Things to Do in Chicago - page 2
Hugging the shoreline of Lake Michigan for nearly 19 miles, the Chicago Lakefront Trail — also known as the Lake Michigan Trail — is a popular path for walkers, runners, and cyclists that connects urban neighborhoods with green spaces, downtown attractions, and some of Chicago’s best lakeside and skyline views.
This 14-acre (6-hectare) complex pays homage to both natural wonders and the ingenuity of man. The largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, it features life-size working replicas, a 5-story domed movie theater, 2,000 exhibits, and more than 35,000 artifacts. The museum is designed to spark imagination and inspire creativity.
The Hard Rock Cafe Chicago has been serving the Chicago River North area since its opening in 1986. River North borders the Magnificent Mile, is just across from the Loop, and a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue, a vibrant and popular dining and nightlife district.
Be sure to order Hard Rock’s signature food offerings like the Legendary Burger and drinks like Rockarita. Check the menu for house made local entrees that have a touch of Chicago flavor as well.
Like other Hard Rock Cafes around the world, the Hard Rock Cafe Chicago features music memorabilia on the walls, with an emphasis on funky styles. Be sure to tour the restaurant and see various guitars, platinum records, and more.
There are numerous concerts and events taking place at the cafethroughout the year, so be sure to check the Hard Rock Cafe Chicago events page for details and reservations.
Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is the heart of shopping in the Windy City and Water Tower Place is what keeps it beating. While the Magnificent Mile was originally home to the city’s most exclusive and expensive stores, the opening of Water Tower Place brought more affordable retailers to the famed shopping area. The eight-level mall covers over 700,000 square feet and features more than 100 shops, including Macy’s and the flagship American Girl Place store. One of the first vertical malls in the world, Water Tower Place is part of a 74-floor skyscraper of the same name that also includes a Ritz-Carlton hotel and luxury condominiums. After riding the escalators up from the ground level, take the glass elevators the rest of the way to the 8th floor and work your way down.
After you shop ‘til you drop, grab a bite to eat at one of Water Tower Place’s several dining options, including Mity Nice Grill, Wow Bao, and Foodlife, a cafeteria style collection of 14 different kitchens with something to suit every palate. For dessert, swing by the Godiva Chocolatier or the Sacred Grounds Bakery & Café.
Explore 500 years of American literature and learn about writers who have influenced American history, culture, and identity at the American Writers Museum. The first institution of its kind in the country to celebrate American writers, the museum features state-of-the-art and immersive exhibits to educate and inspire visitors.
Chicago’s winters are no joke, and taking the Chicago Pedway—a network of underground tunnels, skybridges, and concourses located in the Loop—is a clever way to avoid the elements. Explore the route, which covers almost 40 city blocks, or roughly 5 miles (8 kilometers) and is used by many thousands of commuters and visitors daily.
The large marquee of the Biograph Theater in the northerly Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park announces a regular slate of upcoming live performances. The building is a popular cultural destination for Chicagoans and features a 299-seat theater, a 130-seat studio theater, rehearsal hall and space for special events, but the building has enjoyed a long and storied history. First opened in 1914 with 942 seats, the Biograph Theater was one of the country’s earliest movie houses. It now hosts the Victory Gardens Theater.
During the Great Depression, the theater advertised a rare summer perk: air conditioning. Perhaps this is what drew notorious gangster, bank robber, and alleged murder, John Dillinger, to a screening of “Manhattan Melodrama” in July, 1934. Leaving the screening, Dillinger was killed in the adjacent alleyway by waiting FBI agents. As the site of Dillinger’s death, the Biograph Theater has also become a popular for ghost hunting tours.
Towering over the Richard J. Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, the monumental statue known as The Picasso was one of the city's first large-scale pieces of public art. Gifted by the famed Spanish artist himself, the 50-foot (15-meter) steel form is Cubist in style and offers a range of different interpretations.
Much of the history of the United States took place in Chicago, so it makes perfect sense that the city’s history museum features extensive collections of historic artifacts from both Chicago and America as a whole. One exhibit, with over 600 objects, focuses solely on the city’s growth and influence on American history. There is also a research center on site, and the museum serves both to discover and protect Chicago’s history.
