Whether you’re a native or visiting for the first time, Chicago is a fulcrum of cultural staples. Easily navigable and pedestrian friendly, the Windy City offers something for every season and every budget. As the midwestern air begins to limber up for spring, consider spending a day or two in Chicago’s parks, museums and entertainment locales. Here are just a few dependable, must-see stops when visiting the city this season.
Located in Chicago’s Loop region, Millennium Park is the city’s second-most visited attraction, directly following Navy Pier. The park is home to four interactive art installments including Cloud Gate, a three-story, reflective bean-shaped steel sculpture that projects the city skyline funhouse style and allows visitors to snap photos.
The McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink offers free ice skating to the public and hosts more than 100,000 skaters annually. If you visit between May and October, make sure to see the Crown Fountain, a popular 50-foot video sculpture composed of glass brick towers that display images of human faces with water cascading from virtual lips. Other attractions include the Lurie Garden and Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a popular concert venue.
Maggie Daley Park
A stone’s throw from Millennium Park across the pedestrian BP Bridge is Maggie Daley Park, which offers a complementary quarter-mile long ice skating ribbon, rock climbing walls and outdoor tennis courts. The walk across the BP bridge yields breathtaking views of both the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan to the west.
The park’s first-rate play garden includes a 3,600 square-foot maze called The Enchanted Forest, composed of upside-down trees, and a mirror tunnel. The park includes elaborate swings, slides, bridges and architecture. Many of the installments are directed at ages 5-12, but no one has to know.
The energy in Eggy’s is electric, and the staff is eager to make your Chicago experience positive, whether that’s charging your camera battery behind the counter, or serving up an extra side of whipped cream.
The Diner’s menu is expansive and includes a variety of breakfast and lunch options for all palettes. It’s also only a short walk from Millennium and Maggie Daley Park.
Serene views and calm waters make for a much-needed respite from city life. Chicago’s Lakefront Trail offers up to 18 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline, running south through Lincoln, Grant, Burnham and Jackson Park. The walking trail is rich with authentic Chicago life and connects beaches to skate parks to larger attractions such as Navy Pier.
The Chicago Theater is legendary. Built in 1921, it remains a piece of world history. The oldest remaining structure in Chicago influenced by French Baroque, it still offers numerous shows in performing arts, including plays, magic and comedy shows. Dozens of top performers made their debut appearances at the theatre and live jazz was a staple in its early years.
Opened in 1930, Adler is the country’s first planetarium. With an array of hands-on exhibits and virtual tours of the cosmos, it makes for a perfect getaway for astronomy lovers of all ages. The museum features an impressive collection of antique scientific instruments including telescopes and sundials.
An open lab observatory allows visitors an up close look at the Milky Way. Positioned on the northeast tip of Northerly Island, the city views from its front steps are stunning, perfect for photo shoots at any time of day.
Alongside Adler in Chicago’s Museum Campus is Shedd Aquarium, America’s first aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection.
Featuring more than 1500 species of fish, marine mammals, insects and reptiles, its Oceanarium is home to Pacific white-sided dolphins, beluga whales, sea otters, California sea lions and penguins. Whether you’re looking to meet a starfish or a stingray, Shedd has something for everyone.
About three miles outside Chicago’s Loop area near Goose Island is Balena, an authentic Italian restaurant with a full service bar. A tranquil ambience pelisses Balena’s guests, and the service is second to none.
Be sure to try the Chicago-style margherita pizza with a housemade spaghetti western, or split the Butternut Agrodolce Bruschetta with one of the restaurant’s many housemade sodas.
iO Chicago – Improv Comedy Club
iO is no stranger to publicity; decades of Saturday Night Live featured players have the club to thank for their success. Alongside Second City, another comedy catalyst, iO is the city’s premier comedy club, specializing in improv. One of the venue’s most popular attractions is the Improvised Shakespeare Company, a troupe of seven swashbuckler-clad men gifted in the art of early modern english who improvise a two-act play based on audience suggestions. The hour and a half show is uproariously funny, and the club itself is a piece of history.
While these attractions are just a taste of the larger Chicago experience, they’ll surely not disappoint those interested in a healthy medley of genuine and rookie sightseeing.