So you’re planning a trip to the Windy City? Well, get ready to be blown away by the 10 must-see attractions that should be on your Chicago bucket list. From the iconic Navy Pier to the breathtaking views at Willis Tower Skydeck, this vibrant city offers a little something for everyone. Explore the world-renowned Art Institute, take a scenic stroll down the stunning Magnificent Mile, and don’t forget to indulge in some deep-dish pizza while you’re at it. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and diverse culture, Chicago is a city that you won’t want to miss. Pack your bags and let’s dive into this ultimate Chicago bucket list.
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. It was founded in 1879 and has since become a cultural icon in the city. The museum’s collection boasts over 300,000 works of art, ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary masterpieces. With its rich history and diverse collection, the Art Institute of Chicago is a must-visit for any art lover.
Highlights of the Museum
The Art Institute of Chicago is famous for its iconic works of art. One of the most well-known pieces in the museum is Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” which depicts a stern-looking farmer and his daughter. Other highlights include Vincent van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” and Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.” The museum also has an extensive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, as well as a significant collection of American art.
The Art Institute of Chicago is located in Grant Park, at 111 South Michigan Avenue. The museum is easily accessible by public transportation, and there are several parking options available nearby. The museum is open every day except Mondays, and general admission tickets can be purchased online or at the museum’s entrance. It is recommended to allocate at least a few hours for your visit, as the museum’s vast collection can easily captivate you for a whole day.
The Bean (Cloud Gate)
Millennium Park is home to several iconic sculptures and artworks, but none are as recognizable as “Cloud Gate,” affectionately known as “The Bean.” Designed by British artist Anish Kapoor, The Bean is a massive reflective sculpture that has become a symbol of Chicago. Visitors can walk underneath and around the sculpture, marveling at the distorted reflections it produces. It’s a popular spot for taking selfies and capturing the city’s skyline.
Another must-see attraction in Millennium Park is the Crown Fountain. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the fountain features a unique interactive design. Two fifty-foot towers face each other across a shallow reflecting pool. The towers display changing faces of Chicago residents, and water shoots out of the mouths, creating a playful atmosphere. The Crown Fountain is a favorite spot for kids in the summertime, as they can splash around in the water and cool off.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is an architectural marvel located within Millennium Park. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the pavilion is an outdoor concert venue that hosts various events throughout the year. Its distinctive design features swirling ribbons of stainless steel, creating a visually stunning backdrop for performances. Whether you catch a concert or simply admire the pavilion’s unique design, it’s an essential part of any visit to Millennium Park.
For a tranquil escape from the bustling city, make sure to visit Lurie Garden. Located within Millennium Park, this beautifully landscaped garden offers a peaceful oasis in the heart of downtown Chicago. The garden features a variety of native plants and flowers, creating a serene environment. Take a leisurely stroll through the garden, relax on one of the benches, or simply soak in the natural beauty surrounding you.
Millennium Park is conveniently located in downtown Chicago, making it easily accessible by public transportation. Multiple bus and train lines serve the area, and there are also several parking garages nearby for those driving. The park is open to the public year-round, and admission is free. Whether you’re visiting for a specific event or simply exploring the park at your own leisure, Millennium Park is a must-visit destination in Chicago.
The Ferris Wheel
No visit to Navy Pier is complete without a ride on the Ferris Wheel. This iconic attraction offers stunning views of the city and Lake Michigan from its 150-foot height. Originally built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the Ferris Wheel has been a beloved Chicago landmark for over a century. Whether you choose to ride during the day or at night, the Ferris Wheel offers a unique perspective of the city.
Nestled within Navy Pier is the Crystal Gardens, a lush indoor botanical garden. Filled with palm trees, fountains, and tropical plants, this glass-enclosed oasis provides a serene escape from the bustling pier. The Crystal Gardens are open year-round and offer a tranquil setting for a leisurely stroll or a moment of relaxation.
