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Things to do in Chicago

The Mecca of the Midwest is famous for its architectural beauty, vibrant culture, and colorful past.

Our most recommended things to do in Chicago

Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

1. Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

Experience more of Chicago by boat than on any other architectural cruise. See architectural highlights and enjoy an open-air deck or climate-controlled interior as you travel the main River and its north and south branches. View all of Chicago's architectural highlights during this comprehensive sightseeing tour. Be entertained by the expert and friendly tour guides as they explain the 130 year-long history behind the skyline, while bartenders and staff keep you comfortable with refreshments.  Choose between the fresh air of the open-air decks or enjoy the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during your cruise. The tour starts at the Michigan Avenue (DuSable) bridge and goes up the main branch of the Chicago River past Wolf Point. It then cruises along the north and south branches of the river, before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Michigan. On the way, learn about ornate, historic early skyscrapers like the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, the imposing art deco Merchandise Mart, mid-century skyscrapers like the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building. Don't miss the circular Marina City Towers, the majestic Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower and the tallest building in Chicago) the soaring AON Center, and more modernist structures like Aqua, Trump Tower, Nuveen, and the new Vista Tower. During your cruise, have the opportunity to enjoy a full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits, and Garrett’s Popcorn. Don’t forget to take a selfie at the Grand Staircase at the front of the boat or pose for photos at the picturesque stern or bow of this classic vessel.

Chicago: Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Regular & Express Ticket

2. Chicago: Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Regular & Express Ticket

Experience the views from the Centennial Wheel at the Historic Navy Pier in Chicago with this attraction ticket. Be suspended over Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River. Marvel at the Chicago skyline and gaze out over the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan. Choose between two options: With the Regular Barcoded ticket, skip the ticket line and enter the line to board the wheel. The Fastpass Express ticket allows you to skip both lines, and gives you VIP access. Both tickets allow you to visit within 7 days of your scheduled ticket date. Enjoy the Centennial Wheel, which was built in 2016 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Navy Pier opening. Featuring 42 gondolas, each holding 8 people, it operates year-round. They also feature LED lighting, padded seats, TV screens, and speakers, as well as panoramic windows on all 4 sides. A ride on the wheel gives you plenty of time to enjoy these panoramic views of Chicago as they unfold around you, and allows you to visit the top three times. Relax and take in the view, or get your camera out to snap pictures of the ever-changing Chicago landscape.

Chicago: 360 Chicago Observation Deck Skip-the-Line Ticket

3. Chicago: 360 Chicago Observation Deck Skip-the-Line Ticket

Marvel at the views from 1,000 feet over Chicago’s legendary Michigan Avenue with this ticket to the 360 CHICAGO observation deck on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. Save time with skip-the-line access to this popular attraction. Head up to the 360 CHICAGO observation deck to take in breathtaking views of Chicago’s lakefront and view the city skyline from above. Take a peek at 4 neighboring states from this height. Feel the thrill of a 40-second ride in one of North America's fastest elevators to the observation deck to experience what 'Travel & Leisure Magazine' voted one of the best views in America. Enjoy an interactive exhibit on the Ground Floor that highlights Chicago’s rich history and showcases 9 of the city’s culturally unique neighborhoods. On the 94th floor, explore the history and architecture of the magnificent city stretched out before you. To enhance your experience, download the Magnicity App for a guided tour right from your smartphone. The App includes an interactive viewfinder, unique facts, stories and recommendations. Enjoy a thrilling photo opportunity at CloudWalk, a breathtaking 3D mural with the optical illusion of walking in the clouds. Relax and take in the view at the 94th floor’s Cloud Bar which serves up iconic Chicago snacks, neighborhood-inspired Cocktails, and a local brew, Moody Tongue, on tap. By purchasing this timed ticket, you get to skip the ticket desk and present your barcoded voucher to security to be scanned - you may have to wait in a short line at security, then head directly into the Ground Floor Exhibits, and then on to the Elevator Line.

Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

4. Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

Admire Chicago’s impressive architecture from a unique perspective aboard a cruise sailing down the Chicago River, which features an indoor and outdoor deck, along with live commentary tailored to entertain the whole family. Treat yourself to a full-service cash bar at your own expense. Experience the best of the Chicago River from Lakeshore Drive to the Willis Tower, navigating along the South branch of the river, before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan. Be entertained by the fun and experienced tour guides as they explain the history behind Chicago’s buildings along the river and the exceptional architects who created this ever-changing skyline. Enjoy the most relaxing way to sightsee in Chicago, exploring the city free of traffic, noise, and congestion. Make sure to visit the full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits. Explore the open-air decks that allow you to feel the cooling river breeze and see the city from many vantage points that provide perfect photo opportunities.

Chicago: Museum of Ice Cream Entry Ticket

5. Chicago: Museum of Ice Cream Entry Ticket

The world-famous ice cream attraction is now open in Chicago. Step into an ice cream wonderland that is bound to ignite your senses through a theatrical experience with unlimited ice cream treats as you journey through 14 installations. Ride on the pink Sprink-L line, put your golf skills to the test on the Putt-Putt course, or take a dip in a pool filled with millions of sprinkles. Come with an empty stomach and get ready to make unforgettable memories. When you finish your experience, be sure to explore the museum's whimsical shop. The Museum of Ice Cream is not a traditional museum — every installation is interactive. This means touching isn't only allowed, it's encouraged.

Chicago: Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Ticket

6. Chicago: Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Ticket

Enjoy an unrivaled view over the city of Chicago on a trip up the city's Willis Tower. This famous building, once known as the Sears Tower, is not only home to a Skydeck on the 103rd floor, but it also features The Ledge, a series of 4 glass-paneled boxes that extend out from the building's facade to give visitors a view straight down. As you wind through the ground levels of the Willis Tower, you will be surrounded by museum-quality exhibits highlighting the iconic tower. Learn about Chicago's rich history and culture through these informative visuals. Watch a video presentation, "Reaching for the Sky," where you will be briefed on the history of the building and of architecture in Chicago. Then step into your elevator and you will be amazed at how quickly it ascends. As you travel, your multimedia-equipped elevator will inform you about your vertical progress. Upon reaching the 103rd floor, step out onto the Skydeck, which offers views spanning over 50 miles and across 4 states. Then summon your courage to step out onto The Ledge, a glass balcony that hangs over the edge, for vertigo-inducing views 1,353 feet (about 412 meters) straight down to the city below! Download the Skydeck Mobile App for a free viewfinder which points out many of Chicago’s notable landmarks. Learn more about sights like Navy Pier, Wrigley Field, Grant Park, Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum of Natural History.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office

7. Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office

Skip the lines at the ticket office and climb aboard a state-of-the-art cruise for a 60- or 75-minute cruise of all 3 branches of the Chicago River, and marvel at the architecture that has made the city so legendary. Get an insight into the buildings and engineering of a city that gave birth to the skyscraper and is the spiritual home of modern American architecture. Your expert guide will lead you down the Chicago River to uncover hidden gems, as well the city’s most renowned landmarks, such as the John Hancock building, Trump Tower, Marina City, Willis Tower, and more. Relax with a glass of something cold from the cash bar, as you cruise the Windy City’s waterway, and learn its status as a modern metropolis and one of the world’s most beautiful cities. End your tour in the same place where you boarded the boat.

