2023 Chicago Travel Guide: Top Things to Do, Attractions, and Events

Bursting at the seams with world-class architecture, rich history, and a vibrant cultural scene, Chicago in 2023 is a cosmopolitan gem that any discerning traveler must explore. Whether your heart beats for contemporary art exhibitions or you find peace amidst lush gardens; whether you’re a die-hard sports enthusiast or a lavish food lover – the Windy City has something to make every moment memorable. This 2023 Chicago Travel Guide will sail you through the city’s top attractions, events, and must-do activities to help you tailor your trip into an unforgettable adventure. So prepare yourself for a rollercoaster ride through the energetic tapestry of Chicago—the iconic metropolis that never sleeps!

There are countless activities and attractions to experience in Chicago in 2023. Some recommendations include exploring the vibrant neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, West Town, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village, and Gold Coast, walking or biking along the Lakefront Trail or the Chicago Riverwalk, visiting landmarks such as Millennium Park and Cloud Gate (“The Bean”), checking out world-class museums like the Art Institute of Chicago, attending a baseball game at Wrigley Field, taking an architecture cruise along the Chicago River, and trying out some delicious local cuisine from traditional German and Italian restaurants to trendy hotspots. These are just a few ideas to get started on your journey discovering all that Chicago has to offer.

Things to do in Chicago in 2023 3

Iconic Landmarks in Chicago

As the “Windy City,” Chicago is renowned for its rich architectural history and iconic landmarks that define the cityscape. From towering skyscrapers to historic buildings, exploring these landmarks is an essential part of any visit to Chicago. Let’s dive into some of the most notable ones.

The first landmark that comes to mind is the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower). Standing at a staggering 1,450 feet, this 110-story building held the title of the tallest building in the world for several decades. Visitors can ascend to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor and experience breathtaking views of Chicago’s skyline, Lake Michigan, and even neighboring states on a clear day.

Another renowned architectural marvel is the John Hancock Center, now called 875 North Michigan Avenue. This sleek building boasts an observatory on its 94th floor, offering panoramic vistas of downtown Chicago. The TILT experience adds an extra thrill by tilting visitors outside, providing a unique perspective of the city from a vertigo-inducing angle.

Moving away from modern high-rises, let’s explore one of Chicago’s most historic landmarks: The Art Institute of Chicago. Boasting an extensive collection spanning thousands of years and multiple continents, this museum is a haven for art enthusiasts. From renowned works like Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” to Vincent van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” visitors can immerse themselves in diverse artistic masterpieces that leave a lasting impression.

Finally, no exploration of iconic landmarks in Chicago would be complete without mentioning Navy Pier. This vibrant entertainment hub stretches along Lake Michigan’s shoreline and offers attractions such as Ferris wheels, boat tours, live performances, restaurants, and shops. Whether you’re seeking family-friendly fun or romantic lakeside strolls with stunning views, Navy Pier has something for everyone.

Now that we’ve explored some of Chicago’s iconic landmarks, let’s focus on a specific one that deserves special attention: Millennium Park.

Millennium Park: Highlights and Events

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, Millennium Park is a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike. This 24.5-acre urban oasis offers an array of attractions, events, and artistic installations that celebrate the spirit of this vibrant city.

One of the park’s most iconic features is the Cloud Gate sculpture, better known as “The Bean.” Designed by British artist Anish Kapoor, this massive stainless steel structure reflects Chicago’s skyline and visitors themselves, creating unique photo opportunities. It has become synonymous with Millennium Park and serves as a symbol of the city’s creativity and innovation.

Besides The Bean, Millennium Park is also home to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an architecturally stunning outdoor concert venue. Throughout the year, visitors can enjoy free music concerts ranging from classical performances by the Grant Park Orchestra to popular artists’ live shows. The combination of beautiful music echoing through the park with the backdrop of the city skyline creates an unforgettable experience.

In addition to its permanent attractions, Millennium Park hosts a wide range of events throughout the year.

From summer festivals like Millennium Park Summer Film Series where movies are screened under starry skies to Taste of Chicago, one of the largest food festivals in the country showcasing diverse culinary delights – there is always something happening at Millennium Park.

Another highlight is Lurie Garden, a stunning five-acre garden that celebrates Chicago’s native plants and beautifully integrates art and nature. Visitors can wander through meandering pathways lined with vibrant blooms while appreciating the serene atmosphere amidst hustle and bustle.

Whether you’re seeking cultural experiences, outdoor concerts, captivating artworks, or simply a place to relax and take in the beauty of Chicago, Millennium Park offers it all.

