So you’ve already snapped a photo of your reflection in the silver Cloud Gate and you’ve cheered on the Cubs at a home game, but now what. Or, maybe you simply have some free time to take advantage of during your trip. When visiting the Windy City, it’s important to think beyond the confines of Chicago when planning your trip, since the surrounding towns and neighborhoods offer so many great things to do.
Although lesser known, we’ve put together a list of some of the top attractions outside of Chicago worth traveling for. They’re easily accessible from the big city and each place packs just as much punch as the more well-known attractions in town. Consider one of the following nearby attractions when you’re in Chicago next time.
Summed up by its founding principle, “Remember the past, transform the future,” the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center works to preserve the history of and memories from the Holocaust, while teaching ways to combat hatred and prejudice. Its moving and evocative exhibits all promote human rights.
Medieval Times (Schaumburg)
Epic jousting battles, incredible falconry, and tables full of roasted chicken, sweet buttered corn, and the pastry of the Castle await here. It’s surely not your average night out!
DuPage Children’s Museum (Naperville)
Take the kids and enjoy interactive experiments, fun games, and a variety of arts and crafts with the aim of learning more about math, science, and the arts.
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre (Arlington Heights)
You’ll find quality programming that ranges from live music performances, comedy shows, family-friendly shows, and a variety of workshops for budding actors.
Lizzardo Museum of Lapidary Art (Elmhurst)
Learn about the art of cutting and polishing gemstones, ogle the permanent collection of jade carvings, or try your hand at identifying the rocks and minerals on hand during your visit.
River Trail Nature Center (Northbrook)
Explore more than 69,000 acres of land teeming with an abundance of wildlife and plant life. It’s the largest forest preserve district in the United States and welcomes about 40 million visits per year.
Elmhurst Art Museum (Elmhurst)
Don’t be fooled by the museum’s small house appearance. It’s equally devoted to education and exhibitions, and the museum attracts both Mies van der Rohe scholars from around the world and local art-lovers alike.
Splash Valley Aquatic Park (Kankakee)
This seasonal park is the perfect place to spend a hot summer day with the entire family. Whoosh down waterslides, splash your way through wave pools, or participate in sidewalk chalk drawing contests all summer long.
Chicago is one of the most popular cities in the USA, and with good reason. With days worth of attractions just on the Magnificent Mile itself, there really is an endless list of things to do in the Windy City. We reccomend following Chicago-based bloggers and writers before your trip so you can get a feel for the attractions, cuisine, travel deals, and more.
There were many talented writers to choose from, but here we've presented our list of the top Chicago-based bloggers to follow:
Ashley Gilday: "I have been fascinated with food since before I can remember. And my life revolves around it. For me, eating is not just a necessity of life, but an experience waiting to take place. I started my career in food at the ripe age of 15 as a server at Pizza Hut and continued to serve tables for 7 years. After graduating from college, I started working as a professional food saleswoman and I am still in the business. On the side, I freelance for a few publications and I'm a strong believer in paying it forward. I've never made Kraft Macaroni & Cheese or Instant Ramen Noodles. I like to put whipped (coconut) cream on my oatmeal and everything else. I love animals. I overcame a life-threatening eating disorder and now I spread awareness on the topic. My favorite thing to do is to share a good meal, enlightening conversation and a few glasses of wine with great company. I love coffee shops and feel alive when helping others. In 2011 I switched to a plant-based diet and haven't looked back. The things that I continue to learn, the dynamic foods that I enjoy and the positive effects this decision has not only my body, but on the planet in which we live, inspired me to be an advocate of this lifestyle. It's kind of neat to think about how the foods that we decide to eat actually help others. I like to think of it as a form of Paying It Forward."
Beyond the Park: "Because we all struggle with what to do with our kids besides go the playground — Beyond the Park was made for you. I created Beyond the Park 425to offer savvy parents (like us) a curated collection of the best activities for families and kids, ages preschool to teens. Think of it as an amped-up, highly edited online resource for everything cool to do with kids. I am a New York City transplant; in fact I am a 6th generation city girl. In my former life, I spent over 10 years in marketing at NBC's Today Show in NYC. Now, as a modern, savvy parent raising her kids in downtown Chicago, I spend my time uncovering the most entertaining theater, inventive restaurants, creative activities, awe-inspiring events, great family travel destinations, cool products, fun projects and more. I wanted to merge my love of marketing, being a mom, and sharing ideas that make our journey as parents as interesting as possible. Beyond the Park was a natural next step fusing my love and experience with pop culture and my new role as modern mom. Moving from the Big Apple to the Windy City, I have a well-trained eye when it comes to seeking out the off-beat, the cool, and the up and coming. I share my ideas across many platforms in addition to this blog. I have appeared on ABC News, WGN, NBC5 & You & Me. I am a contributor to :30Secondmom, Chicago Parent.com and my work has appeared on the Huffington Post. Being a life-long city dweller presents unique opportunities and challenges. I am committed to uncovering great experiences and exposing my three children to all that that city life has to offer. That means scouring every crevice of this city (and surrounding areas), investigating the cultural institutions, searching for the best bagels, debating who serves the best deep-dish pizza, trying out the indoor play spaces, frequenting the festivals and finding the most unlikely yet remarkable adventures. Welcome to Beyond the Park..."
