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Photograph: Shutterstock

Things to do in Chicago today

Find the best things to do in Chicago today, including parties, concerts, screenings and other can't-miss events.

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Many events have been canceled and some venues have closed to the public. If you're unsure if an event listed here has been affected, please call ahead to confirm.

Whether you're looking for last-minute plans or just trying to break out of your routine, it's easy to find things to do in Chicago today. Current conditions have forced most concerts, comedy shows and theater to move online, but many Chicago attractions are still welcoming guests (just don't forget to bring along a face mask). Plus, there are plenty of new restaurants to check out and virtual hangs to get in on. We've rounded up some of the best things to do in Chicago today, including outdoor dining, drive-in movies and free things to do throughout the city.

Pumpkin
Photograph: Shutterstock

Find the perfect jack-o'-lantern pumpkin

Kids

It's not officially fall until you have at least a couple decorative gourds adorning your home—and what better place to shop than one of the many pumpkin patches scattered throughout the Chicagoland area? Pick an afternoon to head to the suburbs (or just over the border in neighboring states) to wander among acres upon acres of fat orange pumpkins on the vine. Once you've found the perfect pumpkin, be sure to make time for a hayride or jaunt through the corn maze.

etta, jaclyn rivas, food, restaurant, wicker park, pizza
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Order takeout from your favorite local restaurants

Restaurants

We're officially over cooking. Anyone else? Lucky for us, some of the best restaurants in Chicago will bring the feast straight to your doorstep thanks to the modern convenience of delivery service. Whether you're craving pepperoni-studded pizza, crispy fried chicken, soul-soothing ramen or one of the tastiest burgers in Chicago, the options at your fingertips are nearly endless.

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Drive-in movie theater
Photograph: Shutterstock

Catch a flick at a drive-in theater

Things to do

If you're not ready to head to the movie theater, why not catch a movie from the comfort of your car? You'll find screenings of classic flicks, on-site concessions and access to restrooms, if you need them (don't forget to bring along a face mask). The majority of drive-ins charge admission by the carload, so get together with a group of movie-lovers and park yourself in front of the big screen.

Tasha onstage at Hideout
Photograph: Sarah Larson

Stream a show from the Hideout

News Music

There's no saying when we'll get to pack into venues again for live shows, but in the meantime, the Hideout has launched a bulked-up schedule of streaming programming via the artist-friendly streaming platform NoonChorus. Tune in for shows and other regular content, like Hideout bartender Lawrence Peters' weekly happy hour and the A Scientist Walks into a Bar talk show.

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Bikers on Chicago Lakefront Trail
Photograph: Shutterstock

Go for a long ride on a bike trail

Things to do

Hopping on your bike and going for a ride is a great way to unwind, but riding through the streets of Chicago can often feel less than relaxing. Luckily, a variety of bike trails in and around Chicago offer opportunities to go for a long ride without having to dodge cars. With routes that take you north, west, south and along the lakefront, you can take in amazing skyline views, visit a new brewery or just spend some time speeding through a forest.

Grant Park Rose Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock

Spend a quiet afternoon in one of these city gardens

Things to do

As much as we all love living in a bustling city, sometimes it's nice to get away from it all for a bit. You can achieve momentary serenity with the help of Chicago's many public gardens, which offer a flower-filled respite from the urban landscape. Bring a book and plan to linger a while.

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Lyft Divvy e-bike
Photograph: Courtesy Lyft

Take a Divvy e-bike for a spin

News Transport & Travel

In addition to its regular fleet of sky blue bikes, Divvy recently added a smaller selection of black e-bikes, which use a small electric motor to help riders cruise at speeds of 18 miles per hour. That makes them perfect for long-haul trips across the city—just be sure to consult our list of key takeaways about the new bikes before you hop on.

Millennium Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

Go leaf peeping in a Chicago park

Things to do

In mid-October every year, Chicago gets treated to a fleeting cornucopia of fall colors—red, orange, yellow, gold—in the form of changing leaves. This autumnal display will only stick around for a couple weeks, so be sure to carve out a day of leaf peeping at one of these tree-heavy spots. 

