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Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Events

The 60 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

Edited by
Emma Krupp
Written by
Tim Lowery
,
Zach Long
&
Jay Gentile
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May 2022: We've officially reached that stage of spring in Chicago when the thermostat slides temptingly into summertime weather every so often. Take advantage of those balmy evenings (however inconsistent they may be!) with drinks at rooftop bars, leisurely outdoor brunches and a new slate of summer events, like free movie screenings at Wrigleyville's Gallagher Way and a Pixar-themed mini-golf course that's opening at Navy Pier. Plus, head to your favorite Chicago beach over Memorial Day weekend, and don't miss the beginning of summer festival season—we've got newcomers like reggaeton-focused Sueños Music Festival and returning favorites like Mole de Mayo to look forward to this month. 

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, because Chicago is famous for its delicious cuisine. 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.

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

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Grant Park
  • price 2 of 4

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. This month, catch the opening of Cezannewhich marks the first major retrospect of Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne's work in more than 25 years. 

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.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • East Garfield Park

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

Why go? Springtime temps can be unpredictable in Chicago, but the Garfield Park Conservatory provides options for all sorts of weather eventualities: Wander around eight indoor display gardens when it's gloomy, and check out 10 acres of outdoor gardens when the sun's out (they're especially gorgeous now that trees and spring flowers are in bloom). 

Don't miss: Swing by Horticulture Hall for a lavender oat milk cold brew from Monday Coffee Co., the conservatory's resident coffee pop-up. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Uptown
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Hyde Park
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? "The Art of the Brick," a touring exhibition that collects more than 100 Lego sculptures created by artist Nathan Sawaya.

Why go? To see recreations of Michaelangelo's "David," Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" and a gigantic T.rex—all made from hundreds of thousands of tiny plastic bricks.

Don't miss: Once you've finished touring the Lego sculptures, check out the museum's revamped "Take Flight" exhibit, which features a section of a 727 jet that visitors can walk through.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Humboldt Park
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? A beloved Humboldt Park bar that reopened in February for the first time in two years. 

Why go? The Clipper's future hung in the balance when it shut down in early 2020 amid a rent dispute, but don't worry—Orbit Group, the bar's new operators, haven't done much to change the place save for a few minor decorating upgrades. 

Don’t miss: Order a cocktail and retire to "The Little Clip," a new dance lounge located in the former C.C. Ferns space that pays homage to Danny's (the defunct Bucktown bar where some of the Clipper's current staff once worked) with a lineup of DJ nights. 

  • Things to do

What is it? Twenty-eight miles of freshwater coastline broken up into a series of publicly accessible beaches, which reopen for the season on May 27. 

Why go? The water will still be frigid this time of year, but nothing says summer in Chicago more than a day spent along Lake Michigan's sandy shoreline. Choose from more than 20 beaches along the north and south reaches of the city, from the dog area at Montrose Beach to the sand dune-studded nature preserve at South Shore Beach.  

Don’t miss: Want to get out on the water? A select number of beaches offer kayak, jet ski and other water sport rentals. 

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  • Movies
  • Movies

What is it? A free outdoor movie screening series that's bringing summery flicks to Gallagher Way (the area beside Wrigley Field) every other Wednesday beginning May 11. 

Why go? The Music Box Theatre curated the lineup, which runs the gamut from Disney movies (Encanto) to movie musicals (Mamma Mia!) to early-2000s cult films (Josie and the Pussycats). And who doesn't love a free movie? 

Don’t miss: Grabbing takeaway tacos from the nearby Wrigleyville Big Star location. 

 

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Museum Campus
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

What is it? Pixar Putt, traveling pop-up that's bringing a Pixar-themed mini-golf course to Navy Pier this summer.  

Why go? Chicago's home to plenty of themed mini-golf courses, but this is the only one where you'll get to aim for a hole-in-one among 18 interactive holes inspired by Pixar movies like Toy StoryThe IncrediblesMonsters, Inc., Finding NemoCocoA Bug's Life, Wall-E, Inside Out and more.

Don’t miss: Pixar Putt After Dark, the course's evening sessions for patrons 18 and older that run Thursday–Friday from 7–10pm.

