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Things to Do and See Around Chicago IL

Updated on January 21, 2016

As a native Chicagoan, I can tell you there are a lot of things to see and do in Chicago. Summer is my favorite time of the year so I’m going to start there.


Top 10 Places to Visit While Staying in Chicago

  1. Shedd Aquarium – Largest indoor aquarium. There is a general admission fee however they do offer several free days to enter.
  2. Brookfield Zoo – Lots to see and do. Take in the dolphin show, feed animals in the Children’s zoo and spend an afternoon observing wildlife.
  3. Wrigley Field – Home of Chicago Cubs with an open field and classic baseball feel.
  4. Millennium Park – A free park for family and fun with summer festivals and outdoor concerts.
  5. Lake Shore Drive – Take a drive down LSD and take in all the wonderful views.
  6. Diversey Harbor along Lake Shore Drive watch boats come in and go out to Lake Michigan. At dusk and in the early evenings the lights are breathtaking.
  7. Willis Tower formerly known as The Sears tower with top the of the line skydeck views.
  8. Magnificent Mile – a walk down Michigan Ave. Do some windows shopping or not.
  9. Sightseeing River Boat Tour along the Chicago River
  10. Navy Pier with a gigantic Ferris wheel towering a whopping 148 feet and views over the lakefront.

Welcome to Chicago

Stroll Along Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo
Stroll Along Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo
show route and directions
A markerdiversey harbor chicago il -
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Loyola University Chicago, 6525 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60626, USA
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Take the scenic drive along Lake Shore Drive north to Sheridan Road.

My Top 10 Places to see that are Free of Charge

Visiting Chicago doesn’t have to break your budget. There is plenty to see and do that is free of charge.

  1. Millennium Park with family fun festivals and concerts all free of charge
  2. Stroll or bike down beaches of Lake Michigan. Start at Oak Street and work north towards Diversey Harbor. Relax at Belmont/Diversey to watch the boats. Diversey Harbor also offers a miniature golf course and driving range, with a fee of course.
  3. Lincoln Park Zoo – open 365 days a year Free to the public, note parking in the nearby lot charges $10 per vehicle.
  4. Lincoln Park Conservatory – Indoor flower and gardens within 4 buildings displaying nature at its best. Admission is free. Open year-round.
  5. Walk down Magnificent Mile – window shopping doesn’t cost a penny but you just might see something you like.
  6. Take the drive. Lake Shore Drive (LSD) runs a stretch of around 20 miles along the lakefront. Begin your trip anywhere along the drive and head north or south. The views of Lake Michigan are fascinating. LSD ends on the north at Hollywood Avenue but swing on over to Sheridan Road and continue north of the city. This road will lead you towards Loyola University, a road with many uphill twists and turns along the way, a beautiful, scenic and enjoyable drive.
  7. Visit any of the major parks or Forest Preserves. Grab a lunch, make it a picnic. Along the stretch of road on Sheridan and Lake Shore Drive there are a great number of parks available. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County has numerous picnic groves.
  8. Take a bike and ride the Busse Wood Trails. A stretch about 20 miles of bike trails that cross into Elk Grove Village, a town about 20 miles northwest from downtown Chicago.
  9. Harold Washington Public Library – located in the heart of downtown, this library is open to the public and is one of the largest libraries in the world.
  10. Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. The fountain is only active between April through October but the area is also close to the Grant Park Petrillo Music Shell; a great place for outdoor concerts during the summer months.

Sears Tower - now, Willis Tower
Sears Tower - now, Willis Tower

Chicago, IL the Great Windy City

What do I love about Chicago? With deep dishpan pizza, notorious gangsters, great architecture and panoramic skyline views, what's not to love.

Towns Surrounding Chicago

Many areas surrounding downtown are exclusive to the area where you can find shops, restaurants, and historical buildings to see and visit.

  • Little Italy – located south of the Interstate 290 and west of Interstate 90.
  • Chinatown – located south of Cermak Road and west of McCormick Place.
  • Greektown – located north of Interstate 290 and west of the Chicago River
  • Printer’s Row – located south of Congress and east of the Chicago River
  • Millennium Park and Grant Park – located along Lake Michigan, east of downtown Chicago between Randolph Street and Roosevelt Road.
  • Museum Campus – located south of Grant Park which includes the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field.
  • Old Town – a part of Chicago where cobble streets, great food venues and local bars have prime spots. Old Town is located west of La Salle Blvd. and south of North Avenue.
  • Schaumburg IL – located about 20 minutes from the city limits, Schaumburg township has lots to see and do.

1985 Bears
1985 Bears

For the Sports Lover

  • Soldier Field – Home of the Chicago Bears. Located off of Lake Shore Drive, this open air stadium packs in and invites tailgating before each game.
  • Visit the United Center – Home of the great Chicago Bulls. Standing right outside the stadium is tall, bronze statue of Michael Jordan.
  • Take in a baseball game at any of the great stadiums – Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field located about 15 minutes north from downtown. Chicago White Sox play at US Cellular Field located south of the city near 35th street.
  • Firework night is spectacular, but nothing outshines the fireworks at Cellular Field.
  • Allstate Arena– the place to see the Chicago Wolves play hockey.


For the Gardener

  • Chicago Botanic Gardens located about 20 miles north of Chicago in Glencoe, IL. Admission is Free but the parking is not.
  • Lincoln Park Conservatory with indoor flower and garden areas adjacent to the Lincoln Park Zoo. 


show route and directions
A markerdowntown loop chicago il -
Loop, Chicago, IL, USA
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B markerbillygoats chicago -
Billy Goat Tavern, 330 S Wells St # 1, Chicago, IL 60606-7107, USA
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C markerlou malnitis chicago -
Lou Malnati's Pizzeria - River North, 439 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60610, USA
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Superdawg Drive-In, 6363 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60646-3726, USA
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Some of the Best Places to Eat

Chicago is famous for deep dish pizza and Vienna Hot dogs. Either of which can be found throughout the Chicagoland area.

