Top 10 Must-Do’s in Chicago for First Timers

The great city of Chicago is one of the main tourist cities in the U.S. along with New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and like such, there’s always something to see or do while you are there.

If you are a new traveler planning to visit Chicago anytime soon, we’ve got you covered. We have made a list of the top 10 must-dos in the city for first-time travelers: Everything you need to see, do and visit.

Keep in mind, some of the places we are about to show you are very famous tourist spots, so you might want to plan your schedule and get there earlier. Other than that, just remember to enjoy yourself!

#1: Visit the Bean

Let’s start off with the most famous tourist attraction of the whole city, the Bean. This gigantic structure is located in Millennium Park within the city and is very easy to get there.

Taking a picture with this giant, reflective Bean is a must-do whenever you are in Chicago, regardless if you are a first-time visitor or not. It is usually pretty crowded almost every day, but getting a picture is still possible. 

Important information about the bean:

  • It is completely free.
  • It’s a sightseeing type of experience.
  • It is open all year long, all day.

#2: Visit the Millennium Park

While you are out there already seeing the majestic Chicago Bean, it’s always a good idea to stick around a little bit longer and wander around the city’s most famous park… Think about it as the Central Park of Chicago.

Besides the famous bean, the park has other very interesting architectural structures and various tracks surrounded by trees and grass you can walk through for a while. It is a really nice place just in the middle of the city.

Important information about the park:

  • It is free, you don’t have to get any kind of tickets.
  • It’s a sightseeing type of experience.
  • It is open from 6 AM to 11 PM every day.

#3: Get on a Cruise over the Chicago River

One of the most interesting things about this city is the fact that it has a great river running right in the middle of it, which of course, has to be one of the main tourist attractions.

There are several ways you can see the river, walking by the main canal is one of the most common ways. However, if you really want to see the river up close, and get a great view of the city, we recommend going on the Cruise over the Chicago River.

Important information:

  • Tickets are required. You can get them online or in the city.
  • Costs vary from 39$ to 44$.
  • The cruise lasted 90 minutes.

#4: Visit the Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago is a city full of amazing and interesting museums, and going to the city without visiting at least the most famous of them all, is definitely such a waste. You need to get to know at least the Art Institute of Chicago.

Although it isn’t called a Museum, this art institute is well known worldwide for its extensive art collections that go all the way from very old, almost ancient art, to very modern pieces, this institute really has it all.

Important information:

  • Tickets are 25$ for adults, 19$ for teenagers, and free for kids under 13 years old.
  • It is open every day from 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM.
  • You can visit their official website, here.

#5: Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo

As you might have noticed by now, the City of Chicago has both free and paid attractions and locations you can visit any time of the year, and they are all great. But perhaps the best free attraction out there is the Lincoln Park Zoo.

This Zoo is giant, has over 1.000 different animal species and it is one of the very few free Zoos in the whole world. As you might notice, it is a must seen when visiting Chicago.

Important information:

  • It is completely free.
  • It’s open from 10 AM to 5 PM every day.

#6: Visit the Skydeck Chicago

If you ever get a little bit bored of seeing Chicago from the streets (Although, how could you?) You can always go to the Skydeck and get the best view of the whole city ever.

Very meters up into the sky there’s the famous Skydeck, a see-through glass deck that allows you to step in and feel like you are floating just right above the city. It’s honestly not for the lighthearted, but it’s a really fun activity if you’re looking to do something different.

Important information:

  • Tickets are 23$ for adults and 15$ for kids.
  • It is open from 9 AM to 10 PM every day.
  • It is a very popular tourist spot, so we recommend going either before or after the popular hours (meaning the sunset and nighttime)

#7: Go to the 360 Chicago Observation Deck

Keeping up with the amazing locations you must see when visiting Chicago, it’s the 360 Chicago Observatory, one of the main tourist points of the whole city, and one of the most amazing views you will ever get.

Again, this isn’t recommended for those who are afraid of heights, but if you aren’t, then the Chicago Observation Deck will give you the most amazing view of the city (and the beach too!)

Important information:

  • Tickets are 21$ for adults and 14$ for kids.
  • It is open to the public from 9AM to 11PM.
  • Expect to spend at least two hours in the Observation Deck.

#8: Go explore the Shedd Aquarium

We have seen the Zoo, the parks, and the Bean, now it is time for you to visit the amazing Shedd Aquarium, one of the largest, most amazing aquariums worldwide… And it’s right there, in Chicago!

This gigantic aquarium is home to over 30.000 marine species, from sea lions to all kinds of fishes to even sharks. It’s the perfect place to spend the day and wander around either alone or with your whole family.

Important information:

  • Tickets are almost 40$ for adults and almost 30$ for kids.
  • It’s open from Monday to Sunday from 9AM to 5PM every day.
  • There are multiple things to do like feeding the animals and special tours.

#9: Visit the Famous Field Museum

We told you Chicago was full of amazing museums to visit and the Field Museum is one of them. It’s a Natural history museum that’s home to many different exhibitions that go through the world’s most amazing and interesting cultures, places, and history.

You get to see everything you would expect from a museum: Dinosaurs skeletons, replicas of the ancient Egypt days, the evolution of men through time and so much more you could spend the whole day trapped in there.

Important information:

  • You need to buy tickets to get in.
  • It’s open every day for visitors.
  • You should expect to be dedicated all day long.

#10: Go shopping at Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

As with any other great city in the whole world, there’s a “shopping” center tourists from everywhere love to shop at, kind of like Time Squares in NYC. That’s kind of what the Magnificent Mile is.

After all that sightseeing and exploring, it’s only natural you would want to chill out and relax, and the Magnificent Mile is the place to do exactly just that while you go on a shopping spree.

Important information:

  • It is a main street, so you can either go shopping or simply walk around and get to know that side of the city.
  • There are multiple cafes and restaurants where you can grab something to eat.

If you are from the US visiting Chicago is not that much of a big deal. However, if you are traveling overseas it is extremely important you check your VISA or ESTA status, depending on your situation.

If you are part of the visa waiver countries, then you won’t need a VISA. If you are from any of these countries then you should check your ESTA status, which is a sort of electronic pass that allows you to enter the U.S. without a VISA.

If you don’t have the benefit of ESTA status, then you will need to get a VISA in order to enter the U.S. and be able to visit the amazing city of Chicago!

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