Top Things To Do in Chicago This Summer

Top 10 Things-to-do in Chicago This Summer

byZahra Ink - Chicago Writing Services

1. Explore Navy Pier

Chicago's Navy Pier

Chicago's Navy Pier

Navy Pier is a bustling 1.5 mile-long boardwalk that will please every member of your family. Attracting well over 8 million visitors per year, Navy Pier is lined with restaurants such as Bubba Gump, Billy Goat’s Tavern and Capi’s Italian Kitchen and studded with small shops selling everything from apparel to toys to Chicago souvenirs. While the shops alone can keep you occupied for hours, there are plenty of other activities at Navy Pier to fill your day.

The Shakespeare Theatre calls Navy Pier its home; the experience of watching one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces on this theatre’s stage is unlike any other. For a different kind of theater experience, Navy Pier also hosts an IMAX theater, showing current movies on a huge screen.

Spend some time outdoors on the Pier. You can ride the 15-story Ferris wheel. This is a larger rendition of the first Ferris wheel, which Chicago made famous during the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. There is also a swing-ride, the Transporter FX virtual reality simulator, and various stages for musical performances, all designed around spending time outdoors with the family. For the kids, check out the Children’s Museum which offers hundreds of hands-on, stimulating exhibits.

Chicago Navy Pier

Chicago Navy Pier

Once you have explored the Pier, leave it via one of the many cruises that depart from Navy Pier. There are cruise ships of varying sizes, offering rides around Lake Michigan or on the Chicago River for anything from a short jaunt to a full multi-hour dinner cruise.

Navy Pier’s hours are Monday thru Thursday, 10 am to 8 pm; Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 10 pm; Sunday, 10 am to 7 pm. For more information, check out Navy Pier’s website, or Chicago Traveler’s Navy Pier Overview or Navy Pier Summary.

If you plan to visit Navy Pier, See Chicago Traveler's Guide to Chicago's Navy Pier. And don't forget to book Chicago hotels near this great attraction for endless entertainment just a walk away!

Chicago Travel Info

Chicago Tours

Venue Info Price
Interior Architecture Tour Located in The Loop ActiveoffoffoffCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricoffoffoffSights of ChicagooffScenicoffoffoff

Adult Price

$26
Details
Historic Chicago Bar Walking Located in Magnificent Mile ActiveoffoffoffCulturaloffHistoricoffoffNightlifeoffoffoffoffoffoff

Adult Price

$32
Details
See It All! Mini Bus Tours Located in The Loop offoffoffGrant ParkCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricoffoffoffSights of ChicagooffScenicoffoffoff

Adult Price

$39
Details
4.375
2 Reviews
Adventure Sea Tours Located in The Loop offoffoffoffoffFamily FriendlyHistoricoffoffoffSights of ChicagoRomanticScenicoffoffoff

Adult Price

$43
Details
Gray Line Tours Located in The Loop offoffoffoffoffFamily FriendlyoffoffoffoffSights of ChicagooffScenicoffoffoff

Adult Price

$30
Details
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Chicago Travel Info

Things to do in Chicago

Venue Info Price
Lincoln Park Zoo Located in Lincoln Park ActiveoffoffoffoffFamily FriendlyHistoricHoliday FunoffoffoffoffScenicoffoffoff

Thing to do
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Details
Chicago Family Fun Pass Located in The Loop offoffoffoffoffFamily FriendlyoffHoliday FunMuseumoffSights of Chicagooffoffoffoffoff

Thing to do
Details

Details
Best of Chicago Pass Located in The Loop ActiveoffoffoffCulturalFamily FriendlyoffoffMuseumoffSights of ChicagooffScenicoffoffoff

Thing to do
Details

Details
Chicago Pizza Tours Located in The Loop offoffoffoffoffFamily Friendlyoffoffoffoffoffoffoffoffoffoff

Thing to do
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Segway Experience of Chicago Located in The Loop ActiveoffoffGrant ParkoffFamily FriendlyoffoffoffoffSights of ChicagooffScenicoffoffoff

Thing to do
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Chicago Travel Info

Chicago Attractions

Venue Info Location
Interior Architecture Tour Located in The Loop ActiveCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricSights of ChicagoScenic

Attraction
Details

Details
Willis Tower Located in The Loop Sights of Chicago

Attraction
Details

Details
4.125
2 Reviews
Children's Museum Located in Gold Coast ArtsyCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricMuseumSights of Chicago

Attraction
Details

Details
Chicago Museum Located in Gold Coast ArtsyCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricMuseumSights of Chicago

Attraction
Details

Details
Willis Tower Skydeck Located in The Loop
View 1 Promo for this attraction -
 
Family FriendlySights of ChicagoScenic

Attraction
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*Terms & Conditions: Offers, promotions and rates subject to change and may vary based upon date, length of stay and other factors. Some offers do not include taxes and fees. All offers based on availability and are subject to change without notice.

