Steely skyscrapers, top chefs, rocking festivals – the Windy City will blow you away with its low-key cultured awesomeness.
Art & Architecture
It's hard to know what to gawk at first. High-flying architecture is everywhere, from the stratospheric, glass-floored Willis Tower to Frank Gehry's swooping silver Pritzker Pavilion to Frank Lloyd Wright's stained-glass Robie House. Whimsical public art studs the streets; you might be walking along and wham, there's an abstract Picasso statue that's not only cool to look at, but you're allowed to go right up and climb on it. For art museums, take your pick: impressionist masterpieces at the massive Art Institute, psychedelic paintings at the midsized Museum of Mexican Art or outsider drawings at the small Intuit gallery.
Loosen your belt – you've got a lot of eating to do. On the menu: peanut-butter-and-banana-topped waffles for breakfast (at Stephanie Izard's Little Goat), pork-shoulder posole and garlicky yucca enchiladas for lunch (at Dove's Luncheonette) and fine dining on foraged foods for dinner (at Iliana Regan's Elizabeth). You can also chow down on a superb range of global eats from Vietnamese pho to Mexican carnitas, Polish pierogi and Macanese fat rice. Still hungry? Order a late-night deep-dish pizza or seek out a hot and spicy Italian beef sandwich at a local fast-food joint.
Chicago is a maniacal sports town, with a pro team for every season (two teams, in baseball's case). Watching a game is a local rite of passage, whether you slather on the blue-and-orange body paint for a Bears football game, join the raucous baseball crowd in Wrigley Field's bleachers, or plop down on a bar stool at the neighborhood tavern for whatever match is on TV. Count on making lots of spirited new friends. Should the excitement rub off and inspire you to get active yourself, the city's 26 beaches and 580 parks offer a huge array of play options.
Chicago knows how to rock a festival. Between March and September it throws around 200 shindigs. The specialty is music. Blues Fest brings half a million people to Millennium Park to hear guitar notes slide and bass lines roll, all for free. During the four-day Lollapalooza megaparty, rock bands thrash while the audience dances in an arm-flailing frenzy. Smaller, barbecue-scented street fests take place in the neighborhoods each weekend – though some rival downtown for star power on their stages (oh, hey, Olivia Newton-John at Northalsted Market Days).
The 9 best beaches in Chicago
3 min read — Published February 11th, 2021
Lonely Planet EditorsWriter
Chicago's lakeside location means the city has plenty of beach options. Here are nine of the very best.
Discover some of the most unique and fulfilling experiences your next destination has to offer.
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Golden rules to keep in mind when traveling to this destination.
Add visiting these must-see local hot spots and culture centers to your next travel itinerary.
Check out these fun-filled activities that the entire family can enjoy.
Plan a day trip full of local flavor and get back in time with these same-day options.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Chicago.
MuseumArt Institute of Chicago
The second-largest art museum in the country, the Art Institute houses a treasure trove from around the globe. The collection of impressionist and…
Built in 1914, Wrigley Field – aka the Friendly Confines – is the second-oldest baseball park in the major leagues. It’s home to the Chicago Cubs and…
MuseumMuseum of Science & Industry
The MSI is the largest science museum in the Western hemisphere and a place to completely geek out. Highlights include a WWII German U-boat nestled in an…
MuseumField Museum of Natural History
The Field Museum houses some 30 million artifacts and includes everything but the kitchen sink – beetles, mummies, gemstones, Bushman the stuffed ape –…
There's free admission to Millennium Park, the playful heart of the city. It shines with whimsical public art, both permanent and temporary exhibits, and…
MuseumMuseum of Contemporary Art
Consider it the Art Institute’s brash, rebellious sibling, with especially strong minimalist, surrealist and conceptual photography collections, and…
Half-mile-long Navy Pier is one of Chicago's most-visited attractions, sporting a 196ft Ferris wheel and other carnival rides ($9 to $18 each), an IMAX…
GalleryStony Island Arts Bank
Artist-activist Theaster Gates bought a tumbledown bank building for $1 in Chicago's neglected South Shore neighborhood, and transformed it into a…
MuseumNational Museum of Mexican Art
Founded in 1982, this vibrant museum – the largest Latinx arts institution in the US – has become one of the city’s best. The vivid permanent collection…
Willis Tower is Chicago's tallest building (and one of the world's loftiest). Breathe deeply during the ear-popping, 70-second elevator ride to the 103rd…
Of the numerous buildings that Frank Lloyd Wright designed around Chicago, none is more famous or influential than Robie House. Because its horizontal…
The views from the 94th-floor observatory of this iconic building (formerly known as the John Hancock Center) in many ways surpass those at the Willis…
Set in the exquisite Nickerson Mansion, the Driehaus immerses visitors in Gilded Age decorative arts and architecture. You'll feel like a Great Gatsby…
The park that gave the neighborhood its name is Chicago’s largest. Its 1200 acres stretch for 6 miles from North Ave north to Diversey Pkwy, where it…
MuseumBusy Beaver Button Museum
Even George Washington gave out campaign buttons, though in his era they were the sew-on kind. Pin-back buttons came along in 1896. Badge-making company…
Galerie F is exactly the type of laid-back, ubercool gallery you'd expect to find in Logan Square. It specializes in rock-and-roll gig posters,…
Notable BuildingChicago Cultural Center
This exquisite, beaux-arts building began its life as the Chicago Public Library in 1897. Today the block-long structure houses terrific art exhibitions …
This hilly, prairie-grassed park has a walking and cycling trail, bird-watching, fishing and an outdoor venue for big-name concerts. It's actually a…
The Newberry's public galleries are a treat for bibliophiles: those who swoon over original Thomas Paine pamphlets about the French Revolution, or get…
The famed firm of Burnham and Root built the Rookery – named for the site's previous building, a temporary city hall that was popular with roosting…
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Chicago.
Keep Discovering Donegal
This great county encapsulates everything that’s magical about the Wild Atlantic Way: Strolling along the sandy splendour of the Blue Flag beach of Ballymastocker. Glimpsing the wondrous beauty of the northern lights from the Inishowen Peninsula. Hiking through the rugged majesty of Glenveagh National Park. Donegal, Ireland is perfect for a change of pace and the chance to reconnect with those who really matter.