933 Skokie Boulevard, Northbrook, Il 60062
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Anchoring the aquatic offerings at this Chicago institution are enduring favorites such as piranhas, frogs and snakes of the Amazon; rays and turtles of the Caribbean; frightening predator sharks, mesmerizing jellies, adorable penguins (including the famous rockhoppers Wellington, Edward and Annie) and marine mammals like sea lions, otters and the beloved beluga whales. The aquarium boasts seven permanent exhibits, making it easy to spend an entire day wandering through the Shedd. We recommend identifying a handful of must-see exhibits before you go to prioritize your time. Or just make a list and tick off the others on your next visit!
Ticket Prices | Shedd Aquarium
One of the city's most well-known cultural buildings—thanks to the iconic pair of bronze lions that flank grand steps leading up to the entrance—the Art Institute of Chicago is just as impressive once you make your way inside. With almost 300,000 artworks in its permanent collection, you'll find thousands of paintings, sculptures, photos and drawings displayed throughout a sprawling complex of galleries and halls. If you're a first-time guest, make a beeline for Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (as seen in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—high and low culture is the best combo, after all) and the contemporary collection in the Modern Wing. Returning visitors can explore the Thorne Miniatures Rooms (reportedly a favorite of director Wes Anderson) in the museum's basement, as well as traveling exhibits devoted to the likes of Andy Warhol and Van Gogh. There’s arguably too much art at this institution—at least, too much for one day—but we're not complaining.
Buy Tickets | The Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu)
Formerly known as the Chicago Historical Society, this lively museum commemorates the past through the exhibitions that explore historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and local delicacies like the Chicago-style hot dog. Range! Guests can climb aboard a vintage L car in "Chicago: Crossroads of America" or gaze at lithographs of the city that were created in the 1860s. If you're working on a project that draws on the history of Chicago, you can register for access to the museum's Research Library, which houses thousands of photographs, publications and artifacts that document the city's history. It's situated just inside Lincoln Park near Old Town, so it's an ideal spot to kick off a nice long stroll along the lake.
Packed with exhibits that allow you to step inside a simulated tornado or navigate a maze lined with mirrors, the Museum of Science and Industry has no shortage of interactive bells and whistles that will appeal to younger and older visitors alike. Even if you graduated high school decades ago, displays featuring a restored U-505 German submarine, a simulated coal mine and a recreation of a Chicago street circa 1910 might make you feel like you're on a school field trip again—but a good one, and with a better lunch! Keep in mind that you're walking through a building that was originally created for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.
Tickets - Museum of Science and Industry (msichicago.org)
Treat yourself to an exhilarating view over the whole of Chicago from the top of the Willis Tower. Ride 103 floors to the Skydeck and step out onto The Ledge, a glass-paneled box with vertical views to the ground below.
Chicago: Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Ticket | GetYourGuide (timeout.com)
Cruise down the Chicago River in style during this 3-hour dinner cruise aboard the Odyssey. Watch the beautiful city and its architecture pass by through the ship’s panoramic windows. Then sit down to delicious 3-course meal accompanied by DJ entertainment to set the mood for your journey. A full-service bar complete with microbrews, creative cocktails, and a wine list is also available for purchase.
Tickets - Cruise the Chicago River
Whether you are sightseeing during the day, seeking family friendly options or enjoying the famous nightlife, the infectious energy of the city will make it a trip to remember. Shops along The Magnificent Mile include more than 450 retailers, including flagship experiences, major department stores, and international designers and boutiques. The Magnificent Mile is in the heart of Chicago's famous culinary scene and offers visitors a delectable spread of places to dine.