Museums, Sights & Cultural Attractions:
Chicago is home to many of the world's best museums. Some of the very best are:
The Art Institute of Chicago: A truly world class art museum containing a wide variety of collections. One of Chicago's must see attractions and one of the best things to do in city. It has works of African, Asian, American, European, Ancient and contemporary artists. It is best known for it's extensive collection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist works. It includes works by such masters as Chagall, Monet, Picasso and Renoir. The Art Institute also contains many great American paintings including possibly the two most famous, Grant Wood's American Gothic and Edward Hopper's NightHawks. The new wing greatly expands the art on display and is contained in a wonderful new building. The new wing's modern collection is not for everyone. Hours are 10:30-5 and admission is $18, children $12. There are occasional free days, and if you show up late in the day they may let you in for a reduced admission.
The Field Museum: A top of the line science and history museum which contains enough exhibits to fill a weeks worth of visits. It has things to do for people of all ages. The main attraction is Sue the dinosaur which the museum purchased for $8.4 million and is the world's most complete dinosaur skeleton. Some of the best collections are of animals, fossils, dinosaurs and Egypt, but the are many other good collections. The museum is also known for it's exceptional temporary exhibits. Some of the best have been about the Dead Sea Scrolls, Egypt and the Aztecs. The museum is open daily 9-5 and admission can vary, but the basic adult admission is $15 and children's is $10.
Shedd Aquarium: One of the largest and best aquariums in the world. The main attractions are: the Oceanarium which contains dolphins and Beluga Whales, Amazon Rising with it's wide variety of fish, turtles, frogs and reptiles, and the Wild Reef which has both small and large exhibits containing tiny fish all the way up to sharks. There are also many other smaller rooms with fish from all over the world. The aquarium is open 9-5 weekdays and 9-6 weekends. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children and there is an extra charge for the oceanarium and other attractions. Lines are very long in the summer so arrive early or skip the line by buying one of tourist cards such as the Chicago City Pass.
Other Great Museums, Sights and Cultural Attractions:
The Museum of Science and Industry: A family friendly museum whose main attractions are in keeping with the name. There are many hands on activities for kids to do. Some of the museums best attractions are a coal mine, an actual German WW II submarine and Omni Max and 3-D theaters. Hours are 9:30-4 everyday except Sunday when they are 11-4. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children. Some exhibits and shows are extra. It is 8 miles south of downtown. There is cheap parking, for now, around the museum.
Lincoln Park Zoo: A very nice zoo especially considering it is free. Probably the best free thing to do in Chicago. The zoo contains a farm along with many indoor and outdoor exhibits. Some of the most exciting animals to see are two families of gorillas, chimpanzees, lions, tigers, wolves, seals and bears. Other attractions include: kangaroos, seals, a red panda and many hundreds of other species. Hours tend to be 9-6 but change with the seasons. It is not near many of the other sights or attractions.
Adler Planetarium: A look at the universe around us with many exhibits and 2 theaters. Hours are 9:30-4:30 Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children. Shows are extra. On of the best skyline views of the city and lake is from in front of Adler.
Museum of Contemporary Art: An interesting collection of modern art. Certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but a sight for the true art lover. It has on of the best gift shops in the city. $14 for adults and $7 for children.
Chicago History Museum: Better than most local history museums. It is an entertaining look at Chicago's often colorful history. Open 9:30-4:30. Entrance is $14 for adults, $12 for students and free for children under 12.
Oriental Institute: A great collection of Egyptian and ancient middle eastern antiquities collected by the University of Chicago that few locals know about. Open 10-6 with a reasonable $7 entrance fee. It can be a bit tricky to find. oi.uchicago.edu/museum
Other Attractions & Sights:
Navy Pier: A family friendly indoor/outdoor attraction. Great city views and people watching offer free entertainment. There are surprisingly good fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night during the summer. Navy Pier offers many dinning options from an upscale seafood restaurant to theme restaurants and a food court. It has good shopping opportunities for children, teenagers, and people looking for souvenirs. The Children's Museum gift shop is a personal favorite. Entertainment options and things to do abound and include rides, miniature golf, boat rides, theaters and a children's museum. Parking is crowded and overly expensive so it is best to take a free trolley, city bus, taxi or walk. It is the city's most visited attraction or sight.
Millennium Park: A fun place to spend a hour or two. Cloud Gate or "The Bean" as local call it is well worth a look and along with Crown Fountain is a work of sculpture children can appreciate. There are often free concerts in the pavilion and summer brings temporary art displays. While it is best in warm weather it is still worth a visit and a lot less crowded in winter, when there is a skating rink. It has been a great new addition to the city's attractions.
Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck & Hancock Building Observatory: One of the best things to do in Chicago. These attractions are well worth a visit. There is no need to do both. The Willis Tower has the advantage of being higher, 103 stories, and it has the ledge, a glass enclosure that sticks out of the side of the building, for those visitors brave enough to walk out on it. The Hancock Building has the advantage of being on the Mag Mile which tourist are more likely to be near and it is set on the lake for better water views. Lines are long at both, but tend to be shorter at the Hancock Building. They are not cheap attractions at $17 for adults.
The Willis Tower Skydeck The Hancock Building Observatory