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Fall in Chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 45 best things to do in Chicago right now

Discover the best things to do in Chicago, from iconic meals and views to cultural musts and late-night shenanigans

By Zach Long, Tim Lowery and Jay Gentile
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October 2020: With many music venues, bars and theaters closed to the public due to capacity restrictions and social distancing guidelines, the fall iteration of the DO List is still a bit shorter than usual. Thankfully, we've found new ways to celebrate the season by visiting pumpkin patches or taking a trip to Hyde Park to admire the colorful foliage. Plus, you can chow down on Tamale Guy's specialty, slurp a bowl of noodles from Wasabi Ramen or take in a streaming show from the Hideout. While you're enjoying all of the wonderful things to do in Chicago, don't forget to wear a mask, follow social distancing recommendations and keep yourself (and others) safe!

No matter where your interests lie, you can always find something to get excited about in this no-nonsense Midwestern metropolis. The best things to do in Chicago run the gamut—from seriously fun to awesomely educational. Looking for culture? Spend a day exploring Chicago museums. Hungry? You've come to the right place. There are tons of amazing restaurants in Chicago that highlight the city's rich and diverse culinary landscape. (And plenty of uniquely Chicago bars that do the trick, too.) We've searched all across the city to assemble this list of the best things to do in Chicago. Follow it and never get bored here again.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.

You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

The best of the city in West Loop

Time Out Market Chicago
Photograph: Gosia Matuszewska

Time Out Market Chicago

We've rounded up the best chefs in the city to join us at Time Out Market Chicago, a culinary and cultural destination in the heart of Fulton Market. The 50,000-square-foot space houses multiple kitchens, three bars and one drop-dead gorgeous rooftop terrace—all spread across three floors.

Best things to do in Chicago

Art of Medieval and Renaissance Europe
Photograph: Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

1. Eye masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago

Museums Art and design Grant Park

What is it? Guarded by an iconic pair of bronze lions, the Art Institute of Chicago houses a permanent collection of more than 300,000 artworks. 

Why go? The Art Institute of Chicago is filled with masterpieces from every era, from Georges Seurat’s iconic painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (notable for its appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) to Andy Warhol's print of actress Elizabeth Taylor. But did you know that the museum also houses a Medieval armory? Located just past the Renaissance Art on the second floor, you'll find an impressive collection of swords, crossbows and some gorgeous suits of armor.

Don’t miss: Tucked away in the lower level of the Art Institute, the Thorne Miniature Room contains 68 recreations of American, European and Asian architecture and furniture, represented at 1:12 scale. It’s like a hyper-detailed, ultra-realistic doll house that you wish you had when you were a kid.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

2. Watch a show streaming from the Hideout

Bars Dive bars River West/West Town

What is it? A tucked away, homey music mecca on an industrial stretch of the city.

Why go? The vintage house with an Old Style sign hanging on its facade isn't open to the public right now, but it's still hosting some of its most notable programming online. Using streaming platform NoonChorus, guests can buy tickets to live events every week, including chats with local figures of note and performances by acts like Melkbelly and Jackie Lynn.

Don’t miss: The weekly happy hour with Hideout bartender Lawrence Peters, who typically spins records and chats with guests.

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garfield park conservatory
Photograph: Time Out/Jaclyn Rivas

3. Find serenity at the Garfield Park Conservatory

Attractions Parks and gardens East Garfield Park

What is it? A gorgeous glass structure housing more than 100,000 plants. 

Why go? While popular indoor rooms like the Palm House and the Fern Room are currently closed to the public, the Garfield Park Conservatory's outdoor gardens are open to the public. Admission is always free (though you're welcome to make a donation) and reservations via the Conservatory's website are suggested.

Don't miss: Dig the building’s haystack shape and walls of stratified stonework, creations of landscape architect Jens Jensen.

Drive-in movie theater
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Watch a classic movie from inside your car

Things to do

What is it? With most national movie theater chains closed to the public, drive-in theaters are popping up throughout Chicago (and beyond).

Why go? Drive-ins located in Pilsen and Lincoln Yards offer opportunities to see classic flicks like Dazed & Confused or Shrek under the stars. Audio is pumped in through your car radio and most locations offer typical concessions like popcorn, candy and soda (don't worry, there are also restroom facilities on-site).

Don't miss: The Music Box of Horrors screenings at the Chi-Town Movies Drive-in in Pilsen.