The museum has been in operation since 1856. Unfortunately much of the museum’s early collection was lost in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, but the museum resurged (in a now fireproof building.) The museum demonstrates eight times in history America fought for its freedom, including extensive information regarding the life of Abraham Lincoln. You’ll find exhibits on everything from sports memorabilia to past public transportation to blues and jazz music in Chicago. With paintings, books, manuscripts, sculptures, and photographs, the collection has an impressive amount on local display.
Northerly Island is located in the heart of Chicago’s Museum Campus, near Soldier Field and just south of the Adler Planetarium. The island was designed by Daniel H. Burnham, the architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Burnham envisioned a park with harbors, beaches, lagoons, large open green spaces, and striking views of the lake and skyline. The 91-acre Northerly Island was selected as one of the sites of the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago, “A Century of Progress.” The park increased to its current size of today and by the 1940’s, Northerly Island had a beach, a few paths and walkways, and a small airport known as Meigs Field.
In September 2015, a new 43-acre nature area opened on Northerly Island, creating a green oasis in the middle of the bustling city. The nature area features a mile-long interior park trail, overlooks, and a five-acre lagoon that connects to Lake Michigan. This allows for fish to enter the lagoon, providing excellent fishing opportunities. The Northerly Island visitors see today is what Burnham originally envisioned.
More Things to Do in Chicago
One of the finest examples of American architecture and among the first modernist homes, Franks Lloyd Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House is an essential stop on any Chicago architectural tour. Built in 1910 on the University of Chicago campus, the prairie-style home is honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and open to visitors.
This pocket-sized neighborhood is big on flavor and character, and injects a dose of Chinese culture to Chicago’s South Side. Chinatown draws residents and tourists with its pagoda-like architecture, specialty shops, and eateries that dish up dim sum, noodles, buns, and bubble tea.
Towering over Dearborn Street in the heart of Chicago’s Loop, the Marquette Building is one of the best surviving examples of the Chicago school of architecture and one of the city’s first steel-framed skyscrapers. It was completed in 1895 by Holabird & Roche architectural firm and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since the late 1800s the University of Chicago has been attracting some of the nation’s (and the world’s) most brilliant minds, and with a newly expanded campus that includes the Booth School of Business, the University of Chicago Medical Center and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, it’s clear this private school offers a broad range of programing for all types of ambitious learners.
The university’s prime location, just seven miles south of downtown Chicago, is a major draw. It also makes planning a visit—or just wandering the 211-acre grounds easy. The campus’s unique architectural blend—which includes the Gothic Rockefeller Chapel, as well as the more modern Gerald Ratner Athletic Center and the towering Henry Hinds Laboratory for Geophysical Sciences is apparent. And while the lush quad and top-tier ranking attract students of all kinds, the University of Chicago’s stunning, well groomed campus also attracts travelers who want to see one of the Midwest’s (and America’s) top schools.
Home to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks teams, the United Center is a premier Midwest sports venue. With nearly 1 million-square-feet (92,903-square-meters) of indoor space, it’s the largest arena in the US by size, with more than 20,000 seats. The center also plays host to a star-studded lineup of music concerts.
With over three million pieces of LEGO®, two indoor rides and a workshop hosted by a real master model builder, LEGOLAND® Discover Center Chicago is a child’s dream. Visitors can wander through impressive displays that include intricate Star Wars models and a MINILAND Chicago and learn top tips from expert builders. Families with kids between the ages of three and twelve will find plenty of places to build their own creations, a 4D cinema with LEGO-themed movies and a couple of rides that provide endless entertainment for the younger set.
Packed with opportunities for adventure, play, and learning, the Chicago Children’s Museum makes a popular choice for a family outing. Located on the popular Navy Pier, this 3-floor attraction is the fourth largest children’s museum in the country. Kids can spend their day interacting with hands-on exhibits that let them dig for dinosaur bones, captain a boat, build their own structures, and more.
Nestled in Lincoln Park, the Lincoln Park Conservatory is made up of four display houses; the Palm House, the Fern Room, the Orchid House, and the Show House. Built in the late 1800s, the houses grow over 1,000 different types of plants that are used in Chicago Parks. Visitors can explore their interiors, and wander through the scenic botanical gardens that surround them.
