Fun things to do in Chicago

  • Chicago River Cruise
    Chicago River Cruise
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    The Bean in Millennium Park
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    Serpentine bridge
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Chicago

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    Crossing the Chicago River

    by riorich55 Written Feb 23, 2014

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    Whenever you are in a city with lots of bridges there is usually some interesting history behind almost each and every one of them. I'm finding out more and more about Chicago each year as my 2 oldest sons live in the city (we are all originally from the suburbs of Chicago) and I have joined a couple of photography groups in the past year and many of the event are held in Chicago. Thus I have been getting into the city with much more frequency.

    One of the things I would like to do over the next couple of years is photograph a number of the Chicago bridges over the Chicago River. The river itself has an interesting history behind it being that engineers reversed its flow which was originally into Lake Michigan (where many of the 19th century industries were dumping their waste products, including the remains of slaughtered animals at the Chicago Stockyards) and causing a lot of illness, to away from the lake.

    Several events during the year such as the annual raising of the bridges to let the sailboats sail to their late spring, summer and early autumn berths on the Lake Michigan harbors are sights to behold. I have included a couple of photographs I have taken over the past few years to give you a bit of a look at some of these great Chicago bridges.

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    The EL

    by WulfstanTraveller Written Feb 12, 2014

    I've already discussed this as a "transportation" tip (see that tip for more info and pictures) but it is such a famous and integral part of Chicago's character, and a fun and great way to see the city, that I think it important to mention the EL, and the rest of the CTA system, as a "thing to do" in its own right,like the Underground in London or a ferry bout ride in Istanbul.

    Aside form getting one easily around the city, this affords neat and different views of the city and one gets a now-rare chance at riding an old-style elevated train system, with many interesting old stations a number still with interesting old woodwork or iron decorations, etc.

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    Architecture-Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT)

    by Dabs Updated Oct 22, 2013

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    Standing at the north end of the loop by the Chicago River, you can look down the canyon of LaSalle Street and find the goddess of agriculture Ceres standing on top of the art deco Chicago Board of Trade Building, one of the few art deco style buildings in Chicago. An interesting tidbit about Ceres, at the time the building was erected it was so tall that the builders never thought that people would get an up close look at Ceres so she has no face.

    You used to be able to visit the visitors center of this building and see the trading but it appears that it is now closed due to security concerns. The website does suggest that it is still open for prearranged groups, what constitutes a group, I don't know. You can wander into the lobby but there is pretty heavy security that doesn't allow you to wander very far.

    If you look two of the other photos attached to this tip, you will see pictures of the two granite goddesses, representing industry and agriculture, that disappeared in 1929 when the old CBOT building was torn down. They were returned to the plaza at the CBOT in 2005 after being rediscovered lying in the grass on the estate of Arthur Cutten, a wheat speculator that went bust in the depression.

    During the Open House weekend in October 2013, they allowed people to go down into the vault which is no longer used

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    Open House weekend

    by Dabs Updated Oct 20, 2013

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    Chicago has joined a number of other international cities in offering an Open House weekend, the 3rd Open House weekend was October 19-20, 2013. The Open House is free to visitors and is sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. In 2013 they featured 13 areas that had more than 150 sights open to the public, some of them central including downtown and the Gold Coast which is great for those without cars; some just outside the central area that are easy to reach including Prairie Avenue and Lincoln Park and further afield neighborhoods including Garfield Park/North Lawndale, Pullman, Hyde Park, South Shore, Uptown, Rogers Park/West Ridge, Near West Side, Bridgeport/Back of the Yards and Pilsen that are much easier to tour with a car.

    Even with a car we couldn't visit all of the area so we concentrated on Lincoln Park, Pilsen, Hyde Park and Prairie Avenue on Saturday and then downtown on Sunday without a car. It helps to pick up one of the guides (or print from their website) and figure out a route so you are not zig sagging around town. Some of the places are open year round, some of the ones that offer tours regularly give abbreviated tours for the Open House. Some of the participants are just trying to drum up business. We managed to skip the ones that seemed like they were on the tour to drum up business although we did cut out of one tour when it became clear it was less about the building than the architectural firm; but most of the places were really cool.

