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do list morton arboretum
Photograph: Courtesy The Morton Arboretum

The 59 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, Jay Gentile and Emma Krupp

June 2021: Congratulations, Chicago—we've made it to official beginning of the city's best season. Celebrate and boost your vitamin D intake this month with some outdoor adventures, like a trip to the stunning, large-scale "Human+Nature" exhibition at the Morton Arboretum in suburban Lisle or a much-needed day in the sun at one of Chicago's newly opened beaches. Plus, check out the Art Institute of Chicago's long-awaited exhibition of the Obama presidential portraits, which debut at the museum on June 18. Summer is here, so make the most of it with the best things to do in Chicago. 

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 overhead
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Time Out Market Chicago

Restaurants West Loop

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 18 kitchens, three bars and one drop-dead gorgeous rooftop terrace—all spread across three floors. Our mission is simple: Bring the pages of Time Out Chicago to life with the help of our favorite chefs, the ones who wow us again and again. You'll find delicious barbecue from chef D’Andre Carter at Soul & Smoke, Mini Mott's delicious burgers, fried chicken from Cleo's Southern Cuisine and creative ice cream from Shawn Michelle's. And keep an eye out for events, concerts and artwork within the Market—we're keeping our calendar packed with things to do.

Best things to do in Chicago

obama portrait
© 2018 Kehinde Wiley. Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

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. Stop by in June to see the much-anticipated Chicago debut of "The Obama Portraits," which will remain on display through mid-August before continuing on a nationwide tour. 

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.

garfield park conservatory
Photograph: Time Out/Jaclyn Rivas

2. 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? After being closed for months, the Palm House, the Desert House and more of the Garfield Park Conservatory's popular indoor spaces have reopened to the public. Before you stop by to get your foliage fix, make sure to snag a reservation online.

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


3. Get high at 360 CHICAGO

Things to do Streeterville

What is it? Set atop the building formerly known at the John Hancock Center, this observatory offers views of the city (and surrounding states) from 1,030 feet above the streets.

Why go? The sights from the 94th floor can't be beat, whether you're a longtime Chicagoan or a visitor. Stick around to enjoy a cocktail at 360 CHICAGO's bar or explore some of the interactive exhibits detailing the city's history.

Don't miss: 360 CHICAGO's most terrifying attraction: TILT. Guests board a glass-enclosed platform that slowly tilts over the side of the building at a 30-degree angle. Thrill seekers will want to fork over the additional fee for a ticket. 

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit
Photograph: Vladimir Kevorkov

4. Step inside a digital Van Gogh painting

Art Lighthouse ArtSpace, Old Town

What is it? A high-tech experience inside the Germania Club Building that brings Vincent Van Gogh's paniting to life with the help of 50 digital projectors.

Why go? The tickets to "Immersive Van Gogh" aren't cheap and they're a bit hard to come by at the moment, but you've likely never seen anything quite like this exhibit, which animates some of Van Gogh's most famous works and sets them to a booming sountrack. The 35-minute presentation is filled with impressive moments—and plenty of great photo ops.

Don't miss: Stop by the "Immersive Van Gogh" gift shop on your way out to pick up shirts, masks and more swag covered in colorful brushstrokes.

Beat Kitchen Riverwalk
Photograph: Courtesy Beat Kitchen

5. 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? Businesses along the Riverwalk began reopening in April, which means that you can snag a glass of vino at City Winery or enjoy some local grub at Chicago Brewhouse. Boat tours and kayak rentals have also resumed, if you prefer to get out on the water.

Don't miss: The new Pier 31 on the Riverwalk resturant—an extension of the popular café located at 31st Street Beach.

Morton Arboretum Human+Nature exhibition
Photograph: Courtesy The Morton Arboretum

6. Stare down massive sculptures at the Morton Arboretum

Art Sculpture Morton Arboretum, Suburbs

What is it? A large-scale outdoor exhibit titled "Human+Nature," with five works from the South African artist Daniel Popper spread across the Morton Arboretum's sprawling grounds in suburban Lisle.

Why go? The towering works—all 15 to 26 feet in height and made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass and steel—depict human figures interacting with their natural surroundings, creating some awe-inspiring sights tucked into the abundant greenery of the Arboretum.

Don't miss: The gentle-looking "UMI" sculpture lends a maternal feel to a glen of magnolia trees on the park's east side. 

