It’s no surprise that Chicago is one of the finest tourist destinations in the country. There are Chicago museums that rank among the world's best, gorgeous parks in Chicago and some of the friendliest city-dwellers out there (if we do say so ourselves). With so much to see and do, it can be tough for visitors to decide which Chicago attractions are really worth experiencing. Whether you’re an out-of-towner or a tried-and-true Chicagoan planning a staycation, we’ve assembled a list of the best Chicago attractions for your touring convenience. Oh, and if you’re feeling decadent, cap off your day of sightseeing with a meal at one of the best restaurants in Chicago. Ready to dive into the Windy City? Here are the Chicago attractions you simply shouldn't miss.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Chicago
1. Art Institute of Chicago
One of the city’s most well-known cultural institutions, which houses more than 300,000 artworks. Acquaint yourself with classic paintings like Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (as seen in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and Grant Wood's American Gothic, or explore an expansive collection of contemporary works in the museum’s Modern Wing. The reopened museum currently hosts “Monet and Chicago,” an exhibition that opened briefly in 2020.
2. Lincoln Park Zoo
Located in the middle of Lincoln Park, this 35-acre zoo houses more than 1,000 animals and is one of the few remaining free zoos in the country. You'll need to secure a reservation as Lincoln Park Zoo reopens at reduced capacity. Once you're inside, you'll be able to visit all of the outdoor areas—unfortunately, the indoor sections of the zoo like the reptile and bird houses remain closed to visitors at the moment.
3. 360 CHICAGO
Sitting atop one of the tallest buildings on Michigan Avenue, this observatory places you 1,000 feet in the air, allowing visitors to see four different states on a clear day. Daredevils will want to test their mettle on 360 CHICAGO’s TILT attraction, which dares guests to lean over the side of the building and look down at the busy streets below. If you’ve got a fear of heights, you might want to rethink your trip.
4. Garfield Park Conservatory
Among the largest conservatories in the United States, this giant greenhouse in Garfield Park provides a home for some 600 species of plants (most of which aren’t indigenous to the region). Make sure to secure a reservation online and then stop by to admire the gigantic trees that fill the Palm Room or window shop for succulents and cacti in the Desert Room.
5. The Field Museum
Founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, this massive natural history museum has more dinosaur bones and ancient artifacts than any other institution in Chicago. Travel back in time by descending into a recreation of an ancient Egyptian tomb, stand beneath a towering titanosaur skeleton or stare at sparkling stones in the Grainger Hall of Gems. And don't forget to visit SUE the T. rex in their new home inside the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet.
6. Millennium Park
This vast 24.5-acre section of Chicago’s front yard is one of the most popular places to spend time outdoors in the city, hosting well-known pieces of public art and a long list of special events. Step inside a building that dates back to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and explore exhibits that depict a Chicago street circa 1910 and a massive model railroad that depicts the 2,200-mile journey from Seattle to Chicago. Currently, MSI is hosting a traveling exhibit devoted to Marvel superheroes.
Gaze at Cloud Gate (a.k.a. the Bean) from afar, go for a stroll through the serene Lurie Gardens or relax on the lawn in front of the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
7. Museum of Science and Industry
Interactivity is the name of the game at the Museum of Science and Industry, a Hyde Park institution that boasts a mirror maze, a simulated tornado and a WWII-era U-505 German on display.