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Hi, I'm Georgina! A coffee-loving adventure enthusiast here to share my favorite travel tips with you! My goal is to inspire others to get out and explore this wild planet by camping, hiking, or wandering around a fun new city!

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  • Georgina D'Angelo

15+ Best Things to Do in Chicago

Updated: Jan 22

Chicago is a vibrant city, you have to go experience it for yourself. Each neighborhood has its own unique vibe. There is so much to see and do here, you are bound to love it.


From Andersonville to the Loop to Little Italy. Chicago is huge and it all deserves to be explored. Find locally owned bakeries, shop until you drop downtown, and walk more than you probably ever plan to.


Best 15 Things to do in Chicago - Alpacka My Bags

If you haven't yet visited Chicago, this is your sign to go! You can eat all the delicious food you possibly can, learn about Midwestern history, admire architectural styles throughout the city, sip on Chicago's best coffee, and devour fresh donuts.


With a pretty limitless list of things to do, we've narrowed it down so you can see the best of the city in a short amount of time! Check out the best things to do in Chicago.


This article may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through one of them. Read our affiliate disclosure. Thank you for your support!


Go City: Chicago Pass


If you want to visit multiple museums and attractions during your trip to Chicago, save money and check out the Go City: Chicago Pass! It's a one-time purchase and allows you access to multiple attractions, museums, etc.


Instead of buying individual tickets for every location, save money and skip the hassle with the Go City pass. There are two different passes to choose from, the Explorer Pass and the All-Inclusive Pass.


Explorer Pass: This pass is cheaper at $94 (at the time of post). It allows you access to 2 locations (or more if you add on) and it's valid for 60 days from your first visit. You can purchase the Explorer Pass online.


All-Inclusive Pass: While this pass is more expensive at $134, it's an amazing deal for those visiting Chicago for a few days and who want to see as much as they can. The All-Inclusive Pass allows you access to as many attractions as you want, but it's only valid for two days.



Best Things to Do in Chicago for First Timers


Cloud Gate


You can't visit Chicago without seeing Cloud Gate, or The Bean, for yourself. This beloved, well-known sculpture sits in Millenium Park and is free to visit. Get your camera out and be ready to take fun selfies on the reflective surface of The Bean.


things to do in chicago - cloud gate

Devour Deep Dish Pizza


Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza. It wouldn't be a complete trip to the Windy City unless you tried it at least once! There are many places to find this iconic dish, but my favorite place, where I suggest you go, is Lou Malnati's. Lou's started in Chicago, became a beloved pizza spot, and spread throughout the Midwest.



Navy Pier


While there are stores and restaurants, a children's museum, a Ferris wheel, and more to enjoy at Navy Pier, it is a fun, lively place to walk around and admire for free. If you'd like, stop for an ice cream or a hot slice of pizza at this true Chicago classic!


things to do in chicago - navy pier

360 Chicago


Get the best view of Chicago from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center! One of my top recommendations for first-time visitors is 360 Chicago, it's a classic. Tickets are required to be purchased in advance, but this view is totally worth it.


TIP: 360 Chicago is included in the Go City: Chicago Pass!


Magnificent Mile


This is a great street to walk down and really get a feel for the bustling vibe of Chicago. With stores up stores on the Magnificent Mile, this is the perfect spot to go shopping all day. It's also really pretty during the holidays with tons of lights and decorations.


Lincoln Park Zoo


A free zoo?! Yes please, let's go! The Lincoln Park Zoo has FREE admission which is perfect if you want to squeeze in a quick stroll around to admire the animals. And next door is the Lincoln Park Conservatory which is a free botanical garden!


what to do in chicago - lincoln park zoo

Shedd Aquarium


The Midwest might not seem like the place to have an amazing aquarium, but you'd be surprised. The Shedd Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the country. It's located right on the edge of Lake Michigan and boasts a variety of exhibits from the Amazon to Africa to the Great Lakes.


TIP: Admission to the Shedd Aquarium is also included in the All-Inclusive Go City Pass. You do have to schedule an arrival time in advance.


Garfield Park Conservatory


If you enjoy the beauty of nature, you definitely need to head to the Garfield Park Conservatory! This is another free conservatory, although it is bigger and homes more plants than the Lincoln Park Conservatory.


what to do in chicago - garfield park conservatory

Water Tower Place


Along with lots of shopping and dining options, Water Tower Place is a classic Chicago building. Even if you don't want to spend money in the stores, it's a pretty area to walk around. Check out the City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower right next door!


Museums


There are so many incredible museums to visit in Chicago. From history to science to art and more, the options are endless. There really is a museum for everyone to enjoy in Chicago. Check out the best museums in Chicago here!


