Chicago, Illinois

Introduction

Skyline

Chicago is a town of awe-inspiring architecture and a great diversity of culture.

Attractions

There are many different 'touristy' type things to do in Chicago. The following are some of the more popular:

  • The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum* - Located just down the road from the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium, outside offers great views of the skyline. Normal admission price allows viewing of all permanent exhibits though the number and quality of the exhibits is a bit dubious. Not a lot for children to do, though there are a few things to do while waiting for a show in the planetarium or “virtual reality” theatre. The shows are worth attending but are all on top of normal admission. Free admission on Tuesday. Catch the free trolley shuttle from downtown on Michegan Avenue
  • The Art Institute of Chicago* - Offers a tremendous assortment of art from just about all genres including a tremendous collection of modern (20th century) art including the classics “American Gothic” and “Nighthawks”. Free days are on Tuesday when they remain open until 8 PM.
  • The Field Museum* - A great, classic, museum with a large number of exhibits geared for children. In addition to the major exhibits, there are quite a few of the older exhibits with nature dioramas, botany, rocks and gems displays. Free day is on Wednesday (avoid like the plague, not worth saving the entrance fee). Take the free shuttle from downtown on Michegan Avenue.

Inside the Field Museum

  • Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park - The original home and studio of the famous architect (truly an icon in Chicago due to all of the homes and buildings he designed here). A great glimpse of the man, offering guided tours of the home (every day) and the neighbourhood which features many of his designs (only on weekends). 951 Chicago Avenue. Call (708) 848-1976 for tour information. Take the Metra train (“Oak Park” stop) or the “L” (“Harlem/Lake” stop) and walk north to Chicago and east to Forest. Also of interest is the Robie House near the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park (5757 S. Woodlawn). All are a bit expensive but really worth it for the information and glimpse into the mind of an absolute artist.

Frank Lloyd Wright - Nathan G. Moore House, Oak Park

  • Museum of Science and Industry* - A massive museum located well south of the downtown area (though there is a bus service from downtown direct to the museum). The museum seems to be well-used though the material seems to be only barely discussed but it is GREAT for children. See the Coal Mine exhibit (yes, you will probably have a line). Free admission on Thursday.
  • Sears Tower Skydeck* - Though not the greatest view of Chicago from above (the Hancock tower reportedly has a better one) there is a lot of information about Chicago both prior to boarding the elevator and at the top observation deck. Be prepared for LARGE crowds (going up and coming down). The windows are somewhat small and be sure to visit on a clear day. Some of the fastest elevators in the world (careful of popping ears!) up to the 103rd floor viewing platform.

Sears Tower

  • Shedd Aquarium* - Though billed as having the largest single tank in the world the aquarium seems to be quite small though the beluga whales (who had just had a baby when I visited) were quite interesting.

Those attractions listed with an “*” are included in the CityPass which is a booklet that you can purchase at any of the attractions which includes free tickets to all of these indicated attractions but with a 9-day expiry date. If you use all the tickets then you will save up to 50% off of normal admission charges. Considering each attraction is about $10 to get into, this is a terrific bargain if you are planning to visit 3 or more of these attractions.

Evidently, the best view is not from the top of the Sears Tower, as you might expect, but rather from the top of the Hancock tower which is not quite as high but has MUCH larger windows.

For fun and a relaxing way to spend the day, there are always things to do at the Navy Pier, on the north side of where the Chicago River meets Lake Michegan - free trolleys service this area daily. Navy Pier plays hosts to many events including the Tall Ships weekend but also has a number of small attractions including rides and small shops.

Navy Pier - During Tall Ships

Just outside Chicago (about 45 miles to the east) is the particle accelerator Fermilab which offers self- guided tours of the main office complex to vistors. Great view from the 15th floor of the accelerator path (which is several miles in circumferance). The grounds, largely parkland, are also open to the public with several nature trails.

Wilson Hall - Fermilab

Getting Around

There are a few free shuttles operating in the “Loop” (downtown) area. These shuttles operate regularly in the summer. The free trolley shuttles operate on:

  • North Michigan - service to the Art Institute, Grant Park, the Symphony, the Goodman, Buckingham Fountain, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Soldier Field (home of the Chicago Bears NFL team)
  • Navy Pier to North Michegan area - service to the Magnificant Mile, River North and Navy Pier
  • Lincoln Park - service to local residential areas and museums

Look for signed stops along these routes (large brown and white bus stop signs beside the street).

CTA operates the transit in the city, operating the “L” (the elevated portion of the light rail system), the subway, buses and the Metra (which services further points in the city). The downtown portion of the “L” is known as “the Loop” (which also collectively names the core downtown area).

Tours

Further Information

For further information, please see: