Selina’s Top 20 Best Chicago Tourist Attractions Guide
By David Bolaños on Jul 08, 2022
If you only go by the photos on Instagram and Facebook, it’s easy to think that Chicago attractions mainly revolve around its bold skyline, the Bean and the Magnificent Mile. However, a closer inspection of Chicago tourist attractions reveals a stunning and wondrous city swamped in iconic twentieth-century architecture, world-class museums, vibrant shopping districts and jaw-dropping art.
Aptly nicknamed the Windy City- due to the lake breeze that blows from Lake Michigan- Chicago also takes pride in its rich history and distinct culture. Its fierce loyalty to classic American foods is another reason to plan a quick trip to Chicago, Illinois. And we’re not just talking Deep-dish pizza, the Jibarito sandwich and the Rainbow Cone- though you can’t miss these.
In short, the energetic Chicago has everything that families and solo travelers could hope to experience in one of the most beautiful cities in the USA. We have whittled down 60+ attractions in Chicago to find the 25 absolute best so you don’t have to. Whether you’ll be in the Windy City for only a weekend or have a week to spare, these are the must-see tourist attractions in Chicago today.
Chicago is a city in the state of Illinois, USA. It is located on the southwestern tip of freshwater Lake Michigan, which forms its eastern boundary. This city sits 578 feet above sea level and covers 234.53 sq mi. Boasting a population of around 2.7 million people, Chicago is the largest city in Illinois and the third-largest in the US by population.
Chicago is the administrative capital of Cook County. But despite its massive size- and contrary to most visitors’ thoughts- Chicago is not the capital city of Illinois. That title belongs to the city of Springfield.
Quick Historical Background of Chicago
As we know it now, Chicago is the center and pivotal site of the American Midwest. But it’s a far cry from how it looked in the 1700s. Around 300 years ago, the area that is now Chicago was nothing but a vast tract of land next to a freshwater lake. The area was home to Native American tribes, including the Sauk, Miami, Fox and the Potawatomi.
Chicago’s written history begins with the arrival of French explorers, missionaries and fur traders starting in 1673. As competition for the thriving fur trade increased, most natives moved west, leaving the land to the French settlers. The French settlers- led by Jean Baptiste Point du Sable- called their new settlement Chicagoua- referencing the native wild garlic that grew in this area.
It was not until 1803 that the first American military post-Fort Dearborn- was erected near the Chicago River. Even when Illinois became a state in 1818, Chicago was still a tiny settlement with around 100 residents.
But this would change in 1833 when northern business people saw its potential as a transportation hub and incorporated it into a town with a population of around 350. The town was later promoted into a city in 1837 when work on the Illinois and Michigan canal started.
The history of Chicago would have to include the Great Fire of 1871 that killed over 300 Chicagoans and destroyed more than 17,000 structures. A city characterized by a can-do attitude, the rubble from the scorched buildings, shops and offices were dumped into Lake Michigan, creating the land now occupied by the Millenium Park, Grant Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.
The gangsterism of the roaring twenties, when Al Capone and Bugs Moran ruled the streets, is a big part of Chicago’s history. This period marked one of the Windy City’s darkest moments. But it also left behind some of the best downtown Chicago attractions, including Chicago gangster tours and the mob museum.
Types of Tourism Attractions in Chicago
It’s not easy to single out exactly what makes Chicago so popular, considering its 77 distinct but easily connected neighborhoods. But one thing that’s for sure is that this city has more than enough attractions to keep all types of visitors thrilled.
Marveled by its soaring skyscrapers and historic buildings, most people who’ve visited the Windy City say its architecture is the most striking experience. And that’s understandable for a city that has been the playground for the masters of American architecture, including Frank Lloyd Wright.
Chicago’s museum scene is another magnet to this capital of the Midwest. Of the 121 museums in Cook county, close to 70 are found in Chicago. The best part is that Chicago has a museum for everything- history, sports, science, arts, activism and weird stuff. Whatever fascinates you.
A tour of Chicago top attractions wouldn’t be complete without a boat or private yacht tour of some if not all of its 43 movable bridges. While at it, a leisurely walk along the Chicago River gives you a glimpse of the complex systems used to move the Chicago River bridges up and down. The Riverwalk also allows you to experience other Chicago downtown attractions, including public art and its top-notch food, wine and beers.