Experiences Along the Lakefront & Riverwalk

Chicago’s Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is a haven for nature enthusiasts and those seeking breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. Despite the challenges posed by erosion and cleanliness issues, this stunning location continues to captivate visitors with its serene ambiance and close proximity to the water. Situated on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan, Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk offers a picturesque setting where you can appreciate the beauty of nature while taking leisurely walks along the riverwalk.

The main attraction at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is undoubtedly the lakefront itself. Visitors have the opportunity to drive up to the lakefront area and witness the expansive waters of Lake Michigan, providing a perfect backdrop for memorable moments. On clear days, you can even catch glimpses of the iconic Chicago skyline from this vantage point. It’s an ideal spot for photography enthusiasts, as you can capture stunning shots of both natural wonders and urban landscapes.

As you explore the area further, you’ll come across the visitor center, where you can gather information about the site’s history, geology, and conservation efforts. The center provides educational exhibits that add depth to your understanding of this remarkable ecosystem. Additionally, there is ample parking available nearby, making it convenient for visitors to access Portage Lakefront and immerse themselves in its beauty.

Pros Cons
Beautiful views of Lake Michigan Erosion issues impacting beach access
Peaceful riverwalk Cleanliness concerns
Proximity to Chicago skyline Limited parking availability
Visitor center with educational exhibits Pier no longer accessible due to high waves

While erosion issues have restricted beach access at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, there are still plenty of activities along the lakefront trail that allow visitors to make the most of their experience.

  • In a 2020 survey of Chicago’s outdoor and recreation amenities, the Lakefront Trail and the Chicago Riverwalk were among the top rated with scores of over 4.5 out of 5.
  • According to a 2019 tourism report, The Art Institute of Chicago ranked as one of the most visited attractions, drawing around 1.7 million visitors annually.
  • Major League Baseball reported that Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, saw an average attendance of more than 30,000 fans per game before the pandemic hit in 2020; it is expected that numbers should have returned to or surpassed this by 2023 given ongoing recovery efforts.

Activities and Views on the Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail in Chicago offers a multitude of activities and stunning views that showcase the city’s vibrant atmosphere and natural splendor. Stretching for approximately 18 miles along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, this renowned trail attracts locals and tourists alike with its diverse recreational opportunities.

Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or an avid jogger, the Lakefront Trail provides a scenic backdrop for outdoor adventures. The trail is well-maintained and offers separate lanes for pedestrians and cyclists, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. As you traverse the path, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the lake, the city’s skyline, and iconic landmarks such as Navy Pier.

For those seeking relaxation, there are numerous picturesque spots along the trail where you can have a picnic or simply bask in the tranquility of nature. The lush green spaces, dotted with benches and picnic tables, provide an idyllic setting to unwind and soak up the beauty surrounding you.

It’s important to note that while the Lakefront Trail offers a wide range of activities and breathtaking views, it can get crowded during peak hours. This might affect the peacefulness of your experience as you share the trail with other visitors. However, the vibrant energy and sense of community created by fellow trail-goers can also add to the ambiance and make your journey even more memorable.

The Lakefront Trail is like a bustling thoroughfare connecting people from all walks of life who come together to appreciate Chicago’s natural wonders. It weaves together various neighborhoods, parks, and attractions, providing a seamless path for exploration.

So whether you’re looking for an invigorating run along the lakefront or simply want to enjoy a leisurely stroll with loved ones, the Lakefront Trail promises an enchanting experience that marries urban sophistication with the serenity of nature.

Unique Neighborhoods in Chicago

Chicago, a city known for its diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, offers visitors a multitude of unique experiences. From historic districts to trendy enclaves, each neighborhood has its own distinct flair and attractions. Let’s explore some of the top neighborhoods that are worth discovering during your visit to the Windy City.

One must-visit neighborhood is Lincoln Park, located on the North Side of Chicago. This charming area is home to lovely tree-lined streets, historic homes, and the iconic Lincoln Park itself. As you stroll through the neighborhood, you’ll find a wealth of great restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, cozy cafes perfect for people-watching, and boutique shops showcasing local designers. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country.

Moving westward, we come across West Town, a neighborhood that exudes a vibrant local vibe. Known for its artist community and creative energy, West Town offers visitors an eclectic mix of art galleries, independent boutiques, and innovative culinary experiences. This area is also home to Ukrainian Village, where you can immerse yourself in the rich Ukrainian culture through its traditional food, shops, and events. The locals here take pride in their neighborhood’s unique character, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking an authentic Chicago experience.