Swan boats on Humboldt Park Lagoon
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Rent a swan boat at the Humboldt Park Lagoon

Things to do Humboldt Park

What is it? At its Humboldt Park location, the outdoor recreation company Wheel Fun Rentals offers Chicago's only swan pedal boat rentals (they also have tons of other fun toys, from bikes to Surrey carriages). 

Why go? These elegant white boats are a romantic way to soak up views of the incredible Prairie-style, open air Humboldt Park Boathouse—plus, at just 11 bucks an hour, they make for a relatively affordable afternoon diversion.

Don't miss: Once you've had your fill of paddling, take a long walk through the rest of Humboldt Park, which features more than 200 acres of greenery and natural sights. 

Montrose Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock/Big Joe

8. Splash around at Montrose Beach

Things to do Uptown

What is it? A popular Uptown beach featuring a nature sanctuary (oftentimes serving as a temporary home to migratory birds) and a special section for dogs. 

Why go? Chicago has a ton of fantastic beaches—most of which are now open post-Memorial Day—but Montrose Beach offers some of the most abundant opportunities for recreation, including volleyball and areas designated for kayaking and kiteboarding. 

Don't miss: Head to the outer edge of Montrose Harbor for some spectacular views of the Chicago skyline.

navy pier
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

9. Catch dazzling summer fireworks at Navy Pier

Things to do Literary events Streeterville

What is it? After a yearlong hiatus, Navy Pier has relaunched its free fireworks series running on Wednesday and Saturday nights through September.

Why go? Locals might gripe about the touristy environs of the Pier (and okay, fair enough), but who doesn't love fireworks? You can watch the free display from a number of newly-opened outdoor amenities, from the grassy expanses of Polk Bros Park to way up high on the rides of Pier Park

Don’t miss: Skip a pricey ride on the Centennial Wheel and treat yourself to a drink on the patio of Offshore Rooftop and Bar, which boasts a 20,000-square foot terrace and sweeping views of Lake Michigan.

Photograph: Joe Ravi

10. Tour the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology

Things to do Literary events Douglas

What is it? The college's Bronzeville campus is studded with one of the country's largest collection of buildings designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the German-born steward of the Bauhaus architecture movement in Chicago. 

Why go? Mies van der Rohe was a pioneering figure in American Modernism, and he completed some of his most significant work while serving as the director of the Department of Architecture at the Armour Institute of Technology. The sleek, column-free S.R. Crown Hall—which houses the present-day College of Architecture at IIT—is considered his masterpiece, and the college's entire campus has been inducted into the National Register of Historic Places. 

Don’t miss: You can always take a self-guided tour, but the Chicago Architecture Center offers two-hour guided sessions that lead visitors through the evolution of the campus, from Mies van der Rohe's heyday in the mid-20th century to the more recent McCormick Tribune Campus Center designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

Hideout Chicago, Cosmic Country Showcase
Photograph: Sarah Larson

11. 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 holiday shows featuring local musicians.

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

golf ball, golf club
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Show off your putt-putt skills at City Mini Golf

Things to do Millennium Park

What is it? An 18-hole miniature golf course located in Maggie Daley Park.

Why go? There's a kitschy kind of charm to mini-golfing in the shadow of the Chicago skyline, especially since the course is decorated with replicas of famous Chicago attractions (like a six-foot-tall Willis Tower and a teeny version of the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza). 

Don’t miss: Snapping a photo next to the mini Chicago landmark of your choice.

PATRON Gallery
Photograph: Courtesy PATRON Gallery / Evan Jenkins

13. Explore the gallery district on Chicago Avenue

Art East Village

What is it? A string of art galleries located on Chicago Avenue between Ashland Avenue and Wood Street. 

Why go? A combination of favorable real estate, happenstance and collaborative spirit has drawn some of Chicago's finest galleries—including Matthew Rachman Gallery, DOCUMENT, Rhona Hoffman, Chicago Truborn and many others—to this multi-block stretch in West Town, creating a concentrated (and not to mention, free) tour of curated work. Plan an afternoon around the exhibitions that pique your interest, and don't forget to make a reservation at each gallery ahead of time. 

Don’t miss: Newcomer PATRON, which moved from its River West location earlier this year, is currently hosting an exhibition called "All the Skies Over Syria" from Los Angeles-based artist Samira Yamin. 

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

14. 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. 

phish wrigley field
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

15. Root, root, root for the home team at Wrigley Field

Sports and fitness Baseball & softball Wrigleyville

What is it? Arguably the most famous and beautiful place to see a ball game.  