    Some places like the Driehaus Museum and Charnley-Perksy House are normally open for tours but with a fee. Some other places like the Ebenezer Baptist Church or Powhowtan Apartments you probably wouldn't think of visiting and others like the Monroe Building I've walked by hundreds of times without thinking to stop.

    Last year we got to see the boardroom of Marshall Field's (OK, I know it's Macy's but the carpet is still Marshall Field green), Col. McCormick's office in the Tribune Tower, the Emil Bach house, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's designs that is not usually open to the public; the beautiful swimming pools at the Park Castle and Park Gables apartments and the Louis Sullivan designed Auditorium Building's library and Ganz Hall.

    If you become a member of the CAF you get priority access but we only waited at one place and that was only for 10 minutes or so, getting to the Driehaus Museum earlier in the day meant no lines at the one place I thought for sure we'd hit one.

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    The Untouchables (Movie) Locations

    by WulfstanTraveller Updated Oct 14, 2013

    The 1987 film The Untouchables was set and filmed almost entirely on location in Chicago and is one of those films where the location is as much a "character" and part of the film as the people and story. he filming put much emphasis on really showing actual Chicago scenes, with great landmarks and identifiable Chicago streets. Most of the locations are still there today and look pretty much the same.

    Some of these are the Rookery on South LaSalle near the Chicago Board of Trade and the block of the street in front, with the Board of Trade in the back (the police station); Union Station (the station shootout); Roosevelt University (the entrance and lobby of Capone's hotel); a restaurant in Wrigleyville (the bombed cafe); and the Chicago Cultural Center (the courthouse and scene where Ness chases Nitty); and the DuSable (Michigan Ave.) Bridge, where Ness and Malone meet.

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    VISIT UNION RAILWAY STATION..

    by DennyP Written Sep 18, 2013

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    CHICAGO 'S UNION STATION
    Being an avid railway traveller and loving train travel now and again one gets to arrive in a beautiful Railway Station ..Union Station in Chicago is such a building..
    Opened in 1925 The present Union Station is huge to say the least..covering an area of some 10 city blocks the station is mostly underground covered by streets and skyscraper buildings..Located on the west side of the Chicago River between West Adams Street and west Jackson Blvde. (just outside the Chicago Loop) Chicago's Union Station is the third biggest Railway Terminal in the U.SA..Trains do not pass through Union Station passengers going to different destinations must change trains here onto one of the many "famous trains" that depart and arrive at these platforms..such as the "California Zephyr.".to San Francisco .."The Empire Builder".. to Seattle.. "The Lincoln Service".. to St Louis..."The Texas Eagle".. to Dallas... "The Spirit of New Orleans.. to New Orleans.. "The Capitol Limited" ...to Washington DC. .I caught most of these train services on my recent train adventure through the USA..
    I was so taken with the buidings main facade and its many impressive Corinthian Columns..inside the "Great Hall" with its sea of marble floors and while looking at the beautiful "Main Stairway "..I immediately thought of the famous scene from the movie in "The Untouchables" (filmed here in 1987) with the mother struggling with her pram on the stairs and the "shootout" between Elliot Ness and some local gangsters..Today ,there is local security in the building and a noticeable Police presence..very helpful too ..may I add.
    I was here again this time in the very early morning to board my train "The Lincoln Service" to St Louis.. .There is no doubt why this is one of the most iconic buildings in the city and certainly well worth the visit.

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    Y'ALL WANT TO HEAR MORE BLUES..

    by DennyP Written Sep 15, 2013

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    CHICAGO
    There are quite a few venues for blues in Chicago and there are a couple in this area of the city..This is located at 2519 North Halsted..There is a venue here called "The Blues Bar" gets great local revues ..See the "big blue neon sign" out front.. Like its counterpart "The Kingston Mines" across the street this is another really lively blues place where the music is loud,,the drinks are reasonably priced there is an entry fee.and there is music till 3 AM..Another wonderful Chicago blues venue for a great night out...Busses stop out front and if you like Blues this is a great music venue..Many various local blues artists play here..

