Grace Perry is Time Out's former Chicago City Life Editor.
The best day trips from Chicago
You don’t have to go far or spend a lot of money to enjoy a nice escape from Chicago. A simple day trip offers a fun change in scenery and is cheap and easy. Luckily, there are many exciting destinations within driving distance or accessible by train that provide the perfect getaway. Spend an afternoon soaking up the rays on beaches along Lake Michigan, go hiking near Chicago in a state park or sample a variety of beers and cheeses up north in Wisconsin. The attractions are endless, ranging from amusement parks and Japanese gardens to museums and historic lighthouses. So whether you’re low on PTO or just trying to keep travel costs down, check out our guide to the best day trips from Chicago to explore everything the Midwest has to offer. RECOMMENDED: The best weekend getaways from ChicagoRECOMMENDED: The most unique day trips from ChicagoRECOMMENDED: The best Chicago staycation ideas
The best ideas for a Chicago staycation
Whether you have extra vacation days to burn or need some time away from your cramped studio apartment, a Chicago staycation is the perfect solution. Without spending a fortune on flights, you'll be able to disconnect and recharge while enjoying the best things to do in Chicago, as well as the city's top restaurants and iconic attractions. We've checked out Chicago's very best hotels and found something for every itch—spas, cocktail bars, free amenities and seriously amazing views. Plus we've highlighted some fun activities to do around town. So what are you waiting for? Pack a bag and check in at these staycation-worthy destinations. RECOMMENDED: The best weekend getaways from ChicagoRECOMMENDED: The best day trips from ChicagoRECOMMENDED: The best Airbnbs in Chicago
10 best tiny home Airbnbs near Chicago
So you’re planning a Midwest vacation – may we suggest booking a teeny tiny home? Mini manors aren’t just the manifestation of HGTV-induced hallucinations. They’re a great option for vacationers who want their own rental for less dough. These adorable pocket-sized abodes maximize limited space to make an inviting home out of less than 200 square feet. Plus, they’re super cute. From woodland weekends to beachfront getaways, we've found the most delightful tiny homes for all your getaway needs. Who needs a huge mansion with ten-plus bedrooms? Not us!RECOMMENDED: 🏠Check out the coziest Airbnbs near Chicago💕stay at the most romantic Airbnbs near Chicago🌇 Find the best Airbnb lofts in Chicago Who makes the cut? While we might not stay in every Airbnb featured, we've based our list on top reviews, hosts and amenities to find you the best stays. This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, see our affiliate guidelines.
The 6 best Airbnbs in Traverse City
Like many Chicagoans, we absolutely love vacationing in Southwest Michigan – Harbor Country and Saugatuck are some of our favorite spots in the Midwest. But to truly escape the Illinois crowds, you've got to keep driving and driving...and driving... north. Traverse City encapsulates what we love so much about Midwest vacations. From breweries to magical beaches to skiing, this northern Michigan enclave will make you forget about Chicago altogether. These Airbnb cabins, apartments, and renovated farmhouses are the perfect home base for your Leelanau County exploration. RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in Traverse City Who makes the cut? While we might not stay in every Airbnb featured, we've based our list on top reviews, hosts and amenities to find you the best stays. This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, see our affiliate guidelines.
