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Chicago attractions: The 25 best sights and attractions in Chicago

Among the city's parks, museums and skyscrapers, these are the very best Chicago attractions to help you fast-track your sightseeing around town

Photograph: Greg Neise
The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of Chicago's best attractions.

Whether you're entertaining out-of-town guests or simply want to act like a tourist in your hometown by revisiting the best Chicago attractions, iconic venues and historical spots, make sightseeing a lot easier by consulting Time Out's definitive guide to Chicago's best sights, top attractions and things to do. We've compiled our favorite popular sights in the city, featuring the best parks, museums, and hubs of arts and culture.

Best attractions in Chicago

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."

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South Loop

Brookfield Zoo

Set on 216 acres, the zoo is home to nearly 6,000 animals, including 3,000 invertebrates, representing 436 species. The star of the show is the Great Bear Wilderness exhibit, a 7.5-acre replication of a North American habitat for the zoo’s polar bears, grizzlies, Mexican gray wolves, bison, bald eagles and ravens.

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West Suburbs

Chicago History Museum

Not so long ago this vibrant museum was the stodgy ol' Chicago Historical Society, which let you cull through thousands of archived photographs and curio. Well, that library still exists, but joining it are several permanent and temporary exhibits, the largest of which is "Chicago: Crossroads of America," a treasure trove of historical objects.

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Lincoln Park

DuSable Museum of African American History

When this institution opened in 1961, African-American history was suffering serious neglect at the hands of the city’s—and for that matter the nation’s—cultural institutions. The Hyde Park cultural hub is now one of the oldest African-American–focused museums in the country, displaying documents and artifacts from the lives of overlooked or unjustly marginalized movers and shakers.

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Hyde Park

Grant Park

Spanning 319 acres of lakefront property, Chicago's "front yard" is filled with notable landmarks like the Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute and Museum Campus. In the summer, Grant Park's sprawling terrain plays host to festivals like Lollapalooza, Blues Fest and the Taste of Chicago. 

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360 Chicago

Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago offers dining, sights and an interactive tour far above the city streets. From 1,000 feet up on the 94th floor, you can see up to 55 miles out and four states—you'll feel as if you're along for the ride as you watch airplanes whiz by. A recent addition is the Tilt attraction, which allows visitors to step onto an enclosed platform that extends from the building at a 30-degree angle.

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Magnificent Mile

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 are worth the trip.

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Lincoln Park

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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Gold Coast

Music Box

For movie lovers who don't care for traditional Hollywood blockbusters there's no better theater than the Music Box, a two-screen cinema that shows the latest art house films and documentaries. The theater's gorgeous, main theater regularly hosts director Q&A's as well as weekly midnight screenings of cult classics.

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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—great for tourists or an afternoon of people-watching.

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Alliha J
Alliha J

It is an admitted fact that Chicago is the prettiest city of the United States and the third most populous city after the New York. I visited it twice a time in my life and I explored its several awesome places such as you mentioned above like Brookfield Zoo, Grant Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. They all are well known and stunning places of that region. They grab the attention of all visitors and give them gift of amazing time that they spent there. I am happy because I have a plan to go there again next month through the https://twitter.com/goldenbustours.