The city of Chicago also excels in the food scene and dining culture. Visitors should take the time to appreciate this city’s variety, from the stellar deep-dish and thin-crust pizzas to the regular oyster tacos, guacamole and steak burrito.
Climate and Average Weather
Chicago has a humid continental climate, meaning its summers are hot and winters are real. Lake Michigan directly impacts Chicago weather, so there may be variations from month to month and between the seasons. Generally, the temperature ranges between 22°F and 83°F yearly.
Summers in Chicago (June to September) are warm, humid and wet. These months call for shorts, light tops and sandals. Also, don’t forget to bring a bottle of water, sunblock and sunglasses. Remember that summer is the peak tourist season in Chicago. You should expect high accommodation rates, but you’ll also enjoy all the attractions in Chicago, Ill, including those inaccessible during the chilling winter months.
The Windy City gets cooler in autumn. And we’re not only referring to the weather. The fall months present pleasant averages of 64 °F and 52 °F. Combine these temperatures with the lesser chances of storms and the beautiful foliage colors, and you understand why September and October are the best time to visit Chicago for great weather.
There’s no bad weather in Chicago, including winter. As long as you get your choice of clothes right, the winter months of late December to late March come with affordable hotel and air ticket prices and less busy tourist spots. It’s advisable to dress in layers if you want to enjoy the top tourist attractions in Chicago in winter. Be sure to bring a warm wool or down jacket, warm and water-resistant snow boots, a scarf, a hat and a pair of mittens.
The other best time to visit Chicago is in spring, from late April to June, when the weather starts warming up and the crowds are manageable. Spring also gives you a taste of world-renowned Chicago festivals, events and parades, most of which make up the best Chicago attractions for families.
How Much Do You Need When Visiting Chicago?
The overall cost of visiting Chicago will vary depending on your taste in accommodation and attractions. But based on what other travelers spent, you should budget around $225 per person per day. On average, past travelers spent $30 on transportation around Chicago, $37 on food, $34 on entertainment and $160 on attractions.
On average, a one-week Chicago vacation will cost one person $1550. But note that you may spend a lot more or less. If you want to visit Chicago on a budget, consider planning your visit during the low season- January and February. Another great way of keeping your costs low is identifying free Chicago attractions and using public transport instead of Uber and taxi.
Where To Stay in Chicago, Illinois
With 70+ districts to choose from, the best area to stay in Chicago will come down to your priorities and preferences. But most people will agree that The Loop is the best area to stay in Chicago for first-time visitors.
Most people, including regular visitors, stay in or close to The Loop because it’s located in the heart of downtown Chicago. On top of that, most of the top attractions Chicago has to offer are located in The Loop or within strolling distance. The world-famous Millenium Park, Lake Shore East Park, Maggie Daley Park and Grant Park (home to the Art Institute of Chicago) are all located here.
And because The Loop is the Windy City’s hub of public transport, it’s easy to reach other Chicago, Illinois, tourist attractions spread across the city. Staying at The Loop also means you’re in the melting point of an array of restaurants, pubs, cafes, theaters and world-class public art and architectural wonders.
Looking for accommodation near The Loop? Check out Selina hotel in Chicago. Thanks to its unbeatable location in downtown Chicago, a stay in this pet-friendly hotel puts you steps from Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park and Lincoln Park Zoo. Featured amenities include co-working space, free high-speed Wi-Fi, a wellness area, a movie room and a shared kitchen.
Selina’s Top 20 Chicago Attractions
Visit Navy Pier- A City Within a City!
The epitome of the best Chicago attractions for families, Navy Pier is not a single landmark for quickie sightseeing. This is a local entertainment hotspot and a tourist mecca with a near-endless list of activities and attractions spanning all ages and interests.
Navy Pier is a massive space stretching 3300 ft into Lake Michigan. It was originally opened in 1916 as part of Daniel Burnham’s Master Plan of Chicago. Throughout its 100+ years, Navy Pier has served as a navy base for WW1 and WW2, a pilot training center- even for George Bush the Senior and the home of the world’s first Ferris wheel.
