From the city’s soaring buildings to the curve of its wide shoreline, Chicago exudes an air of self-assurance and pride that can be seen in the eyes of visitors and locals alike. Chicago is a great example of what can be accomplished by hard work and resolves in the United States, and a journey there gives guests a taste of the values of the American core.
Many of Chicago’s top tourist attractions provide breathtaking views of the city’s iconic skyline and should not be overlooked. The city’s shoreline is beautiful, with scenic parks along the lake and a wharf jam-packed with exciting attractions thanks to its location on Lake Michigan. Chicago, the third-largest metropolis in the United States, has a lot going for it and is well worth a visit.
Chicago’s Best: Top 15 Tourist Destinations You Can’t Miss
Here’s a list of Chicago’s best 15 attractions that you must visit on your trip to the city. Have a great time!
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Millennium Park
- Navy Pier
- Buckingham Fountain
- Field Museum of Natural History
- The Magnificent Mile
- Wrigley Field
- Museum of Science and Industry
- Lincoln Park Zoo
- Shedd Aquarium
- the Chicago Theater
- Adler Planetarium
- Lakefront Trail
- 360 Chicago Observation Deck
- The 606
Art Institute of Chicago
Hundreds of thousands of works of art are housed in the Art Institute of Chicago, making it a world-class institution. Paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, decorative arts, fabrics, architectural sketches, and other media are all represented in the extensive collection that covers thousands of years and multiple cultures.
A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte (1884) by Georges Seurat, Renoir’s 1879 Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando, and several paintings by Claude Monet are among the most famous pieces in the Institute’s collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist art.
The primary structure was constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and planned by Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge in the beaux-arts style. Over time, the complex’s footprint has grown to encompass a total of 400k square feet and a number of additional structures. Nowadays, this Institute is one of Chicago’s top attractions to visit on your trip to the city.
- Address: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603.
- Friday to Monday from 11 AM to 5 PM.
- Thursdays from 11 AM to 8 PM.
- Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Downtown Chicago’s Grant Park, of which Millennium Park is located, is bounded to the west by Michigan Avenue, to the east by Columbus Drive, to the north by Randolph Street, and to the south by Monroe Street.
The artwork Cloud Gate, which weighed 110 tons and was influenced by liquid mercury, serves as the park’s focal point. Its center arch is a mirror that mirrors the sky, the buildings, and the visitors who pass through it. This building is surely one of Chicago’s best attractions to visit.
Crown Fountain, an intriguing contemporary take on the old gargoyle that creates the illusion of water gushing out of the mouths of projected images of Chicagoans, is another must-see in Millennium Park. Other well-liked activities include concerts at the outdoor Jay Pritzker Pavilion and free year-round access to the public garden Lurie Garden.
- Address: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602.
- Timings: every day from 6 AM to 11 PM.
Navy Pier, which protrudes into Lake Michigan and features numerous attractions suitable for all ages, is another top attraction in Chicago. The mile-long pier is filled with eateries, stores, and sights like carnival games and gardens to ensure that everyone has a good time.
There are many cultural events and celebrations hosted at various venues along the pier throughout the year. These venues range from theaters and museums to public plazas as well as performing spaces. There are also mini-golf and boat tours to enjoy, not to mention the giant Ferris wheel and antique carousel.
- Address: 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611.
- Saturday and Friday from 11 AM to 9 PM.
- Sundays to Thursdays from 11 AM to 8 PM.
The Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park was inspired by the Latona Fountain in Versailles and was built by builder Edward Bennett. The spray from this font can be up to 15 stories high, making it renowned for its massive size and impressive visual impact.
The pool represents Lake Michigan, and the four water-spouting sea horse sculptures are said to reflect the four states that border the lake. Arts patron Kate Sturges Buckingham, who at the age of 32 acquired her family’s vast wealth, gave this fountain to the city.
In 1927, she created a trust fund to ensure the perpetual running of the Buckingham Fountain she had bequeathed to the city of Chicago as a memorial for her brother. The waterfall is such a Chicago icon that it was used in the opening credits of both Married with Children and Crime Story, so it’s no wonder that it’s on the list of Chicago’s top attractions.
- Address: 301 S Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States.
Field Museum of Natural History
Because of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History was founded, which is now one of the best attractions in Chicago. The museum’s original purpose was to display relics and displays from the Fair, but it soon shifted its focus to natural history.
In 1921, as a component of the Museum Campus, the collection was relocated to its present home in Grant Park. Native American relics are on display alongside the taxidermy of African elephants and other big creatures. Many people believe that their trip to Chicago isn’t complete until they’ve seen “Sue,” a 12-meter (40-foot) tall Tyrannosaurus skeleton that is the museum’s most famous attraction.
- Address: 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States.
- Timings: every day from 9 AM to 5 PM.
The Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile is home to a staggering variety of department stores and luxury merchants, as well as several multi-story malls, making it one of the finest locations to buy in the world and one of Chicago’s top attractions. This shiny stretch of Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to the Chicago River is the spot to go if you want to shop until you collapse!
Real estate mogul Arthur Robloff coined the term in the 1940s for the affluent neighborhood that is dominated by towers and landmarks like the Chicago Water Tower and the Wrigley Building. The ‘Mag Mile’ is known for its many upscale eateries and lodgings in addition to its many specialty stores and designer names.
The “Mag Mile,” as it is sometimes referred to, is also convenient for getting to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wrigley Building, and the Chicago Water Tower, among many other famous Chicago sites.
Seeing the Chicago Cubs play baseball at the historic Wrigley Field is sure to be a memorable and enjoyable experience. The North Side of Chicago is home to the second-oldest baseball stadium in the United States, right behind Boston’s Fenway stadium, which is also one of the best attractions in Chicago.
