chicago travel guide

Quick Chicago Facts

2.7 million Population
40 million Annual Visitors
19 Miles Lakefront | Bike Paths
26 Miles of Lakefront
15 Miles of Beaches
224 Miles of ‘L’ Track
200 Art Galleries
7300 Restaurants
200 Theaters
36 Annual Parades
100 Neighborhoods
580 Parks
50,000 Hotel Rooms





Chicago City Information

If you are a first-time visitor to Chicago, you may be surprised to learn that while Chicago is a world-class city with so many things to see and so many places to visit in Chicago, it is also very visitor friendly. Spend some time exploring what it has to offer and how to get around, and you will be all set to have a great time during your visit.  Hopefully, you will want to come back often.

We believe that our city has something for everyone. Here’s an overview of what Chicago tourist spots has to offer.

Location: Chicago sits along a beautiful lakefront with parks for playing, beaches for sunning and paths for walking, running or biking for miles and miles.

Lake Michigan also provides places of tourist interest in Chicago like boating and sightseeing options out on the water. The Chicago River winds through the heart of downtown Chicago for yet another way to take in the sights.

chicago city guide

Parks: Right in Downtown Chicago you will find both Grant Park, and Millennium Park with the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. These parks host numerous outdoor concerts, festivals, and other events. Just North of the downtown area is Lincoln Park, a beautiful green belt that includes the Lincoln Park Zoo. There are over 500 other parks within the city are one of the best things to see in Chicago.

Attractions: There are so many attractive tourists attractions in Chicago, you’ll hardly know where to begin. To get a lay of the land, you might start with a guided tour – trolley, boat, biking, Segway, horse-drawn carriage or walking – you choose the mode.

Another way to get an overview of the city of Chicago is from the Hancock or Willis Tower observation decks. Don’t miss Buckingham Fountain or the Chicago Water Tower.

Navy Pier, with its array of dining, entertainment and sightseeing boats, is just a short cab ride from downtown Chicago. Just a little farther North along the lakefront you will find the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Museums: Visit the Museum Campus to visit three Must See choices, The Field Museum, The Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium.

Visitors also choose The Chicago Children’s Museum, The Museum of Science & Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago, among the 40 other museums in the metropolitan Chicago area which are the best things to see in chicago.

Sports: Chicago is home to all the major professional sports leagues. In the Spring and Summer, baseball fans can see the Cubs at Wrigley Field or the White Sox at US Cellular.

In the Fall, if football is your game, the Bears huddle up at Soldier Field, right on the lakefront in downtown Chicago.

During the Winter, both the Bulls NBA basketball team and the Blackhawks NHL hockey team call the United Center, just west of the Loop, home. During Spring & Summer, the Chicago Fire hosts its home game at Toyota Park, just west of the city in Bridgeview. No matter what the season, you can root, root, root for the home team.

Theatre: Chicago has about 200 performance theaters, including five Tony Award winners offering numerous choices of Broadway shows, ballets, popular musicals, comedies, and dramas.

The Broadway in Chicago organization is the hub of several of the most popular downtown theatre venues, including the Bank of America Theatre, Oriental Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre and more.

Dining: It has been reported that Chicago has over 7,300 restaurants. With fine gourmet dining, national chains, mom and pop diners and local specialties, there is a style and quality of dining for everyone’s taste.

Shopping: The Magnificent Mile, on Michigan Avenue just north of Downtown Chicago, offers numerous high-end retailers as well as department stores, national chains, boutiques, and one-of-a-kind shops.

There are several indoor shopping malls, including the well-known choice, Water Tower Place which includes shopping, dining, and entertainment. There are other choices in Downtown Chicago along State Street such as the Macy’s Department Store.





Best Tourist Attractions in Chicago

1 Chicago Museums 

chicago museums

Info & Map Locations of Chicago’s Top Museums
Chicago offers a variety of museums that contain memorable exhibits and attractions. Everyone has heard of the

Museum of Science & Industry,

Field Museum

Art Institute of Chicago

but there are more places to visit in Chicago for tourists choices for your next visit to the Chicago area.

If you’re interested in art, nature, science, history, photography or communications, we’ve got it. Our museums also represent the cultures of Lithuania, Africa, Greece, Mexico, American Indians, the Orient, Sweden, Poland, the Ukraine and more. 

You can visit the Chicago History Museum which is one of the best Chicago tourist attractions and learn all about the city from its origin to the present. We also have a

Children’s Museum and a

Veterans Art Museum.