The 25 best places for hiking near Chicago
Looking for an outdoorsy experience that's a little more adventurous than walking through your local Chicago park? Thankfully, you don't need to go far to trek through nature, because there's no shortage of great spots for hiking near Chicago. Cross state lines to visit the gorgeous Indiana Dunes along Lake Michigan, explore the ruins of a steel mill in Joliet or tackle the sprawling 30-mile Ice Age Trail at Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin. Plus, some of these paths double as great Chicago bike trails—you can even make a weekend of it and do a little camping. If you're ready for a temporary escape from the city, hit the trails at some of the best places for hiking near Chicago. RECOMMENDED: Hit the road on more day trips from Chicago
The best things to do in Avondale
Located just north of Logan Square, Avondale offers a slightly quieter, more residential feel than its southern neighbor—but that doesn’t mean you won’t find plenty of ways to explore this historically Polish and Latino enclave. Tour neighborhood landmarks like the stunning St. Hyacinth Basilica or the brewing facilities of craft beer bulwark Revolution Brewing, or get schooled at educational centers like The Insect Asylum and Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (both of which offer regular classes, if you’re looking to hone your skills). Plus, don’t miss out on the neighborhood’s killer selection of restaurants and a burgeoning nightlife corridor along Milwaukee Avenue. There’s more than you can tackle in one day on this list, so check out some of the best things to do in Avondale. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Avondale
The 13 best restaurants in St. Paul
St. Paul may be the smaller of the Twin Cities, but its mighty dining scene is not to be overlooked. The Minnesota state capitol boasts an array of ethnic enclaves with deep roots in the area, making the dining scene diverse, authentic, and delicious as hell. From getting an old school martini spot with major Mad Men vibes to stellar Vietnamese grub to a gem in a tiny airport, St. Paul’s restaurant scene is stacked with excellent dining options. Ditch your preconceived notions of Upper Midwestern cuisine—it’s not all corn and cheese curds, though those are great things—and eat like a champ in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The best things to do on a first date in Chicago
There's no getting around it: First dates are awkward. It's tough to tell what activities are too boring, too much or too intimate. Just because there's so much to do in Chicago, doesn't mean it's all the right thing to do for a first date. We sifted through all the best restaurants, bars, movie theaters and more to help you plan the perfect first encounter. You just need to come up with some charming anecdotes and make your bed. Recommended: Our complete guide to dating in Chicago
The best romantic date ideas in Chicago
It’s easy to fall into a comfortable routine while dating in Chicago: Cozy up at a romantic restaurant, grab drinks at your local dive, maybe go to a movie if you’re feeling super wild. And while Chicago dives do have a certain romance to them, routine is boring, and god forbid you come off as boring. We’ve collected some easy, low-key dates that are far more likely to spark romance than just drinking the awkwardness away does. Plus, if you’re going to date your way through Chicago, you may as well get to know the city while you’re getting to know your future beau.
48 hours in Chicago
Only have a weekend in Chicago? Our hospitable Midwestern instinct is to beg you to stay longer, but luckily, you can pack a lot of Chicago into 48 hours. America’s third-largest city is brimming with one-of-a-kind sites: From prohibition-era speakeasies and stunning architectural gems to hole-in-the-wall taco joints and Michelin starred restaurants, there are endless reasons to visit Chicago. But you already knew that. Take a big bite of Chicago culture with this well-rounded smorgasbord of things to do, see, eat and drink in the city by the lake. And come back for a longer stay next time, won’t you?
The best events in Chicago this spring
After months of bundling up and surviving single-digit temps, we’re itching to shake off our cabin fever and jump into spring. Lucky for us, the season is brimming with fantastic events that’ll get you off the couch and out exploring the city. With warmer weather comes an awesome slate of outdoor beer fests, thought-provoking film festivals, the re-opening of our favorite farmers' markets, and so, so much more. No matter what your interests are, you’re bound to find things to do in spring in Chicago to make you fall in love with the city by the lake all over again.
The best attractions and things to do in the Loop
Millions of people come to Chicago each year and are content to spend the entirety of their visit in the Loop. While there's much more to our city, we'll admit that there is something captivating about the towering skyscrapers and pieces of public art that populate the dense downtown area. Explore the world's best museum by visiting the Art Institute or relax in the city's "front yard" as you stroll through Grant Park. Make like Ferris Bueller, take a day off and enjoy some of the best things to do in the Loop. RECOMMENDED: Our complete neighborhood guide to the Chicago Loop
