have never been to Chicago, but at the same time I have traveled several countries like United Arab Emirates where you find a city called Dubai with the tallest building in the world, and by that I thought I had seen it all until today I came across this post, only to learn that am yet to travel to great places like stated here the city of Chicago, I believe this city have great senaries and beautiful places to visit especially on vacations. Personally I do work with airlines and as a result I find it easy to travel to different countries while my vacation time come with some discounted tickets, I am sure to visit Chicago soon to explore are learn something new from the city, I really appreciate for the well detailed post that show special places where one can plan n visit soon. Do you offer travel agency there in Chicago? Looking forward to learn more from your posts and also plan some vacation to the great Chicago.

    thank you

    From Joy.

    • I went up the Burk Khalifa in Dubai just after it was built. Although it’s a magnificent building, you just don’t get the views like Chicago or New York as the modernisation is quite new. You’re best getting a Chicago Go pass to see all the sites in one go if you can fit them in. Thanks

  9. Hey there Adam,

    as a person who has never been in the USA, I always had it on my list of the places which I truly dream about visiting in the future when the right opportunity would come! And after reading Your article which by the way I truly found to be very informative and helpful, Chicago is definitely one of the many cities which I would be most interested in visiting for numerous reasons. First of all- I am very fascinated by the Cloud Gate sculpture which in my eyes looks very extraordinary and captivating due to its shape, size and reflective surface. Another big reason why I would love to visit Chicago is the Willis Tower because it is the most iconic Chicago’s building and to witness something this meaningful and significant would be an honour ! I also would absolutely love to get on the 103rd floor, enjoy the best views of the city and appreciate all of the glorious and stunning  places of the Chicago from 1,450 ft height!

    Keep up the great work Adam and best of luck to You 😉 

    • We tend to visit the tallest building as soon as we arrive (weather permitting) as it’s a great way to get your bearings. The Sears (sorry ! Willis) tower is breathtaking from the top. Thanks for great feedback

  10. I was in Chicago in 2009 with my friends. We spent there only 10 hours but I did enjoy the city very much. It was summer, so it was nice and warm. But only today I have learnt bit more about the Cloud Gate. And also other attractions as well – I need to visit the city next time for bit longer than just for half a day.

    • I would love to go back in the Summer and enjoy the beaches and even a swim the lake. Thanks for your reply.

  11. Great post and thanks for sharing this.

    This info will be very good for my wife, she wants to go to USA and especially Chicago. 

    I already saw some things to visit, but you give all the specific details and that will make my wife happy. 

    I personally love the towers, and I know she doesn’t, so with this info, we can do half for me and half for her. 

    Thanks a lot ! 

  12. Hi! Thank you very much for providing this list of attractions!

    The Willis tower is a must as you have said. I didn’t know these glass boxes where called “The Ledge”. Wao, walking outside the building at a height of 1,353 ft (I already feel my herat beating fast!)

    And I’ll also love to take the architecture River Cruise. I’ll have my camara prepared! 🙂

    I already picture changing my Instagram profile pic to one with Cloud Gate on the background! Cool!

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