 

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Loop

What is it? Located just around the corner from Millennium Park, this gorgeous specimen of a building is the country's first free municipal cultural center; inside, you'll find tons of programming, exhibitions, and stunning architectural flourishes to explore, as well as a gift shop stocked with goods from local artists.

Why go? Anyone spending time in the Loop should make a point to check out any ongoing programming happening at the Cultural Center, which can run the gamut from art exhibitions to massive architectural expos. And did we mention it's completely free?

Don't miss: Once you've toured the 38-foot Tiffany glass dome in Preston Bradley Hall, head to the fourth floor to see incisive, eye-catching paintings as part of "Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott," a retrospective of the artist's work that will remain on view through May 29, 2022.

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  • 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 spring marks the beginning of the Chicago’s First Lady's season. The Chicago Architecture Foundation employs certified volunteer docents who narrate the history behind more than 50 downtown buildings for the duration of a 90-minute cruise along the Chicago River.

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

  • Theater
  • Drama

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

Why go? Steppenwolf is known for its all-star collection of ensemble talent (folks like Laurie Metcalf, John Malkovich and Tracy Letts number among its ranks)—and for the first time ever, all the shows in this year's season have been written by members of that ensemble. 

Don't miss: Comedian Mike Birbiglia's one-man show The Old Man and the Pool, which comes to Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theater from April 28–May 22. 

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  • Art
  • Digital & interactive
  • Old Town

What is it? Produced by the same team that created “Immersive Van Gogh” and hosted at the Germania Club Building in Old Town, “Immersive Frida Kahlo” showcases the iconic Mexican painter's works as animated video projections. 

Why go? Unlike its predecessor, “Immersive Frida Kahlo” takes a more in-depth look at the historical context of its subject and her work. The exhibition jumps through the eras of the Kahlo’s art in an attempt to illuminate themes from her life, from her feminism to her involvement in the Mexicanidad movement.

Don't miss: Did you really go to an immersive show if you didn't snap a few photos of your favorite projections?

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Hyde Park
  • price 1 of 4

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). 

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Get high at 360 CHICAGO
  • Things to do
  • Streeterville
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Set atop the building formerly known as 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. 

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

What is it? An eye-popping Lakeview restaurant designed to make visitors feel as though they've entered the two-dimensional world of a comic book. 

Why go? These highly Instagrammable black-and-white café concepts originated in Malaysia before spreading to countries like Japan, South Korea and beyond—and while there are just a handful of 2-D joints in the U.S. right now, we're willing to bet they'll become a trend over the next year or so. 

Don't miss: Grab an order of the restaurant's pon de ring mochi doughnuts, which are irresistibly fluffy and just a little bit chewy.

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  • Music
  • Rock and indie
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? The best damn rock club in the States.

Why go? For more than a quarter of a century, a gig at the Empty Bottle has served as a rite of passage for local and touring musicians. The nondescript club on the edge of Ukrainian Village is far from the biggest venue in town (capacity is around 300), but the folks who book it have a knack for landing rockers, electronic acts and experimental musicians on the rise. Grab an Old Style, find a spot on the stairs by the stage and take in a sure-to-be memorable show. 

Don’t miss: A slice of pizza before (or after) the show at next door's Pizza Friendly Pizza. 

  • 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.

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Wrigleyville
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? An ace place to lose it to house music, right in the city that invented the genre. 

Why go? In the ’80s, Chicago served as the epicenter of the creation of a new sound that still influences the work of modern hip-hop and electronic artists. If you want to experience house music, there's no more authentic environment than Smart Bar. Within the subterranean Wrigleyville club, skilled DJs, drag performers and sweaty revelers come together to the steady pulse of a house beat.

Don’t miss: The crowded Queen dance party, which takes place nearly every Sunday night.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • River West/West Town
  • price 1 of 4

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

Why go? After hosting concerts, trivia nights and other events on its patio last summer, the Hideout is officially back to indoor shows. Remember to bring your vaccination card (or a photo of it; either way, you'll need to be fully vaccinated to enter) and buy your tickets ahead of visiting. 

