Standing 103 floors above the ground at the top of Willis Tower (Sears Tower), the Skydeck offers the most unique view of the city – from inside the building.
Standing in a glass box extended just under four-and-a-half feet off the side of the third tallest building in the world is a breath taking experience.
John Hancock Observatory
If you get to the John Hancock building before March 31 you will have an opportunity of a lifetime: the ability to ice skate at 1,000 feet inside a building!
The view from there is amazing, but the view from the Lavazza Espression Café is even better.
Serving a variety of coffees and wine and spirits, at night this is the ideal spot to relax and watch the skyline light up.
Chicago Architecture Tour
Already seen the view from the top?
How about the view from the water?
There are a number of boats and architecture tours that will give you the inside scoop on Chicago’s unique architectural history.
From the ground up you will be able to see how some of Chicago’s most famous buildings fit into the landscape of the city.
Whether it’s the view from the lake or on the Chicago River, both are sure to impress.
Buckingham Fountain at Grant Park
Inside the expanse of Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain creates one of the most well known symbols of Chicago.
Shooting jets of water up to 150 feet into the air, the fountain is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Located in Grant Park the view is also well known as part of the opening for the television show, “Married with Children”.
If you don’t know “The Bean”, you need to get to Millennium Park stat!
Officially named “Cloud Gate,” this polished reflective sculpture in the heart of Millennium Park is a must see for those looking to grab an incredible view of the city skyline through a work of art.
Cubs Bleacher Seats
The view of the ivy covered walls from inside one of the oldest Major League Baseball stadiums in the country, Wrigley Field, is an amazing experience.
The view from the rooftops across the street is even better.
The Wrigley Rooftops give baseball fans the most extraordinary stadium experience.
Above the field viewers get a birds eye view of the Wrigleyville neighborhood made famous by the city’s most loveable losers, the Chicago Cubs.
Oak Street Beach
Located just north of the Magnificent Mile the Oak Street Beach, on the shores of Lake Michigan on of the Great Lakes, provides a wonderful opportunity for a classic Chicago photo of the Drake Hotel Chicago.
From the beach you can snap great shots of the downtown area and the city’s most famous street, Lake Shore Drive.
If you don’t feel like going out of your way to get a nice view over the city, there are some pretty neat Chicago condos where you can soak up the view without even having to step outside your door.
Things To Do In Chicago since I moved to Chicago in 2005 and lived in the South Loop until embarking on our RTW journey.
We grew to really love the city and try to impress upon everyone we meet what a great place it is to visit and live.
Chicago is visited by almost 30 million tourists every year.
Undoubtedly, the best time to visit is during the summer.
The parks are green and filled with bikers and families picnicking, there are festivals nearly every weekend, boats are scattered across Lake Michigan, you can find the best views and Chicagoan’s are friendlier having emerged triumphant from another long, harsh winter.
Things To Do In Chicago
This is not Los Angeles– automobiles are not required.
Regardless of how you arrive, you’ll be able to get around using the public transit system.
Riding the train is part of daily life in this city, and you will fit right in with the locals.
The elevated train system (called the “El”) is over 100 years old and is a sight to see itself.
The tracks make a loop in the city center before branching out to the many neighborhoods.
You can easily travel from one side of the city to the other and even to a few suburbs– all for only $2.25.
You can’t beat that.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has a great trip planner to help you find your way, and you can also see the El lines on Google Maps.
The new bus tracker system will let you know if you have time for one more Old Style.
You can even pull it up on your smart phone!
Be a Tourist – Things To Do
It’s okay to do touristy things in Chicago.
Tons of people from the suburbs and Midwest come to the city for that exact reason.
Join the masses.
There is a reason 30 million people visit each year!
The summer festivals in Chicago are enjoyed by everyone.
I really love our many music festivals (Jazz, Blues, Celtic, Latin, Gospel, Lollapalooza, etc.).
Most of these festivals occur in Grant Park, so you can’t miss them.
If you are in the city on a weekend, head to the Park and you’ll most likely run into some kind of event.
They are free to enter, but you’ll pay a high price for food and beer, especially at the massive “Taste of Chicago” at the Fourth of July.
Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile, and Navy Pier are among the top tourist attractions, but Millennium Park tops our list.
The park is suspended over an unsightly commuter train yard, and you’ll want to check out the ever changing modern art.
The highlight is the Pritzker Pavilion designed by renowned architect Frank Gery.
You’ll see locals with picnic baskets discretely enjoying wine or beer, spreading across the massive lawn.
Checkout some nice Picnic Baskets for Traveling
You’ll also want to gaze into the Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) for hours and watch kids splashing in the Crown Fountain on a hot day.
The Art Institute of Chicago is directly South of Millennium Park and also worth a visit. Entry is free of charge on a designated evening (usually Tuesdays) in the summer.
Check with the museum to be sure.
There can be quite a line to get in on free admission days, so get there early.
The Magnificent Mile can be reached on foot from Millennium Park.
This stretch of Michigan Ave (from the Chicago River north to Oak Street) is known for it’s shopping, nightlife, ritzy condos, and architecture.
Coach, Tiffany, Chanel, Bebe, Ghiradelli, and Water Tower Place (our massive shopping mall) are all along the way.
There are some historic buildings on the Magnificent Mile as well like the Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower, and the old Water Tower.
Navy Pier is also popular, but I say skip it.
It is essentially a big tourist trap and shopping mall…except on a lake.
Clark and I avoid this place unless we are seeing a movie at the iMAX theater.
You can take a high speed boat ride from the pier or just walk around and people watch.
The Pier isn’t all bad though.
Every Wednesday and Saturday evening, there is a fireworks show.
If you decide to visit, prepare yourself for screaming kids and the sweaty masses.
Rather than the speed boat tour, I highly recommend the architectural boat tour by Wendella on the river.
The guides really know their stuff and the views from the water are beautiful.
Chicago has the best architecture in the United States, and this tour is very informative.
Pizza and Hot Dogs
You can’t visit Chicago without trying a famous deep dish pizza.
Chicago deep dish pizza consists of a thick crust, inlaid in a round cake-like pan about an inch and a half deep, filled with lots and lots of cheese, meat, and veggies.
The best known and most frequented pizza joint is Giordano’s.
However, this is not the favorite of many locals.
I highly recommend Lou Malanati’s instead.
We think the crust is better and they really pack their pizza full of ingredients instead of using loads of cheese as a filler.
There are two locations that are easily accessed with public transportation from the Loop.
The South Loop location can be reached by taking the Red Line to the Harrison stop.
The River North location can be reached on the Brown Line Merchandise Mart stop.
At Lou’s we always get a small “Malnati Salad” and “The Lou” with sausage and a root beer.
I can only finish about a slice and a half, so don’t order too much!
Then, there is the Chicago Style hot dog.
The classic Chicago Dog is an all-beef frank, boiled, on a steamed bun (preferably with poppy seeds) and topped with fresh onions, green relish, pickle, tomato, mustard, one or two hot peppers, and celery salt.
No ketchup! (If you ask you may be scolded or ridiculed.)
There are endless number of places to get a dog in Chicago, mostly in the neighborhoods.
There are very few street vendors downtown and they won’t be serving up high quality dogs.
Here are a few hot dog places that are reachable from the loop on public transport