Punctuating Chicago’s skyline at 200 ft, the Centennial Wheel has 42 gondolas offering 360-degree views of Lake Michigan and the city. These gondolas are air-conditioned and have heating systems to ensure year-round fun.
The entrance to Navy Pier takes you through a 13-acre green space called the Polk Bros Park. This park has a fountain where kids cool off during summer as you wait to hop on the Ferris Wheel. The Chicago Children’s Museum is another major draw for kids on Navy Pier, like the Funhouse Maze and the Climbing Walls.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater, IMAX Theater and the Crystal Garden are other unmissable Chicago attractions on Navy Pier. As a city within a city, Navy Pier also has an artisan market and an array of restaurants serving almost anything you’re craving.
Navy Pier opens from 10 AM to 8 PM (Sunday to Thursday) and 10 AM to 10 PM (Friday and Saturday). There’s no admission fee to enter Chicago Navy Pier, but each attraction has its entrance fee.
Explore the Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is the second-largest art museum in the country. Situated in a historic building guarded by two bronze lions, this art museum is one of the best Chicago attractions and a must-visit if you’re hitting the Windy City for culture.
The Art Institute of Chicago has been in its present location since 1893. It’s located in the heart of the city, a strolling distance from Lake Michigan and across from Millenium Park.
This art museum is home to an impressive collection of over 300,000 pieces of art from all over the world. Its gallery exhibition includes artifacts dating back to the thirteenth century covering diverse subjects from ancient Greece, Africa, Japan and the Americas.
The Art Institute of Chicago also includes some of the greatest Impressionist paintings from legendaries, such as Vincent Willem van Gogh, Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir. Some of the most famous and must-see artworks at the Art Institute of Chicago include Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso and Two Sisters by Pierre Auguste Renoir.
The Art Institute of Chicago is an expensive museum and might be overwhelming to see everything in a single visit. If you wish, you could book a small-group guided tour of the museum. These tours last 2-3 hours and the guides will explain the stories behind every masterpiece as you go.
You can enter the Art Institute of Chicago from either entrance at the Michigan Avenue building or the Modern Wing. This museum of art is open every day from 10:30 AM to 5 PM. The museum remains open until 8 PM from Wednesday to Friday. Tickets cost $25 for adults. Teens (starting 14 years), students and seniors pay $19.
Wander Through Millennium Park
With 20-25 million visitors annually, Millenium Park is undoubtedly one of the most visited Chicago, Illinois, tourist attractions. This 24-acre park is a portion of the 319-acre Grant Park, and it’s bounded by the Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive and Randolph and Monroe streets in downtown Chicago.
Before its construction began in 1998, the land currently occupied by Millenium Park was an unsightly former railroad station. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, whose dentist had an office on Michigan Avenue overlooking the blighted railway station, decided to convert it into an attention-grabbing landmark with wow-wow attractions and relaxing gardens.
Almost two decades after its opening, Millennium Park is an oasis of green space and a worthy addition to a city dotted with towering skyscrapers. The iconic Cloud Gate or The Bean- a 110-ton stainless steel sculpture inspired by a drop of liquid mercury- is the most photographed attraction at Millennium Park. But don’t let it blind you to other top things to do in this park, including snapping a photo for your IG at the BP Bridge, enjoying live music, watching a movie at Jay Pritzker Pavilion and checking out the Crown Fountain.
If you’re looking for a moment of zen, Lurie Garden, with its wide expanses of prairie grasses, shrubs, trees, flowers and benched hideaways, is the perfect spot. The Plaza at Park Grill, towered by Cloud Gate, is the perfect spot for lunch, although there are tons of eateries nearby.
Millennium Park is open daily from 6 AM to 11 PM and the entrance is free for all visitors. It’s advisable to go during the morning hours on weekdays if you wish to beat the crowds.
Check Out the Buckingham Fountain
The Buckingham Fountain is to Chicago what the Statue of Liberty is to New York. This is one of Chicago’s main attractions. A visit to the Windy City can’t be complete without snapping a few photos here. This fountain sits in the middle of Grant Park, surrounded by the gorgeous skyline of the great City of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
One of the largest water fountains in the world, the Buckingham Fountain was built in 1927 as a donation from Philanthropist and art collector Kate Buckingham. Its massive size, Beaux-arts-style design, detailed bronze sculptures and behind-the-scenes plumbing and pumping technology make it one of the most spectacular fountains in the world.
