The third biggest city in America, Chicago is located on Lake Michigan. It contains the second busiest airport in the world, it’s a global financial center and it’s called home by the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
With a city of Chicago’s size, importance, and history you can imagine there’s an endless amount of places to see. But where exactly does one start?
Below is a list of 10 places to visit in Chicago. The destinations are listed in no particular order. While there are hundreds of interesting places to see while visiting the Windy City, these 10 are a great place to start. If you’re already living in Chi-town, then these locales are definitely worth a return visit or a closer look.
1. Sears Tower
When the Sears Tower was completed in 1973 it was the tallest building in the world. As of 2009, it remains the tallest skyscraper in the United States but has slipped to the world’s third tallest building.
As one of the top tourist attractions in Chicago, the Sears Tower Skydeck offers visitors a spectacular view of the city. It’s located on the 103rd floor that’s 1,353 feet above the ground.
On a clear day you can see four states from the skydeck: Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin (the fourth, of course, being Illinois). Not to scare you away, but on a windy day you can actually feel the building sway.
Adult tickets to the skydeck start at $14.95 while children tickets begin at $10.50. The best time to visit is when the skydeck opens (times varies depending on the season) or after 6 P.M.
You can find the Sears Tower at 233 South Wacker Drive or you can just head towards the really tall building.
2. Navy Pier
Navy Pier is 50-acres of parks, gardens, shops, rides, restaurants and attractions. Every year over eight and half million people visit this historic playground situated on a rectangle of land jutting out into Lake Michigan.
The pier’s physical address is 600 East Grand Avenue. It was built in 1916 and then renovated into its current state in the 1990’s to the tune of $200 million.
At Chicago’s Navy Pier you can ride the 15-story tall McDonald’s Ferris Wheel, take your kids to the Chicago Children’s Museum or see a movie at the IMAX Theatre. The Pepsi Skyline Stage hosts countless live shows featuring everything from dancing to rock concerts.
In the summer there’s free entertainment on Dock Street and in the winter there’s open-air ice skating.
3. Millennium Park
Our next attraction is second only to the Navy Pier in terms of attracting tourist. It’s surrounded by Michigan Avenue, Randolph Street, Columbus Drive and East Monroe Drive.
Despite being relatively new (it was completed in July of 2004) it’s commonly thought to be Chicago’s most important civic project since 1893. This place is called Millennium Park.
While its construction was wrought with controversy and budget overruns, Millennium Park is the pride of downtown Chicago.
Most of the park was design by legendary architect Frank Gehry.
It’s built over a parking garage making it the world's largest rooftop garden.
Millennium Park is home to various public works of art that come in the form of sculptures and fountains. In addition to the art, you can also find gardens, a bandstand, an ice skating rink, a promenade, a bicycle center, a peristyle and a pedestrian bridge.
Admission to the park is free.
Millennium is part of a larger park called Grant, also known as the city’s front yard. Grant Park is famous for hosting Barack Obama’s victory speech on Election Night November 4th, 2008.
4. Field Museum of Natural History
Just as Millennium Park is part of Grant Park, our next destination, The Field Museum of Natural History, is part of a larger complex called the Museum Campus Chicago.
This campus is a 57-acre park featuring the Alder Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum—each one of these institutions is among the best in its field.
The Field Museum is located at 1400 South Lake Shore Drive and is famous for its dinosaur, Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex. She’s the largest and most complete T-Rex in the world.
The museum also contains artifacts from Ancient Egypt, the Pacific Northwest, Native Americans, and Tibet; large collections of taxidermy animals and dinosaurs skeletons; and several permanent displays dedicated to our planet and its animal life.
The Field Museum is open every day, except Christmas, from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Keep in mind, they stop allowing admissions at 4 P.M.
Be warned, it’s very difficult to access the museum when the Chicago Bears are playing at Soldier Field. Since there’s no dedicated museum parking on those days, you’re best served using public transit.
5. Chicago Theatre
The Chicago Theatre opened its doors on October 26th, 1921 and was quickly dubbed the” Wonder Theatre of the World.”
During its first 40 years, the theater offered Chicagoans the best in live and film entertainment. The theatre closed in 1985 but local and municipal leaders saved the decrepit building from demolition.
It reopened in September of 1986 after a furious nine-month restoration. The gala that re-launched the hallowed theatre featured a performance by “Old Blue Eyes” himself, Frank Sinatra.
Today, the 3,600 seat auditorium, that stands seven stories high and is more than one half of a city block wide, hosts performances by world renown musicians, comedians, acrobats and theatre groups.
The theatre is famous for its iconic, six story-high "C-H-I-C-A-G-O" sign and its 29-rank Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ. You can find the Chicago Theatre at 175 North State Street.
The theater offers tours of its historic building—how much you get to see depends on who’s performing at the time. The one hour tour is a great way to see one of America’s most famous theaters.
6. Magnificent Mile
The next place on our list is truly magnificent and it’s a mile long. That’s probably why they call it the Magnificent Mile.
The mile is actually a part of Michigan Avenue. It extends from the Chicago River to Oak Street and serves as the main thoroughfare between the business district of the Chicago Loop and the Gold Coast.
