15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions In Chicago (2023)
An American city that does not needs any introduction, Chicago is world-renowned and for all good reasons. Not only the Americans but every single traveller from across the continent’s dream of traversing once in their lifetime. Whether the celebrities announcing Chicago as their go-to place or top magazines praising the city, the Windy City is always in talks. The unbelievably beautiful Chicago city sits beside the sweeping shore of Lake Michigan. Anyone who has been here classifying it as urban-meets-natural beauty that thrives on harmony and diversity.
If you are a first time Midwest traveller, you might be wondering what Chicago holds. So let us clear it, from soaring skyscrapers to miles of lakefront, colourful neighbourhoods, extensive parklands and outstanding arts and culture, Chicago is home to its all.
15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions In Chicago
For a detailed look at what Windy City offers, look at our picks for popular places to visit when in Chicago.
1. Millennium Park
A trip to Chicago is incomplete if you missed walking through the grand Millennium Park. It is a place where both locals and visitors gather alike, celebrating their time of day. First, visit the Crown fountain and get wet in the cooling sprays to start the fun trip. Further, walk towards the Cloud Gate or The Bean and stroll under the glorious monument. It is also the number one spot for selfies in Chicago. Other famous attractions here include the beautiful and tranquil Lurie Garden, Sandy beach areas, Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Boeing Galleries. While everything at Millennium Park is a masterpiece, it will take you an entire weekend to explore them all.
2. Medieval Torture Museum
The largest interactive torture museum highlights the terrible history of punishments, tortures and executions from humanity’s dark history.
November 2021: The grand opening of the newest location of the Medieval Torture Museum has been an outstanding event for the locals and tourists of Chicago. The exhibition in Saint Augustine, Florida was attended by hundreds of thousands of people who left positive reviews.
Medieval Torture Museum is ranked #2 of 158 things to do in St. Augustine on TripAdvisor. In the Florida weekly “FOLIO” rating “Best of Saint Augustine 2019” the Medieval Torture Museum took 4th place in the Best Museum nomination. In 2020 and 2021, the Museum was included in the list of TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice. Even several ghost hunting groups have done their research at the Museum and have been amazed at the results.
Located on 177 N State St., in the heart of the theater district of Chicago, the Medieval Torture Museum showcases the darkest side of human history. The exhibition covers 6000 sq. ft. and contains hundreds of examples of torture, interrogation, restraint and execution devices. There are plenty of engravings, an audio guide, and even a ghost hunting experience. Throughout the museum there are some wax sculptures depicting executioners and victims in their bloody action. Many exhibits span the Renaissance, Middle Ages and Ancient Era.
The Medieval Torture Museum is a creative interactive museum where visitors can come face to face with the executioners and their victims.
The primary mission of the museum is to use historical evidence to make a commentary against human cruelty. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Note : (Not recommended under 18 years old.)
Address : 177 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601, United States
Monday – Thursday: 10 am – 9 pm
Friday – Sunday: 10 am – 10 pm
Call : (773) 241-7777
3. Navy Pier
Navy Pier is unarguably a top-rated tourist attraction in Chicago. Original, it got established as a shipping facility and amusement area back in 1916, but today the scenes are transformed into plain tourism. It is not only popular for the Lakeview but also everything that the pier holds inland. From over 50 acres of beautiful gardens to the 150 feet Farris wheel, theatre, museums, shops, and more, the Navy Pier holds endless modes of entertainment. Any time of the year, you can enjoy festivities and events here. Be it the Chicago festival, the famous riverfront fireworks or the food festival; Navy Pier offers so much to indulge in.
4. Shedd Aquarium
From the offshore downtown Chicago sits the famous Shedd Aquarium. Any aquatic enthusiasts should visit Shedd once in their lifetime and soak into its extravagance. This 5 million U.S. Gallon aquarium is home to aquatic life imported from the Arctic to the Caribbean. Marine here is present in several interesting exhibits ranging from Oceanarium to 4D theatre and more. Shedd Aquarium is also a known National Historic landmark jewelled with several awards for being the best in Western Hemisphere. With kids, consider visiting the Polar Play Zone and Stingray touch tank.
5. Willis Tower SkyDeck
The tallest office block of its time, Willis Tower SkyDeck, is a must-visit when in Chicago. The SkyDeck is 1353 feet above the ground and one of the tallest observation platforms one can climb worldwide. The observation area is a glass box with a glass floor that directly overlooks the city below. From here, you can grab a Chicago’s bird’s eye view. Or if it is a clear day, the views expand nearly 40 miles long, covering four states of the Nation. Though if heights scare you, climbing up to the observation deck is not worth it for you.
6. 360 Chicago
360 Chicago is offering another bird-eye view of the city, however, in the tilting format. The observation deck is located on the John Hancock Building, 94th floor and is a wonder on its own. It offers breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, four states and, of course, the famous Chicago Skyline. 360 at John Hancock Building is the only place in Chicago that offers the most thrilling ride from 1,000 feet up. Visitors can lie at such an angle that they can grab a look straight down from the glass enclosure observing the magnificent mile. When done with that, you can explore several shops, multimedia exhibits and restaurants in the rest of the building.