The Buckingham Fountain has a diameter of 85 meters. It features three tiers of water basins, surrounded by four pairs of bronze sea horses and three pumps that shoot water through 133 jets. The fountain represents Lake Michigan, while the sea horses symbolize the four states bordering the lake: Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.
When the fountain is on, a computerized system located underground shoots water up to 45 meters high in a spectacular choreographed show that lasts 20 minutes every hour. When darkness falls, the performance gets even more spectacular when the lighting display of 820 colored lights is turned on.
When the Buckingham Fountain is operating (usually from May to mid-October), it opens every day from 8 AM to 11 PM. Admission to Grant Park and the Buckingham Fountain is free for all visitors.
One of the best tourist attractions in Chicago is its jaw-dropping skyline. This is the second tallest skyline in the US and among the top 10 in the world. One of the best places to appreciate it is the 360 Chicago Observation Deck.
The 360 Chicago Observation Deck is 1000 ft above the ground on the 94th floor of the former John Hancock Center. It offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city’s skyline, the famed Magnificent Mile and the majestic Lake Michigan. On a clear day, you should also see the four states that border Lake Michigan: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
Uniquely, the 360 Chicago Observation Deck is fitted with high-definition touch screens. These zoomable screens give you an up-close and personal view and fun facts of the various iconic landmarks that make up the Chicago skyline.
Another experience of this observation deck that you won’t find in other viewpoints in Chicago is the TILT. This glass and steel moveable platform tilts outward to give you downward-facing views of the Chicago skyline and the Magnificent Mile.
Without forgetting, your 360 Chicago Observation Deck ticket also gets you a complimentary glass of wine at Bar 94 on the same floor. Besides alcoholic beverages, Bar 94 offers a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy coffee, tea, soda, salads and even food surrounded by Instagram-worthy views.
360 Chicago (John Hancock) Observation Deck opens every day from 9 AM to 11 PM. Admission tickets cost $20 for adults (12+ years) and $13 for children 3-11 years. Kids under 3 years enjoy free entry.
Discover the Secrets of Egyptian Mummies at Field Museum
Over 100 years since it opened to the public, the Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH) is one of the most treasured Chicago downtown attractions.
This museum was established in 1893 as home to the artifacts gathered during the World’s Columbian Exposition. The latter was the first world fair held in Chicago to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas four hundred years earlier.
The Field Museum is in Grant Park’s Museum Campus on Lake Shore Drive overlooking Lake Michigan. Its 480,000 square feet of exhibit space is a shrine to over forty million artifacts that explain the fundamental topics of our planet. Although only one percent of these are on public display, you may require three to five hours (or even an entire day) to make the most of this museum.
The Field Museum tops other Chicago attractions for families with its all-ages appeal. Some of its most-visited sections include the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, which gives you a hands-on exploration of the evolution of living things, and Inside Ancient Egypt, which hosts the United States’ most extensive collection of Egyptian mummies. Intrepid adventurers don’t want to miss SUE- the most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.
The Field Museum in Chicago opens Monday to Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM, but there’s no admission after 4 PM. Ticket prices are $29 to $114 for out-of-state adults, $27 to $114 for Illinois adults and $18 to $114 for Chicago adults.
Explore Hidden Gems Along The Magnificent Mile
If you can hit only one place during your quick trip to the Windy City, head to the Magnificent Mile. This mile-long strip of Michigan Avenue is an international symbol of Chicago and hands down the most visited part of this city.
Commonly known as the Mag Mile, it’s often ranked among the top five best tourist attractions in Chicago due to its near-endless list of things to do. The Magnificent Mile also makes the list of the world’s most famous streets as well as one of the best shopping destinations in the USA.
The Magnificent Mile is home to the 875 North Michigan Building, which houses the 360 Chicago. The Tribune Tower- a 36-floor neo-Gothic skyscraper that has been commanding the Chicago skyline since 1925- is another unmissable landmark along the Mag Mile. A few steps across the Tribune Tower, check out the Wrigley Building- another hallmark of this city’s skyline that’s easily recognizable thanks to its white terra cotta walls and soaring clock tower.