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Saturday Night Live: The Experience
Now in its 43rd season, most folks can’t remember an adulthood without Saturday Night Live. What’s more, the majority of Americans grew up on (or are growing up on) the late-night sketch show; it’s played, to varying degrees, a role in most viewers’ understanding of our political and cultural surroundings. “SNL: The Experience” was crafted for those fans, for the people who revere the comedy goliath’s space in American culture and in their personal lives, too. Chicago is the first stop on the exhibit’s traveling tour—it just wrapped two years in New York City, and will be at the Museum of Broadcast Communications for the next 14 months. Chicago was a natural second stop for the exhibit. With so many SNL cast members and writers hailing from our city (and the Second City), producers sought to honor the show’s Chicago ties. The exhibit is spread over two floors of the museum and is structured like a week at SNL. If you’re not familiar, the show has a very rigid schedule; each day of the week has a specific purpose and goal. The first room of “SNL: The Experience” is Monday (with Lorne Michaels’ desk and a replica of the original 1975 set), the next is Tuesday (with videos screening late-night stories from writers including Seth Meyers and Paula Pell), and so on. It concludes, of course, with Saturday: a complete replica of Studio 8H. Three stages flank the audience (for the monologue, musical act and rotating sketch), as well as a remake of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s 2004 Weeke
The 13 most Instagrammable streets in Chicago
Year-round, rain or shine, Chicagoans are always doing it for the 'gram. From bragging about snagging a seat at that coveted fine-dining destination to documenting the most over-the-top cocktails to sharing a lovely afternoon at the city's best parks, we’ve got plenty of reasons to snap an Instagram. But Chicago is so gorgeous that there are plenty of beautiful shots to take from simply walking around the city. Take a stroll down these incredibly Instagrammable streets—just don’t forget your phone. Lake Shore Drive A post shared by Miwa (@ms_windycity) on Feb 17, 2017 at 1:29am PST Logan Boulevard A post shared by Jenny Kim (@eddyandjenny) on Apr 17, 2017 at 4:31pm PDT Broadway in Uptown A post shared by Kirsten Hildebrand (@kirstenhildebrand) on Aug 6, 2015 at 10:04am PDT Hutchinson Street in Buena Park A post shared by Becca James (@wreckaflames) on Nov 29, 2015 at 12:28pm PST 18th Street in Pilsen A post shared by Ana Sofía (@anaaa_sofiaaaa) on Apr 30, 2016 at 9:30pm PDT Michigan Avenue in Streeterville A post shared by @apalmisano1 on May 16, 2017 at 4:28pm PDT Wentworth Avenue in Chinatown A post shared by Xaviera (@mastortillas1201) on May 17, 2017 at 8:07am PDT Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Square A post shared by Caroline Lemke (@clemke08) on May 16, 2017 at 5:14pm PDT LaSalle Street in the Loop A post shared by Roy Serafin (@roythephotographer) on May 11, 2017 at 10:19am PDT Chalmers Place in Lincoln
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Mon, Mar 19
1. See Canadian instrumental rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor perform at Metro Chicago tonight. Tickets for the 8pm show are still available starting at $37. 2. Check out the latest exhibition at the Field Museum, Mummies, which investigates the ancient tradition in a new light. It’s included in Discovery and All-Access passes, and the museum is open from 9am to 5pm. 3. Head up the Glencoe for the Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show, which displays hundreds of species of the ornate flower. It’s open from 10am to 4pm, and entry is $10. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Sun, Mar 18
1. See Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard, star of the film Once, perform at the Riviera Theatre tonight at 8pm. Tickets are available starting at $42. 2. Today is the final day of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier. Adult tickets are $19, and it’s open from 10am to 6pm. 3. Catch a performance of the Neo-Futurists’ flagship show, The Infinite Wrench, tonight at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20 in advance or $9 plus a roll of a six-sided die at the door. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Sat, Mar 17
1. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The Chicago River will be dyed green at 9am, and the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will kick off at noon at Columbus Drive and Balbo Avenue. It’s all free to attend. 2. Watch 32 local comedians go head to head at Late Late Breakfast’s Tournament of Champions, a March Madness-style bracket. It’s happening at the Hideout at 2pm, and tickets are $7. 3. See a performance of A Story Told in Seven Fights, which our theater critic recently gave a five-star review. Tonight’s show is at the Neo-Futurarium at 7:30pm, and tickets are $10 to $25. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Fri, Mar 16
