Chi-town is one of the largest cities in the United States, and at the time of writing is the 3rd largest. It is no wonder that there is tons to experience in terms of food, museums and parks. This is one of those cities that is easy to navigate and fun to explore on foot. Being here in March is still a bit too chilly for my taste (high of 42 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t quite my cup of tea). I highly recommend going in mid-June when the weather becomes a bit more mild. Nonetheless I enjoyed my time here and I wanted to recommend and review some of the top attractions.
Firstly, I stayed at an airbnb near Lincoln Park (the north side). It is a great way to save some money and still be relatively close to the city. I would try to book something more than $30 a night so that the place is not too sketchy and just cozy enough. Location near the CTA’s major stops is a big plus. Getting an unlimited Ventra pass is worth it and far cheaper than Lyft or Uber, but if you would prefer to rideshare (Click here). The Ventra 7-day is $28 but you will need to pay $5 for the card itself so prepare $33 to spend at the machine. Unless you decide to do day passes every 24 hours ($4 a day), which is technically a better deal but less convenient. Also the CTA goes straight to the airport so it’s really nice.
Now that you’ve got the transportation situated, it’s time to start exploring. Chicago has one of the most worth it citypasses at $106 per adult, it offers 5-7 different attractions including the Shedd Aquarium (a little overrated), Skydeck Chicago (Sears/Willis Tower) with fast pass, Field Museum with a show and special exhibits, and options of the Museum of Science and Industry or the 360 Observation tower (formerly known as John Hancock tower) and the Adler Planetarium or Art Institute of Chicago. I would recommend picking the Museum of Science and Industry over the tower and the Art Institute over the planetarium for the most value, but I will review all of them and add a couple bonus attractions that are cheap and fun.
- Shedd Aquarium (3/5)- The Shedd Aquarium is just one of those places I found too crowded and just not as fun as I expected. Their current 4-D shark show is pretty good and I would recommend it if you got the citypass, but if you didn’t, I would say skip it. Once you’ve seen one aquarium you’ve kind of seen them all. The polar play area is quite nice with belugas, otters and dolphins and their live show is impressive. Make sure to get here early so you can get the tickets to the live show since they are first come first serve. Otherwise I felt the environment at this attraction quite stuffy and far too crowded for my liking. I would say you could see all the galleries and the shows in 3 hours if you planned accordingly.
- Skydeck (Sears/Willis Tower) (2/5)- This is literally an elevator ride up, a picture at the top and an elevator ride down, it takes 1-2 hours total mostly because of the line. The city pass gives you the fast pass which lets you cut the line to the elevator. The price of general entry is like $22 and the fast pass on it’s own is $49 but I’m pretty sure no one ever pays that price. It’s one of those must take a picture places so you have to go, and get a picture for your social media or dating app haha…
- Field’s Museum (4/5)- This museum is so dense with exhibits and interesting visuals everywhere. I think natural history is just fascinating and their special exhibits are really cool. I liked the mummy exhibit for the most recent visit and the Terra Cotta warrior exhibit from my previous visit was impressive as well. The place is not huge but so dense and it’s easy to spend 5+ hours here. One of my favorite sections is the plant exhibit, the gem area is also fun to see too.
- Museum of Science and Industry (5/5)- I love this Museum! It is really fun to walk around and see vortexes of vapor or lightning from a tesla coil. My favorite section is the “You” section where it is all about the human body. There are several interactive and hands on exhibits that are great for kids and teens, but also fun for my adult self. I liked the comparative stress game, it showed me and my friends how much of a stress case I really am, but it was fun. A few of the extra things like the airplane simulation, coal mine experience and VR space walk cost a little extra on top of admission, but the city pass covers two special extras. The museum is huge so expect to do quite a lot of walking, but I found it to be worth it. It’s an all day sort of museum so expect to spend around 5-6 hours here.
- Art Institute of Chicago (4/5)- I did not get to spend too much time here but if I did I would have stared at the paintings, figurines, sculptures and so much more for hours. The environment is so eclectic and the artwork all over the museum has different cultural backgrounds. I love the Rodin sculpture section, although the buzzing lasers got a little annoying since people kept getting too close. Everything was well put together and just interesting to see. I also liked that there were fewer kids here than the Shedd Aquarium so I can look at my art in peace. There was an included audio explanation included with the city pass, but I barely used it. I just liked staring at all the pottery, quilts and so much more.
- Adler Planetarium (3/5)- The planetarium is cool only for the 20 minute show. I am a science person and I do enjoy learning some facts here and there but I found the planetarium exhibits to be unmemorable and kind of boring honestly. The show was the best part exhibiting the various constellations and changes the sky makes over the year as our planet makes its orbit. It’s good if you have never seen a planetarium but again I prefer the art institute as a choice over it. I did not use the city pass and got in here for about $16 since my friend is a resident and we used my military discount.
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum-This is sort of like a botanical garden with some animals and their feature attraction–butterflies! I actually really like this museum since the staff are really friendly and open to interacting with you. They show you what plants and animals are local in the nature walk, they have an amphibian feeding and the butterfly release. All of these things including the permanent exhibits cost like $9 and only $6-$7 with groupon or a student discount. (If you want to help me out click here to get to the groupon). I highly recommend this place if you get a chance to stop by.
Millenium Park and Grant Park- One of my favorite activities is just walking around and the parts are perfect for that. Millenium Park has the iconic Cloud Gate Statue which everyone calls the Bean and some beautiful columns. I also really enjoy the fact that Grant Park has a bunch of statues and fountains to just stare at while walking. Best thing about parks is that they are free!
That concludes the attractions I have visited, I wish I had gone to the Lincoln Park Zoo or gone to see Hamilton. There’s probably tons more to explore but I hope this was helpful to the first timers going to Chicago.
Use my groupon or airbnb links to help me out if you’d like. If you have not used airbnb before click here for $40 off your first trip. I am also not affiliated with citypass, I just thought it was a good deal.