Things to Do

Your comprehensive guide to the best events and things to do in Chicago

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56 exciting things opening in July

Enjoy your summer with our guide to the month's hottest openings and events

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LGBT

Photos: Chicago Pride Parade

The mood was joyous as thousands gathered to celebrate love

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Things to do

Chicago summer festivals guide

Keep track of our many, many street, food, music, beer and art festivals

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Blog

We took a helicopter tour of Chicago

Check out videos and photos from a beautiful sunset tour of the city's skyline

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Things to do

A complete guide to the 606

Setting out on the Bloomingdale Trail? Find the best places to eat, drink and shop along the route

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Events and festivals

Things to do

Eyes to the Skies Festival

In Lisle, the Fourth of July features plenty of airborne eye candy, including fireworks and hot air balloons. On July 2-4, balloons launch daily at 5:30am and 6:30pm, filling the sky with colorful inflatables of all shapes and sizes. In the evening, the balloons come down and the fireworks begin. Attendees can also check out the festival's carnival, kids area, live music and craft fair.

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Naperville Ribfest

For more than two decades, this pork party has been serving up grilled grub along with rock- and country-flavored tunes. On July 4th, the evening concludes with a firework display at 9:30pm—just show up after 7:30pm to enter free of charge.

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African Caribbean International Festival of Life

Get together and feel all right at the 23rd annual African Caribbean International Festival of Life in Union Park. The festivities promote cultural awareness with a weekend full of reggae, dancing, soccer, art and delicious Afro-Caribbean food. Tessanne Chin, winner of The Voice, will perform, as will "Flex" man Mad Cobra and dancehall DJ Josey Wales.  

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Windy City Ribfest

Flew your jaw muscles and stretch that waistline at this seventh annual 'cue fest in Uptown during Fourth of July weekend. Expect plenty of ribs and some live music, including national acts and regional cover bands.

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Taste of Chicago

Since 1980, Grant Park has been hosting what has become the granddaddy of food festivals. You know the drill: Trade tickets for a taste of Chicago's street fare. Hopefully what you gain in weight, you'll lose from your wallet. As always, there will be music at Petrillo for you to listen to while you devour your turkey leg, rainbow cone or deep dish pizza.

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Things to do with kids

Kids

Chicago summer camp guide

School's out for summer! But what to do with your little ones?

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Kids

Why Chicago is the best city to raise kids

Check out our 25 reasons that will make you fall in love with Chicago all over again—this time as a parent

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Kids

The best indoor playgrounds

Is it raining outside? Let your kids run wild in one of our favorite indoor playgrounds

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Kids

8 great playgrounds

Where to find the best wings, slides, climbing structures and mazes

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The best things to do in Chicago

Things to do

The 25 best sights and attractions in Chicago

Entertain out-of-town guests or act like a tourist in your hometown by revisiting these iconic Chicago attractions

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Art

The best contemporary art galleries

Look beyond the Art Institute or Museum of Contemporary Art to find cutting edge art in the city

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Museums

The 10 best Chicago museums

These well-respected institutions offer informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture

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Museums

The 50 most beautiful buildings

We round up the most exemplary architecture in Chicago, from the skyline to the suburbs

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Chicago museums

Art

Art Institute of Chicago

You could spend the next four years getting to know this encyclopedic institution, which owns more than 300,000 artworks and artifacts from all over the world and every era from antiquity to the present. Our favorite pieces include the Japanese prints, fragments of local buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Thorne Miniature Rooms. We’re also in love with Renzo Piano’s light-filled Modern Wing, which is the perfect place to enjoy the Art Institute’s architecture and design collection, modern and contemporary art, and gorgeous views of Millennium Park.

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Museums

The Field Museum

Founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, this massive natural history museum still packs ’em in with more than 30 permanent exhibitions covering 300,000 square feet. Inside the permanent displays, you can see glowering dinos, marvel at ancient artifacts from a royal Egyptian tomb, undergo a lesson in cannibalism in the “Pacific Spirits” gallery or take a stroll through the newly rehabbed Halls of Gems and Jade.

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  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Museum of Science and Industry

If you’re into exhibits loaded with interactive bells and whistles, this expansive Hyde Park locale is your ticket. The museum’s focus is broad, with permanent displays that include the popular, health-focused new "You! The Experience" gallery, the new whiz-bang "Science Storms," plus the old faves: a restored U-505 German submarine, a simulated coal mine and a glass-covered hatchery of chicks.

