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Things to Do in Illinois - page 2

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Adler Planetarium
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The first planetarium built in the western hemisphere, the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum still captures intergalactic imaginations. From the entrance, visitors descend below the building, which has 12 sides, one for each sign of the zodiac. In the newest wing, a digital sky show recreates such cataclysmic phenomena as supernovas. Interactive exhibits allow you to simulate cosmic events such as a meteor hitting the earth (this one is especially cool).

Inside, the main attraction is the StarRider Theater, where you’ll take a 30 minute virtual reality trip through deep space, with eye-popping 3-D graphics. You’ll literally feel like you’re floating in space. The planetarium's exhibition galleries are equally engaging, with myriad displays and interactive activities. A must-see exhibit is “Shoot For The Moon,” an interactive exhibit on lunar exploration.

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Water Tower Place
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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.

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Art Institute of Chicago
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Chicago visitors flock to the Art Institute of Chicago, located in Grant Park, to admire two very important and much-parodied American works, Grant Wood’s famous 1930 painting, American Gothic (the iconic farmer with a pitchfork, standing next to his spinster daughter), and Edward Hopper’s 1942 Nighthawks (the painting of people sitting in a late-night diner that adorns many a dorm room wall on reproduction posters). Of course, that’s not the only art that draws people to this magnificent museum; you’ll also see more than 30 works by Monet, including some Haystacks and Water Lilies, Seurat’s famous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge and works by Renior, Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso and Cassat, among many others. The building itself is a historical landmark, guarded by two bronze lions at its Michigan Avenue entrance.
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Museum of Science and Industry
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You certainly won’t be under-stimulated on a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, a must-see Chicago museum. With some 2,000 exhibits to see, most of which are interactive, this massive museum continues to enlighten and amaze.

Nine permanent exhibits thoroughly examine everything on Earth, from cerebral concepts like the passage of time to questions about the origins of breakfast cereal. Visitors can climb through a German U-boat captured during WWII and press their noses against the window of the Apollo 8 command module.

 The museum itself is set in Jackson Park, which has a Japanese garden, lagoons and a nature retreat with hundreds of species of birds. When you've had your fill of space capsules, coalmines, and Zephyrs at the museum, the park makes an excellent setting to recuperate.

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Chicago Lakefront Trail
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The Chicago Lakefront Trail is an 18 mile paved trail that runs alongside Lake Michigan, within the city limits of Chicago, Illinois. The trail is open for walkers, runners, skaters, and cyclists, earning it high praise as a popular spot for outdoor recreation activities.

The trail provides some of the most spectacular views of Chicago’s shoreline and skyline. As you venture out on the Chicago Lakefront Trail, you’ll find hydration stations, washrooms, and concession stands as well. Chicago Lakefront Trail passes through Lincoln Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo, as well as the Navy Pier. Other sights of interest include Buckingham Fountain and the Shedd Aquarium / Field Museum. The southern terminus on the Lakefront Trail is at the South Shore Cultural Center.

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Frederick C. Robie House
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The Frederick C. Robie House was built in Prairie Style by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Completed in 1910, today it is known as one of the finest examples of American architecture, perhaps the first architectural style that is uniquely American. The exterior is characterized by its art-glass windows, sharp edges, and horizontal Roman brick work. A contemporary space with an open floor plan that is still being restored, it is considered a precursor to modernist architecture.

In 1957, the house was placed under threat of demolition. Frank Lloyd Wright himself lobbied to save it at the age of 90. It was one of the last houses designed in his Oak Park studio. The American Institute of Architects named the Frederick C. Robie House one of the ten most significant structures of the 20th century.

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Chicago History Museum
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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.

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Chicago Children's Museum
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The museum opens up an interactive world of exploration and play for children, with a range of exhibits, programs, and events. Once housed in the hallways of the Chicago Public Library, it became an anchor tenant on Navy Pier in 1995 where it continues to expand. Everything is educational and hands-on — children get the chance to dig for dinosaur bones as they learn about prehistoric times, or simply have fun as they captain their own boat or play in the extensive water area. Here children learn by doing, whether it’s building a structure, fishing in a river, or climbing the museum’s three-story schooner. Kids can build or their own structures in the Skyline exhibit, or explore an existing scale of them in the Kids Town. There are essentials for play — costumes and toys — throughout. All in all there are three floors, so it easily makes for a full day of adventures and learning. It is the fourth largest children’s museum in the United States.

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More Things to Do in Illinois

Rookery Building

Rookery Building

10 Tours and Activities

A landmark of Chicago’s skyline and a masterpiece of architecture, The Rookery was one of the most expensive buildings in the city’s history when it was completed in 1888. It is considered one of the oldest historic high rises in Chicago. It was named not only for the many pigeons and crows that inhabited the exterior of the building, but also for the corrupt politicians that once worked within its walls.