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    YA LIKE BLUES ?? CHECK OUT KINGSTON MINES

    by DennyP Updated Sep 15, 2013

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    CHICAGO
    There was many things that I wanted to do while in Chicago and one of the main things that I wanted to see and hear was lots of "blues music".Long known as a major "blues centre" in the USA it is not hard to track down and listen to some great blues music..Many of the famous blues artists have headed here to make a living and share their style of the music genre..like, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters , and the present Buddy guy,
    Many more "strutt their stuff "here in the many musical venues ...of course blues isn't all that Chicago has to offer in the music scene all genres of music can be found here..it has always been a big Jazz drawcard on the music scene also with famous artists like Bix Beiderbeck, Louis ( "Satchmo") Armstrong, Ma Rainey, Sir George Solti. So many eminent artists either started or furthered their careers in Chicago.

    Tonight I am going to Kingston Mines...an extremely popular "blues" venue located in the 2500 block of North Halstead .it's.Open till 4am .and busses stop out front...This place really jumps.it is very loud and very enjoyable...gets really crowded after 9 pm and many various artists play here .The musicians really "fire up" the audience and people dance etc...The drinks are reasonably priced and it's $20.00 bucks to get in ...if you like blues and want a great nights inexpensive entertainment you will love this place ..and I am sure that you will come back to this venue again ,if you are here for awhile.!!

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    VISIT THE CHICAGO HARD ROCK CAFE

    by DennyP Written Sep 14, 2013

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    CHICAGO
    Located at the corner of Clark and Ontario in the heart of Chicago's River North neighbourhood where it has been now for 25 years..The Chicago Hard Rock Cafe was all that I expected it to be ..and more...the Memorabilia in this HRC is a really outstanding collection of "some of the best" from "some of the best"..lots of Buddy Holly , Chuck Berry, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles,Bo Diddley and as one would expect to find in Chicago..a fine collection of blues artists memorabilia...Its all about the music.
    The welcome from the staff is always a buzz and get to see and photograph many items that catch my eye.There is never a drama at the Hard Rock ....I always stop in the local Hard Rock Cafe when I'm in a new city and have a cold beer and a HRC hamburger or" The hickory smoked pulled pork sandwich (here )."you can be sure the food is great and they are so its spotless..nomatter where you are in the world from my experiences.HRC is always clean and ...they are always a good hamburger.and beer is cold..
    IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC.

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    Dusable Museum

    by iam1wthee Updated Jul 18, 2013

    Its a small museum but it is packed with a lot of information. They had an Arts and Crafts Fair the day that I went and I enjoyed it more than the Taste of Chicago. The Doo Wop group was really good.

    It is a little out of the way from other attractions but you can take several buses there. Although it is faster to get the train and transfer to the bus.

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    Chicago City Tour Minibus

    by iam1wthee Written Jul 17, 2013

    The customer service is remarkable and this company is more reliable than the other. Plus being that it is a small group you get to spend more time at the sites and you may get the chance to go to other unplanned areas.

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    Chicago in Four Seasons

    by Mayzhou100 Written Jun 14, 2013

    Chicago is a great city for learning cultures and enjoying nature. It is pretty in spring, summer, autumn, but cold and windy in winter. I love the city and took some photos to remember its beauty: Millennium Park, Lake Michigan, Great Bean... If space is available, I would like to share more pictures.

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    One day in Chicago

    by Dabs Written Mar 3, 2013

    If you are just in Chicago for a long layover or you have just a day in Chicago, here is what I suggest. Take the el from either airport and head into downtown Chicago. If you have the whole day and the weather is nice, you might consider taking a boat ride either on Lake Michigan if you want to see the skyline or on the Chicago River if you are an architecture buff. You can pick up both at the corner of Wacker & Michgian. After the boat ride, you'll need some sustenance and if you have the time head to any one of Chicago pizza places for a sampling of Chicago style pizza. Lou Malnati's is my favorite for deep dish, Giordano's for stuffed, there's a Giordano's on ______ that is not too far from where the boats leave.

    You'll want to walk off that pizza, a good place to start is a couple of blocks from Giordano's at the Chicago Cultural Center. There is a tourism office inside but it's also one of the most beautiful interiors in the city. From there take a stroll through Millennium Park or see if you can score an Instagreeter at the Cultural Center. If you still have time and energy, you can take a self guided tour of the Loop, Magnificent Mile or of Chicago's public art. If you need a snack while walking, I dare you to pass by Garrett's Popcorn and not be tempted.

    In town overnight? Consider stopping by Hottix to see if you can get 1/2 price tickets to any number of shows.