Chicago: Go City Explorer Pass Choice of 2-7 Attractions

8. Chicago: Go City Explorer Pass Choice of 2-7 Attractions

With the Chicago Explorer Pass by Go City you can visit top sites such as the Navy Pier, Skydeck Chicago, or The Field Museum, all on one handy pass. Enjoy great savings on admission to your choice of 2 to 7 top Chicago attractions and tours, and pay nothing at the gate. Explore at your own pace on a hop-on and hop-off Chicago bus tour, or aboard one of two lake cruises. You have 60 days to use your pass from your first attraction visit. To help you create your own itinerary you'll also get a free digital guide. Use it to help you decide what to do, where to go, and how to get there. The most popular activities require advanced reservations, check instructions on the included Go City guide, and make sure to place reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment. Included Chicago attractions to choose from with your Explorer Pass: • Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Chicago: 1-Day Classic Tour • 360 CHICAGO • Skydeck Chicago (reservations required) • Navy Pier - 4 -Ride Pass • Adler Planetarium • 10pin Chicago 90-minute Bowling & Pizza (reservations required) • America Writers Museum • Shoreline Architecture River Cruise • Shoreline Classic Lake Tour • Field Museum • Museum of Science and Industry • LEGOLAND Discovery Center • Bike Chicago: 4 Hour Bike Rental • Big Bus Chicago: Panoramic Night Tour • Chicago Children's Museum • Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour • Chicago History Museum • Museum of Contemporary Art • Robie House • Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour • Panoramic and Scenic North Side Tour • Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home • Historic Chicago South Shore Tour • Grand Tour • Lincoln Park Zoo Rides

Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History Ticket or VIP Tour

9. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History Ticket or VIP Tour

Visit the Field Museum of Natural History, one of Chicago's great museums. With more than 35 world-renowned natural history exhibitions, there's something for everyone. Fuel your passion for discovery with dinosaurs, ancient artifacts, cultural insights, and groundbreaking science. Explore subterranean life in the Underground Adventure exhibit. Admire gemstones in the Hall of Gems and one of the largest collections of Chinese jade in North America in the Hall of Jades. Next, follow the stories of the Ice Age mammoth hunters and the temples of the Inca and Aztecs. Visit the Dinosaur Hall Evolving Planet exhibit to mingle with giant sloths, woolly mammoths, Sue, and Maximo. Upgrade to the All-Access Pass to see a 3-D movie and all 3 ticketed special exhibitions. Choose the Early Access VIP Tour option for a 1-hour VIP tour of the museum's dinosaurs before the museum opens to the general public. Take pictures with Sue or Maximo without the crowds. Then explore the rest of the museum with an all-access ticket including a 3D movie titled "Waking the T-Rex." If you want to see more, get a Discovery Pass to gain general admission to the museum as well as add one of their ticketed exhibitions or a 3D movie to your day. 

Chicago: CityPASS® Save 48% or More on 5 Top Attractions

10. Chicago: CityPASS® Save 48% or More on 5 Top Attractions

Make use of the Chicago CityPASS® on your next trip to Chicago. See amazing animals, incredible views, fascinating science, world-class art, and more with your Chicago CityPASS® tickets. CityPASS® tickets offer convenient instant delivery and are valid for 9 consecutive days, allowing ample time to experience each attraction. Save 48% on prepaid admission to 5 must-see attractions: • Shedd Aquarium – All-access admission • Skydeck Chicago – Expedited entry to Willis Tower’s 103rd Floor with admission to The Ledge Plus your choice of admission to 3 of the following attractions: • Field Museum – All-Access Pass, including admission to all permanent and regularly priced ticketed exhibitions, plus your choice of 1 digital 3D film. Movie selection is subject to availability and specially ticketed exhibitions outside the All-Access Pass may be subject to additional charges • Art Institute of Chicago – Fast Pass Admission to permanent collection and non-ticketed special exhibitions • Museum of Science and Industry– Museum entry to Science Storms, Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze, YOU! The Experience, and much more, plus 1 timed-entry experience for a Giant Dome Theater film or Motion Ride • 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck – Express entry admission • Adler Planetarium – All exhibitions and 2 Sky Shows • Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tour

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What people are saying about Chicago

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 16,589 reviews

Spectacular views from the top and standing on the glass ledge amazing….. Unless you’re nervous of heights…. Fascinating Chicago history tour in the base that you go through prior to getting in the lift to the top. We went February so no queue but imagine it gets busy in the season

Great experience. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. The food was great too with many stories about it and the city. Highly recommend it.

Excellent tour! The tour guide was very knowledgeable of history and architecture of the city. The food choices were great!

The place it's a dream,I went there with my son for his 29 birthday and we love it.I really want to go again,

Such a fantastic experience with our excellent guide Connor - could not fault the tour or the information