Chicago Children’s Museum
If you’re visiting Navy Pier with kids, a stop at the Chicago Children’s Museum is a must. This interactive museum offers a wide range of exhibits and activities designed to engage and educate children of all ages. From water play areas to imaginative play spaces, the museum provides a fun and educational experience for young visitors. It’s the perfect place to let your little ones unleash their creativity and curiosity.
Navy Pier is a popular departure point for boat tours along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Whether you choose a sightseeing cruise or a thrilling speedboat ride, these tours offer a unique perspective of the city’s skyline and architecture. Learn about Chicago’s rich history, admire the iconic buildings, and capture breathtaking photos from the water. Boat tours are available throughout the year, and it’s a fantastic way to explore the city from a different vantage point.
Dining and Entertainment
Navy Pier is home to a wide array of dining options, ranging from casual eateries to upscale restaurants. From deep-dish pizza to seafood specialties, there’s something to satisfy every craving. After enjoying a delicious meal, you can catch a live performance at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater or take in a show at the IMAX theater. With its diverse dining and entertainment options, Navy Pier is a hub of activity and a must-visit destination in Chicago.
Willis Tower Skydeck
The Tallest Building
The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is an iconic feature of the Chicago skyline. Standing at 1,450 feet, it held the title of the tallest building in the world until 1998. Today, it remains one of the tallest buildings in the United States and a symbol of Chicago’s architectural prowess. A visit to the Willis Tower Skydeck offers unparalleled views of the city and the opportunity to experience its dizzying heights.
Step Onto The Ledge
One of the most thrilling aspects of the Willis Tower Skydeck is the Ledge. This glass-enclosed balcony extends out from the 103rd floor, allowing visitors to step out and look straight down at the city below. Standing on the Ledge offers a heart-pounding experience and a unique perspective of Chicago. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for those who dare, it’s an unforgettable experience.
In addition to the Ledge, the Willis Tower Skydeck offers a range of other attractions and exhibits. Explore interactive displays about the building’s architecture and history, learn about Chicago’s neighborhoods, and marvel at the panoramic views from the observation deck. Whether you visit during the day or at night, the Skydeck provides breathtaking vistas and a chance to appreciate the city’s beauty from above.
To make the most of your visit to the Willis Tower Skydeck, it’s recommended to purchase tickets in advance to avoid long lines. The Skydeck is open year-round, but it can get crowded, especially during peak tourist season. Consider visiting during weekdays or early in the morning to enjoy a less crowded experience. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning views, and be prepared for the thrill of stepping onto the Ledge.
The Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile is a shopper’s paradise, boasting a wide range of luxury retailers, department stores, and boutiques. From high-end fashion brands to designer home goods, this mile-long stretch of Michigan Avenue offers something for every shopping enthusiast. Whether you’re looking to splurge on a designer handbag or enjoy a leisurely window-shopping experience, the Magnificent Mile is a must-visit destination for any fashion-forward traveler.
In addition to its shopping offerings, the Magnificent Mile is also home to several iconic Chicago landmarks. The Wrigley Building, with its distinctive clock tower, stands as a symbol of the city’s architectural heritage. The Tribune Tower, with its gothic-inspired architecture, is another notable landmark. As you stroll along the Magnificent Mile, take the time to admire these architectural marvels and snap photos to capture their beauty.
Dining and Nightlife
The Magnificent Mile is not just for shopping and sightseeing; it also offers a vibrant dining and nightlife scene. From upscale restaurants to cozy cafes, there’s a wide array of dining options to satisfy every palate. After a day of shopping and exploring, you can unwind at one of the area’s lively bars or nightclubs. Whether you’re in the mood for a craft cocktail or a live music performance, the Magnificent Mile has it all.
Attractions Along the Mile
Beyond shopping, landmarks, and dining, the Magnificent Mile is also home to several renowned attractions. The John Hancock Center offers panoramic views of the city from its observation deck, while the Museum of Contemporary Art showcases cutting-edge artwork. The Water Tower, one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire, is now a shopping mall that houses a variety of luxury brands. These attractions, along with many others, add depth and variety to the Magnificent Mile experience.