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Terror in the Timbers
Photograph: Courtesy Terror in the Timbers

Get spooked at a haunted house

Things to do

The world can be a scary place, so there's something strangely comforting about the controlled yet frightening environments of haunted houses in Chicago. Just like many of Chicago's best restaurants, these businesses are welcoming guests back with a host of new safety guidelines, including mandatory face masks, temperature checks and distance between groups. There are even a few haunted drive-in attractions that will provide chilling scenes that you can enjoy from inside your car. Ready to encounter zombies, killer clowns and blood-soaked nuns?

Lurie Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock/Felix Lipov

Have a picnic at one of these beautiful spots

Things to do

Chicago is home to no shortage of outdoor dining options, but if you'd prefer to save a couple bucks and avoid restaurant crowds, a picnic is a wonderful way to have a meal in the fresh air. Grab takeout or pack a lunch and head to one of these park and garden locales (and don't forget to bring a blanket and a sweater).

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

Dine alfresco on a neighborhood street near you

Restaurants

The city has shut down streets across Chicago to car traffic to allow for outdoor street dining, which means there are alfresco dining options galore in neighborhoods like Chatham, Lakeview, the West Loop and more. Consult our list to see which neighborhoods are offering street dining; you may need to make a reservation in advance.

Photograph: Courtesy of Visit Milwaukee

Go on a mini road trip

Travel

Your grand vacation plans might be on hold for the time being, but that doesn't mean you can't still have a little out-of-town fun. Pack up your car and get out of Chicago for a day at one of these nearby Midwest destinations, ranging from bustling cities to quaint farm towns.

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Calder's Flamingo
Photograph: Shutterstock/Dawid S Swierczek

Take a walking tour of Chicago’s public art

Things to do

From towering sculptures by the likes of Picasso and Calder in the Loop and breathtaking murals by local artists such as Hebru Brantley and Hector Duarte in Pilsen, you can spot beautiful creative works in all corners of the city. Pick out some of your favorites and plan a day around visiting them—you could easily spend an afternoon ambling amid artworks downtown or in Pilsen.

Matthiessen State Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

Embrace the great outdoors at a nearby hiking trail

Things to do

OK, so we're hardly living among the mountains out here, but the Chicago area is still home to tons of gorgeous hiking opportunities, both in and very near to the city proper. Drive three hour downstate to ogle waterfalls at Starved Rock or head to the Northwest Side for a peaceful walk on the North Branch Trail; either way, you're sure to get your fill of biophilic bliss. 

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Bellemore
Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

Make a reservation at one of these romantic restaurants

Restaurants

In the mood for love? Take date night to the next level and make a reservation for one of the dreamiest, most intimate restaurants in Chicago, where you can share small plates, sip wine and stare into each others' eyes under the glow of mood lighting. That's amore! 

Cerise at Virgin Hotel
Photograph: Neil Burger

Have dinner with a view

Restaurants

Going out to eat feels extra special when you have a meal within eyeshot of the Willis Tower, Lake Michigan, Marina City and scores of other top-notch Chicago attractions. Make a reservation at one of the city's many restaurants with great views to have an especially memorable dinner experience.

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apple picking
Photograph: Shutterstock

Pick apples at a nearby orchard

Things to do

It's hard to believe, but we're already entering the first blush of apple picking season, a.k.a. the perfect time to pick varieties like Honeycrisp, Zestar and Gala. Drive out to the countryside and fill a bushel with fresh-picked fruit for baking and snacking, and don't forget to pick up some apple cider donuts on your way out—you won't regret it.

Ping Tom Memorial Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

Watch the sunset against the skyline

Things to do

Chicago is home to some pretty amazing attractions, but the best of all might be our towering skyline. Head to one of these vantage points as the sun starts to set for a lights show that's equal parts man- and nature-made—as the sky turns pink and purple, the buildings light up like twinkling stars.