 

2 Chicago Landmarks

landmarks in chicago

Chicago’s building landscape dates back only to the 1870s because the city had to be rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. One exception is the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue, which was built in 1869 and survived the fire.

Since that time, Chicago architects have designed buildings with ever-evolving technical proficiency allowing skyscrapers to soar and marking the city’s skyline with a variety of architectural styles.

The early 1900s brought us the Robie House, Navy Pier, the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, Soldier Field, Adler Planetarium and the Merchandise Mart; mid-century brought Marina City, Lake Point Tower, Sears Tower (now Willis Tower), John Hancock Building and the Standard Oil Building (now AON Center); and late 20th century buildings include NBC Tower and the Museum of Contemporary Art; and, most recently, the Trump International Hotel and Tower has been completed.

Architectural styles include Art Deco, Gothic Revival, Prairie School, Queene Anne, Spanish Revival and Modern, just to name a few.

Chicago’s most famous architects include Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and Fazlur Khan. Take a walking tour or boat tour to learn about Chicago’s most famous and unique buildings, landmarks and architects and in fact one of the best tourist attractions in Chicago.




 

3. Chicago Casinos

casinos in chicago

Riverboat casinos first came to the Chicago area in 1992, starting in Joliet and followed shortly thereafter in Elgin and Aurora. Today there are 9 casinos within 60 miles of Chicago’s Loop, in Illinois and at the southern tip of Lake Michigan in Indiana.

Virtually all of the casinos offer a variety of slot machines, table games, and poker, as well as dining options usually consisting of a buffet, casual restaurants and often a fine dining restaurant.

While some of the casinos in Chicago are good day-trip destinations, several of the casinos are part of a hotel complex offering accommodations, recreation, fitness centers, spas and more; you may wish to plan a weekend getaway.

Some of the casinos in Chicago also feature live entertainment. Some are open 24 hours a day, others close for a couple of hours in the morning.

 

4. Chicago Parks and Gardens

chicago parks and gardens

The leaders of Chicago have always placed a high priority on beautiful green spaces to be enjoyed by the public. Dating back to the late 1800s, the land of Grant Park was designated for public use. We have followed that priority ever since, most recently with the completion of Millennium Park in Chicago.

The gardens, outdoor music venues, pathways, and artwork have one thing in common – a place for the local residents and visitors to enjoy their day.

A further testament to Chicago’s dedication to public access is the Lakefront Trail. This beautiful 18-mile paved stretch along the shores of Lake Michigan is very popular with bike riders, runners, walkers and skaters.

Chicago also features several beach areas along Lake Michigan, perhaps the most popular Beach in Chicago being Oak Street Beach. The flora enthusiasts will enjoy our world-renowned Chicago Botanic Garden, Garfield Park Conservatory, Osaka Garden, Lincoln Park Conservatory and the suburban Morton Arboretum.

We can thank our community leaders for maintaining our city’s goal to make Chicago a beautiful cosmopolitan.

5. Chicago Theatres

theaters in chicago

If you are looking for more places to visit in Chicago, then Theaters are one of the best tourist attraction to visit and its suburbs offer a variety of venues for live stage performances. Chicago’s Theater District, which extends for several blocks around the Randolph and Dearborn Streets intersection, includes richly historic venues such as the Chicago Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Oriental Theatre and Goodman Theatre. Broadway and pre-Broadway productions have brought the finest performances to the Midwest.

There are theatre venues in Chicago throughout the suburbs as well. You may want to plan an extended stay by combining show tickets with hotel accommodations, dining and other activities.

Drury Lane Theater in Chicago at Oakbrook is adjacent to Hilton Suites and near fine shopping and dining options.

At the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort, they also feature an 18-hole PGA Championship Golf Course, tennis club, health club, and award-winning live musical theater.

At Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, golf, spa, fitness and luxury accommodations will enhance your theater outing. The suburbs also offer some intimate settings for a variety of performances.

Shakespeare fans will want to check out the Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. A Second City performance in Old Town or at the Metropolis in suburban Arlington Heights is always a good time. See what interests you most!




6. Zoo in Chicago

zoo in chicago

The Chicago area is fortunate to have one of the finest U.S. zoos in suburban Brookfield, IL. Brookfield Zoo opened in 1934 and has always been at the forefront of innovation in creating natural animal habitats and minimizing caging.