    If the weather outside is frightful? Swap the boat ride for a visit to any one of the wonderful museums in Chicago, the Art Institute, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium or the Adler Planetarium are all within easy reach. The Museum of Science and Industry is outside the city center

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    Take a Drive on Lake Shore Drive

    by riorich55 Written Feb 12, 2013

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    Taking a ride on Lake Shore Drive most anytime (except for big snowstorms) is always a great way to see the city of Chicago from another aspect. You can ride along the Lake Michigan shoreline from the Northern part of the city at the spot where it bumps up with the Chicago suburb of Evanston all the way down to near the Southern Suburbs.

    It is a beautiful drive where you will get to see parks, the Lake, the City skyline, museums, athletic fields and of course plenty of other cars.

    The Drive is famous enough for a local song and even is shut down periodically for some bike rides.

    So if you have a car on your trip to Chicago be sure not to miss a drive on LSD.

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    Chicago's French Market

    by riorich55 Updated Dec 4, 2012

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    A fairly recent addition to places to see in Chicago is the Chicago French Market which is located underneath the Ogilvie Transportation Center between Clinton and Canal Streets just south of the Chicago River. There is a wide variety of establishments in the market. You can get anything from flowers, to cheeses, to wines, meats, pastries, breads or just about anything that you might expect if you were in a European type market.

    For a few weeks in September, 2012 I had a work assignment only a block away from the French Market so got to shop and try out a number of the shops. I bought flowers for my wife's birthday, had some yummy breakfasts, bought some dinner to take home on the train and even had lunch at RAW (totally Vegan stall).

    If you are in Chicago and looking for something a little different to do try this out.

    My pictures were taken early in the morning before most of the stalls had opened. There are a few that open early in the morning, but most don't open until about 10:00 a.m.

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Comments (1)

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    Mar 19, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    As I was writing some tips for a city just west of where I live this morning I found out about this interesting event happening in June this year.

    I wanted to let anyone who lives in the United States and any visitors to the U.S. this summer that there is a very unique event going on. Lincoln Highway is not as well known as its other old U.S. Highway (Route 66), but is actually older (1913 vs 1926) then its road cousin and actually does travel through the middle of the country from coast to coast (New York to San Francisco). Route 66 actually starts in my hometown of Chicago and heads to California.

    Anyway here is a link and a bit of a description for anybody who is interested. www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/tour/2013.com

    "Join fellow historians and tourists for the Official Lincoln Highway Centennial Tours, headed for Kearney, Nebraska from each coast, for the centennial of America’s first paved transcontinental road: the Lincoln Highway. Antique cars, Classics, muscle cars, ’50s cars, trucks, motorcycles, street rods, and modern cars are welcome to participate.

    You will travel the original alignments of the Lincoln Highway covering many miles of two-lane history, four-lane progress, and even gravel scenic beauty. Travel from America’s urban centers, through pastoral farm lands, over breathtaking mountains and rolling prairies.

    Travelers from the East will start at Times Square, the heart of America’s most vibrant city. You will travel through ivy-covered college towns such as Princeton, New Jersey, and the Amish country of Pennsylvania. From Pittsburgh’s steel and beer brewing industrial history, you will travel through Ohio’s diverse agricultural and commercial mix. Indiana takes you through more Amish farm land, South Bend’s Notre Dame and automotive history and on to Illinois. From Illinois you will travel to Iowa’s farmland across the Mississippi River into the prairies of Nebraska and on to the Centennial celebration in Kearney at the Great Platte River Arch Museum.

    Western travelers enjoy beginning their journey in the urban centers of San Francisco and Oakland, California. After traveling through the state’s agricultural Central Valley you are exposed to the magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountains and Donner Pass before dropping into the deserts of Nevada and the Great Salt Lake of Utah. Climbing the mountains out of Salt Lake City, you will enter the wide open spaces of Wyoming and on to historic Cheyenne for an overnight stop. This is followed by your easterly trek into Nebraska and eventually joining the rest of the travelers from the east for the grand parade of cars into Kearney on opening day."

Chicago Things to Do

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The quintessential American city, Chicago offers world-class culture with zero attitude. You'll see Chicago at its best if you visit during the summer or fall. Summer offers a nonstop selection...

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