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Museums

Adler Planetarium

Though it’s staffed by world-class researchers at the forefront of their field, the museum’s real draw will always be the virtual-reality trips through time and space in the Sky Theater, which—thanks to a 2011 rehab—features the "highest resolution and quality possible." Themes usually center around the known and unknown universe and how humans have engaged with it throughout history.

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Art

Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art houses one of the largest collections of modern art in the nation and frequently hosts major touring exhibits. In addition to its galleries, the MCA also boasts a gift store, bookstore, restaurant, 300-seat theater, and a picturesque sculpture garden.

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Museums

Shedd Aquarium

Anchoring the aquatic offerings at this 75-year-old institution are enduring favorites such as piranhas, frogs and snakes of the Amazon; rays, turtles and moray eel of the Caribbean; frightening predator sharks and, the most storied of them all, a 100-plus-year-old Australian lungfish believed to be the longest-living fish in any aquarium in the world. A 2009 rehab of the Oceanarium gave Shedd a lifelike river and tide-pool, a reworked otter habitat, and an attempt to revamp its daily mammal presentations with choreography. 

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101 things to do in Chicago

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Attractions

Check out tall buildings, landmarks, parks and more

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Kids' activities

Find cool playgrounds and kid-friendly museums

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Free things to do

Leave your wallet at home and start living the gratis life

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Offbeat attractions

Experience some of the city's most unusual pleasures

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See more of the top 101 things to do in Chicago

Chicago attractions

Things to do

Millennium Park

This 24.5-acre park features Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion and serpentine bridge; sculptor Anish Kapoor's 110-ton Cloud Gate (a.k.a. “The Bean”); and Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain, with its ever-changing array of locals' faces spewing water very five minutes in the summer months. The Lurie Garden wows with year-round flower displays and monthly garden walks.

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Lincoln Park Zoo

See some 1,200 animals, from apes to zebras, at the oldest and one of only a few free zoos left in the country. It is small, only 35 acres, but attractions like the Kovler Lion House and the Regenstein Center for African Apes pack a big punch. The newest feature: A 2010 rehab transformed the pond adjacent to Café Brauer into the Nature Boardwalk harboring Illinois wildlife.

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Navy Pier

This tourist hot spot features shops, eateries, an IMAX cinema and a bevy of sightseeing boat tours. Pier Park is home to a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, plus an old-fashioned swing ride and 18-hole mini-golf course. You'll also find the Chicago Children's Museum and a rotating roster of live entertainment on the Family Pavilion Stage. Most offerings may not turn locals on, but the seasonsal events, indoor activities and great people-watching provide plenty of entertainment, no matter what the weather.

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Museums

Chicago Cultural Center

Since being converted to the Cultural Center in 1991 (it used to be the Chicago Public Library), this city-block-wide institution now offers free classical concerts Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. Most of the center’s classical offerings take place in Preston Bradley Hall on the second floor near the Washington Street entrance, but the Claudia Cassidy Theater (named for the Tribune’s venom-penned theater and music critic from the ’40s) on the Randolph Street side is used for experimental concerts, too. Concerts are always free.

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Sport and fitness

Wrigley Field

Even when baseball’s not in season, there’s plenty to do at this legendary stadium, erected in 1914 and reinvigorated by an ownership change in 2009. Seasonal tours offer an insider peek at the Friendly Confines, and, come winter, you can skate on an ice rink just outside of the field. Keep your eyes on the website for quick-to-sell-out special events; in the past, they’ve included ice-hockey games, a college football match and inexpensive charity events that allow the public to prance on the field.

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Willis Tower Skydeck

This 1973 landmark put the city in an uproar when insurance broker Willis Group Holdings Ltd acquired the Sears Tower naming rights in 2009. That doesn't change the fact that the building occupies two city blocks and stretches 1,454 feet high, making it the second-tallest building in the U.S. Skydeck views from the 103rd floor allow you to see as far as 50 miles out. While you’re up there, learn about the city’s landmarks from a multilingual computer program and about its history from wall exhibits. If the Skydeck’s newest feature, The Ledge sounds like a horror movie, there’s a reason for that: Crawl into the glass cube structure, and you’re suspended 1,353 feet off the ground.

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Things to do in Chicago neighborhoods

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Hyde Park

Visit the Museum of Science and Industry or walk through a beautiful park

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Bridgeport

Experience local art or take a walk in a quarry-turned-park

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Logan Square

Take a dip in the lagoon at Humboldt Park or go for a stroll in Palmer Square Park

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Evanston

Head north to explore a historic lighthouse and several small museums

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