Chicagoist: A subsidiary of Gothamist LLC, Chicagoist employs a talented staff of local writers and journalists who share everything Chicago with their loyal readership both in the city and abroad.
Choose Chicago: "Choose Chicago is the official destination marketing organization for Chicago, Illinois. Our mission is to bring regional, national and international business and leisure visitors to Chicago for the economic benefit of the City, the community and our membership."
Chritiques: "Thank you for visiting Chritiques, a compilation of my personal and unbiased reviews of restaurants, food products and events. My name is Christina, and I am an attorney, legal business development manager, and lover of all things food (and wine, and travel). When I am not navigating Chicago's restaurant scene, I am running, usually along Chicago's gorgeous lakefront path, playing golf, or attempting to decorate our new home. While Chritiques is mostly devoted to reviewing restaurants that are located in the Chicagoland area, I love to travel and will include restaurants from across the country, as well. Each restaurant that I Chritique is based upon a recent dining experience and, unless otherwise noted, I personally pay for all of my meals. I also never disclose my affiliation with Chritiques before or during the meal. While I am often invited to review restaurants, events and products, each Chritique is always my professional, unbiased opinion. Please feel free to reach out. And, most importantly, come back and visit again soon!"
Dietician Debbie Dishes: "I'm Debbie, the Registered Dietitian and writer behind this blog where you'll find healthy, seasonal, vegetarian recipes! I believe that healthy eating and good nutrition shouldn't be complicated so let me make it a little easier for you."
Midway Madness: "Informative and entertaining podcasts, unique articles, and humorous videos. Everything Chicago Sports. For the fan, by the fan."
The Beeronaut: "It takes only a few books to learn the basics of beer styles, and a little about its history. But there are always small complexities and hidden wealths of information. Beer has been made for over 10,000 years, but the beer we recognize today only came about in the past few centuries. There are new breweries starting up every day, and old ones waiting to be rediscovered. My major activity as a local beer blogger has been maintaining a calendar of Chicago beer-centric activities. While I publish my calendar twice a week, it's hard to offer advance notice of some beer festivals or dinners that might sell out weeks ahead of time, so here's my "raw" calendar, which I update with events as I find out about them."
The CHICago Life Blog: "When I started The Chicago Life Blog or "TCLB" in 2012 with one of my best friends, Sam Voss, we had no idea what lay ahead. We were in our first year of law school and looking for a creative outlet to share our love of fashion, design, interiors, etc. These days a lot has changed! Sam and I remain the best of friends, though she now lives in LA (you can keep up with her here) and the blog has taken on a life of its own. I maintain TCLB partially as a personal blog sharing things like my wedding, home, and most recently our baby news, but I also love interviewing the people who inspire me [some favorites include: Rachel Zoe, Simon Doonan, Karlie Kloss, and Jason Wu] and looking into the stylish lives of other Chicagoans [still drooling over the homes of Jay Michael, Lindsay Segal, Nicole Banks, and Eva Daiberl]. Over the past few years I've also been fortunate enough to partner and collaborate with major fashion and lifestyle brands such as Topshop, Lexus, Target, Bloomingdale's and more. Interested in working with TCLB? Or just want to say hi? You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for visiting!"
Uptown Update: "News and commentary from Chicago's uptown neighborhood."
One of the biggest cities in America - Chicago, Illinois - draws millions of tourists to its lake-view shores every year. With attractions ranging from professional sports, to museums and concert halls, and even an observation deck that will take your breath away, Chicago rises above the middle America stereotype and shows why it has become a tourism draw on par with its coastal contemporaries. With so much to see and do in the city of Chicago we're here to help you narrow down your options to the top 10 best attractions worth seeing.
The affordable price, the fun, the unparalleled customer service, and of course, the right location, put these Chicago attractions over the top and onto our list of the best activities worth traveling for in the Windy City:
360 Chicago: Formerly the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago is located on the famed Magnificent Mile and offers views of the Chicago skyline from 1000 feet above Lake Michigan. There's also a cafe for snacking on the 94th floor and a new thrill "ride" called TILT where you can feel like you're spilling over the side of the building.