It was constructed in 1914 and given the gum tycoon’s name because of its charming vintage appearance. The park’s hand-turned scoreboard and distinctive entryway are just as well-known as the ivy-covered outfield walls. There are great tours that educate you about the past of the club and the field, and you can also witness an interesting and exciting game there.
- Address: 1060 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613, United States.
Museum of Science and Industry
Located at Jackson Park’s northern edge, the Museum of Science and Industry is the biggest science museum in the Americas and is one of the best tourist attractions in Chicago. This massive museum houses everything from trains and aircraft to a seized German submarine and a full-size model of a coal mine, so exploring it could take days, if not weeks.
The Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair and opened as a museum in 1933. Some chapters examine topics like anatomy and heredity, while others trace the development of transportation and industry. Over 75 different rooms to explore, including a tornado simulator and scientific activities. You shouldn’t skip this fantastic exhibit.
- Address: 5700 S Dusable Lk Shr Dr, Chicago, IL 60637, United States.
- Timings: every day from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo, located in the massive Lincoln Park to the north of the core, is home to an amazing variety of creatures. A popular tourist destination for both residents and visitors, the zoo houses numerous large displays and enclosures devoted to animals and environments from all corners of the globe.
Over 1,100 animals call this, which is one of the earliest zoos in North America, home. It was established in 1868. The famous Kovler Lion House is as popular as ever, and it’s not just because of the penguins and polar bears that you can see there. This amazing zoo is one of Chicago’s best attractions to visit.
- Address: Chicago, IL 60614, United States.
- Timings: every day from 10 AM to 5 PM.
The John G. Shedd Aquarium, which shares the Museum Campus on the lakefront with the Field Museum, is home to over 32,500 fish and more than 1,500 different kinds of marine life. The aquarium, which opened in 1930, is so popular that it attracts over two million people annually, and it is one of Chicago’s top attractions.
The exhibits are separated into different sections, each with a different subject, such as the Caribbean Reef and the acclaimed Amazon Rising. One of the most visited sections of the aquarium is the Oceanarium, where visitors can see dolphins and beluga whales.
- Address: 1200 S Dusable Lk Shr Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States.
- Timings: every day from 9 AM to 6 PM.
The Chicago Theater
The historic Chicago Theater is conveniently located near the park and hosts a wide variety of events, including concerts, plays, magic shows, stand-up comedies, talks, and even athletic events. The grand theater, which is easily recognized by its lighted six-story sign, is a wonderful and unforgettable venue for any occasion. That’s why it is considered one of the best attractions in Chicago.
It was constructed in 1921, and its grand foyer and halls are stunning examples of neo-baroque design inspired by Versailles. Gleaming crystal lights illuminate the auditorium’s magnificent paintings and gilded embellishments, making for an equally impressive sight.
- Address: 175 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601, United States.
All ages can enjoy the shows and extensive displays at the Adler Planetarium because it is so much better than the ones most students get to visit on school trips. The Adler Planetarium, which opened in 1930 on Chicago’s Lake Michigan coast, claims the distinction of being the first such facility in the Western Hemisphere.
The two dome seats in the planetarium host a wide range of performances, such as those that look into the night sky over Chicago, the solar system, and the moon. There is also a wide variety of displays that look into the past of science, astronomy, and extraterrestrial life, as well as meteors and meteorites, space travel, and more.
Female, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ scientists, among others, are featured prominently in several displays. An outstanding display examines the impact of the work of Islamic scientists on both Islam and the wider world. Many archaic and primordial sundials, as well as telescopes, are also on display as relics from earlier astronomers. This place is, without a doubt, one of Chicago’s top attractions.
- Address: 1300 S Dusable Lk Shr Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States.
- Fridays to Mondays from 9 AM to 4 PM.
- Wednesdays from 4 PM to 10 PM.
- Closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Lakefront Trail is a famous and beautiful trail that runs for thirty kilometers along the western shore of Lake Michigan, and it is one of the best attractions in Chicago. The paved route not only connects the vast Chicago lakefront parks to the many beaches and numerous tourist sites, but it also provides breathtaking vistas of the lake and the city itself.
Beginning at Edgewater Beach on the North Side, the route travels across the city to South Shore, on the South Side, by way of Millennium Park and the Magnificent Mile. The path is ideal for strolling, jogging, riding, or skating, and it also features breathtaking views and landmarks.
The Bloomington Line, which was once used by trains, now serves as a linear park and path system known as the 606. A little over four kilometers in length, it connects various parks and areas in the city’s northwest and is a very pleasant and picturesque spot to stroll, run, or bike along.
The abandoned and weed-filled railroad corridor from the early 20th century was transformed into a greenbelt in 2015. Beautiful flowerbeds, trees, and shrubs now border its paved route, and visitors can take in panoramic vistas of the city as they stroll along. Make sure you visit this amazing site on your trip to the city, as it is one of the best attractions in Chicago.
- Address: 1805 N Ridgeway Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, United States.
- Timings: every day from 6 AM to 11 PM.
360 Chicago Observation Deck
The Lakefront Trail has beautiful vistas, but the 360 Chicago Observation Deck has the best in the city, making it a top attraction in Chicago. Views of the cityscape, Michigan Lake, and the Magnificent Mile can all be enjoyed from the 94th level of the building formerly known as the John Hancock Center.
The supertall tower has a lounge where you can relax while taking in the breathtaking views, which can extend as far as 90 kilometers on a clear day. In case the breathtaking landscapes aren’t enough to entice you, TILT is a thrilling experience that tilts so you can look down 300 meters to the city streets below.
- Address: 875 N Michigan Ave 94th floor, Chicago, IL 60611, United States.
- Timings: every day from 9 AM to 11 PM.