Why go? Synonymous with the North Side for more than 100 years, the Friendly Confines has updated ever-so-slightly over the years. It eventually gave in and added lights in 1988; a jumbotron was erected in left field a few years back. But it’s the ivy that the lines the outfield walls, the manual scoreboard and general old-timey awesomeness that will keep the stands here filled whether the Cubbies are winning or losing. Capacity is limited at the moment but will likely expand throughout the summer.

Don’t miss: The only remaining outpost of storied Chicago hot dog stand Hot Doug's, serving premium sausages in the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Steppenwolf What is Left, Burns
Photograph: Lowell Thomas

16. See a stellar play from the Steppenwolf Theatre

Theater Drama Various locations throughout Chicago,

What is it? What people think of when they hear "Chicago theater."

Why go? With its stages closed to the public for the time being, the Steppenwolf NOW programming stream is a way to see groundbreaking new theater without leaving the house. A $75 membership gives you access to six works from the likes of James Ijames, Rajiv Joseph and Sam Shepard, which will premiere between November 2020 and June 2021 (and are available to stream through August).

Don't miss: Award-winning playwright Isaac Gómez's audio adaptation of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, the New York Times bestselling young adult novel from Chicago-based writer Erika L. Sánchez. 

Photograph: Max Herman

17. Watch a movie at the Music Box Theatre (or at home)

Movie theaters Independent Wrigleyville

What is it? Chicago's premiere arthouse theater, which is currently hosting limited indoor screenings (up to 250 people in the 750-capacity main theater) and offering streaming options for those who are staying home.

Why go? Aside from being one of the 50 most beautiful cinemas in the world, the Music Box's screens one of the best assortments of arthouse films, documentaries and foreign language pictures in the city. And, if you're not ready to venture out to see a movie yet, Music Box Direct allows you to stream movies at home and help keep the theater afloat.

Don't miss: Missing the Music Box's made-with-real-butter popcorn? You can order it to-go, accompanied by boxed candies and beverages.

Ken Kee Restaurant
Photograph: DLM Photography Design

18. Slurp noodles at Ken Kee Restaurant

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

What is it? The revival of a longrunning Chinatown institution, overseen by Kenny Yang of Strings Ramen Shops.

Why go?: With decor and neon accents inspired by he streets and markets of 1950s Hong Kong, Ken Kee is like two restaurants in one. Order crab rangoon, assorted congee and beef brisket caasarole from the all-day menu, or opt for the Noodle Cart offerings (served from a dedicated kitchen). You can customize your noodle bowl to your liking, picking the broth, the noodles and all of the delicious toppings from a long list of options.

Don't miss: The Noodle Cart is likely to be the main attraction, but the deep menu of classic Hong Kong and American-Chinese dishes is worth your time, too. And there's nothing stopping you from ordering from both.

Chicago Architecture Center boat tour
Photograph: Barry Butler

19. 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 more than 50 downtown buildings. Hop aboard the Chicago’s First Lady from its dock located along the beautiful Chicago Riverwalk for the socially-distanced 90-minute tour.

Don’t miss: An evening version of the tour that allows you to take in the twinkling city lights from the river.

Photograph: Courtesy of Christina Cou

20. Go back in time 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 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.

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

21. 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.

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.

Photograph: Martha Williams

22. Tap your toes to late-night jazz at the Green Mill

Bars Cocktail bars Uptown

What is it? An Uptown institution that books smart bebop and free jazz with a discriminating ear. 

Why go? In the ’20s, Chicago gangsters like Al Capone were known to frequent the Green Mill, but ever since Prohibition, the club has garnered a reputation for hosting live jazz. After an extended hiatus, live concerts are back at the Uptown venue—capacity is limited and masks are required.

Don’t miss: Taking a picture under the glittering marquee, which wasn't actually destroyed in Michael Mann's 1981 neo-noir film Thief

Field Museum lobby
Photograph: Courtesy the Field Museum

23. 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. You can also visit SUE, the museum's T. rex skeleton, in the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet exhibition.

Photograph: Barry Brecheisen

24. Sip a drink on the world's largest rooftop bar

Bars Cocktail bars Streeterville

What is it? A 36,000-square-foot rooftop deck on the east end of Navy Pier, outfitted with a glass-enclosed bar and an outdoor patio.