Housing over 600 office spaces, it was constructed by John Wellborn Root and Daniel Burnham, with Frank Lloyd Wright’s remodel of the lobby “Light Court” added in 1905. Wright designed and installed the intricate stairways, rails, and light fixtures. After the Great Chicago Fire it served as an interim City Hall. It is a designated Chicago landmark, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, and was inducted into the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

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Marquette Building

Marquette Building

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The Marquette Building is a Chicago landmark steeped in history — so much so that it has been named a National Historic Landmark, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1895, it was named for Father Jacques Marquette, the first European settler in Chicago back in 1674. It was designed by architects William Holabird and Martin Rocheand and was one of the first steel frame skyscrapers built in Chicago. It is characterized by its long “Chicago style” bay windows and its central court around its famous two-story lobby. Still today it stands as a prime example of the Chicago School of Architecture. The building was once the headquarters of nearly 30 major railroad companies, and remains an office building today. While originally terra cotta and red in color, it has darkened slightly with age. Preservation of the building’s unique interior and ornate exterior remains a priority, even after completion of a four year restoration in 2006.

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House of Blues

House of Blues

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Chicago is known as the home of the blues, so it is fitting that one of the most popular venues for live music in the city is the House of Blues. However, this local outpost of the national chain isn’t just a venue for blue musicians (and in fact, if the best blues acts are what you want to see, there are better venues in the city), but rather a showcase for international musical acts of every genre. Opened in 1996, the concert house, which was modeled after an opera house in Prague, has hosted some of the world’s most renowned musicians, including the Who, Pearl Jam and Al Green.

On nights when there are no ticketed acts, the Back Porch Stage offers shows with a $10 cover, which is waived if you dine in the restaurant before the show. The restaurant also serves lunch Monday through Saturday, and every Sunday, the House of Blues hosts its World Famous Gospel Brunch at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

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Harold Washington Library Center (Chicago Public Library)

Harold Washington Library Center (Chicago Public Library)

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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.

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Hard Rock Cafe Chicago

Hard Rock Cafe Chicago

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The Hard Rock Café 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 Café 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 café throughout the year, so be sure to check the Hard Rock Café Chicago events page for details and reservations.

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Chicago Picasso (The Picasso)

Chicago Picasso (The Picasso)

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University of Chicago

University of Chicago

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Lincoln Park Conservatory

Lincoln Park Conservatory

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Dating back to the 1980s, the Lincoln Park Conservatory transports visitors to another time. This conservatory specializes in tropical palms and ancient ferns and grows the thousands of plants used in Chicago’s parks. Visitors explore four display houses – the Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House, and Show House. The Show House holds the annual flower shows. The Conservatory is located in famous Lincoln Park, making it an accessible natural getaway within the city.

The Conservatory was building phases between 1890 and 1895. It has undergone renovations over the last century, mostly to update the technology used to house, grow, and showcase the plants. The Conservatory was designed in the Victorian tradition. The building is glass with intricate trusses in the style of ogee – or S-shaped – arches.

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Jackson Park

Jackson Park

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Illinois commissioned the creation of Jackson Park in celebration of the World’s Fair back in 1869, but this lakefront destination that’s full of outdoor entertainment options still attracts both locals and tourists long after the fair ended (and after most of it was burned to the ground in 1894). While two buildings did survive the fire—what’s now the Museum of Science and Industry and the Norway Pavilion—most of what exists in Jackson Park today is newly developed.

Travelers who make their way to the Windy City in warmer weather will find an 18-hole golf course in Jackson Park, scenic nature trails, beachfront along Lake Michigan and a couple of basketball courts. Part of the popular Chicago Lakefront Trail also runs through Jackson Park, making it an ideal destination for visitors who want to log some extra miles a little further afield from the urban streets.

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Northerly Island

Northerly Island

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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.

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Chicago Chinatown

Chicago Chinatown

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Chicago's Chinatown began as a result of Chinese immigration and the discrimination against them. After the completion of the transcontinental railroad, Chinese immigrants who were living in California in the late 1800s began moving east to escape the discrimination they were experiencing, and some of them settled in Chicago. They began opening small shops, restaurants, and laundry service stores, and throughout the 1900s, the Chinese population continued to grow.

Today Chinatown is not only an area with a predominantly Chinese population, it is also an interesting tourist attraction, and many visitors can come to experience a bit of Chinese culture. Museums display Chinese art depicting the culture. There are many restaurants where you can eat authentic Chinese food from different regions of China. Shopping is also a big draw.

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Lincoln Monument

Lincoln Monument

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Chicago Temple

Chicago Temple

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There are plenty of stunning churches, glorious cathedrals and ornate temples throughout the world, but few offer up service with a view quite like the one located inside the Chicago Temple Building. This 23-floor building was built in 1924 and is, without a doubt, the tallest church in the world. Travelers can visit this iconic destination, which is home to the Methodist Church, and see the 1,000-seat sanctuary located on the first floor, or head to the Sky Chapel. With seating for just 30 people, this tiny but beautiful sanctuary—complete with 16 stained glass windows—is the highest indoor worship space of record.

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Second City

Second City

2 Tours and Activities
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