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Nine Bar Market
Photograph: Phillip Tang, Courtesy Nine Bar Market

Order Chinese-style barbecue pork off Instagram

News Eating

Looking to shake up your takeout routine? Slide into the DMs of @3LittlePigsChi and @ninebarchicago—two new food startups have popped up in the past few months in Chinatown—for delightful menu items like barbecue pork and crispy-edged potstickers, eggplant donburi, clarified milk punch with rum and tons of other treats. 

Kayak Chicago
Photograph: Dave Olson

Rent a kayak and paddle through the city

Things to do

If you want to get some exercise while you admire the views from the Chicago River or Lake Michigan, you should pick up a paddle and rent a kayak in Chicago. Businesses along the river and the lakefront will send you floating throughout the city, whether you want to head out solo or join a group tour led by an experienced guide. Don't worry if you're a novice—you'll get a quick lesson and plenty of tips before you leave the dock on your rental kayak.

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Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Photograph: Courtesy Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Indulge in a three-gallon bucket of Jeni’s ice cream

News Eating

Have an insatiable appetite for ice cream and an extra-large freezer at home? You're the target audience for the latest offering from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, which is now delivering three-gallon buckets (the equivalent of 24 pints) of its various creative flavors from the chain's Chicago scoop shops. Order directly to your apartment and feast on as much Brambleberry Crisp ice cream as you can stomach.

Beat Kitchen Riverwalk
Photograph: Courtesy Beat Kitchen

Hang out on the Chicago Riverwalk

Things to do

It's a little touristy, sure, but the Chicago Riverwalk is nonetheless a nice place to spend an afternoon. Splurge on a cocktail at one of the waterfront attraction's many bars or take a leisurely walk along the water's edge—just remember to bring a face mask, which is required for entry. 

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Chicago Archiecture Center boat tour
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Architecture Foundation

See the city from the water on one of the best Chicago boat tours

Things to do Walks and tours

While it's important to be mindful of social distancing, you can still cruise the Chicago River, learn about the city's vibrant history, or eat dinner and snap photos on Lake Michigan—even longtime residents of the city will marvel at how impressive the skyline looks from the water. 

Field Museum lobby
Photograph: Courtesy the Field Museum

Visit a reopened museum

Museums

Some museums have started reopening to the public at 25 percent capacity with mandatory use of face masks by guests and staff. In most cases, timed reservations are required for admission—visit each institution's website for more information. Whether you're visiting the city for the first time or you're a local looking for something to do on your day off, Chicago museums are can't-miss destinations.

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Studio Three Arena
Photograph: Courtesy Studio Three

Sweat it out at a socially distanced outdoor fitness class

News Sports & Fitness

Gyms and fitness studios have been given the OK to reopen, but if you prefer to exercise in the open air, check out Studio Three Arena in River North for fitness classes hosted on the spacious grounds of a revamped parking lot. Visit the studio's website for a full schedule of heart-pumping classes; a drop-in will run you $30 per session.

Greenhouses at the Darling
Photograph: Jason Cook

Dine in a private greenhouse in the West Loop

News Eating

Restaurant owners around the world have had to get creative with socially distanced dining as they cautiously reopen to the public. Sophie Huterstein, the owner of The Darling in the West Loop, found inspiration more than 4,000 miles away in Amsterdam, where celebrated eatery Mediamatic reopened with miniature greenhouses primed for private dining. When she found out that Randolph Street would be participating in the city's Open Streets program, Huterstein ordered the few remaining greenhouses she could find online. Reserve one and enjoy a secluded meal with friends!

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The Forge: Lemont Quarries
Photograph: Courtesy The Forge: Lemont Quarries

Check out a massive outdoor adventure park in the suburbs

News Sports & Fitness

Located just over 20 miles from downtown Chicago, the sprawling 300-acre space at The Forge: Lemont Quarries is packed with activities for dedicated (and casual) thrill-seekers. There are multiple ziplines, climbing walls, a mountain bike course, hiking trails and a body of water you can kayak or canoe in—it's essentially a one-stop shop for outdoor activities. Day passes will run you anywhere from $55–$70, but if you're on a budget, you can still stop by to enjoy the biking, running and walking trails.

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