History buffs will want to explore Richard H. Driehaus Museum- a small museum dedicated to late-nineteenth-century architecture, art and design. The Magnificent Mile also treats shopaholics to a dizzying array of high-end stores and luxury designers. And don’t worry about where to eat on the Magnificent Mile because there’s a steakhouse on almost every corner.
Challenge Your Fears at Willis Tower Skydeck Ledge
We’re often asked which is better between 360 Chicago and Skydeck Chicago. It’s a tricky question because each of these observatory towers is unique. If your budget allows, it’s best to do what most visitors do and visit both! But if the height of the observation deck matters to you, then the Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower will be your go-to observatory deck.
With 108 floors stretching 1451 feet into the air, the Willis Tower is the third tallest building in the USA and has been ruling the Windy City’s skyline since 1970. The Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor of this tower, meaning that it’s over 350 feet above the 360 Chicago.
This added height and the floor-to-ceiling windows let you appreciate the great City of Chicago in all its glory. On top of that, this observatory deck has state-of-the-art, high-powered telescopes that let you zoom in on other Chicago tourist attractions, including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Soldier Field, the Millenium Park and the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. You should also be able to see the four states surrounding the Michigan lake on a clear day.
The Sky Ledge is the latest addition to the Skydeck. This is a retractable glass box that gives you unobstructed views of the streets 1353 feet below. It’s quite a rush and the perfect spot to challenge your fear of heights.
The Skydeck Chicago opens every day from 9 AM to 10 PM. Basic admission tickets cost $22-$36 for youths (3-11 years) and $30-$44 for adults (12 years and up).
Get a Dose of Culture at Chicago Cultural Center
One of the top free Chicago attractions, the Chicago Cultural Center is an architectural marvel and home to an array of special art exhibits and concerts. This stunning landmark building was opened in 1897 as the “People’s Palace.” Its original purpose was to serve as the city’s first public library and as the headquarters for the Civil War Union Army veterans’ organization.
In 1947, the library occupied the entire building until 1991, when it moved to its current location at the Harold Washington building. In the same year, the building was renamed Chicago Cultural Center, becoming the first free municipal cultural center in the USA.
One of the major draws of the Chicago Cultural Center has to be its classical revival style architecture. It’s worth noting that this building was designed by the country’s top architects and built with sumptuous materials, including fine hardwoods, rare imported marbles and colored stones.
One of its major draws is the 38-feet wide stained glass Tiffany dome. Consisting of 30,000 individual pieces of glass, this is the world’s largest stained-glass dome. The building also features another 40-feet-diameter dome on the northern side consisting of over 50,000 pieces of glass. The Washington Street Lobby- initially the library entrance- is another major architectural highlight thanks to its Italian-style design.
Each year, there are over a thousand events, such as lectures, film screenings, music performances, theater productions and exhibits from local and national artists.
The Chicago Cultural Center is located in the Loop along Michigan Avenue opposite the Millenium Park. It welcomes visitors throughout the week from 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is free. There are free guided tours of the landmark building on Thursdays and Fridays starting at 1:15 PM.
Explore Chicago’s Pizza Legacy on a Chicago Pizza Tour
Chicago’s pizza culture dates back to the late nineteenth century when Italian immigrants started trickling into the Windy City looking for job opportunities.
In 1943, two business-minded Italians, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo decided to create a new version of pizza straddling Italian and American traditions. The result was deep-dish- a weighty pizza with layers of meat, vegetables, tomato sauce, a dense layer of cheese (typically mozzarella) and a crunchy crust. And Chicagoans were quick to embrace the new style of pizza.
Today, deep-dish pizza is among the top attractions Chicago is famous for. While it has gained popularity throughout North America and other parts of the world, foodies itching for the original taste will want to take the legendary Chicago pizza tours.
These tours offer an informative lens through which you learn about Chicago’s eclectic pizza culture. They involve visiting different Chicago neighborhoods where you taste historic to new slices of pizza amid insightful facts from a knowledgeable tour guide. The tours last two to three hours and can be bus-driven or on foot.