2. Discover a Park

Chicago Parks

Chicago Parks

Chicago has many lovely parks; some large, some tiny, almost every neighborhood boasts a stretch of green scenery that brings peace and serenity to its visitors. There is the immense Grant Park along the lakefront, always filled with picnickers, joggers and people just enjoying the view. There is Lincoln Park, the bustling area on the North Side that includes a zoo, a nature museum, baseball fields, tennis courts, running paths and even an outdoor theatre. On the South Side you will find 600-acre Jackson Park, the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 that housed the incredible White City. In Little Italy is Arrigo Park, a lovely, peaceful area whose main attraction is a huge sculpture of Christopher Columbus.

One of the newest additions to Chicago’s roster of parks is Millennium Park, a 24.5-acre work of art that combines culture, architecture and landscape. One of the park’s main attractions is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion; the pavilion is an outdoor venue that hosts a variety of concerts and performances on its stage. Also in the park is the Crown Fountain, which offers hours of water-play and entertainment to children and adults alike during the warm months. You can’t miss Cloud Gate, a magnificent sculpture that has been nicknamed “The Bean” by Chicago locals for its rounded shape. Kids will delight in seeing their reflection in the sculpture, as well as the 180-degree reflection of the buildings behind them. Kids will also love the huge green lawns that allow them to run free and enjoy the Great Outdoors, all in the heart of downtown. During the winter months, children and adults can experience the pleasure of ice-skating amidst skyscrapers on the Ice Rink at the park.

Millennium Park is open everyday from 6 am to 11 pm. There is no admission fee. There is a Welcome Center at the park, where you can find information, program schedules and maps. You can also download a free audio tour.

After running around the park all day, you’ll need some refreshments. You can purchase these from the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or dine at the Park Grill, a delightful restaurant located near the Ice Rink on the west side of the park.

Millennium Park
hosts not only music concerts, but also dance performances, theater, tours and other family oriented programs. For more information and schedules, check out the Millennium Park's Official Website. Also see Chicago Traveler’s Millennium Park Info Page.

3. Enjoy a Festival

Chicago has dozens of festivals throughout the year. During the summer, while the Taste of Chicago is the most well-known and popular festival, two of the most interesting are the Jazz Festival and the Blues Festival.

Chicago Jazz Festival

Chicago Jazz Festival

The Jazz Festival, got its start in 1974 after the death of jazz great Duke Ellington. A few weeks after his death, a group of Chicago musicians organized a festival in his honor. The festival was such a success that the Mayor’s Office of Special Events soon joined forces with the Jazz Institute to create an annual Jazz Festival.

The Jazz Festival takes place over Labor Day Weekend (August 30- September 2, 2007) and has featured legendary jazz figures including Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis. Performers for the 2007 Festival are yet to be announced. Performances take place in the Petrillo Music Shell at Grant Park.

Another popular festival is the Blues Festival. Also taking place in the Petrillo Music Shell at Grant Park, the 2007 Blues Festival will feature four days (June 7-10) of blues music. This festival is a celebration of blues music and draws almost a million visitors each year.

While Chicago is host to dozens of festivals each year, the Taste of Chicago is easily the most widely attended. What was once a small food festival on July 4, 1980, has grown to be the biggest festival in the city. It is hailed as the world’s largest food extravaganza, attracting 3 million people annually.

Chicago Festival

Chicago Festival

The Taste takes place in Grant Park and this year will be held between June 29th and July 8, 2007. Hours are 11 am to 9 pm; on July 3, till 10 pm. While there is no admission fee, food and drinks must be bought with tickets, which are sold in strips. Different items cost varying amounts of tickets; many vendors offer a “Taste” portion that costs only 2-3 tickets and allows you to taste many more dishes.

Some of the 70 vendors bringing their delicious food to the Taste include C’est Si Bon, the Chicago Chocolate Company, Connie’s Pizza, Eli’s Cheesecake, Harry Caray’s, Pars Cove Persian Cuisine, Pompeii, The Noodle Vietnamese Cuisine, Tiparos Thai, Tutto Italiano and Vee-Vee’s African Cuisine. Whatever your taste, you can find it in this spread of both local and international cuisine.

Apart from the food, there are plenty of other ways to be entertained at the Taste. Grant Park’s Petrillo Music Shell is especially active during the Taste; this year, some of the scheduled artists include John Mayer, Cheap Trick, Soul Asylum, Cracker, Kenny Rogers and the cast of Broadway hits Wicked and The Color Purple.

Much of the Taste is welcoming towards children; kids aged 4 to 13 can enter the Taste of Talent Contest, which is a talent show allowing children to show off their skills for a huge audience. Also check out the Family Village, which holds programs especially for kids and includes activities and musical concerts. There is even a carousel for kids to ride!