Art Institute Chicago: Any place that Ferris Bueller visited means it is an important Chicago landmark. Art Institute of Chicago is actually rated #1 out of 952(!!!) attractions in Chicago - quite a feat. Come to see Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist, Vincent Van Gogh's Self Portrait and Grant Wood's American Gothic. This massive, beautiful museum will have you occupied for hours appreciating the incredible artwork.
Cloud Gate: You want a photo in Chicago? You're coming to see Cloud Gate outside Millenium Park, or as it is coloquially known, "the bean". A massive, shiny, reflective, kidney bean looking attraction is totally unique and completely free. You'll have hundreds of strangers (and potential new friends) enjoying Cloud Gate with you, but you can probably work in the "perfect" picture with a little patience and practice.
Driehaus Museum: Take a step back in time to the Gilded Age with banker Samuel Nickerson's mansion. Explore all three floors of the museum and discover how the Nickerson family lived and socialized. An accurate look of the 19th and early 20th century Chicago style of arts and artifacts. A masterpiece of opulence, you'll feel like a time-traveler when you tour this flawlessly-preserved mansion.
Goodman Theatre: Every season, the Goodman presents the work of an extraordinary group of local, national and international artists. Comfortable seats and great performances plus good sight lines and acoustics. This small, unique venue will be unlike any live stage performance you've seen. Every seat offers a fine view due to the small size, and its central Chicago location (near restaurants and other shopping) allows you to make a full evening of your visit.
Millenium Park: Three square blocks of open lakefront complete with a Ferris Wheel, outdoor music pavillion and ice skating rink converge to represent one of Chicago's major tourist attractions. Comparable to Boston's Commons or NYC's Central Park, Millenium Park in Chicago offers a fun or relaxing day for families, couples, and even groups of friends. Escape the urban chaos by having a picnic in the park, going for a stroll on the many bridges and pathways, or chasing after your kids as they deal with the excitement of the area.
Museum of Science and Industry: The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is without peer. Housed in the only remaining building from the 1893 World's Fair, it is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. You'll experience 14 acres of hands-on exhibits and have the chance to stand before a 40-foot tornado; climb aboard a World War II German submarine; take a run in a human-sized hamster wheel; descend into an Illinois coal mine; tour a fully functioning eco-friendly home; board a 727 hanging from the ceiling; transmit your pulse to a 13-foot, 3-D beating heart; and much more!
Navy Pier: Filled daily with tourists, and for good reason, Navy Pier offers amusements, eateries, and shopping for the whole family. Nestled alongside Lake Michigan, Navy Pier boasts 50 acres of parks, a ferris wheel, dining cruises, boat tours, an IMAX Theater and a Children's Museum. There are real gardens for strolling, promenades for a light jog, and a beer garden for getting a buzz on. Live music plays at one of the many public stages on the pier most days of the week too. You'll never hear "I'm bored" during a trip to Navy Pier.
Shedd Aquarium: Shedd Aquarium brings you eye-to-eye with more than 32,000 aquatic animals - from whales to snails, tarantulas to turtles, angelfish to zebra sharks. Some cool multi-sensory exhibits such as the 4D show await you here.
Skydeck: Located in the Willis Tower - Skydeck Chicago offers 360-degree views spanning up to 50 miles and 4 states and a most spectacular view - 1,353 feet straight down. If you have the guts, stand out on "The Ledge" - glass balconies extending 4.3 feet outside the building provide a thrilling experience.
The Field Museum: Visitors rave about the exhibits at the natural history-themed Field Museum. From Vikings, to animal bones to a massive T-Rex greeting you upon entrnace, The Field Museum has something to intrigue anyone in your family. 3D movies and newer exhibits draw the most crowds, but there are plenty of other things to view if the lines are too long. You'll be thankful this place is kid-friendly and full of plenty of natural light after spending a few hours peering into mummy tombs.
It's not all deep dish pizza in Chicago (well most of it is) but really there's an extremely robust and delicious food scene in America's 3rd largest market. Why not? There's a massive population of Chicagoans ready and hungry for heaps of award-winning foods. Really Chicago has an embarassment of restaurant choices considering the city is broken down into dozens of neighborhoods, each with its own culinary style. We wanted to help out anyone who is planning on visiting Chicago to cut through the noise and find the best restaurants before you even arrive.
The atmosphere, the food, the service, and the location put these establishments over the top and onto our list of the best restaurants worth traveling for in Chicago.
Benny's Chop House
Found Kitchen and Social House
Gibson's Bar & Steakhouse
Girl and the Goat
GT Fish & Oyster
Joe's Seafood Prime Steak & Stone Crab
Sable Kitchen and Bar
Shaw's Crab House
Spacca Napoli Pizzeria
The Purple Pig
Vito & Nick Pizzeria
Best Restaurants for a Thanksgiving Meal in NYC
Best Restaurants for a Thanksgiving Meal in Boston
Top Burger Joints in Washington, DC
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