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Tonkotsu ramen at Wasabi
Photograph: Martha Williams

5. Warm up with a bowl of ramen from Wasabi

Restaurants Japanese Logan Square

What is it? A Japanese spot in Logan Square that specializes in steaming bowls of broth and noodles.

Why go? As the weather begins to get more frigid, few dishes will warm your body (and, perhaps, your soul) like ramen. The options at Wasabi are simple and unembellished, free of the trends and cutesy interpretations finding their way into many of the city’s noodle bowls.

Don't miss: The Original Tonkotsu, featuring Berkshire pork belly and a rich broth that takes 45 hours to make.

Beat Kitchen Riverwalk
Photograph: Courtesy Beat Kitchen

6. Spend an afternoon on the Chicago Riverwalk

Things to do

What is it? Expanded and updated in 2015, this riverside walkway hosts restaurants, bars, boating docks and plenty of spots to sit and admire the views.

Why go? You can get some exercise on the Chicago Riverwalk every morning from 5 to 10am or stop by between 11am and 9pm to sip pinot at City Winery or dig into street food from the Chicago Brewhouse.

Don't miss: The new Art Deco murals that have gone up just west of Michigan Avenue and a set of portraits by street artist Dont Fret that will soon hang at the Confluence near Lake Street.

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Pumpkin
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Get your gourd fix at a local pumpkin patch

Kids

What is it? Farms surrounding Chicago offer up seasonal gourds for all your jack-o'-lantern carving and fall decorating needs.

Why go? Aside from providing a good excuse to get out of the city for an afternoon, these pumpkin patches are usually stocked with more than orange orbs. You'll also find baked goods, hayrides, cider and family-friendly activities.

Don't miss: The 15-acre corn maze at Odyssey Fun Farm in Tinley Park.

tamale guy
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Buy Chicago’s favorite bar snack from the Tamale Guy

Restaurants Mexican Ukrainian Village

What is it? A Ukrainian Village restaurant run by original "Tamale Guy" Claudio Velez and his family.

Why go? Velez used to show up at North Side bars armed with his signature red cooler and sell bags of tamales to hungry patrons. You can get those same tamales (chicken, pork and queso con rajas) at his physical shop without having to nurse beers late into the evening.

Don't miss: The larger, banana leaf-wrapped Oaxacan tamales served on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Millennium Park Great Lawn
Photograph: Heidi Zeiger, Chicago Mayor's Office

9. See public art in Millennium Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Millennium Park

What is it? The crown jewel of Chicago's front yard.

Why go? Home to iconic public art installations such as Cloud Gate (a.k.a. "The Bean"), this 25-acre park is one of the most popular gathering spots in the city. Visitor can currently walk through the flowers in the Lurie Garden or grab a spot inside one of the social distancing circles painted on the Great Lawn.

Don’t miss: Crown Fountain, an interactive installation featuring two 50-foot-tall LED video structures. The water isn't running this summer, but you can still visit!

Chicago Architecture Center boat tour
Photograph: Barry Butler

10. Hop aboard Chicago’s First Lady for an architecture tour

Things to do

What is it? The breeziest way to survey the city's famed architecture.

Why go? An architectural tour is a must for any visit to Chicago, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation employs certified volunteer docents who narrate the history behind 50-plus downtown buildings. Hop aboard the Chicago’s First Lady from its boat docking station located along the beautiful Chicago Riverwalk for the 90-minute tour.

Don’t miss: Of course there's a full-service cash bar inside. You can also bring your own (individually wrapped) food.

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Replay Lincoln Park Alley of Darkness
Photograph: Courtesy Replay Lincoln Park

11. Experience scares inside your car at Replay’s Alley of Darkness

Attractions Arcades and amusements Replay Lincoln Park, Lake View

What is it? A drive-in haunted experience situated in the alley behind the Replay arcade bar in Lincoln Park.

Why go? If you're looking for a socially-distanced way to experience Halloween scares, this attraction let's you take them in from inside your car. The 30-minute experience features zombies, demons and angry spirits that make use of fake blood and realistic props.

Don't miss: The Stranger Things-themed patio pop-up taking place at Replay through the end of October.

Willis Tower
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

12. Get high at the Willis Tower Skydeck

Things to do Loop

What is it? Where to see the city from 1,353 feet above the streets.

Why go? The observatory's Ledge attraction places visitors in a glass box that juts out over the side of the building, allowing for some pretty epic selfies and views. How epic? Views from the 103rd floor are expansive, allowing guests to see up to four states and 50 miles out. Damn.  

Don’t miss: Want to beat the crowds? Experience the skyline at night. It's open until 8pm October through February and until 10pm March through September.

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the 606, bloomingdale trail, 606, wicker park, trail
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Travel across an elevated trail on the 606

Attractions Parks and gardens Humboldt Park

What is it? A formerly abandoned stretch of elevated railway track named after the first three digits in every Chicago zip code. 

Why go? Looking for a convenient way to get between Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown? This is it. The 2.7-mile path was spruced up by the city and turned into a functional attraction that delights locals and visitors—just remember to keep moving so the social distancing ambassadors don't have to remind you.

Don’t miss: Local artist Jeff Zimmermann's colorful Conagra Mural (Urbs in Horto) just across the Milwaukee Avenue bridge, which acknowledges Chicago's agricultural legacy.

Cruz Blanca patio in the West Loop
Photograph: Courtesy West Central Association

14. Dine outdoors on one of Chicago’s open streets

Restaurants

What is it? Streets in neighborhoods throughout Chicago have been cordoned off to allow restaurants to provide additional outdoor seating.

Why go? The open streets provide more room for social distancing and a way to support restaurants in person. You can spend an evening dining on Randolph Street or enjoying al fresco meals in Little Village. Schedules and reservation requirements vary, so call ahead to ensure you can get a table.

Don't miss: West Loop restaurant The Darling is taking reservations for meals served in private greenhouses, with room for two to four guests. There's even a collaboration sandwich with neighbor J.P. Graziano Grocery on the menu.

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Lincoln Park Zoo Lion
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo

15. See animals (for free!) at Lincoln Park Zoo

Things to do Lincoln Park

What is it? One of the last free zoos in the country, this 35-acre attraction connects visitors with animals from all over the world.

Why go? Sure, you could pay for a ticket to a zoo, but more than 1,000 critters are waiting for you to visit them, free of charge (just make a reservation), in Lincoln Park. From mammals (beavers, lions, otters and bears) to birds (penguins, eagles and parrots) to reptiles (snakes, crocodiles and turtles), there's something for every animal lover. 

Don’t miss: The expansive Regenstein Macaque Forest, where snow monkeys swing from branch to branch. 

RosenwaldHall.venue.jpg
Photograph: Chuck Szmurlo

16. Admire the fall foliage on the University of Chicago campus

Things to do Englewood

What is it? University of Chicago's sprawling Hyde Park campus is one of the top spots for autumn leaf peeping.

Why go? While U. of C. is worth visiting no matter what season it is, the fall colors compliment the English Gothic architecture that makes up much of the campus.

Don't miss: The colorful trees lining the nearby Midway Plaisance.

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Field Museum lobby
Photograph: Courtesy the Field Museum

17. Hang out with a mummy at the Field Museum

Museums Science and technology Museum Campus

What is it? A massive natural history museum that was founded to house the biological and anthropological collections for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. 

Why go? With 350,000 square feet of permanent exhibitions to explore, deciding what to see at the Field Museum can be a daunting task. We recommend starting in the institution's popular "Inside Ancient Egypt" exhibit, where you'll descend into a recreation of the 5,000-year-old tomb of pharaoh’s son Unis-Ankh. From there, you'll walk through an extensive assemblage of Egyptian artifacts, including one of the largest collections of mummies in the U.S.

Don’t miss: Upon entering the Field Museum, come face to skull with Máximo, a 70-ton, 122-foot-long skeleton of a titanosaur.

divvy e-bike
Photograph: Zach Long

18. Cruise around town on a Divvy e-bike

News Transport & Travel

What is it? These jet-black e-bikes have joined the Divvy fleet, allowing riders to go up to 18 miles per hour with the help of a small electric motor.

Why try it? Let's face it: the original bright blue Divvy bikes are heavy and cumbersome. These new e-bikes (which you'll find at stations throughout the city) make it easier to see more of the city atop a shared ride. The pedal-assist system adds some additional power everytime you move your legs, allowing you to get to your destination faster—and possibly without breaking a sweat.

Don't miss: Divvy e-bikes come with an attached lock, meaning that you can end your ride by locking it to a bike rake or sign post, though you may incur an extra fee. You can also place them in any Divvy dock.

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Superdawg1.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Erica Gannett

19. Scarf down a Chicago-style hot dog at Superdawg Drive-In

Restaurants Hot dogs Norwood Park

What is it? A ’40-era drive-in that still sends uniformed servers to your car, delivering hot dogs, burgers, milkshakes and more fast food delights.

Why go? As its name suggests, Superdawg specializes in Chicago-style hot dogs, which add piccalilli and a pickled green tomato to the usual array of toppings. Every super dish comes in a cute box (usually on a bed of crisp French fries) and can be ordered from your car or at a walk-up window.

Don't miss: Try the Superonionchips instead of the Superfries—they're like onion rings, but better.

forest
Photograph: Shutterstock

20. Bike to the ’burbs on the North Branch Trail

Attractions Parks and gardens North Park

What is it? A 16-mile paved trail beginning in Gompers Park that takes riders all the way to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Why go? If you're craving a quick escape from the city on your bike, you can take the North Branch Trail to attractions throughout the northern suburbs. Have a beer at Hubbard's Cave, get a pie at the Pequod's in Morton Grove or relax in the Erickson Woods in Winnetka.

Don't miss: The four-mile loop trail through the Skokie Lagoons (which can also be used to get to the Chicago Botanic Garden).

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Lost Lake is one of the best bars in Chicago.
Photograph: Martha Williams

21. Pretend you’re in the tropics at Lost Lake

Bars Cocktail bars Avondale

What is it? A boozy island vacation in the heart of Logan Square. 

Why go? While you can't take a seat amid the walls plastered with palm leaves and festooned with tropical knick knacks, you can pick up everything you need to make a daiquiri or Mai Tai at home. Lost Lake's small storefront has been fitted with a takeout window, offering tiki cocktail kits, garnishes and glassware to-go, so you can bring the island vibes home.

Don’t miss: Soak up the booze with a menu of delicious bites, including a curry fried chicken sandwich and Szechuan lamb noodles.

Lime scooter
Photograph: Courtesy Lime

22. Hop on an e-scooter and explore a new neighborhood

News Transport & Travel

What is it? Electric scooters from Bird, Lime and Spin are back on the streets of Chicago from 5am–10pm each day, and you can take one for a ride.

Why try it? This is the city's second e-scooter pilot (running through mid-December), giving Chicagoans another chance to try out the incereasingly popular mode of personal transportation. It's easy to reserve one with your phone, find it on the streets and then hop on for a spin. Just don't forget to bring along your helmet!

Don't miss: All of the e-scooters in Chicago are outfiited with locks, so make sure you end your ride by locking up instead of abandoning it on a sidewalk.

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Carnitas Uruapan
Courtesy Carnitas Uruapan

23. Pig out on pork tacos at Carnitas Uruapan

Restaurants Mexican Lower West Side

What is it? A tiny Pilsen storefront devoted to the pig. 

Why go? The only decision you'll have to make when you visit this spot is how many pounds of pork you want to eat. Carnitas Uruapan's specialty is juicy pulled pork, served with corn tortillas, onions and salsa if you want to make your own tacos. The shop only stays open until 5pm on weeknights (6pm on weekends), so stop by early if you want to have authentic carnitas for dinner.

Don’t miss: Not leaving any part of the pig to waste, the limited menu also includes fresh, warm, delicious chicharrones (fried pork skin).

Kayak Chicago
Photograph: Dave Olson

24. Grab a paddle and glide along the Chicago River

Sports and fitness Kayaking & canoeing River North

What is it? Kayak Chicago sends you paddling along the Chicago River from a dock located just north of Goose Island.

Why go? After a few quick lessons, you'll be ready to set out on a self-guided river tour in a kayak. You can rent your boat by the hour or pay a flat fee to take it out for the entire day (just don't forget to pack some sunscreen).

Don't miss: A handful of guided excursions that highlight Chicago architecture or simply allow you to navigate the river at night.

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VitoandNicks.pizzerias.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams

25. Devour thin crust ’za at Vito and Nick’s Pizzeria

Restaurants Pizza Ashburn

What is it? A thin-crust-pizza paradise on the South Side. 

Why go? Believe it or not, most locals prefer thin crust to deep dish (which is predominately a tourist thing). And when it comes to authentic thin-crust Chicago ’za, the delightfully old-school Vito & Nick’s is ace. The spot has slung life-affirming pies in its cash-only Ashburn digs since 1932. (And no, they don’t do delivery.)