Now that we’ve explored some of Chicago’s unique neighborhoods in general, let’s dive deeper into two specific areas – Lincoln Park and West Town – and uncover what makes them so special.

Discovering Local Vibes: Lincoln Park to West Town

Lincoln Park is not only a neighborhood with picturesque scenery but also boasts an array of attractions that cater to different interests. For history enthusiasts, the Chicago History Museum provides a fascinating journey through the city’s past with immersive exhibits and collections spanning centuries. Nature lovers will appreciate the beauty of Lincoln Park itself; spanning over 1,200 acres, this urban oasis offers walking paths, gardens, and the serene North Pond Nature Sanctuary.

After exploring Lincoln Park, venture into the neighboring area of West Town. This neighborhood is renowned for its lively art scene, with numerous galleries showcasing local talent. Stop by Jackson Junge Gallery to admire contemporary art or visit the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art for a unique cultural experience. For those who appreciate craft beers and spirits, there are also several microbreweries and distilleries to explore, offering tastings and tours for visitors.

When it comes to dining in these neighborhoods, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Lincoln Park offers a range of culinary delights, from upscale fine dining to casual eateries serving delicious comfort food. If you’re in the mood for Italian cuisine, visit Spiaggia – an award-winning restaurant known for its exquisite dishes and stunning lakefront views. In West Town, you can indulge in innovative farm-to-table fare at restaurants like avec or try out mouthwatering Mexican street food at Antique Taco.

Picture this: You start your day in Lincoln Park with a leisurely stroll through the park’s lush greenery, enjoying the tranquil ambiance as you pass by charming houses. Then, you head over to West Town and wander through its vibrant streets lined with colorful murals, popping into art galleries along the way. As lunchtime rolls around, you find yourself savoring a delectable meal at one of the neighborhood’s trendy eateries, taking in the local atmosphere that surrounds you.

Whether you’re interested in exploring history, immersing yourself in art and culture, or simply indulging in delicious cuisine, both Lincoln Park and West Town provide an authentic Chicago experience that showcases the city’s unique character.

Chicago’s Culture & Festivals

When it comes to rich cultural experiences and vibrant festivals, Chicago is a city that truly stands out. Immerse yourself in the diverse and dynamic culture of the Windy City as you explore its various neighborhoods and participate in its exciting events.

Chicago is renowned for its lively festivals that cater to a wide range of interests. From music and food to art and film, there’s something for everyone. One of the most highly anticipated events is Lollapalooza, held in the Loop area from August 3-6. This iconic music festival attracts top-tier artists from around the world, providing an incredible atmosphere for music lovers of all genres. The energy and passion exuded by both performers and audiences create unforgettable memories.

If you’re a fan of visual arts, be sure to visit Chicago during one of its major art exhibitions. In 2023, some notable exhibitions include “Not All Realisms” at The Smart Museum of Art, “First Kings of Europe” at the Field Museum, and “Gio Swaby: Fresh Up” at the Art Institute of Chicago. These exhibitions offer unique perspectives on photography, history, and contemporary art, respectively . Visiting these exhibitions allows you to engage with different artistic expressions while gaining insights into diverse cultures and histories.

Aside from specific exhibitions, the city itself is a living canvas. The streets are lined with stunning public art installations that add color and creativity to your exploration. Take a stroll through Millennium Park to marvel at Anish Kapoor’s famous “Cloud Gate,” affectionately known as “The Bean.” Capture unique photographs amidst its reflective surfaces and immerse yourself in the interactive nature of this iconic sculpture.

As an example, imagine standing before “The Bean” on a sunny day. You find yourself surrounded by tourists from all over the world who are also captivated by this mesmerizing artwork. The joyful laughter and awe-inspired expressions on their faces create a shared experience, one that transcends language barriers and brings people together through a shared appreciation for art.

In addition to its festivals and visual art scene, Chicago is also celebrated for its vibrant theater community. Take in a Broadway-quality play or musical at one of the city’s many renowned theaters, such as the Chicago Theatre or the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. These performances showcase top talent from both local and international stages, delivering captivating storytelling and unforgettable experiences.

While experiencing the diverse culture and festivals of Chicago is a must, immersing yourself in the city’s thriving art scene offers an additional layer of creativity and inspiration.

Immerse Yourself in the Art Scene

Chicago’s art scene is brimming with galleries, museums, and contemporary spaces that cater to all artistic tastes. From classic masterpieces to cutting-edge installations, there’s no shortage of opportunities to explore and appreciate art in all its forms.

