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What to do Your First Time to Chicago

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Found this guide helpful

Chicago has many great attractions to see and experience ... some of these might be obvious and others may not. This is my opinion for someone who has never been to Chicago before and wants to see this great city for the first time. As for the Museum day ... I included most of them but you will not be able to see all of them in one day or even several days ... each one will easily take a day or more to explore.

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Shopping Fanatic
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nature Lover

16 Places

2 City Tips

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Map

16 Places

Day 1

Chicago’s First Lady Cruises

Boat Tours

The Magnificent Mile

Neighbourhoods, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Tribune Tower

Architectural Buildings

Millennium Park

Historic Walking Areas, Parks, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Cloud Gate

Monuments & Statues, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Buckingham Fountain

Fountains, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Skydeck Chicago - Willis Tower

Architectural Buildings, Observation Decks & Towers, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Navy Pier

Piers & Boardwalks, Theme Parks

The Publican

Restaurants

Day 2

The Field Museum

Speciality Museums

Museum of Science and Industry

Science Museums

Adler Planetarium

Observatories & Planetariums, Speciality Museums

Shedd Aquarium

Aquariums

Day 3

Lincoln Park Zoo

Zoos

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Gardens

Girl & The Goat

Restaurants

JoeChgo's City Tips

  • Be flexible and don't be afraid to change your plans
  • Chicago has great public transportation especially the trains ... don't be afraid to use it. You will need to buy a Ventra card (available at any train station)
    Day 1
  • Save
    Chicago’s First Lady Cruises
    Boat Tours
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    This is one of the best ways to get an overview of the city and get a history lesson in the process.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Earlier in the day will be less busy.
    • If it is early in the season you might want a light jacket since it may be colder on the water
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 63 Boat Tours & Water Sports in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • An evening on the river 24/09/2018
    • Fantastic! A must do every few years! 24/09/2018
    • Chicago’s First Lady Cruises
    Address:
    112 E Upper Wacker Dr
    Chicago, IL 60601
    Phone:
    +1 847-358-1330
    Hours:
    Sun
    9:00 AM - 7:30 PM
    Mon - Thu
    10:00 AM - 7:30 PM
    Fri
    9:00 AM - 7:30 PM
    Sat
    9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    The Magnificent Mile
    Neighbourhoods, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    This is called the "Magnificent Mile" ... This stretch of Chicago has almost any higher end store you would want for clothing, shoes, jewelry, etc. Walk both sides from the Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River North to the John Hancock Center. You can also see the only building to survive the Great Chicago Fire here "The Chicago Water Tower"

    Good for
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great shopping experience!! 24/09/2018
    • Dogs of Chicago! 24/09/2018
    • The Magnificent Mile
    Address:
    North Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60611
    Phone:
    +1 312-409-5560
    Other:
  • Save
    Tribune Tower
    Architectural Buildings
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    No need to go inside the building ... I added this as a stop along your Michigan Avenue walk. The outside of this building has stones from many of the great buildings of the world including the Pyramids and the Taj Mahal.

    Good for
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • There are stones on three sides of the building
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #49 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great Chicago Landmark 17/09/2018
    • One of one of the most memorable buildings in Chicago 16/09/2018
    • Tribune Tower
    Address:
    435 N Michigan Ave
    Chicago, IL 60611-4066
    Phone:
    +1 312-222-3787
    Other:
  • Save
    Millennium Park
    Historic Walking Areas, Parks, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    One of the more picturesque parks in the city. From the gardens to Cloud Gate and from the fountains on Michigan Avenue to the Free concerts on the stage this is truly one of the great gems of the city

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • If it is warm the kids will want to play in the fountain so have a change of clothes or their swim suits handy
    • Check the website for concert information. The Chicago Symphony has free concerts in the park, during the evenings.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great place to walk along and feel chicago vibes 24/09/2018
    • Nice park worth a visit 24/09/2018
    • Millennium Park
    Address:
    201 East Randolph Street
    Between Michigan Avenue & Columbus Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60601-6530
    Phone:
    +1 312-742-1168
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    6:00 AM - 11:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Cloud Gate
    Monuments & Statues, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    This mirrored sculpture is not only beautiful to look at it is also fun. Great views of the city and the kids will be fascinated by it

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Make sure you have your camera with you
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #3 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Its exactly as expected 24/09/2018
    • Best 23 Million view...kinda 24/09/2018
    • Cloud Gate
    Address:
    201 E. Randolph St.
    Millenium Park
    Chicago, IL 60601-6530
    Phone:
    +1 312-742-1168
    Other:
  • Save
    Buckingham Fountain
    Fountains, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    Beauty and a show ... check the schedule for when the center water spout goes off it is quite the site.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    From the community
    Ranked #52 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Better than expected! 20/09/2018
    • This is Cool spot 20/09/2018
    • Buckingham Fountain
    Address:
    Grant Park
    Chicago, IL 60605
    Phone:
    +1 312-742-7529
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    8:00 AM - 11:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Skydeck Chicago - Willis Tower
    Architectural Buildings, Observation Decks & Towers, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    If it is a clear day this is a great way to get another overview of the city. You can even walk out from the edge and look straight down through the glass