Don’t miss: Monthly trivia nights with historian Paul Durica, held every third Tuesday of the month; tickets are sliding scale ($5 to $25) and benefit local mutual aid groups.

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  • 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 Street.

  • Music
  • Folk, country and blues
  • Sheffield & DePaul
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? You have to listen to blues music when you’re in Chicago, and few places are as fun to see the blues as Kingston Mines.

Why go? The city’s largest and oldest continuously operating blues club features high-energy live blues bands performing on two stages until 4am Thursdays and Fridays and 5am on Saturdays. Whether you’re hanging with bleary-eyed tourists from Iowa or friends of the local blues guitarists on stage, it’s hard to have a bad time here.

Don’t miss: The cover grants you entry to both rooms and its two different stages.

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  • 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 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' heyday in the mid-20th century to the more recent McCormick Tribune Campus Center designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

  • 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: Looking to splurge on, say, a mid-century Danish sofa or a luxury cowhide rug? Make an appointment at Matthew Rachman Gallery to view the furniture collection available for sale, where you'll find items from iconic designers like Vladimir Kagan, Jens Risom and Eero Saarinen.  

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  • 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).

  • 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. 

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  • Things to do
  • Literary events
  • Pullman
  • price 1 of 4

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 Exhibit Hall 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.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? The city’s quintessential hipster dive.

Why go? Situated near a stretch of Ukrainian Village that constantly churns out shiny new bars and restaurants, Rainbo Club is an incorruptible constant of cool. The red neon sign beckons from blocks away, pulling patrons into its no-frills, no-bullshit space to down a shot and a can of something cheap in its coveted red booths.

Don’t miss: A visit to the photobooth, a Chicago rite of passage that dates back decades before Instagram was a thing (Liz Phair was a fan).

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  • 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

What is it? Located on the edge of Pilsen and Chinatown, 88 Marketplace is a multi-level Chinese grocery store stocked with all kinds of imported food and beverages.

Why go? The second-floor market isn't just a place to shop for ingredients—it also hosts an expansive food court, where you'll find sushi, Hong Kong-style barbecue, Vietnamese pho and Chinese baked goods. While it doesn't boast the sheer variety of dishes that you'll find while walking through Chinatown, it's an extremely convenient spot to sample various cuisines under one roof.

Don't miss: Swing by the brightly-lit pastry cases at Chiu Quon for a milk tea egg tart, a palm-sized confection with all the brown sugar toastiness of its namesake.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hot dogs
  • Norwood Park
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • 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. Visitors can walk through the vegetation in the Lurie Garden—renowned for its beauty throughout all of Chicago's seasons—or grab a spot in the sunshine on the Great Lawn. 

Don’t miss: Crown Fountain, an interactive installation featuring two 50-foot-tall LED video structures. 

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  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Museum Campus
  • price 3 of 4

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 lockdown in 2020. You can say hi to them in the Polar Play Zone exhibit.

  • 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 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.

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  • Nightlife
  • Uptown
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A love letter to all things magic hidden behind what appears to be a laundromat.

Why go? After three years of performances at Uptown Underground, the Chicago Magic Lounge’s brick-and-mortar manifestation opened in early 2018. The spot sports three performance spaces. There’s the front bar, where you can enjoy a drink and some sleight-of-hand. Then there’s the 120-seat Blackstone Cabaret mainstage, where ticketed shows take place, as well as a smaller back room, dubbed the 654 Club, offers up-close magic.

Don’t miss: While enjoying your cocktail in the bar, check out the magician’s table built into the center of the bar itself. 

  • 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 in the open air. Just make a reservation, show up with some friends and sip beer in the open air. 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. 

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  • Theater
  • Interactive
  • Uptown
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? A theater where performance art is populist and fun AF. 

Why go? You never know what you'll see when you attend the Neo-Futurists' signature show, Infinite Wrench, but it's nearly always entertaining. The ensemble races against the clock to cram 30 miniature, two-minute plays into a 60-minute show that bristles with madcap energy. Over the course of the evening, you might witness a dramatic monologue, a funny song or simply stare at someone eating a sandwich. 

Don’t miss: Grab a seat toward the front of the stage if you're game for interacting directly with the show's performers (their plays occasionally call for audience participation). 