The Magnificent Mile is home to 3,100,000 square feet of retail space. You’ll find over 450 stores, 275 restaurants, 51 hotels, and a myriad of other worthy attractions. This upscale and luxurious stretch of Chicago retailers attracts more than 22 million visitors every year.
As one of the world’s best shopping areas, visitors can find boutiques from the likes of Cartier, Chanel, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Kenneth Cole, and Tiffany & Co.
Besides the shopping, all three of the Midwest’s five-star hotels are located within blocks of the Magnificent Mile.
If shopping and five-star accommodations aren’t your style, there are several historic landmarks located on the Mile, including the Palmolive Building, the Old Chicago Water Tower District and the Tribune Tower.
The Mile is also home to four of the 85 tallest buildings in the world: John Hancock Center, 900 North Michigan, Water Tower Place and Park Tower.
Finally, depending on the time of year, the Magnificent Mile hosts several events like Tulip Days, Gardens of Magnificent Mile, and the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.
7. Gino’s East
Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza, also known as Chicago-style pizza. One of the best purveyors of this delicacy is Gino’s East.
This pizzeria opened in 1966, the brainchild of two taxi cab drivers and their buddy. You can now find their delicious deep-dish at their new Chicago location on 633 North Wells Street.
Gino’s allows patrons to write, or etch, messages on the interior walls of their restaurant—as long as they keep it PG-13.
The restaurant was also featured in the sixth season of the Amazing Race.
If you can’t make it to Gino’s East, Giordano's Pizzeria and Lou Malnati’s are also world renowned for their deep-dish pizza. Both franchises are located all throughout the city of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
8. Wrigley Field
It’s not the oldest ballpark in the country, that distinction belongs to Fenway Park in Boston, but it’s the only park dubbed “The Friendly Confines.” It’s Wrigley Field and it’s home to America’s favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.
Built in 1914 and re-named Wrigley Field in 1927, this historic ballpark is located at 1060 West Addison Street.
With a capacity of just over 41,000, it’s the fourth smallest park in the Major Leagues but with its ivy covered walls and its famous marquee sign, Wrigley is first in charm and character.
Chicago is also home to the Chicago Bears, one of the marquee teams in the NFL. Like the Cubs, the Bears also play at an historic stadium, Solider Field.
However, the Cubs play in the summer while the Bears play in the winter. Knowing what winters are like in Chicago, we thought it best to recommend a summer game like baseball. After all, even if you don’t care for the sport, you’re still going to love Wrigley Field.
9. Lincoln Park
It’s the largest public park in Chicago and you’ll find it just north of Lake Shore Drive terminus at North Hollywood Avenue.
In 1843, this parcel of land began to be used as a city cemetery. Then in 1864, the city converted the 1,200 acres into a park.
Lincoln Park features numerous facilities for the sports enthusiasts: 15 baseball areas, 6 basketball courts, 2 softball areas, 35 tennis courts, 163 volley ball courts, field houses, and a golf course.
Since the park is situated along the lakefront, it also contains boating facilities and public beaches.
Other attractions at the park include landscaped gardens, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, an outdoor theater, and numerous statues.
Perhaps the park’s main attraction is the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is the only zoo within the city limits and features two large sections dedicated entirely to children. The zoo is opened all year around and admission is free.
10. Harpo Studios
Our last suggestion is a bit of a long shot but if you can get reservations it’s definitely worth it.
Located at 1058 West Washington Street is Harpo Studios. That’s where they tape the Oprah Winfrey Show.
To get reservations you must call 312-633-1000 and speak to an audience department employee. Don’t buy tickets or accept promises of reservations from third parties. The only way to see Oprah is to speak to her audience department. As you can imagine a lot of people want reservations so keep calling.
When do you get a reservation to see Oprah (we’re thinking positive here) there are a few things you should know: you must be over 18 years of age, you must bring a piece of photo identification with you to the studio; and you’re asked to avoid wearing white and beige clothing (those colors don’t look good on camera).
Oprah tapes her shows from August to November and then again from January to May. Depending on when you get reservations, prepared to arrive at Harpo Studios between 7 and 7:30 A.M. or 11 and 11:30 A.M. Tapings will last about three hours.
It may be a challenge to get a reservation, but nothing is more a part of Chicago than Oprah Winfrey and her highly rated talk show.
There you have it. Ten great places to visit in Chicago. We covered everything from the Sears Tower to the Oprah Winfrey Show, from the Magnificent Mile to the Navy Pier.
We’ve told you where to get a great slice of Chicago-style pizza and where to see the world’s most complete dinosaur. We’ve told you about the best place to catch a ballgame and the most historic place to watch a concert. We’ve told you about two of Chicago’s most famous parks, one that’s old and one that’s new.
You can try to visit all ten places in one day or you can spend one day visiting each of the ten places. Use the list as a guide to plan your visit or use it as inspiration to make your own itinerary.
It really doesn’t matter because Chicago is full of exciting and interesting places to see. No matter where you start, you’re bound to find a destination that’s a quintessential part of Chicago.