10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Chicago


Chicago, often referred to as the “Windy City,” is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Known for its vibrant arts scene, numerous cultural attractions, excellent shopping, and intriguing architecture, this city attracts visitors from the United States and around the world.

Chicago enjoys a worldwide reputation as a focal point of twentieth-century architecture and art, with architects like Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, and artists such as Picasso, Miró, Dubuffet, and Chagall leaving their marks.

This city also offers plenty in the realm of sports, such as the Chicago Bears in American football, the Chicago White Sox and Cubs in baseball, and the Chicago Bulls in basketball.

Lastly, but certainly not least, there are beautiful beaches spread along the shoreline, drawing crowds of sunbathers during the summer months.

The timing of your visit to Chicago can depend on your preferences, especially if you’re coming for sports or cultural events, but it’s best weather-wise from spring through autumn.

Check out our top attractions and activities in Chicago for sightseeing and things to do.


On This Page:


  1. Watch the Water Show at Buckingham Fountain
  2. Museum of Science and Industry
  3. Walk through Millennium Park
  4. 360 Chicago
  5. Visit the Art Institute of Chicago
  6. Shedd Aquarium
  7. Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile
  8. See the View from the Willis Tower SkyDeck
  9. Reach for the Stars at Adler Planetarium
  10. Stroll around Navy Pier


1. Watch the Water Show at Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain |Photo by Brian Miller on Unsplash


Constructed in 1927 as a family contribution, the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain stands as one of the largest fountains in the world. Designed in the iconic Art Deco style of the era, the central fountain is surrounded by four seahorses, representing the four states bordering Lake Michigan. Operating from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., the fountain comes to life every hour, expelling approximately 15,000 gallons of water per minute. With nearly 200 jets, it creates a complex display, showcasing the fountain’s grandeur.

After dusk, there are lights with water displays, which are a must-see if you’re around in the evening. The fountain is the central focus of Chicago’s sprawling public space Grant Park, which contains many attractions and smaller parks, such as Millennium Park, comparable to Central Park, one of New York City’s top attractions.

One of the major tourist attractions in the park is the Museum Campus, which houses The Field Museum of Natural History, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. Grant Park has several gardens and recreational facilities and hosts a variety of events including music and food festivals.


2. Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry |Photo by Gautam Krishnan on Unsplash


Established in 1933 on the north side of Jackson Park, the Science and Industry Museum stands as one of Chicago’s most captivating attractions. It is dedicated to the application of natural laws for technological and artistic advancement.

It is believed to incorporate the concept of the first “hands-on” exhibit in the U.S., encouraging visitors to interact with hundreds of exhibits. Alongside permanent and changing exhibits, it houses an Omnimax Theater and an IMAX Theater for both stationary and evolving displays.


3. Walk through Millennium Park

Millennium Park | Photo by Wicker Woodsong on Unsplash


Millennium Park is part of the larger Grant Park, located in downtown Chicago, bounded by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the north, and Monroe Street to the south. Its centerpiece is a 110-ton sculpture called Cloud Gate, which has a polished, mirror-like stainless steel surface that was inspired by liquid mercury. It reflects the surrounding environment, including the buildings, the sky and the tourists who walk through its central arch.

Another top attraction of Millennium Park is the Crown Fountain, a striking modern interpretation of the ancient gargoyle that gives the appearance of flowing water from the mouth of the figure projected by the citizens of Chicago. Other popular things to do here include watching a show at the J. Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue, and visiting Lurie Gardens, which is open to the public free of charge year-round. Located close to many major attractions as well as great shopping, this area of town is a convenient place to base yourself.


4. 360 Chicago

360 Chicago |Photo by Markus Leo on Unsplash


Located in the John Hancock Center Office Building, 360 Chicago is an observation deck on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building, easily identifiable by its dark metallic-looking exterior and cross-braced steel design, which runs along the exterior of the building. The large glass-walled observation deck offers views of the Chicago skyline and beyond.

More adventurous tourists will love the deck’s new feature “Tilt,” which gives visitors a unique view from more than 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile as they lean outward at an angle to look straight down from the glass enclosure.