Why go? An elevated (literally) alternative to Navy Pier's assortment of chain restaurants and bars, Offshore is a worthwhile splurge. The cocktails here are pricey but solid and there's a menu of bites (including oyster shooters and lobster deviled eggs) to munch on while you take in the sights.

Don’t miss: The amazing views of the Chicago skyline from Offshore's patio.

Chinatown Square
Photograph: Martha Williams

25. Take a stroll through Chinatown

Attractions Public spaces Armour Square

What is it? A neighborhood that serves as one of the primary hubs of Chicago's Chinese community, filled with restaurants, shops and incredible nods to East Asian architecture.

Why go? Chinatown is a great place to mosey from shop to shop and spend some time outdoors, whether you're walking through Chinatown Square or admiring the sweeping skyline views from Ping Tom Memorial Park. 

Don't miss: Dumplings from QYX, bubble tea from the walk-up window at Joy Yee, Peking duck from BBQ King House... the list goes on. Start at Chinatown Square and work your way south down Wentworth, passing under the street's famous gate and into its central commercial strip. 

Lincoln Park Zoo Lion
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo

26. 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. 

divvy e-bike
Photograph: Zach Long

27. 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 15 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.

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

28. 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. There's also a traveling exhibition devoted to Marvel super heroes on display.

Photograph: Erica Gannett

29. 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.

Photograph: Shutterstock

30. 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).

Photograph: Clayton Hauck

31. 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. Parson's has expanded beyond its original Logan Square digs in recent years, with locations in Lincoln Park and West Town.

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

Shedd Aquarium
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

32. Watch fish swim by at Shedd Aquarium

Attractions Zoo and aquariums Museum Campus

What is it? Chicago's only aquarium, home to thousands of colorful fish and other aquatic creatures.

Why go? Permanent exhibitions like "Wild Reef" and "Amazon" allow you to gaze at fish, stingrays, an anaconda and sharks. But the interactive experiences may be the biggest draw, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with some of the animals that live at the Shedd Aquarium and learn more about them.

Don't miss: The internet-famous rockhopper penguins, known for exploring the Shedd (and other Chicago institutions) during the lockdown. You can say hi to them in the Polar Play Zone exhibit.

Half Acre Balmoral patio
Photograph: Zach Long

33. 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 reservation, show up with some friends and sip beers in the sun. Plus, a new menu of bar food is available for hungry drinkers.

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

Kayak Chicago
Photograph: Dave Olson

34. 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.

Photograph: Ron Vesely

35. Catch a foul ball at Guaranteed Rate Field

Sports and fitness Stadiums Armour Square

What is it? Home of the Chicago White Sox, formerly (and, to some, currently) known as Comiskey Park .  

Why go? Okay, so the South Side team doesn't command the rabid following of its neighbors to the north (although the whole city went nuts when it clinched the World Series in 2005). But the stadium is much more spacious than Wrigley, and it's almost always possible to walk up and purchase tickets.

Don’t miss: Sugar addicts, take note: A friggin’ three-pound banana split served in a novelty batting helmet is yours for the taking here.

Photograph: Matthew Gilson

36. Have a mesmerizing meal from Alinea

Restaurants Contemporary American Lincoln Park

What is it? Chef Grant Achatz’s three-Michelin-starred institution.

Why go? Guests can now book reservations inside the airy Lincoln Park restaurant, where an army of staff plate your dishes and re-fold your napkin. But if you'd rather get takout, you can also purchase Alinea meals to go. The three-course meals start at $35 and are accompanied by reheating instructions—not bad for fine dining cuisine that's usually a triple figure investment.

Don’t miss: The option to add a rare bottle of wine from the Alinea cellar or a bottled Aviary cocktail to your order.

Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

37. Find a fun toy to display on your desk at Rotofugi

Shopping Toys and games Sheffield & DePaul

What is it? A designer toy store and gallery in Lincoln Park that's filled with cute tchotchkes to display on your desk.

Why go? Rotofugi offers one of the most extensive selections of contemporary toys (for kids and adult collectors) in all of Chicago, whether you're looking for blind box vinyl figures, Japanese capsule toys or fancy sculptures.

Don't miss: The in-house art gallery, which is still hosting free shows that can be viewed by masked visitors.

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

38. 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.

Lakefront Trail
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

39. 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.

Photograph: Courtesy the Beer Temple

40. 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. Order ahead for pick up or stop in with a mask to browse the shelves and walk-in cooler.