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Lines can be long during the summer and when it is clear ... be ready to stand in line. The later in the day the longer the line
    • I said plan for 1-2 hours here because the line can sometimes be an hour long
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • An experience unlike any other! 24/09/2018
    • Great if you have a fear of heights 24/09/2018
    • Skydeck Chicago - Willis Tower
    Address:
    233 S. Wacker Drive
    Entrance on Jackson Blvd
    Chicago, IL 60606-7147
    Phone:
    +1 312-875-9447
    Price range:
    US$22 - US$22
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    9:00 AM - 10:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Navy Pier
    Piers & Boardwalks, Theme Parks
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    This is more for the kids than the adults. However, there are some boat cruises for the adults that make it worth the trip for adults. This is the home of the Chicago Children's Museum as well.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • If it is at all chilly the pier will be colder since it is over the water.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #27 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Ok 24/09/2018
    • Fun destination spot 24/09/2018
    • Navy Pier
    Address:
    600 E Grand Ave
    Chicago, IL 60611-3419
    Phone:
    +1 312-595-7437
    Hours:
    Sun - Thu
    10:00 AM - 8:00 PM
    Fri - Sat
    10:00 AM - 10:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    The Publican
    Restaurants (American)
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    If you love meat this place is right up your alley.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    Tips
    • Make a reservation ... this place is popular
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #239 of 6,327 restaurants in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Brunch/Lunch 17/09/2018
    • Dine with the Swine! 16/09/2018
    • The Publican
    Address:
    837 W Fulton Market
    Chicago, IL 60607-1318
    Phone:
    +1 312-733-9555
    Price range:
    US$25 - US$100
    Hours:
    Sun
    10:00 AM - 10:00 PM
    Mon - Thu
    3:30 PM - 10:30 PM
    Fri
    3:30 PM - 11:30 PM
    Sat
    10:00 AM - 11:30 PM
    Other:
  • Day 2
  • Save
    The Field Museum
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    I will say this ... pick one of the following museums ... you most likely will only have time for one since each will take you several hours to explore. The Field Museum is all about the Natural History of the Earth ... this is also where Sue the Dinosaur is located.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Part of the Museum Campus ... this is extremely close to both the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #44 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing museum 24/09/2018
    • Great Museum 24/09/2018
    • The Field Museum
    Address:
    1400 S Lake Shore Dr
    Chicago, IL 60605-2827
    Phone:
    +1 312-922-9410
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Museum of Science and Industry
    Science Museums
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    This building was part of the Chicago World's Fair Exposition in the 1893. So may really cool things to see here. Make sure to check out their website as several of the exhibits take an extra fee or ticket reservations ... plan ahead with this one. Some of my favorites are the U505 submarine and the gigantic model rail road as well as the space center.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • If you do not have a car this trip will not be as easy one. If you are willing to take a cab you can get there without too much trouble.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #30 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great museum 24/09/2018
    • Completely overrated, outdated and feels like a rip-off! 24/09/2018
    • Museum of Science and Industry
    Address:
    5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
    Chicago, IL 60637-2093
    Phone:
    +1 773-684-1414
    Other:
  • Save
    Adler Planetarium
    Observatories & Planetariums, Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    If you like outer space then this is the place for you ... kids will love the star show

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Part of the Museum Campus ... this is very close to the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #84 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Well worth the visit 21/09/2018
    • Lots to see! 20/09/2018
    • Adler Planetarium
    Address:
    1300 S Lake Shore Dr
    Chicago, IL 60605-2489
    Phone:
    +1 312-922-7827
    Price range:
    US$12 - US$12
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    9:30 AM - 4:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Shedd Aquarium
    Aquariums
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    Again check their website for what included and what requires and extra ticket or reservation. The dolphin show is great but does require an extra fee. Everything under the ocean ... you can see it all here.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Part of the Museum Campus ... very close to the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #68 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • This place is fishy! (And amazing!) 24/09/2018
    • Wonderful visit! 24/09/2018
    • Shedd Aquarium
    Address:
    1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
    Chicago, IL 60605-2490
    Phone:
    +1 312-939-2438
    Hours:
    Mon
    9:00 AM - 9:00 PM
    Tue
    9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Wed - Thu
    9:00 AM - 9:00 PM
    Fri - Sun
    9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Other:
  • Day 3
  • Save
    Lincoln Park Zoo
    Zoos
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    This is a great zoo and it is FREE ... lots to see and explore here

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Bring a picnic lunch
    • You can get here on a #151 Sheridan Bus if you have a Ventra card or you can use cash on a bus (fare is $2.50 per person)
    • If you take the Red Line train get off at Fullerton and walk East 8-12 blocks
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #47 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Brilliant & free! 23/09/2018
    • free zoo 22/09/2018
    • Lincoln Park Zoo
    Address:
    2001 N Clark St
    Chicago, IL 60614-4757
    Phone:
    +1 312-742-2000
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Lincoln Park Conservatory
    Gardens
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    This is right next to the Lincoln Park Zoo ... if you like plants and flowers you should really see this place. If you like taking pictures of flowers don't forget your camera

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • You can get here on a #151 Sheridan Bus if you have a Ventra card or you can use cash on a bus (fare is $2.50 per person)
    • If you take the Red Line train get off at Fullerton and walk East 8-12 blocks
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #40 of 711 things to do in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Really spectacular 16/09/2018
    • Hidden gem with delicious fish 12/09/2018
    • Lincoln Park Conservatory
    Address:
    2391 N Stockton Dr
    At Stockton Dr.
    Chicago, IL 60614-3419
    Phone:
    +1 312-742-7736
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
    Other:
  • Save
    Girl & The Goat
    Restaurants (American)
    See more photos
    JoeChgo Says:

    Stephanie is amazing! This is one of the most popular restaurants in the city so plan ahead (several months even) and make a reservation. Don't expect to get a table without a reservation. However, they do keep a couple of tables available for walk-ins.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 6,327 restaurants in Chicago
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing food!!! 24/09/2018
    • 4th visit this year 24/09/2018
    • Girl & The Goat
    Address:
    809 W Randolph St
    Chicago, IL 60607-2310
    Phone:
    +1 312-492-6262
    Price range:
    US$15 - US$30
    Hours:
    Sun - Thu
    4:30 PM - 11:00 PM
    Fri - Sat
    4:30 PM - 12:00 AM
    Other:
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