Chicago is home to many world-class museums. No trip to Chicago is complete without including one or more museums on the visit. The Museum Campus at the south end of Grant Park contains three of Chicago's most visited institutions -- the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. A little farther north, also in Grant Park, you'll find the Art Institute of Chicago with its outstanding collections featuring one of the finest collections of French Impressionist paintings in the world. While visiting Grant Park, be sure to visit the new Millennium Park, featuring the "Bean", and the spectacular Buckingham Fountain.
Outside the downtown area, you'll find many more Chicago museums. Going south on Lake Shore Drive, at 57th Street you'll find the Museum of Science and Industry. Open every day except Christmas Day, the Museum has drawn more than 175 million visitors since it opened its doors in 1933. Its permanent exhibits such as the U-505 submarine and the coal mine are complemented by an ever-changing lineup of special exhibitions. Whether it's your first visit to the Museum or your 21st visit, you'll always find something new. About a mile west of the Museum of Science and Industry is the DuSable Museum of African American History, the first and oldest museum dedicated to the study and conservation of African American history, culture and art.
These are just a few of the dozens of museums in Chicago.
One of the best ways to see Chicago is from the top of one of the world's tallest buildings. In Chicago, you have not one but two choices: the Sears Tower Skydeck and the Hancock Observatory. Back on the ground, you have many choices for a close-up view of Chicago. If you have an interest in architecture and like to walk, the architectural walking tours offered by the architectural foundation are a must. If you prefer the comfort of a coach, there are a variety of guided tours to choose from.
Jutting out into Lake Michigan, Navy Pier has become the No. 1 destination for visitors to Chicago. Its eclectic mix of shops and restaurants are interspersed with attractions for the whole family including the Chicago Children's Museum, an IMAX theater, a prominent 150 foot high Ferris wheel, a musical carousel and much more. During the summer, you'll find a wide variety of entertainment including musicians, singers, jugglers, mimes, and comedians. Navy Pier also serves as the home to many Lake Michigan dinner cruises and Chicago boat tours.
Chicago offers visitors two outstanding zoos. Lincoln Park Zoo, about a mile and a half north of Navy Pier, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States and is one of Chicago's best bargains. It's free. At only 35 acres, Lincoln Park Zoo is physically small but is home to more than 1,100 animals. Open 365 days a year, the zoo attracts more than 3 million visitors a year. Adjacent to the zoo are two more Chicago attractions, Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Brookfield Zoo, also known as Chicago Zoological Park, is located on 216 acres 14 miles west of downtown Chicago. Open every day of the year, Brookfield Zoo houses around 450 species of animals. It features a variety of exhibits including Tropic World (the world's first indoor rain forest), Regenstein Wolf Woods, The Swamp, Seven Seas, and The Living Coast.
For many visitors to Chicago, the top draw to the city is its shopping. And for many, shopping in Chicago means the Magnificent Mile. From the Chicago River on the south to Oak Street on the north, Chicago's Magnificent Mile offers unparalleled choices ranging from boutiques to magnificent department stores. With more than 460 retail stores there is something for every taste. In November, the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival signals the official start of the holiday season in Chicago when more than one million lights draping the trees along North Michigan Avenue are lit.
But there is more to shopping in Chicago than the Magnificent Mile. Whether it is the galleries of the River North area or the small shops featuring exotic imports and Chicago's many ethnic neighborhoods, Chicago offers a variety of shopping that brings many visitors to the city.
There seems to always be a festival somewhere in Chicago. The granddaddy of them all, the Taste of Chicago, is the largest food festival in the world and draws more than six million visitors during its 10 day run in Grant Park. More than 70 restaurants participate in the Taste each year including many from the city's diverse ethnic neighborhoods. The Gold Coast River North Art Fair in August attracts more than 300 juried artists and more than 600,000 visitors.
Music festivals, such as the Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago Gospel Music Festival and Chicago Country Music Festival, bring many music lovers to the city. On any weekend of the summer, a visitor can choose from the many neighborhood festivals going on all over the city. Festivals such as Taste of Polonia, German American Festival, Taste of Romania, Fiesta del Sol and Korean Street Festival indicate the diversity of the choices.
Chicago Air and Water Show
No list of things to see and do in Chicago would be complete without including the annual Chicago Air and Water Show. It is the oldest and largest free admission event of its kind in the United States. More than two million people line the lakefront from Oak Street Beach to Fullerton Avenue to view the amazings aerial displays and water acrobatics.