The Art Institute of Chicago is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts. Its extensive collection spans centuries and continents, boasting works by iconic artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Grant Wood, and Georges Seurat. Lose yourself in the grandeur of American Gothic or be transported by Monet’s Water Lilies. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that showcase modern and contemporary artworks from both established and emerging artists.

If you prefer contemporary art, head to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago. Here, you’ll find thought-provoking exhibitions that challenge traditional notions of art. One notable exhibition scheduled for 2023 is “Gary Simmons: Public Enemy,” which provides a comprehensive survey of the artist’s multidisciplinary work over three decades . Explore Simmons’ exploration of race, class, and gender identity through his powerful installations.

Chicago’s art scene is like a kaleidoscope of creativity, offering a multitude of perspectives and experiences. Just as each turn of the kaleidoscope reveals a new pattern, each visit to a gallery or museum in Chicago holds the promise of discovering something truly remarkable.

Beyond traditional museum spaces, Chicago’s neighborhoods are home to numerous galleries that showcase local and international artists. For example, the West Loop neighborhood is known for its vibrant art scene, with a variety of contemporary galleries and studios. Explore these lively spaces during the annual West Loop Art Fest, happening on September 2-3 . Engage with artists and immerse yourself in their works as you witness firsthand the diversity and talent within Chicago’s art community.

Art isn’t confined to walls either. Chicago is also host to several street art festivals and events that transform public spaces into vibrant outdoor galleries. Keep an eye out for captivating murals and installations as you explore various neighborhoods. These artistic expressions bring color and life to the city’s streets, creating an ever-changing urban canvas.

Sports and Fun in Chicago

When it comes to sports and fun, Chicago offers a vibrant and energetic atmosphere that caters to both locals and tourists alike. The city is home to several professional sports teams, including the legendary Chicago Cubs. But beyond traditional sporting events, there are numerous other activities for sports enthusiasts to enjoy.

For those who love basketball, catching a game of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center is an electrifying experience. The passion of the fans combined with the skillful plays on the court creates an unbeatable atmosphere. If hockey is more your speed, then don’t miss out on a Chicago Blackhawks game, where fast-paced action and roaring crowds await you.

However, if you prefer outdoor activities, exploring Lake Michigan is a must. From sailing and kayaking to beach volleyball or simply taking a leisurely stroll along the picturesque shoreline, there’s something for everyone. The city also boasts numerous parks and green spaces like Grant Park and Millennium Park, where you can enjoy a game of frisbee or have a relaxing picnic amidst stunning views of the city skyline.

Chicagoans have a deep appreciation for physical fitness, and it shows in the number of sporting events and recreational activities available throughout the year. Whether you’re interested in joining organized leagues for soccer or softball or participating in charity runs and marathons, there are ample opportunities to stay active and connect with others who share similar interests.

Now that we’ve explored the variety of sports and fun options available in Chicago let’s focus on one iconic aspect of the city’s sports scene – A Game at Wrigley Field with the world-famous Chicago Cubs.

  • Chicago is a haven for sports enthusiasts, with professional teams such as the Chicago Cubs and Bulls providing an electrifying atmosphere. Beyond traditional sports, there are numerous outdoor activities to enjoy, including exploring Lake Michigan and parks like Grant and Millennium Park. Chicagoans have a deep appreciation for physical fitness, with a variety of opportunities available throughout the year, including organized leagues and charity runs/marathons. A Game at Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs is an iconic aspect of the city’s sports scene and should not be missed.

Chicago Cubs: A Game at Wrigley Field

Immersing yourself in the rich history of baseball while relishing in the vibrant atmosphere of Wrigley Field during a Chicago Cubs game is an unforgettable experience. As one of the oldest and most iconic ballparks in Major League Baseball, Wrigley Field embodies the spirit and passion of the city’s residents.

From the moment you step foot into Wrigleyville, the neighborhood surrounding the stadium, you’ll find yourself enveloped in a sea of blue and red. The energy is infectious as fans excitedly gather before the game, whether it’s at one of the lively sports bars or outside on Clark Street engaging in pregame festivities.

Once inside, you can soak up the charm of Wrigley Field itself. The ivy-covered outfield walls, iconic scoreboard, and classic architecture create a timeless ambiance that truly transports you to baseball’s golden era. As you settle into your seat, make sure to take in the sights and sounds – from the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd to the vendors selling traditional ballpark snacks like hot dogs and peanuts.

Watching a game at Wrigley Field isn’t just about rooting for your favorite team; it’s about becoming part of a community that shares a deep love for baseball. The camaraderie among fellow fans is palpable, with strangers bonding over shared triumphs, frustrations, and unforgettable moments on the field.