Don’t miss: Pair one of their expertly cooked cracker-thin tavern cut sausage pizzas with a pitcher of Old Style and consider yourself a real Chicagoan.

Half Acre Balmoral patio
Photograph: Zach Long

26. Sip suds at Half Acre Brewery Balmoral

Bars Breweries Lincoln Square

What is it? The far North Side warehouse where one of the city's largest breweries produces the majority of its beer.

Why go? Half Acre Balmoral's expansive parking lot patio offers room to enjoy signature brews like Daisy Cutter and Tome while maintaining social distance. Just make a 90-minute reservation, show up with some friends and sip beers in the sun.

Don’t miss: There are beers on tap here that are exclusive to this outpost, so be on the lookout. 

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Lakefront Trail
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

27. Take in the skyline from Promontory Point

Things to do Hyde Park

What is it? One of the best places to sit on a rock and look at tall buildings from afar.

Why go? Just north of the Museum of Science and Industry, this man-made peninsula is just a short jaunt from the Lakefront Trail. When the sun is out, it's a popular spot for picnics, lounging and canoodling on the rock steps that line the perimeter of the point.

Don’t miss: The Promontory Point Field House, an extremely popular wedding venue that looks like a miniature castle.

Frederick C. Robie House, Chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock

28. Marvel at Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture at the Robie House

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Hyde Park

What is it? What Wright himself called “the cornerstone of modern architecture.” 

Why go? Nearby Oak Park may be a mecca for Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts, but you can see some of the architect's finest work without leaving the city. The Robie House in Hyde Park exemplifies Wright's signature Prairie School style, both in its external appearance and interior design. You can take a peek inside the historic home (and get some decorating ideas) by taking a tour led by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, offered five days a week.

Don’t miss: The bevy of beautiful art-glass windows. 

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MusicBox.venue02.jpg
Photograph: Max Herman

29. Become a cineaste at the Music Box Theatre

Movie theaters Independent Wrigleyville

What is it? Chicago’s gorgeous two-screen movie palace has been going strong since 1929.

Why go? For movie lovers who don't care for traditional Hollywood blockbusters, there's no better mecca this cinema that shows the latest art-house films and documentaries. Its design is stunningly ornamental and old school. And the retro fun doesn’t stop there: The concession stand even tops its popcorn with real butter.

Don’t miss: Big-deal director Q&As, rowdy midnight screenings of cult classics and rare 70-millimeter presentations.

16th Street Murals Pilsen
Photograph: Time Out/Zach long

30. Walk through an outdoor art gallery at the 16th Street Murals

Art Public art Lower West Side

What is it? A collection of murals and street art on an old railroad embankment in Pilsen that stretches from the Chicago River to Western Avenue.

Why go? Take a stroll across 16th Street and you'll spot murals by local artists like JC Rivera and Hebru Brantley as well as international talents like The Yok and Sheryo.

Don't miss: An infamous painting of a severed possum by Belgian street artist ROA, located just west of 16th and Laflin St.

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Rainbow Cone
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

31. Get your licks in at the Original Rainbow Cone

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Beverly

What is it? The sweetest spot for indulging your sweet tooth.

Why go? This iconic far South Side shop, immediately recognizable by its bright pink exterior, has been making ice cream-ordering decisions easy since 1926 thanks to their namesake Rainbow Cone. The classic sugar cone is topped with colorful layers of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbert ice cream.

Don’t miss: If you’re still in need of another sugar rush, know that Rainbow also makes cakes, sundaes and shakes.

Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities Shop in Andersonville.
Photograph: Jamie DiVecchio Ramsay

32. Find something strange at Woolly Mammoth Antiques & Oddities

Shopping Antiques Uptown

What is it? A store that's not for the faint of heart that is one hell of a conversation starter.

Why go? You never know what you'll find at this popular Andersonville antique store, which prides itself on stocking items that are "resurrected from the past." Taxidermy, diving helmets, military supplies and other interesting knick-knacks typically line the shelves.

Don’t miss: The anatomy items, medical stuff, skull bones (of all kinds) and skeletons.

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CalumetFisheries1.Venue.jpg
Photograph: Brendan Lekan

33. Sample smoked seafood at Calumet Fisheries

Restaurants Seafood South Deering

What is it? This smoke shack was born when the steel industry was thriving and the area was populated by hungry day laborers.

