Things to Do

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

Things to Do

10 best things to do during the holidays

Theater shows, DIY Christmas lights tours and more essential holiday happenings

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New Year's Eve parties

2015 is almost here and it's time to start planning your evening

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Indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks

Strap on a pair of skates and practice your figure eights at one the city's best ice rinks

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Blog

11 things to eat and buy at Christkindlmarket

Enjoy curry wurst, drink Glühwein and shop for gifts at the popular Daley Plaza market

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Snowboarding and skiing near Chicago

Beginners and semi-pros can enjoy the white powder at these Chicago-area slopes

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Things to do in Chicago

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Today

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This month

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Events and festivals

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Caroling at Cloud Gate

Hundreds of singers from choral groups across the city participate in this annual holiday tradition that takes place over the course of a month. After the...

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Adler After Dark

The Alder Planetarium's montly Adler After Dark event invites adults to explore the Museum Campus attraction while enjoying drinks and entertainment. To...

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Redmoon's Winter Pageant

Redmoon's annual Winter Pageant returns for two weekend in December, presenting a series of love stories set atop a massive glacier. The show features break...

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Do-It-Yourself Messiah

After seeing a few performances of Handel's Messiah, you might think to yourself, Hey, I can do this. Well, here's your chance to show off your inner Adele....

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ZooLights

Head to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see the lights (and maybe a few animals) at this annual winter tradition. The first 1000 people through the gates each night...

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Things to do with kids

Kids

The best holiday events for kids

There's no shortage of things to do with kids in Chicago, but during the holidays that's especially true

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Kids

Santa sightings in Chicago

Bowlin alleys, department stores and even bars host visits from the North Pole's jolliest elf

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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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Things to do in Chicago neighborhoods

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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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Uptown

Take in jazz at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge or visit the Argyle Night Market

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Chinatown

Go kayaking at Ping Tom Memorial Park or celebrate Chinese New Year at a parade

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Evanston

Head north to explore a historic lighthouse and several small museums

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