The Zoo made international headlines when it hosted giant pandas from China, a first for the U.S. In addition to the 450 species of animals, the Zoo features unique exhibits and events.

On a smaller scale, the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is unique in that it is located just north of downtown Chicago, within sight of the city’s skyscrapers, and admission is free every day. Set amongst the landscape of Lincoln Park, it’s a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.

There are several additional suburban locations offering animal interaction opportunities for residents and visitors alike. Lambs Farm to the north, Cosley Zoo, Phillips Park Zoo and Randall Oaks Barnyard Zoo to the west, and the Children’s Farm at the Center to the south all smaller facilities with a focus on farm animals and native wildlife offering up-close interaction and best tourist attraction in Chicago for kids.

7. Chicago’s Cruise Boats

chicago cruise boats

One of Chicago’s greatest features is its lakefront, offering all sorts of recreational opportunities. A favorite pastime is a sightseeing boat cruise. Options include speedboat rides, architectural Chicago River tours, sailboat outings, lunch and dinner cruises and more. Tours depart from Navy Pier, the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue, or Burnham Harbor near Museum Campus.

On an architectural cruise, learn about the city’s oldest to most modern skyscrapers and discover historical tidbits you may not have known.

At Navy Pier, there are several cruise options for lunch, dinner, brunch, cocktails and more, from upscale to casual. Several boats also feature entertainment and dancing. You can even take a water taxi between Navy Pier and the Museum Campus.

General sightseeing tours are typically 45 to 90 minutes in duration, either on Lake Michigan, the Chicago River or both, in which case you will go through the Chicago Locks to get from one to the other.

At opposite ends of the spectrum, you can choose a calm, laid-back tour on one of the schooner sailboats or dare an extreme thrill ride on the Seadog speedboat. Whichever cruise you choose, we are sure you will have a memorable experience!





Transportation in Chicago – Getting Around

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)

‘L’ Trains:

Not all of Chicago’s eight ‘L’ lines are “elevated.” They do, however, connect the city via above-ground, street-level and subway trains and serve 144 stations all over town, making the ‘L’ one of the most efficient and affordable methods of transportation available. Two lines offer round-the-clock service: the Blue Line, which connects the airport and downtown, and the Red Line, with service between the North and South Sides, via downtown.

Buses:

More than 100 routes lace the city; buses stop every few blocks. Several lines operate 24 hours. Exact change is required.

Fares
Single Trip: $2.25. Pay cash or purchase a reloadable Transit Card, available at ‘L’ stations and onwww.transitchicago.com

Unlimited Ride Passes
Enjoy unlimited rides on all CTA buses and trains with the below passes, which activate upon first use and are good for the number of consecutive days shown on the front of the pass.

  • 1-Day CTA Fun Pass: $5.75
  • 3-Day CTA Pass: $14
  • 7-Day CTA Pass: $23

TRAINS

Metra Commuter Rail

The high-speed Metra train connects outlying suburbs to downtown and is an easy way to get into the heart of the city fast.

Fares
For fares and maps, visit METRA’s website at www.metrarail.com

Metra Train Stations

Downtown Chicago has the following Metra train stations:

  • Chicago Union Station
  • Ogilivie Transportation Center
  • LaSalle Street Station
  • Millennium Station
  • Van Buren Street Station

Amtrak

Amtrak is a national rail train service serving Chicago and most of the continental United States. Trains departingprimarily from Union Station.

  • Learn more about Chicago’s AmTrak at Union Station.

TAXIS

Some facts about using taxi cabs in Chicago:

  • Taxis are plentiful and easy-to-hail in downtown, and offer a convenient way to get around the city.
  • Taxis charge a base rate of $2.25 for the first 1/9 mile, plus, $.20 for each additional 1/9 mile.
  • If a gas surcharge is in effect, a sign will be displayed inside the taxicab and a surcharge may apply. Tolls are an extra charge; taxis charge $1 for the first additional passenger over age 12 and under age 65. Each additional passenger after first passenger, over 12 and under 65 is $.50.
  • It is standard to tip the driver about 15-20 percent of the fare, plus $1-2 per bag if the driver helps you with luggage.

Please note that all fares are subject to change.


Chicago Sightseeing Tours

Top 5 Chicago tour Package

• Segway Tour
• Hop-on Hop-off Tour
• Sunset Dinner Cruise
• Architecture River Cruise
• Neighborhoods Bike Tour

Click here to go through the Best Chicago Tour Packages

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