TIP: Many of Chicago's museums are included in the Go City pass. Before you buy individual tickets, see if it would be a better option for you to get a pass and visit more than one museum. Below are the best museums included in the pass.


  • Field Museum - Natural History

  • Adler Planetarium - Space

  • Museum of Science and Industry

  • Museum of Contemporary Art


Buckingham Fountain


A beautiful, and free, sight to see in Chicago is Buckingham Fountain. Located in Grant Park, this is one of the biggest fountains in the world. The details are gorgeous and it is a Chicago must-see classic.


things to do in chicago - buckingham fountain

Architecture River Tour


Cruise down the Chicago River, sip on cocktails, and learn all about the interesting architectural styles found throughout the city. The Architecture River Tour is a very fun way to see lots of the downtown area and learn about some Chicago history as well!


TIP: The Architecture River Tour is part of the All-Inclusive Go City Pass.


chicago architecture river tour

Montrose Beach


You can't visit Chicago without a stroll on one of its "beaches." Because it is located right on Lake Michigan, Chicago boasts some pretty lakeshore beaches, one of the best being Montrose Beach. It is free to walk down and has some beautiful views! Another great option is Fullerton Beach.


Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond


You might be surprised by how much nature you can find in the bustling city of Chicago. With tons of parks, huge potted planters, and tree-lined streets, you can still get in your nature fix here. One of the BEST parks to visit is the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond. This beautiful oasis is a must-visit in spring and summer but sadly closes in fall and winter.


Lincoln Park


Not only is Lincoln Park a gorgeous neighborhood in Chicago, but it is also a massive 1,200-acre park that follows the lakeshore of northern Chicago. If the weather is nice, you can spend a day exploring this park and stop by nearby attractions such as Lincoln Park Zoo and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.


Rooftop Bars


If you enjoy having a drink with a view, head to one of Chicago's many rooftop bars. One of the best in town is Cindy's Rooftop, located at the top of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. While quite expensive, it makes for a fun, memorable night in the city.


cindy's rooftop chicago

Harold Washington Library


Another free activity in Chicago is the Harold Washington Library. And I'm not telling you to go check out some books, although it houses more than 1 million books, but check out these cool things to do in Harold Washington Library. It is a seriously beautiful building.


harold washington library - what to do in chicago

Cubs Baseball Game


If you're a sports fan, head to Wrigleyville, where Wriglefield, the home of the Chicago Cubs, is located. You might be in town for a big game, but even if you're not, it's still a fun Chicago activity to check out. Or if you're not a fan, check out the White Sox.


Musical, Show, or Concert


Did you know you can catch a plethora of shows, musicals, and concerts in Chicago? With a variety of Chicago Broadway shows to choose from, see top performing musicals, or look in advance to see if your favorite artist will be performing!



what to do in chicago

Is 3 days enough for Chicago?


Plan to spend at least 3 days in Chicago to be able to explore the best parts of the city. Chicago is a very big city, so it would be impossible to see it all in a short time, but 3 days will allow you time to eat at some of the best restaurants and enjoy some of the city's most famous attractions.


What is Chicago famous for?


If you haven't been to Chicago yet, this is your sign to book a trip! There's so much to see and do and eat in the city, the options are endless. But if it's your first time visiting, you have to admire what Chicago is famous for - a variety of amazing architecture, mouthwatering food from all around the world, deep dish pizza, and iconic monuments like Cloud Gate (more commonly known as the Bean).



What to Do in Chicago For First Timers

If you haven't been to Chicago yet, this is your sign to book a trip now! With an incredible variety of things to do, the list could go on forever. But these are some of the best things to do in Chicago.


When you visit a new city, what is something you always try to do? Find a museum? Look for a botanical garden? Well lucky for you, Chicago has it all! This is a must-visit travel destination in the US.


Now you know what to do in Chicago, where will you be heading first? Let's chat about this wonderful US city in the comments below!


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aboutME

Hi, I'm Georgina, adventure enthusiast and creator of Alpacka My Bags. I'm here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 

 

I've been exploring this beautiful planet since I was a child, so I decided it was time to share my travel tips with others to enjoy. After college, I knew the "traditional career path" was not for me.

 

I needed to travel and explore what this world has to offer. It sounds cliché but you do only live once. So I made going on adventures a priority, and soon realized that I wanted to share them with others so you can enjoy them too! 

My passion is spreading the travel bug and showing others that travel is attainable and so worth it. From itineraries to camping tips to packing lists, Alpacka My Bags has you covered!

Join me, and often my partner and my dog, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as I have, I hope you find my tips useful for all of your future travels.

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