Why go? Located near a bridge featured in The Blues Brothers just west of the Indiana border, Calumet Fisheries slings smoked shrimp, trout, sable and more. There's no seating inside, so you'll need to take your paper bag full of seafood outside, where you can find a spot along the bridge to chow down or just eat it inside your car. 

Don’t miss: Don't forget to get some crackers and coleslaw to pair with your expertly smoked fish.

Photograph: Courtesy of Christina Cou

34. Go back at the Historic Pullman Foundation Visitor Center

Things to do Literary events Pullman

What is it? This destination houses exhibits about the South Side 'hood's growth and preservation. 

Why go? When businessman George Pullman started a railroad sleeping car factory on the South Side of Chicago, he built an entire town to house his employees. The industrial complex has since been designated a National Monument and the Pullman Foundation Visitor Center is the best place to start exploring the area, especially if you want to join a guided tour (limited to 10 people) on the first Sunday of every month.

Don’t miss: Set out on a self-guided tour of the district, which includes historic buildings featured in films like Road to Perdition and The Fugitive.

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Birrieria Zaragoza
Photograph: Brendan Lekan

35. Get a taste for goat at Birrieria Zaragoza

Restaurants Mexican Archer Heights

What is it? HQ for goat tacos in Archer Heights. 

Why go? This cozy birrieria has earned a cult following for its birria tatemada, which features goat that has been rubbed with an earthy mole and roasted. It's an utterly different approach from the stewing method used by nearly all of its Chicago competitors, and the result is something truly special. Zaragoza plates the meat with just a splash of consommé (which is vegetarian, another deviation from the norm); each juicy forkful is enhanced by a trace of burnt-end–like crust imparted by the roasted mole. 

Don’t miss: The thick handmade tortillas, made-to-order salsas and cinnamon-laced coffee are also lovely selections.

lakefront
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

36. Bike (or walk) along the Lakefront Trail

Things to do South Shore

What is it? The 18-mile-long path is the best way to soak up those lakefront views. 

Why go? Stretching from Hollywood Avenue on the north all the way to 71st Street to the south, the Lakefront Trail provides a path along the coast of Lake Michigan that connects tons of neighborhoods. Once you're on the trail, expect bicyclists zooming by, joggers pounding the pavement and pedestrians out for a leisurely stroll. 

Don’t miss: Whatever mode of transportation your choose, don't forget to stop for a moment and take in the amazing views of the Chicago skyline.

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Al's Italian Beef on Taylor St.
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

37. Fill your gut at Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Restaurants American Little Italy, UIC

What is it? Al’s #1 Italian Beef has been keeping Chicagoans stuffed since 1938.  

Why go? While there are now several Al’s Beef locations around the city and suburbs, the original beef stand on Taylor Street is where you should visit this iconic Chicago restaurant. Here you can tangle with one of Chicago’s most classic foods, the Italian beef sandwich, in a cash-only neighborhood joint. You can order yours several ways, although dipped in juice with sweet peppers and giardiniera is the way to go.

Don’t miss: Eat yours utilizing the “Italian stance” (standing backed up with your feet spread apart and elbows over the counter) unless you want yours to end up all over your shirt.  

Skylanding
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

38. See Yoko Ono’s installation in Jackson Park

Things to do Literary events Woodlawn

What is it? Designed by activist and artist Yoko Ono, Skylanding is composed of 12 large steel lotus petals jutting from the ground of the Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park.

Why go? Calling all public-art fanatics. This gleaming installation from the famed artist has become a major draw in the 600-acre park. The photogenic sculpture was erected as a symbol of peace, taking up residence on the site of a pavilion built by the Japanese government for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  

Don’t miss: The park is also home to a beautiful, traditional Japanese respite dubbed the Osaka Japanese Garden.

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Chicken and mushroom sui mai at Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor.
Photograph: Martha Williams

39. Have dim sum at Phoenix Restaurant

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

What is it? The Chinatown destination hosts one of the most authentic dim sum experiences in Chicago. 

Why go? During the week, Phoenix Restaurant serves Beijing Duck, Hong Kong Steak, seafood and more delicious Americanized Chinese dishes. On the weekends, though, it's all about dim sum, as carts laden with steamed barbecue pork buns, Malay steamed cake and egg tarts roam the room—just grab what you want and the servers will tally the bill for you.

Don’t miss: Save room for interesting options like tender baby octopus with a slight curry flavor and crispy eggplant stuffed with steamed squid.

Dusty Groove
Photograph: Jordan Avery

40. Dig through vinyl at Dusty Groove

Shopping Music and entertainment East Village

What is it? A Wicker Park destination for discerning record nerds.