Relax at Maggie Daley Park
Located in the Loop neighborhood, Maggie C. Daley Park is a must-visit gem if you’re looking for the best Chicago attractions for families. This 20-acre park with massive green spaces also makes for a great spot to read a book or just relax as you plan your list of other things to do in Chicago.
Maggie Daley Park is located at the northeast end of Grant Park, east of Millenium Park. The two parks are connected via Anish Kapoor’s BP Bridge, so it’s easy to tick them off in a single visit.
Unlike Millenium Park, that’s more into arts, Maggie Daley Park is more of a traditional park and has a whimsical approach. Maggie Daley Park is not as popular as Millenium, but that’s a good thing if you enjoy having a little more space to yourself.
This park has tons of things to do for kids and adults, including a tennis facility, an ice skating rink (for use during winter), a playground, a mini-golf course and a climbing wall. It’s easy to run out of time to enjoy most of Maggie Daley Park’s attractions, so spare enough time.
Maggie Daley Park opens daily from 6 AM to 9 PM. While admission to Maggie Daley Park is free, you’ll need to pay to enjoy some of its activities, including the climbing wall and skating rink.
Buy Unusual Gifts at Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities
Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities should top the list if you’re looking for unique or weird Chicago attractions to add to your Chicago vacation. Located in the Andersonville neighborhood, this small vintage shop is part eerie and part creepy but super cool all the same.
This is the type of curio shop that teleports you back in time with its crazy collection of natural history paraphernalia. Death masks, creepy doll heads, taxidermied animals, skeletal parts and Victorian medical tools are some of the items that make this shop absolutely charming. You’ll also find the original drawing of Adolf Hitler by John Wayne Gacy (a.k.a the Killer Clown) here.
Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities was started by a couple, Adam and Skye Rust. While some of its museum-quality artifacts are available for sale or renting, others are part of this curiosity cabinet’s permanent collection.
This opens every day from 12 noon to 5 PM. Items cost as low as $5 and as high as $10,000. Even if you don’t plan to buy, time flies when you walk into this curiosity shop.
Chicago is also known as the Second City because it was rebuilt a second time after the 1871 fire. But Second City also refers to a famous improv theater located at Pipers Alley Mall in the historic Old Town neighborhood of Chicago.
The Second City improvisational comedy enterprise was established on December 16, 1959, by Sahlins, Sills and Howard Alk. Its name was inspired by A.J Liebling’s much-quoted and most remembered classic about the Windy City- “Chicago: The Second City.”
Since its first revue show premiered nearly 180 years ago, the Second City has been the launchpad for award-winning comedians, actors and directors, including Tina Fey, Ryan Stiles and The West Wing’s Alan Alda.
The Second City theater is one of the best tourist attractions in Chicago if you’re looking for a good laugh. It specializes in various performances, from comedic improv sketches to intimate stand-up comedy and songs. Food and cocktails are served throughout the show, and there’s a 24-hour Starbucks coffee shop in the same building.
The Second City theater in Chicago opens 9 AM to 11 PM (Mon-Thu), 9 AM to 1 AM (Fri), 9 AM to 2 AM (Sat) and 4 PM to 10 PM (Sun). Ticket prices vary, but they typically start at $52.
Score Super-Rare Records At Dusty Groove
You probably didn’t expect to see a record shop in this list of Chicago attractions. But we had to feature Dusty Groove thanks to its enormous collection of oldies but goodies.
A mecca for crate diggers, Dusty Groove is easily one of the world’s best record shops. Dusty Groove is the brainchild of Rick Wojcik (a former FM radio station manager) and John Schauer (a former DJ).
As the story goes, the duo met while working at the University of Chicago 100-watts FM radio station. In 1990, the pair started going on road trips shopping for records. At one time, they had accumulated so many personal records that they didn’t know what to do with them. That’s when the idea of setting up a website where they could sell their finds hit them.
The online store was an instant hit. By 2000, Dusty Groove was so successful that they had to get a physical location for it. That’s how they ended up in the three-story red brick store at 1120 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL, not far from downtown.
Today, Dusty Groove is a bona fide and renowned record shop with over 30,000 items in stock. While Dusty Groove still sells most of its products online, rifling through its collection of rare funk, jazz, disco and soul records at their physical location is quite a rush for music aficionados.