7. Rookery Building
Rookery Building is a historic office and a masterpiece building known for its architecture and interior. It is an 1800s building designed by John Root and Daniel Burnham in Queen Anne-style façade and Roman Revival style. Famous Frank Lloyd Wright later redesigned the lobby and patio. The building is known as Chicago’s oldest high-rise, with the articulated central light court being its most dramatic composition. Anyone interested in history, architecture or simply buildings would love exploring inside. As a tourist, your access will remain limited to the first floor, though making efforts even for that is worth it.
8. Buckingham Fountain
One of the largest fountains in the world, the Buckingham Fountain sits like a jewel over the heart of Chicago. The fountain operates from May through October, featuring water shows throughout the day and colour light shows in the evening. Going close to winter, Christmas and New Year festivities adorn the fountain with glorious festive lights. The centrepiece is a regular fountain covered by four seahorses. The design represents Lake Michigan surrounded by four U.S. states. Each year several Chicagoans and tourists visit Grant Park to observe the mesmerizing fountain shows, making it one popular attraction of Chicago.
9. Chicago Riverwalk and Lakefront Trail
When in Chicago, you cannot miss observing the glory of the famous Chicago River. The river runs parallel to the lakeshore (Lake Michigan) through the heart of the city. Within just 2 miles, it houses nearly 18 movable and non-movable bridges that allow several boats to pass through. Both the Riverwalk and the lakefront trail offer amazing Chicago skyline views along with an absolutely gorgeous sight of Lake Michigan. On a pleasant weathered evening, take a walk down the lanes with your partner aside and enjoy the undisputable vibes of Chicago. Don’t be surprised if you spot a celebrity here during the holiday season.
10. Lincoln Park (and its subsidiaries)
The largest public park in Chicago, Lincoln Park, is a tribute to the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln. However, this isn’t another city park but a tourism hub on its own. The Park is home to several top-rated tourist attractions of Chicago, and believe us; the list goes on. This list includes the famous Lincoln Park Zoo to Chicago History Museum, Lily Pond, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Lincoln Park Conservatory and more. While walking through the open spaces, you will encounter mind-blowing public art, statues, and well-manicured colourful gardens. The best time to be here is during Spring when nature is in its bloom or during Late summers.
11. Chicago Cultural Centre
Once a public library and Civil War Memorial, the Chicago Cultural Centre is a popular destination to visit in Chicago. Especially enthusiasts who are into public events and architectural beauty should visit the place. The cultural centre is known for its striking Neoclassical style 1,000 exhibitions and programmes organized here every year. From film screening to dance, music, theatre, everything they present speaks of diversity. When here, do not miss observing the stained-glass Tiffany dome (largest in the world). Along with that, there’s also a Renaissance-style dome with 50,000 glass panels, another extravagance to adore.
12. Garfield Park Conservatory
The Garfield Park Conservatory will leave you spellbound one of the most stunning botanical conservatories in the United States. It is spread over 12 acres inside out, where several thousands of local and exotic plants thrive every year. The conservatory is home to the world’s third-largest under glass garden, and if you are a botanist, do not dare to miss it. Here you can also explore the most varied collections of cactuses and succulents of the U.S. While walking through the pathways, it feels like you are almost in the tropics. Further to the surprise that it is one of the most well-maintained gardens to explore, they don’t charge a penny from locals and travellers. Despite being housed in a slightly down-at-heel neighbourhood, the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago will take you on a peaceful and rejuvenating trip.
13. Holy Name Cathedral
One of the largest Roman Catholic dioceses in the Nation, the Holy Name Cathedral, introduce you to divineness and prosperity. Apart from being a holy place, the Cathedral is known for its architecture and furnishing. Upon entry, two large bronze doors weighing 1,200 lbs (each) welcomes you. On reaching inside, you will observe Resurrection Crucifix and Ambo of the Evangelists, some mesmerizing sculptures of time. The ceiling of the prayer hall alone is dramatic enough to catch one eye straight up for minutes. Despite one being a spiritual person or not, the Holy Name Cathedral is a must-visit for all when in Chicago. For reaching here, take a short train ride north from downtown and soak in peace.
14. North Avenue Beach
Though there are several beaches in Chicago, if we have to choose one, North Avenue Beach will grab that seat any day. It is a gorgeous beach right next to Lincoln Park, offering visitors both walking and biking access. The beach right run-up to Diversey Harbor (a few hundred metres only), which opens up access to the peaceful waters of Lake Michigan. You can either go the usual way around and access the lake via swimming, kayaking and boating. Or relax at the beachfront, sip your drink from the nearest bar along with some snacks and enjoy the time. Though avoid weekends or be ready to face a considerable crowd at the beach.
15. Adler Planetarium
Last, however not least, the Alder Planetarium is another top-rated attraction in Chicago that you cannot miss visiting. It is America’s first planetarium, a noble landmark and a respectable institution on its own. While you walk inside the building, life here is all about the study of astronomy and astrophysics. Visit here with your kids and let them learn science with the most playful concepts. You can explore factful exhibitions or sit down and watch informative shows. Events related to the Solar system are their specialities, and if it matches your time, do not afford to miss it. When done with the inside trip, walk over the paths outdoor and grab the lake and skyline views around.
Apart from the list above, there are several popular museums in Chicago you should explore right away.