Some might argue that attending a Cubs game isn’t only about baseball – it’s also an opportunity to witness history being made. With a team that has seen its fair share of highs and lows over the years, being present during significant moments can be truly magical. Whether it’s witnessing a walk-off home run or seeing a standout performance from a rising star player, each game holds its own potential for creating lifelong memories.

Now that we’ve explored the allure of a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field let’s continue our guide by delving into another essential aspect of experiencing Chicago – Dining in Chicago: From Local Delights to Fine Cuisine.

Dining in Chicago: From Local Delights to Fine Cuisine

Chicago is a food lover’s paradise, offering a diverse culinary scene that caters to all tastes and budgets. Whether you’re in the mood for local delights or fine cuisine, this vibrant city has it all. Let’s explore some of the dining options that make Chicago a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts.

One can’t talk about Chicago’s food scene without mentioning deep-dish pizza. This iconic dish features a thick, buttery crust filled with gooey cheese, savory tomato sauce, and an array of toppings. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria and Giordano’s are two popular establishments where you can indulge in this Chicago specialty.

If you’re craving something more upscale, Chicago boasts numerous Michelin-starred restaurants that showcase the city’s culinary prowess. Alinea, led by renowned chef Grant Achatz, offers a multi-sensory dining experience with avant-garde dishes that push the boundaries of traditional cuisine. Meanwhile, Girl & the Goat, helmed by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, serves up innovative and flavorful dishes with global influences.

With its diverse neighborhoods, Chicago also provides opportunities to savor various international cuisines. Head to Argyle Street in the Uptown neighborhood for authentic Vietnamese fare or Little Italy on Taylor Street for classic Italian dishes. Each neighborhood has its own unique culinary offerings waiting to be explored.

Chicago is also known for its vibrant food markets such as Eataly and Revival Food Hall where you can browse a wide selection of gourmet treats from local artisans and small batch producers. These bustling hubs not only offer delicious food but also provide a chance to immerse yourself in the city’s lively atmosphere.

Don’t forget to save room for dessert! For those with a sweet tooth, be sure to try Garrett Popcorn Shops for their famous caramel and cheese popcorn mix or visit one of the many bakeries in the city for delectable pastries and cakes.

Whether you’re seeking comfort food, international flavors, or a fine dining experience, Chicago has something to offer everyone. The culinary landscape of this city is as vibrant and diverse as its population, making it a true haven for food lovers.

Now that we’ve explored the delectable dining options in Chicago, let’s shift our focus to safety and seasonal considerations to ensure a smooth travel experience.

Safety and Seasonal Considerations for Chicago Travel

When planning your trip to Chicago, it’s important to consider safety measures and be aware of seasonal factors that may affect your travel experience. While Chicago is generally a safe city for tourists, like any major metropolitan area, certain precautions should be taken to ensure a worry-free visit.

One concern often associated with Chicago is crime. While there are areas of the city with higher crime rates, such as the south and west sides, most tourist areas and neighborhoods frequented by visitors are safe. It’s always recommended to research safe neighborhoods to stay in Chicago, like Edison Park or Lakeview, as well as those neighborhoods that may be best avoided due to higher crime rates, such as Englewood or Riverdale. By staying in well-populated and tourist-friendly areas, travelers can minimize their exposure to any potential risks.

Prioritize your personal safety by being aware of your surroundings, especially when exploring unfamiliar areas. Keep valuable items secure and avoid isolated areas at night.

Another aspect to keep in mind when traveling to Chicago is the weather. The Windy City experiences four distinct seasons, each with its unique charm but also particular considerations. Summers in Chicago are generally pleasant with mild temperatures perfect for outdoor activities and events like concerts in Millennium Park or strolling along Navy Pier. However, it’s good to be prepared for occasional heatwaves and thunderstorms, so pack accordingly.

Winters in Chicago can be quite harsh, with freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. This can impact travel plans, as flights may be delayed or canceled, and driving conditions can become treacherous. It’s advisable to monitor weather forecasts before your trip and be prepared with warm clothing and appropriate footwear if you plan to explore the city during this season. Embrace the cold by visiting ice skating rinks, attending winter festivals like Christkindlmarket, or warming up with a hot chocolate at one of the cozy cafes around the city.

By considering safety precautions and seasonal factors when planning your visit to Chicago, you can ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience. Whether you’re indulging in the city’s diverse cuisine or taking in its vibrant attractions, Chicago has something for everyone.