Dusty Groove opens daily from 9 AM to 6 PM. The online store is open 24/7 at dustygroove.com, though.
Visit a Jazz Club
Like its pizza culture, Chicago’s historical love for jazz traces back to immigrants moving to industrial cities. Between 1916 and the late 1920s, a large cohort of black southerners arrived in Chicago from New Orleans. Among the immigrants were jazz musicians like Earl Hines, Lil Hardin and Louis Armstrong, who added classic New Orleans jazz to an already thriving music scene.
Over a century since the first wave of jazz musicians arrived in the city, Chicago’s vast jazz talent is still thriving. Perhaps marking its historical importance, the Windy City holds a Jazz Festival every Labor Day Weekend.
The city also has clubs where live jazz performances dominate the calendar, making them top Chicago attractions for musicians visiting the city. Rumored to be Al Capone’s favorite jazz joint back in the day, the Green Mill is undoubtedly one of the best jazz clubs in Chicago City. Constellation- on Chicago’s Northwest side- is another favorite venue if you’re looking for a less crowded place with an intimate feel.
Taste the Lake Life at North Avenue Beach
There’s more to Chi-Town than just tall skyscrapers, museums and parks. This city also boasts not one or two but 26 beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan. Of these, North Avenue Beach is regularly voted as one of the best beaches because of its convenient location near other Chicago, Illinois attractions.
North Avenue Beach is located in Lincoln Park at 1600 North Lake Shore Drive. This beach is popular with younger crowds, making it the right spot if you’re looking forward to a good time while meeting other people.
Swimming at North Avenue Beach is allowed when lifeguards are around, typically from 11 AM to 7 PM daily, from May to September. Paddleboarding, kayaking and jet skiing are other top things to do at North Avenue Beach during summer. If you’re in the mood, walk up to a volleyball court, ask to join, and work up a sweat.
A hard-to-miss landmark here is the North Avenue Beach House- a sleek, ocean-liner-inspired building docked some steps from the shoreline. Its upper deck is home to Castaways Bar and Grill. Serving a variety of great foods and ice drink options, this is the place to head to when you get too hot or hungry.
Get Stunned by the Bahá’í Temple
In 1844, in Persia (now Iran), Mírzá Ḥusayn-ʻAlí Núrí, who claimed to have received revelation from God, founded a new faith called Bahai- he took the title Baháʼu’lláh, which translates to the Glory of God. This movement was anchored on the principles of peace, equality and compulsory education.
As fate would have it, the Bahai Faith was unacceptable not only in Iran but also in the other countries that Baháʼu’lláh escaped to, that is, Iraq and Turkey. But that didn’t hinder Baháʼu’lláh from propagating his new religion. Over 150 years later, the Bahai Faith is among the fastest-growing religions and boasts over 8.5 million followers.
The world’s oldest Bahai House of Worship is located just 30 minutes outside downtown Chicago in the village of Wilmette. Constructed between 1912 and 1953, this is a wondrous masterpiece with a striking fusion of Islamic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture. Its nine minaret-like pillars have carvings referencing various religions in the world, including Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.
One of the top attractions in Chicago, Ill, the Bahai House of Worship welcomes visitors daily from 6 AM to 8 PM. Admission to the Bahai Temple is free.
See “Da Cubs” Play at Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field is where diehard baseball fans meet to watch the Chicago Cubs play. Often ranked among other must-visit attractions in Chicago, the Wrigley Field will also interest history buffs looking for something new.
First opened to the public in 1914, Wrigley Field is the second oldest baseball stadium in the nation. Interestingly, despite ranking as one of the oldest ballparks, Wrigley Field was among the last baseball stadiums to have floodlights installed for night games.
If you’re hoping to catch a game, arriving early is advisable because, as expected, the area tends to get very crowded as the game nears. You may also want to bring snacks and a water bottle to avoid long queues and being overcharged.
If you’re visiting Wrigley Field on a non-game day, consider booking a guided tour. These tours last around one and half hours and will give you a behind-the-scenes look at this historic field. Basic tour tickets start at around $30 per person for a 90-minute session.