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 4 of 4

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

Why go? It's a triple-figure investment, but folks looking for fine dining in Chicago won't find a more awe-inspiring meal than Alinea's experimental tasting menu 

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

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  • Shopping
  • Toys and games
  • Sheffield & DePaul
  • price 2 of 4

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 hosts free shows for visitors to peruse. 

  • Comedy
  • Comedy clubs
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Where Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley and Steve Carell cut their comedic teeth. 

Why go? Before they joined the cast of Saturday Night Live or became big-screen stars, those folks above practiced their craft on the mainstage at the Second City. The venue's premiere revue features some of the institutions most talented performers in a series of loosely-connected, topical comedy sketches. 

Don’t miss: The Best Decision You've Ever Made, a choose-your-own adventure-style comedy extravaganza from the venue's mainstage revue. 

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  • Shopping
  • Liquor stores
  • Avondale
  • price 2 of 4

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. 

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Lower West Side
  • price 1 of 4

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 4pm on weeknights (5pm 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).

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Ashburn
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Old Town
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? A storied 5am dive with a killer jazz jukebox, no-nonsense attitude and the most conversation-inducing bar art in the city.

Why go? Knock back stiff drinks with a gloriously diverse cast of characters from grizzled old timers to tourists from nearby Second City at this late-night watering hole. It’s a favorite of many cultural icons, from the late Anthony Bourdain and actor Michael Shannon (he watched the Oscars here in 2018) to Chicago film critic Roger Ebert—and should be a fave of yours, too.

Don’t miss: The bar is decked out with nudie paintings of famous politicians like Sarah Palin and Rod Blagojevich by Bruce Elliott, the establishment’s longtime owner.

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  • 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.

  • Shopping
  • Bookstores
  • Lower West Side
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What is it? A worker-owned bookstore, offering new and used books for in-store browsing and 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.

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  • Shopping
  • Antiques
  • Uptown
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Beverly
  • price 1 of 4

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 sherbet ice cream.

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

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  • Sports and fitness
  • Baseball & softball
  • Wrigleyville
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? Arguably the city’s 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. 

Don’t miss: For a true Wrigley Field experience, grab cheap(ish) tickets to the general admission bleachers section.  

  • 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.

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Explore cinematic history at Doc Films
  • Movie theaters
  • Independent
  • Hyde Park

What is it? The University of Chicago's single-screen theater is the longest continuously running student film society in the country.

Why go? In the fall, winter and spring, this Hyde Park institution sheds light on some of the most obscure corners of film history, showcasing retrospectives of underappreciated directors, deep dives into highly specific movie genres and rarely-screened foreign films. Best of all, a ticket will only set you back $7.

Don't miss: Prefer to see something contemporary on the big screen? Stop by on Saturday nights, which are typically reserved for screenings of new and recent releases.

  • Shopping
  • Music and entertainment
  • East Village
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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.

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  • Movie theaters
  • Independent
  • Wrigleyville

What is it? Chicago's premiere arthouse theater. 

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 prefer to turn your living room into a theater, Music Box Direct allows you to stream movies at home.

Don't miss: Performances on the theatre organ, which is played during weekend intermissions, monthly silent film screenings and other special presentations. 

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • South Deering
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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.

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Logan Square
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What is it? An expansive, bar-equipped arcade housed inside a former hardware store.

Why go? There are many arcade bars scattered throughout Chicago, but Logan Arcade boasts one of the largest (and best maintained) collection of games. You'll find classics like Ms. Pac-Man and Q*Bert alongside more modern machines like Mario Kart and a Jurassic Park shooter. Pinball wizards will flip over the selection of tables, including ones inspired by properties like Game of Thrones and Star Wars. Plus, you can sip a craft beer or cocktail between high-score attempts.

Don't miss: The Killer Queen cabinet, which allows two teams of five players to face off in a bee-themed battle that requires some intense cooperation to achieve victory.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Archer Heights
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Restaurants
  • Little Italy, UIC
  • price 1 of 4

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.  

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  • 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—and when the weather gets too cold, you can still soak in riverside vistas from floor-to-ceiling windows. 

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

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

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. 

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