Nine years ago, I accepted a job in Chicago and I moved here a few months later. I still feel that I am exploring this and discovering new things to see and do.
When friends and family visit, they often ask me for suggestions on what to do. I compiled this list for them and for anyone else considering visiting the Windy City.
It is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Rather, these are the things that I enjoy about the city.
Chicago has some world class museums. The most famous are:
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Shedd Aquarium
- Field Museum of Natural History
- Museum of Science and Industry
I recommend buying tickets in advance on a summer weekend to avoid the lines.
There are also a bunch of small museums, such as the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chicago Architecture Center, the National Hellenic Museum, and a bunch of historically preserved homes.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio is in Oak Park, just west of Chicago and he designed many buildings in the area.
- Baseball: There are 2 Major League teams: The White Sox and the Cubs. There are some Minor League baseball teams in the Chicago area, but they are not downtown
- Soccer: Chicago Fire
- American football: Bears
Most of the local colleges have sports teams. Check their web sites if you are interested.
Chicago has many excellent music venues and just about every band stops here on their tours. I prefer the smaller clubs. My favourites are:
Free Touristy Stuff
Here are a few popular tourist spots near downtown. All offer free admission, but you will need to pay for parking.
- Grant Park
- Millennium Park
- Navy Pier
- Lake Michigan
- Lincoln Park Zoo
- Chicago Riverwalk
Paid Touristy Stuff
- Observation deck at Willis/Sears Tower and at John Hancock Building
- Canoe and kayak rentals
- Cruises of Lake Michigan
I spend a lot of time exploring the city on my bike. Chicago is more bike-friendly than most US cities with plenty of bike lanes (but also plenty of traffic, so wear a helmet and be attentive!) You can bring your own bike or rent one. Divvy is a company that rents bikes by the hour, day, or year. I can suggest a few routes.
There are a few companies that offer boat tours along the river all day long.
You can also book a walking tour or a Segway tour.
If you want to see the city from the water without the cost of a tour, you can take a water taxi
Chicago is a very international city and it is reflected in the cuisine. You can find Mexican, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, German, and Italian restaurants in the city. But you can also find food types that are rare in many other American cities, from places like Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Phiippines.
Chicago is famous for a few specific foods:
- Steaks. Due to its history as a meat packing center, the city boasts many excellent steak houses.
- Chicago-style hot dogs. A wiener topped with an assortment of unusual decorations.
- Chicago-style pizza. Some people claim this is more like a casserole than a pizza, but it boasts a lot of toppings. Try tavern-style pizza for another treat that is popular in Chicago.
- Italian Beef. Thinly-sliced roast beef on a hoagy roll, topped with hot or mild peppers.
Northwestern University (just north of Chicago), the University of Chicago, and DePaul University all have nice campuses that are worth visiting; but there are many other universities in the city.
Enjoy your visit to my adopted home town. Let me know if you think I should add to this list.