Watch a Show at Chicago Theater
There is arguably no other building that is more Chicago than the Chicago Theater. This landmark is globally recognized thanks to its six-story high, vertical C-H-I-C-A-G-O neon sign that has graced selfies, photographs and movies over the years.
Opened in 1921, the Chicago Theater has a slot among the oldest grand movie palaces in the US. Its French Baroque architecture design and its massive lobby inspired by the Royal Chapel at Versailles are other reasons this theater is a must-see when visiting Chicago.
The building was built by A.J Balaban- a renowned American cinema mogul whose role has enormously influenced the American movie and theater experience. But it’s currently owned by Madison Square Garden.
The Chicago Theater has a 3600-seat auditorium and regularly hosts comedians, stageplays, orchestras and bands. The theater also offers behind-the-scenes tours for patrons who want to dig deeper into this landmark’s history and architecture and operations.
Note that foods and drinks from outside are not permitted except bottled water. Don’t worry, though, as the theater has a broad selection of beer, wine, juice, liquors and snacks.
Chicago Theater opens Monday through Friday from noon to 6 PM. Guided tours start at noon daily and last one hour. Ticket charges vary depending on the performance, but they typically cost $125 on average.
Immerse Yourself Into Chicago River Attractions
No trip to the Windy City is complete without experiencing the top attractions Chicago River offers- and there’s a lot! Connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River and several other neighboring lakes, the Chicago River is as important to this city as it was back in the 1700s.
Arguably, one of the best ways to experience the Chicago River is taking a riverwalk. A self-guided stroll allows you to experience this 3.4-mile stretch as the locals do. But you’ll also find lots of paid and name-your-own-price foot tours. The advantage of the latter option is learning the facts and histories behind most of the attractions and landmarks.
How about taking an architecture boat tour if you’ve done enough walking? In addition to the impressive skyline, cruise tours are a good way of appreciating the complex engineering of Chicago River bridges and the systems used to lift them.
Chicago may be “The Second City.” But with its rich culture, stunning skyscrapers and steep history referenced in its hundreds of museums, art galleries and theaters, the Windy City is a package of everything you’d want in an international tourist destination.
Chicago downtown, generally referred to as the Loop, is considered the best area to stay in Chicago, especially for first-time visitors. Staying in the Loop means you’re at the melting point of Chicago, Illinois attractions, including Millenium Park, Michigan Avenue, the Bean and various historic architectural landmarks. So, who’s looking for a hotel in downtown Chicago?
Chicago Tourist Attractions FAQs
What is Chicago most famous for?
The City of Chicago is best known for its spectacular skyline, as observed from the Willis Tower Skydeck and the 360 Chicago. This city is also known for its diverse architectural styles that span Gothic Revival, Oriental, Postmodern, Tudor Revival, e.t.c. Its food scene (deep-dish pizza, Chicago barbecue, pizza puffs), jazz music and water sports are among other Chicago attractions that make a trip to the Windy City memorable.
Is it worth visiting Chicago?
Yes- the city of Chicago is an absolute must-visit for all types of tourists. With attractions spanning various interests- museums, art, architecture, green parks, water activities, friendly people, e.t.c- the Windy City has about anything a tourist would expect from a globally famous tourist destination.
Are 4 days in Chicago enough?
Four days should be enough to see the best of Chicago’s main attractions, depending on your tastes. But you may need up to a week to explore all the City of Big Shoulders offers.
What is the Miracle Mile Chicago?
The Miracle Mile is a relatively newer nickname for the Magnificent Mile. The origin of this name is not yet clear. But it’s most likely from the idea that one can’t stroll the Mag Mile without spending some money.
How walkable is Chicago?
Chicago has overwhelmingly been voted as one of the top five most walkable cities in the USA. This could be attributed to the local government’s efforts to make the city pedestrian-friendly, easily accessible tourist attractions and public amenities on every corner.
Is Chicago Worth Visiting in Winter?
Definitely. While the experience will be different from visiting during other seasons, there are still many attractions in Chicago during winter. Apart from some water activities, such as river and lake cruises and the Buckingham Fountain, most attractions in Chicago continue welcoming visitors throughout the year.
Where should you not stay in Chicago?
While Chicago is safe for tourists, the FBI lists North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Washington Park and West Englewood as the top five dangerous neighborhoods in this city.