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.

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

41. 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 knickknacks, 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.

Carnitas Uruapan
Courtesy Carnitas Uruapan

42. 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).

Rock Island Public House drive-in
Photograph: Courtesy Rock Island Public House

43. Watch a free drive-in movie at Rock Island Public House

Restaurants Suburbs

What is it? A bar in Blue Island, Illinois (just across Chicago city limits) that has created its own drive-in theater.

Why go? You can show up for a free screening every Friday, Saturday and Sunday—parking spots are first come, first served. Food and drinks are available for purchase while you're enjoying the movie.

Don't miss: Every weekend's lineup of screenings has a theme, from kung-fu flicks to rock 'n roll movies. Check out the schedule to see all the coming attractions.

Photograph: Martha Williams

44. 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.

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

45. 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.

Pilsen Community Books
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

46. Add to your reading list at Pilsen Community Books

Shopping Bookstores Lower West Side

What is it? A worker-owned bookstore, offering new and used books for curbside pickup.

Why go? You can support a local business while chipping away at your reading list by ordering something from this Pilsen shop. Submit an order online or call and talk to a human during business hours if you need a recommendation.

Don't miss: Add a donation to the Liberation Library to your order to support the purchase of books for incarcerated youth.

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

47. 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.

Rainbow Cone
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

48. 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. And there's also a brand new Rainbow Cone location in Lombard!

Dusty Groove
Photograph: Jordan Avery

49. Find some new records 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. 

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

Photograph: Brendan Lekan

50. 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.

Bang Bang Pie Shop serves outdoor brunch.
Photograph: Martha Williams

51. Devour a slice of pie on the Bang Bang patio

Restaurants Bakeries Logan Square

What is it? A small pie and biscuit restaurant in Logan Square with an expansive backyard patio.

Why go? The various pies at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits are delicious wherever you decide to eat them, but they somehow taste even better when dig in on the rustic patio behind the shop (currently open on Thursday throug Saturday). Snag a slice of key lime or peanut butter and soak up some sun between bites.

Don't miss: It's easy to get distracted by all the sweet treats, but Bang Bang's savory options are just as delicious. We love the fluffy biscuit topped with vegetarian gravy and an egg.

Museum of Illusions mirror room
Photograph: Courtesy Museum of Illusions

52. Have your mind blown at the Museum of Illusions

Things to do Exhibitions Loop

What is it? The Chicago outpost of a chain of trippy "edutainment" destinations, packed with mind-bending photo-ops.

Why go? You'll be able to take a ton of cool Instagram photos at the Museum of Illusions, but you'll also have a chance to learn a thing or two along the way. Staff is present to explain the psychology and science behind each of the mind-bending displays.

Don't miss: The museum's infinity room, which surrounds guests with mirrors and shimmering lights.

Birrieria Zaragoza
Photograph: Brendan Lekan

53. 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.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

54. 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.

Metropolitan Brewing
Photograph: Nick Murway

55. Spend an afternoon of the patio at Metropolitan Brewing

Bars Breweries Avondale

What is it? An Avondale brewery that focuses on German-style lagers. No IPAs here, but you'll find Pilsners, Kölsches and Schwarzbier.

Why go? Tons of Chicago breweries have outdoor patio spaces, but Metropolitan's riverside setup offers nicer views than most. 

Don't miss: Order a Krankshaft Kölsch, a smooth beer that has a touch of hops, some fruity notes and a crisp finish.

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

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

Restaurants 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.  

The Neo-Futurists
Photograph: Ricky Kluge

57. Watch 30 plays in 60 minutes from the Neo-Futurists

Theater Experimental Various locations throughout Chicago,

What is it? The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral is the online version of the Neo-Futurists signature show, presenting 30 wildly different miniature plays every week.

Why go? For as little as $3 per week, subscribers to the Neo-Futurists Patreon get to help keep the theater company working while its Andersonville theater is closed. You'll be sent the latest edition of The Infinite Wrench in video form each week—you might witness a dramatic monologue, a funny song or simply stare at someone eating a sandwich.

Don't miss: Higher Pateron donation tiers give you access to even more Neo-Futurists treats, like a monthly music show or plays from the company's extensive archives.

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

58. 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. 

Frederick C. Robie House, Chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock

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

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Hyde Park

What is it? A historic house that 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 and the furniture (also designed by Wright). 

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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