1. Celebrate black burlesque at Jeezy’s Juke Joint: A Black Burly-Q Revue at the Promontory. Tonight’s show is at 8pm and general admission seats are $20. 2. Head to Steep Theatre to catch one of the final performances of Hinter, playwright Calamity West’s latest show. Tickets for tonight’s 8pm show start at $27. 3. See A Poodle In People’s Clothes, a solo sketch show by comedian Atra Asdou, tonight at the iO Theater. The show begins at 10:30pm and tickets are $14. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Thu, Mar 15
1. Hit up Adler After Dark, the Adler Planetarium’s monthly 21+ night, which includes drinks and entertainment. It starts at 6pm, and tickets are $25 at the door. 2. The Whistler’s popular monthly LGBTQ dance party Slo ‘Mo is on again tonight. It starts at 9pm and there’s no cover charge. 3. See a performance by improv veteran Susan Messing and a special guest at her weekly show, Messing With A Friend. It’s happening at the Annoyance at 10:30pm and tickets are $5. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Wed, Mar 14
1. Usher in springtime at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier. It’s open from 10am to 8pm today, and adult admission is $17 for the day or $10 for the evening. 2. See ’70s rockers the Eagles perform a career-spanning set at the United Center tonight. Tickets for the 8pm show are still available starting at $109. 3. Dance the night away at Fabitat, an all-inclusive LGBTQ night at Beauty Bar with DJs and drag performances. The party starts at 9pm and there’s no cover charge. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Tue, Mar 13
1. See one of the final performances of the Lyric Opera’s current show, Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Tickets for tonight’s 7:30pm show start at $39. 2. Take in artist Howardena Pindell’s unconventional use of materials in “What Remains To Be Seen” at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s open from 10am to 8pm and admission is free for Illinois residents today. 3. Catch awesome local stand-ups at Chicago Underground Comedy at Beat Kitchen. The show starts at 9:30pm and admission is $5. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Mon, Mar 12
1. See the work of Chicago-based painter Anna Kunz in her exhibition, “Color Cast” at the Hyde Park Art Center. It’s open from 9am to 8pm, and admission is free. 2. Visit the Chicago History Museum’s current exhibition “Race: Are We So Different?” which examines the anthropology of race. It’s open from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Admission is $19 for adults over 18. 3. Catch a production of That’s Weird, Grandma by theater group Barrel of Monkeys at the Neo-Futurarium. Tickets for tonight’s 8pm are $5–$15. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Sun, Mar 11
1. Head to Beverly for the South Side Irish Parade, which marches down Western Avenue from 103rd to 115th Street. It begins at noon and is free to attend. 2. Today is the final day to go ice skating at the Millennium Park McCormick Tribune Ice Rink before it closes for the season. It’s open from 10am to 9pm, and skate rental is $12. 3. Catch a stand-up show from former Saturday Night Live writer Julia Sweeney at the Second City. The show is at 6pm and tickets are $10. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
The three things you need to know today in Chicago: Sat, Mar 10
1. Check out the lineup of thought-provoking movies at the Peace on Earth Film Festival at the Davis Theater. Panels and film screenings take place today from 10am to 10pm, and tickets are $5–$8 per event. 2. Pop singer Pink plays nearly two decades of hits at the United Center tonight, touring her latest album, Beautiful Trauma. Tickets for the 8pm show are still available starting at $65. 3. Shop local crafters and artisans at Handmade Market Chicago at the Empty Bottle. The bazaar is free to attend and is on from noon to 4pm today. For more events, check in with Time Out throughout the day.
Warner Bros. Entertainment says Avada Kedavra to Aurora’s Harry Potter festival
Last year, Chicagoans took the Hogwarts Express—sorry, the Metra—to Aurora for a day dedicated to Harry Potter. Since the Midwest doesn’t have its own Wizarding World of Harry Potter just yet, the unofficial pop-up nailed Chicagoans’ cravings for an immersive Hogwarts experience. But as the adage goes: No, the City of Aurora does not own the rights to Harry Potter. According to festival organizers, a Warner Bros. Entertainment attorney instructed them not to reference Harry Potter in any capacity at the 2018 event. Instead of canceling it altogether, organizers are renaming it Downtown Aurora Magic, a “general celebration of wizards, witches and all things magical in June.” Activities will include a costume contest, classes, games and crafts, though specific information has not yet been released. While pop-culture–inspired pop-ups have been increasingly favorable over the past few years, there’s a fine line when it comes to copyright. Last fall, Emporium Pop-Ups received a kindly worded cease and desist from Netflix over its Stranger Things bar. A month later, TGI Friday’s put the kibosh on Moneygun’s plan to “dress up” as the chain restaurant for Halloween. Brands want to retain commercial and creative control of their product without appearing to ruin the party. Downtown Aurora Magic will be held on June 9 from 11am to 5pm in (you guessed it) downtown Aurora. Tickets go on sale on March 24 at 9am and will cost $10 each. For more information, check out the festival's Faceb