There are so many that I could list here as I wouldn’t do it any justice.

Here a several classics and some of the favorites that locals find worth visiting.

  • Billy Goat on Wells Street
  • Superdawg Chicago’s famous hot dogs located on Milwaukee Avenue.
  • Most any pizza place will do because Chicago is world renowned for their deep dish pizza, you can find it almost anywhere. Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s are among the favorites.
  • Medieval Times with dinner and a tournament. Located in Schaumburg, Illinois just a short drive north of the city.
  • Downtown Chicago has some of the finest restaurants with any type of flavor and taste. Outdoor gardens, indoor romantic dinners everything can be found here.

Holy Name Cathedral
Holy Name Cathedral

For the Churchgoer

  • Stop for a visit at Holy Name Cathedral. Walk in this majestic building, take a seat on one of the Church benches, say a prayer, and look at the beauty of this church. The organ pipes are beautiful and the handmade organ was crafted by Casavant Freres in 1982. A beauty rich with glory and a sound like it came straight from heaven.
  • North of Chicago in Barrington, Illinois you will find Willowcreek Community Church; one of the largest churches in the nation, home of Bill Hybels and fellow native Lee Strobel and John Ortberg. This church welcomes everyone, any faith or denomination. Step inside the remodeled auditorium and breathe in the love of God.
  • Many other great churches can be found throughout Chicagoland and most local churches host special events and fund raisers throughout the year. During the summer months, many carnivals that connect to local schools are fun favorites around these locations.

Shedd Aquarium
Shedd Aquarium

My top 5 favorite places in Chicago

I’ve mentioned these before but wanted to showcase them. Rounding out my personal favorites.

  1. Shedd Aquarium. One of the largest aquariums in the world with over 1500 species of fish and mammals. A great place to bring the family. Children will love this museum. Bring some lunch because this visit can be an all-day event. Located along Lake Shore Drive, just a few miles from Soldiers Field, this museum is a must for family adventure.
  2. The Brookfield Zoo home to wildlife in their natural habitats with a butterfly exhibit and a spectacular dolphin show, a must see.
  3. Wrigley Field: home of the Chicago Cubs with the outdoor bleacher seats a sure favorite.
  4. Lake Michigan: With spectacular beaches, views of the lake and surrounding architecture this is by far the best place to relax.
  5. Grant Park: Home of the summer concerts, Millennium Park and Buckingham Fountain

Visit the SkyDeck at Sears Tower

Summertime is not the only time to visit Chicago.

During the month of February, most of the museums offer free admission.

In early February, the Chicago Auto Show comes to McCormick Place. The latest and greatest vehicles showcased within the automotive industry.

The holidays offer the lights festival along the magnificent mile.

Ice skating is available at Millennium Park through the winter months.

Parades in Chicago are year round. The Thanksgiving Day parade marches down Michigan Ave marks the Christmas Holiday and St. Patty’s Day in March steps in with the green. Around the end of August, the Bud Biliken parade kicks in the start of another school year.

With all the things to see and do in Chicago, why not love this city, as legendary Frank Sinatra once said, “Chicago is my kind of town.”

For Further Tour Information about Chicago

© 2011 FaithDream


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    • abrodech profile image

      Anya Brodech 4 years ago from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607

      Schaumburg has Woodfield Mall which is MASSIVE!!! great place to go shopping!!

      I love cruising along LSD at night going from one to the other! Take someone with you so you can switch places driving and get the best view! The Signature Lounge on the 97th (or whatever floor it is) of the John Hancock is a fancy place to go for drinks with a spectacular view of the city!

      The Chicago Botanic Garden is beautiful and amazing!! During the summer they have live music and dancing! There is Summer Dance in Grant Park. For more information about these two events and about dancing in Chicago in the summer, please take a moment read my hub that I wrote on it,

    • genna088 profile image

      Genna 5 years ago from Tampa, FL

      This is so helpful! I may be visiting Chicago this summer. Thanks for posting this!

    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 6 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Thanks applejuic3. Chicago is a great place to visit, especially in the summer. Lots to see and do.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    • applejuic3 profile image

      applejuic3 6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      wow, there is so much to do here. when i do travel here, i definitely won't have any problems finding something to do, that's for sure.

    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 6 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Thanks Fluffy. Hope you get a chance to visit Chicago one day. Thanks for visiting my article, always appreciate your comments.

    • Fluffy77 profile image

      Fluffy77 6 years ago from Enterprise, OR

      Wow, I love the aquarium too! Thanks for sharing this great guide to travel. May just come in handy one day.

    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 6 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Tamarajo, glad you found it interesting. I hope you get to return to Chicago in the summer. I think that is when there is so much more to see and do.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments.

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 6 years ago

      too bad I didn't have this article last week. My husband and I were in Chicago for a class he had to attend. I knew that Chicago was famous for food but we really didn't know where to go. We did pass the Medieval restaurant which looked interesting.

      I also didn't realize how famous the city was for its gangster activities. I did watch a show that showcased its more modern gang issues.

      Good informational hub. I will refer back to it should I ever visit Chicago again.

    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 6 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Thanks WillStarr for the compliment.

      Chicago has a lot to offer. I encourage others to visit this great city.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Excellent and informative Hub!