Why go? The "dusty grooves" of course refer to the wonderous global rhythms found in the smartly curated bins, sorted into Tropicalia, Afrobeat, reggae, vintage soul, French pop, blues, jazz and other genres. It's the kind of place you'd have to hit if you were soundtracking a Tarantino film. Currently, you'll need to do your shopping online (or by phone) and retrieve your finds from the shop's pickup window.

Don’t miss: Obscure titles that you'll have a hard time finding elsewhere in the city.

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au cheval, burger, battle of the burger
Photograph: Kevin J. Miyazaki

41. Scarf a tasty burger at Au Cheval

Restaurants Contemporary American West Loop

What is it? Where fancy-burger fanatics flock in the West Loop. 

Why go? There's a good reason why you'll never be able to show up at Au Cheval and immediately be seated: The West Loop restaurant's signature cheeseburger has achieved a near-legendary status as a must-eat Chicago dish. Served with a knife protruding from the top of its puffy bun, the "single" version comes with two beef patties, while the "double" includes three. Au Cheval doesn't take reservations, so plan on finding a nearby spot to grab a drink while you wait to indulge.

Don’t miss: The matzo ball soup, stocked with roasted carrots and cippolini onions, is damn delicious too. 

Photograph: Courtesy the Beer Temple

42. Drink all the brews at the Beer Temple

Shopping Liquor stores Avondale

What is it? A place of worship for hops-heads.

Why go? You'll always find something new or unexpected on tap at this Avondale bar and bottle shop, which has gained a reputation for stocking the most sought-after releases from local and out-of-state brewers. You can't snag a seat at the bar at the moment, but you can stock up on cans and bottles to-go (or order some for local delivery).

Don’t miss: Follow the Beer Temple on Instagram to stay on top of what's newly in-stock. If you want to get your hands on the latest brews from Hop Butcher and other hard-to-find releases, you'll need to order quickly.

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parsonschickenfish01.jpg
Photograph: Clayton Hauck

43. Chill on the outdoor patio at Parson’s Chicken & Fish

Restaurants Soul and southern American Logan Square

What is it? A fried chicken haven with a destination-worthy backyard patio.

Why go? Grab a spot beneath the red and white striped umbrellas at one of the city’s most popular summer patios, where you can dig into a mouth-pleasing assemblage of fried (or grilled) chicken paired with iconic summer cocktails like the Negroni slushy. Despite recent renovations, the patio still retains its Austin-esque hipster charm. You can also dine inside or chat up randoms at the cozy indoor bar when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Don’t miss: Parson’s now serves its own suds, Parson’s Beer, brewed in collaboration with nearby Revolution Brewing.

U-505 Submarine, Museum of Science and Industry Chicago
Photograph: J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

44. Explore a WWII submarine at Museum of Science and Industry

Museums Science and technology Hyde Park

What is it? A 700-ton German submarine that was captured during World War II and transferred to the Museum of Science and Industry in 1954.

Why go? The U-505 is one of only four surviving German U-boats, housed in a gigantic 35,000-square-foot enclosure. Equally as impressive as the giant hardware are the smaller artifacts that were recovered from within the ship, including a code-breaking Enigma machine, cigarettes and German phonograph records.

Don't miss: See even more vintage vehicles in the MSI's Transportation Gallery, including a Boeing 727 and a steam locomotive.

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Maggie Daley Park
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

45. Putt across the skyline at City Mini Golf

Things to do Millennium Park

What is it? Maggie Daley Park's miniature golf course is a tribute to Chicago's most-revered landmarks.

Why go? With holes that include diminutive approximations of the ivy-covered brick walls of Wrigley Field, the iconic Chicago Theatre marquee and sleek Willis Tower, this 18-hole course serves as a whirlwind tour of the city's most famous locales.

Don't miss: The tiny replica of the Daley Plaza Picasso sculpture at hole 14, which requires you to nail a tricky shot up a ramp.

More great things to do across the globe

Uluru’s ‘Field of Light’
Photograph: Mark Pickthall, courtesy Field of Light, Uluru, Bruce Munro 2016

The 40 best things to do in the world right now

Things to do

Going out and doing things satisfies our need to explore, to learn and to grow (and then to brag about it on social media). Our hope is that the DO List becomes not just your bucket list, but your inspiration to experience and appreciate the corners of magic in the world.

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