The rest of the building contains various shops, offices and apartments, as well as a multimedia exhibition located on the first floor.


5. Visit the Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago | Photo by Walter Martin on Unsplash


The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-class museum with millions of works of art. Spanning thousands of years, this diverse collection features pieces from a variety of mediums, including painting, printing, photography, sculpture, decorative arts, textiles, architectural drawings, and more.

The Institute is known for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings including Georges Seurat’s 1884 Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte, Renoir’s 1879 Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando and numerous paintings by Claude Monet.

The original building, designed in the Beaux-Arts style by Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, was constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Several other buildings have been added over the years, and today the complex measures 400,000 square feet.


6. Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium


If you’re wondering what kind of aquatic life exists on Lake Michigan, right by the side of the Shedd Aquarium, just offshore from downtown Chicago. Inside are exhibits covering the world’s aquatic regions, from the Arctic to the Caribbean.

If you go for a walk with young children, then one of the tasks is definitely the polar play zone. Here, children can jump in their favorite animal costumes, go on a trip by submarine and touch the stars of the sea. Another popular place for children of all ages is the Stingray Touch Tank. This huge tank is full of curious stingrays, who like to be small and to touch.


7. Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile

Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile|Photo by Engin Yapici on Unsplash


Michigan Avenue is probably one of the most attractive boulevards in America. The city’s famous Magnificent Mile is a stretch of Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River, home to numerous galleries, boutiques, and luxury shops.

Some of the attractions here include the John Hancock Center, Wrigley Building, and Tribune Tower. Michigan Avenue is divided between north and south designations on Madison Street. The district is also known for its theatres, which host travelling plays, musicals and comedies.


8.See the View from the Willis Tower SkyDeck

Willis Tower SkyDeck |Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash


Until 1996, when the Petronas Tower was built in Kuala Lumpur, the 110-storey Sears Tower, now Willis Tower, was the world’s tallest office block. Although there are now several tall buildings, the view from here is incredible. On a clear day you can see 40 to 50 miles over four states and get a bird’s eye view of Chicago’s impressive architecture.

The Willis Tower took three years to build and was opened to the public in 1974. The building is 1,453 feet tall and has an observation area, known as the Skydeck, on the 103rd floor, 1,353 feet above the ground. A glass box with a glass floor, known as a ledge, protrudes from the skydeck, where visitors can stand and view the city directly below.


9.Reach for the Stars at Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois


The Adler Planetarium is beyond most kids’ chance of seeing on a school trip and will appreciate shows and a wide range of exhibits for all ages. Adler prides itself on being the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, built in 1930 on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The planetarium features two domed theaters, which house a variety of exhibits, including explorations of Chicago’s night sky, solar system, and moon. There is a wide array of exhibits that explore topics including life on other worlds, meteors and meteorites, space exploration, the history of scientific disciplines, and even the history of astrology.

There are several exhibits dedicated to the achievements of marginalized groups, including women, Latinos, and LGBTQ + astronomers. Noteworthy is an excellent exhibition that looks at the importance of the contributions of Islamic astronomers and how their studies influenced the faith and the world. In addition, there are collections of artifacts from astronomers in the past, including many ancient and ancient sundials, as well as telescopes.

When visiting, be sure to leave enough time for a skyline walk along the perimeter, which is the best place to photograph the city skyline on a boat trip.


10.Stroll around Navy Pier

Navy Pier | Photo by Walter Martin on Unsplash


Navy Pier originally opened in 1916 as a recreation area and shipping facility but is now one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions. Today, Navy Pier consists of 50 acres of gardens, attractions, shops, restaurants, concert venues, and parks. Navy Pier Park features a 150-foot Ferris wheel and a historic carousel.

Visitors can watch a movie in a 3D IMAX theater, watch actors perform classics at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, or visit the Crystal Garden, a one-acre, six-story, indoor botanical garden. The Chicago Children’s Museum is also located here. The Pier hosts festivals throughout the year, including the Chicago Festival in August. Cruise ships depart from here for sightseeing.