Chicago's Most Popular Tourist Attractions
Chicago has some of the best attractions and museums in the world, drawing millions of visitors to the city each year. From one of the country's only free zoos to the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of the Louvre, Chicago's most popular tourist attractions provide countless hours of entertainment for the entire family.
With more than fifty acres of dining, shopping, and entertainment, Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, is the most popular destination in Chicago. Visitors to the half-mile-long pier can catch a movie at the IMAX theater, listen to live music at the outdoor beer garden, and have dinner with a magnificent view of the city. Many of the dinner cruises launch from the Pier, and this is also where the city's summer fireworks take off. One of the most iconic images of Chicago is the giant Ferris Wheel, and it’s now climate controlled. You can also pick up the perfect souvenir at one of the many shops or kiosks.
TLTip: Navy Pier's revamp includes the addition of several local restaurants, so you can truly eat like a local tourist! Get our comprehensive guide for more info on Chicago's #1 attraction.
Art Institute of Chicago
The famed Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S Michigan Ave, houses over a quarter of a million works of art that represent more than 5,000 years of human expression. There are galleries devoted to art from countries all over the world as well as to different mediums. The most famous gallery is that of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Well known works of art include Claude Monet's "Haystacks" and Renoir's "Two Sisters", as well as the pointillism favorite "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte". There are also frequent temporary exhibitions that require special admission.
TLTip: The Art Institute of Chicago is open until 8pm on Thursday evenings, and if you're an Illinois resident you get free admission starting at 5.
Field Museum of Natural History
No trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to the Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr. The museum is home to the most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found, tells the story of the lions of Tsavo, and covers four billion years of history in its Evolving Planet exhibit. The Grainger Hall of Gems is a must-see with items like a 3,400-year-old Egyptian garnet and the The King William III Diamond Stick Pin.
TLTip: Don't want to deal with parking on Museum Campus? Take a taxi (Download CURB and save $10 w/ code LOCAL10) or a ride-share service. If you're new to ride-sharing service use one of our codes and you'll get a $20 credit with Uber and a $50 credit with Lyft. (Both credit values are valid at time of press. The ride sharing programs can change them at any time.)
The John J. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S Lake Shore Dr is one of the most engaging museums in Chicago. Not only can you see thousands of specimens of aquatic, mammalian, and reptilian life in the various tanks, you can also see them up close with the Beluga and Penguin Encounters and by being a Trainer for a Day. The aquarium offers 52 free days a year to Illinois residents so be sure to check the schedule ahead of time to prepare for the crowds.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N Cannon Dr, is free and open to the public every single day of the year. It opened in 1868 with a gift of two swans and is now home to everything from aardvarks to zebras. Some of the most popular residents are the polar bears and the gorillas. City kids also enjoy the Farm In The Zoo which provides the opportunity to see cows, goats, and other farm animals in an urban setting.
TLTip: Check out our free guide to Lincoln Park Zoo before you go!
These top five popular attractions barely scratch the surface of what you can do during your visit to Chicago. Check out our things to do in Chicago section for more ideas.
If you'd like to see several attractions during your visit, consider getting a Go Chicago Card. For one price you can visit many museums and landmarks. You can choose the card that has 25 attractions pre-selected or you can create your own pass.