The Harold Washington Library Center is the main branch of the Chicago Public Library system. When it opened in 1991, the ten-story library was the largest public library in the world.
Located in Chicago’s South Loop, its design is based on the winning submission in a 1988 architecture contest. The contest was to design the new library called for by then-Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, the city’s first African American mayor.
The Harold Washington Library Center is more than just a traditional library for books. Here, you can research your ancestry in their online genealogy databases. There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the building, art on display from more than 50 artists, music practice rooms, a Maker Lab, and book clubs and reading events for your children. Be sure to visit the glass-domed Winter Garden atrium on the library’s 9th floor as well.
This popular Chicago neighborhood may be best known as the home of the Cubs, but locals recognize the fun-filled destination about more than just baseball. Even travelers who don't have tickets to one of the big home games will find tons of ways to pass the time during a stop in Wrigleyville, whether it's on a pizza walking tour or a leisurely afternoon on a bike.
In addition to sports bars and popular pre-game restaurants, the neighborhood is home to several interesting shops to pop your head into. With easy access via public transportation, visitors will find getting in and out of Wrigleyville a breeze.
Looking for a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city? Head north to the Chicago Botanic Garden and spend the day taking in the colorful beauty of the natural world. Opened in 1972, the Garden is one of the most visited public gardens in the United States. Covering 385 acres, it includes 24 display gardens and four natural areas spread out across nine islands surrounded by lakes. Visitors can stroll through themed areas such as the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and English Walled Garden. Bird-watching enthusiasts will be in heaven with 225 different species of birds flying around the grounds and wildlife lovers can keep an eye out for deer, foxes, coyotes and beavers.
For those wanting a quick overview of the Garden, 35-minute tram tours whisk you around the grounds while describing all of the highlights. Photography buffs might consider joining one of the free photography tours offered the first Saturday of each month. Other activities change with the seasons but may include flower shows, children’s story time, and art exhibitions.
Chicago’s storied Lincoln Park named for the country’s 16th president also boasts a significant statue of the man. Unlike the seated memorial figure located in Washington D.C. and found on the back of a penny, this 12-foot bronze constructed by Irish-immigrant sculpturist Augustus Saint-Gaudens stands tall. Constructed in 1887, 22 years after the Civil War leader’s death, it also predates the completion of D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial by 35 years. The work, titled ‘Abraham Lincoln: The Man,’ was heralded by the New York Evening Post as “the most important achievement American sculpture has yet produced,” after its unveiling.
The statue is located in the south side of the 1,208-acre park, behind the Chicago History Museum. The statue can easily be visited on a walking or biking tour of the park that includes other popular park stops such as the North Avenue Beach, Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory.
In addition to identifying a similarly-built 6-foot, 4-inch tall man to serve as a model, molds of Lincoln’s own face and hands, taken while he was alive, were used to recreate the lifelike figure. Lincoln stands fronting an eagle-emblazoned chair with a pensive gaze cast downward from his perch atop a granite pedestal. The statue is surrounded by a stepped, half-moon exedra – built by noteworthy architect Stanford White and his team – with several of his more famous quotes etched into its walls. Replicas of this statue can be found in London’s Parliament Square and in Mexico City.
In celebration of the 1893 World Expo, Chicago established the 543-acre (220-hectare) Jackson Park. Today the popular green space hosts a golf course, the Museum of Science and Industry, scenic nature trails, a Lake Michigan beach, and more. The Chicago Lakefront Trail runs through the park, making it a great biking and jogging destination.
Nothing says Chicago like deep dish pizza, and Pizzeria Uno may be the birthplace of it all. The original deep dish pizza is said to have been created by Pizzeria Uno some 70 years ago, a pizza style that went on to become a collective icon of food for an entire nation, nay the world.
In 1943, just before the end of World War II, Ike Sewell opened his cornerstone pizza business with a crust as thick as a pie’s and just as buttery. An instant sensation, Sewell continued progressive pizza innovations with a thick marinara sauce, and thus, a legend was born. Today, Pizzeria Uno has over 140 locations all over the world – each serving what is now known as the signature Chicago deep dish pizza. Delicious and piping hot, if you’re in Chicago you can’t miss this iconic American meal.
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