Sightseeing in Chicago

Chicago is a great city to visit whether you’re going with your family, a romantic interest or by yourself. There is so much to do in the city that you’ll find yourself wanting to come back time and time again to see the sights you’ve never seen before and revisit the ones you enjoyed the most.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park grew up out of the railroad property in downtown Chicago. Initially a 1998 idea for a park with a venue for outdoor music performances and large scale sculptures, Millennium Park has turned into a cultural icon with its magnificent Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the interactive Crown Fountain, and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture. The Lurie Garden is also a magnificent site that draws visitors to the beauty of the Midwest. Although the idea began in 1998, the park wasn’t not open to the public until July 2004 and has since been visited by millions. This is a great place to take the kids on a hot summer day as the park is typically cooler than the more congested parts of the city and the Crown Fountain will thrill and chill them.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier is literally packed with things to do for everyone. But just a few years ago it was a floundering eyesore known as Municipal Pier #2. It was during the 1990s that the pier started its makeover which would make it one of the most popular places for people to gather in Chicago. Now you can catch a variety of programs at Navy Pier, see movies at the IMAX, ride the Ferris wheel, visit the Chicago Children’s Museum or the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, shop, eat out, or just people watch until the fireworks begin.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium opened to the public in 1930 and was the largest indoor aquarium in the world at the time, and for some time following. This inland aquarium brought saltwater fish to the people of the Midwest for the first time on exhibit. With more than 2 million visitors each year it’s the most popular cultural attraction in Chicago. The Shedd Aquarium has more than 1500 species of fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects with five permanent exhibits; Amazon Rising, Caribbean Reef, Waters of the World, the Oceanarium, and Wild Reef. Hands on experiences are available for an additional price for those who want to get up close and personal with their favorite aquatic inhabitant.

Adler Planetarium

Chicago’s Adler Planetarium was the first one in the Western Hemisphere and is the oldest in existence today. Founded in 1930, the Zeiss Planetarium projector has thrilled crowds with its accurate depictions of the night sky and the movement of the stars around us. In addition to the Sky Theater with the Zeiss there is also the all digital Definiti Space Theater and the Universe 3D Theater. For real astronomy buffs the Adler Planetarium is home to one of the world’s most important antique instrument collections. There are a large variety of programs available and quite often a special emphasis on children and education.0

Field Museum of Natural History

The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago is part of the Museum Campus in Chicago with the Adler and Shedd. The Field Museum features more than 21 million species with its most famous inhabitant being Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus in known existence. In addition to a very extensive permanent collection, with enough exhibits and hands-on experiences to keep you busy throughout the day, the Field is known from bringing in some incredible traveling exhibits. Their big exhibit for 2009 is Real Pirates which provides an in depth look at pirates and in particular, the slave ship Whydah. Look for special events with children and education in mind as the Field is known for their all ages educational experiences.

Magnificent Mile

For shoppers no trip to Chicago is complete without a trip down the Magnificent Mile. This world renowned shopping district provides a complete mix of shopping experiences, from high end stores to discount shops, designer clothing and exclusive one-of-a-kind items to run of the mill daily staple products. It can all be found in the more than 460 stores along the magnificent mile in Chicago.

Lincoln Park and Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park is the largest park in Chicago with more than 1200 acres and tons of things to do, but the most popular attraction in the park is arguably the Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo was established in 1868 and is the oldest free public zoo in the entire country. It’s not the largest zoo around but with 80 species it’s no slouch either. This zoo is just a nice complement to a day in the park along the shores of Lake Michigan. Lincoln Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo offer visitors and locals a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Tall Ship Windy

The Tall Ship Windy is an impressive sight as the 148 foot four masted gaff topsail schooner slides up to Navy Pier. There are a variety of cruises available for visitors who want to experience a tall ship. The trips are all a little bit different and weather dependent but there are several basic themed tours that you can pick from; The Life of a Tall Ship Sailor, The Ecologically Aware Tall Ship Sail or Eco-Sail, From Canoes to Clippers, Real Pirates of the Inland Seas, Project Origin, Windy’s Fireworks Sail, Sea Shanty Sails, Moonlight Sails, Spirit Ships and Haunted Harbors and Water under the Bridge. Each cruise has something else to offer and is sure to delight everyone on your trip, as long as they don’t get seasick.

Shoreline Architecture Cruise

The Shoreline Architecture Cruises in Chicago are not to be missed if you are at all interested in the history of the city and its buildings. The guides entertain you throughout the cruise telling stories of how Chicago emerged from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871. The one hour cruise is a beautiful tour and a relaxing way to take in the city from an unusual vantage point.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: James Jordan