For more information, check out the Taste’s of Chicago official site at  or Chicago Traveler’s Taste of Chicago page.

4. Take a Tour

Chicago Tour

Chicago Tour

One of the best ways to see Chicago is by tour; you get a unique perspective of the city, often with an expert guide who will tell you the history and story of each place you encounter.

You can take a walking tour, a cable car tour and even a bike tour! You can tour by horse and carriage or by helicopter. You can take a tour with a theme; some tours take you through certain historic or ethnic neighborhoods, such as Old Town or Greektown.

Another tour takes you past Al Capone’s old hangouts, while yet another escorts you through the haunted parts of the city! For a truly fascinating perspective of the city, try some of the following tour companies: Premier Yachts for Odyssey Cruises or Mystic Blue Cruises, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Shoreline Sightseeing, Supernatural Tours, Bobby’s Bike Hike, or a Food Tasting Tour from Chicago Food Planet.

Chicago Boat Tour

Chicago Boat Tour

Of course, a very enjoyable way to see the city is by boat tour. To see Chicago by river gives you a view that is completely unique from that of the city’s sidewalks and roads. You can enjoy a meal on the boat, eating leisurely as you contemplate Chicago’s magnificent architecture. Kids will find it dazzling to spend a day on the water soaking up the sun and watching the waves ripple out from behind the boat. Check out Chicago Traveler’s Boat Tours Comparison Chart for different kinds of boat tours.

5. Visit a Museum

Chicago Museum

Chicago Museum

Chicago is a cultural city; here, you can find museums dedicated to every interest and every passion. In addition to the major, well-know ones, there are a number of smaller but excellent choices available. Check out the Chicago Historical Society to learn about the city’s founding and important events in its history. Visit the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center which is dedicated to celebrating Greek culture and history in Chicago.

Don’t miss the famous Museum of Science and Industry. This is housed in a building that was originally built as the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and is now one of the most renowned museums in the city. Its special exhibits, including Body Worlds and Leonardo Da Vinci, as well as the upcoming CSI: The Experience, are in great demand, drawing locals as well as tourists from across the nation. The Museum of Science and Industry is also home to the famous Omnimax Theater; this theater uses IMAX technology on a dome-shaped screen, giving the audience a very unique experience.

John Shedd Aquarium Chicago

John Shedd Aquarium Chicago

Chicago’s Museum Campus is a somewhat recent addition to the city’s lakefront. In 1996, the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive were moved so that the three museums in the area, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, were no longer separated by a median and were brought onto one campus and joined by a lush green field with a view of the lake.

The Museum Campus is incredibly family-friendly. Children are the focus of many exhibits in all three museums; they learn new and exciting things and enjoy activities and exhibits geared towards them. Take in the museums, picnic on the rolling green and take pictures by the lake; Museum Campus offers the total package. Included in this area are:

The Shedd Aquarium is quite an experience for adults and children alike; see a Komodo Dragon, visit the Wild Reef’s several species of sharks, discover the fish that live in the Amazon and catch a lively dolphin show. The museum is lined with aquariums along almost every available surface, including an immense tank in the center of the building which is called the Caribbean Reef and features a diver who feeds the wildlife within, while answering your questions, several times daily.

The Field Museum is Chicago’s Natural History Museum. The Museum is home to Sue, the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Sue is astonishingly huge and brings to life the glory of the Jurassic era. Another incredible facet of the Museum is the collection of stuffed creatures; in several exhibits you can see actual animals that have been preserved. Staring at real fangs or curved claws or bristly fur and knowing that these are real is an experience unlike any other. Finally, explore the cultures of people around the world; discover Ancient Egypt, Tibet, Africa and even the Arctic!

The Adler Planetarium takes you on a voyage around the universe. Discover Black Holes, explore the Milky Way in 3-D, learn about our Solar System and experience CyberSpace, a series of hands-on exhibits that solve some of the mysteries of the night sky. Check out VisionStations that provide realistic immersions into parts of the Universe. Take in a show at the StarRider theater, a virtual reality exhibit that gives you the feeling of being in space!

Chicago hotels often offer great package deals that include passes to Chicago's museums. Keep an eye out for these hotel promotions and save on your next Chicago trip!

Discount Passes

There are a couple of discount passes you may obtain which can be very beneficial if you plan to see more than one of the following attractions: Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Museum of Science & Industry and Hancock Observatory.

The Go Chicago Card includes not just the Museum Campus area attractions but also several other popular Chicago attractions and can be purchased for either a short-term use or for a longer stay. Find more information about the Go Chicago Card.

The Chicago CityPass gives you admission to all six attractions and is valid for nine days from first use. Best of all, you save 50% off admission prices when you purchase this discount pass! Find more information about the Chicago CityPass.

View a comparison of the two discount card choices.

For more information about Chicago’s museums, see Chicago Traveler’s Museums Page.

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