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.
When you're looking for something fun to do in Chicago, you can't go wrong when you visit these top attractions.
Chicago's Most Popular Tourist Attractions
Millennium Park is an impressive and varied public space that is a destination for both locals and tourists. With its collection of sculptures, the acoustically-sound Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Lurie Gardens, and other amenities it packs a lot into a small area. It's always busy with ice skating in the winter, concerts and movies in the summer, and special events and tours all year long. Read reviews about Millennium Park
TLTip: Check out our free and comprehensive guide to Millennium Park
With more than fifty acres of dining, shopping, and entertainment, Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, is one of the most popular destinations 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! Check out our comprehensive guide for more info on one of Chicago's most popular attractions.
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. Find more Free museum days and other things to do here.
Get above it all at this observatory in the Willis Tower. Rising high above the Chicago skyline, the Willis Tower is one of the city's most recognized landmarks. With its view of four states and the innovative "The Ledge," it's also one of Chicago's most popular things to do. This part of the attraction is a series of glass boxes that actually extend outside the building, so you can look straight down.
Get tickets to Skydeck Chicago.
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.
Get tickets to the Field Museum of Natural History
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 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 (affiliate link). 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.
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