Chicago Attractions

Our City

Chicago is our laboratory, our playground, and our muse. We encourage you to spend some time exploring the City that Works. Spend some time on the Chicago Tourism website.

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Downtown Attractions

Neighborhoods (77 of them!)

Non-profits and volunteering in Chicago


There are many ways to explore the City of Chicago. You may want to ride a boat or a segway; focus on the food, beer, or architecture; see the famous points of interest or learn about Chicago life. 

Chicago Architecture Foundation Tours (Boat, Walking, Bus, etc)

The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers a variety of ways to explore the history and architecture of downtown Chicago and some surrounding neighborhoods. CAF’s popular boat tour provides information about more than 50 buildings along the river, while the walking and bus tours are themed to describe certain groups of architecture. Bike and Segway tours are also offered. Tickets range from $15 for some walking tours, to $44 for boat tours.

Chicago Neighborhood Tours

Explore a few of Chicago’s 77 diverse neighborhoods with Explore Chicago’s neighborhood tours. Tours are on Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays at 10:00 am, and focus on a different area each time. You might want to learn more about the pubs, historic parks, art in the public transportation systems, or the foods of a certain culture in the area. Tour tickets range from $30- $55. You can also venture to these neighborhoods on a self-led tour: see the Neighborhoods section below for more information.

Chicago Food Tours

If the plethora of Chicago’s downtown and neighborhood restaurants delights your taste buds, you may want to go on a tour focusing on food. Chicago Food Planet offers a number of filling 3-hour culture and food-tasting walking tours. Prices range from $45-$60. Bike Chicago offers Bike & Food tours, which allow you to explore the foods that made Chicago famous, or taste the city’s sweets. Prices range from $50-$60, including bike rental.

Segway and Bike Tours
Walking around downtown Chicago or Hyde Park, you might notice a number of people on segway tours. Bike and Roll and Absolutely Segway Tours are two of many companies that offer tours of the lakefront, Navy Pier, Museum Campus, or Millenium Park. Prices range from $55-$65. Bike and Roll also offers longer bike tours to the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Playboy mansion, as well as nightly tours.
Chicago Detours

Chicago Detours, founded by a UChicago Alum, shares stories and places even locals don’t know through guided tours of Chicago architecture, history and culture. Walking tours of interior architecture, historic bars, food history and Chicago neighborhoods are available seven days a week, all year. 

Chicago Cultural Center Tour (Free)

Visit the Chicago Cultural Center to see the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome and ornate mosaics and learn more about Chicago from the Visitor Center. Free public tours are every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, at 1:15 pm, but are limited to the first 20 people.

Free Tours by Foot Chicago
Free Tours by Foot is the only company that offers pay-what-you-like Chicago walking tours.  These interesting and informative sightseeing tours will take you through many of the Windy City’s most famous neighborhoods with walking, biking, food, and architectural tours.


There a number of locations that downtown Chicago is known for—certain skyscrapers, museums, theatre (signs), or art installations. Here is a short guide and a pointer to more resources.

Chicago Theatre
Chicago Theatre’s glowing sign is well known. Visit the theatre in the center of the Loop, and browse through upcoming shows. The Theatre hosts performances ranging from pop and rock groups to progressive theatrics. To find more theatres, see Choose Chicago’s website.
Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, AKA The Bean
Chicagoans and visitors like to post one picture in particular— them, staring happily into their reflection in what looks like a 20 foot tall reflective silver bean. This art installation, “Cloud Gate,” is one of many works in Millenium Park. Visit the park for a winter ice rink, summer dancing, occasional concerts, and year-round dining.
The Magnificent Mile
If you enjoy shopping or people watching, the Magnificent Mile, north of the river along Michigan Ave, is not to be missed. It features a well-lined street of famous brands to boutique shops, restaurants and bars.
Navy Pier

Navy Pier is Chicago’s amusement park. Located between the Loop and the Magnificent Mile, the Pier hosts Cirque du Soliel shows, fireworks, carnival games, and a number of dining and shopping locations.

Willis Tower Skydeck (103rd Fl)
Willis Tower, previously named the Sears Tower, is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The Skydeck and The Ledge are on the 103rd floor, 1353 feet straight down. Tickets range from $11 for children to $16 for adults.
The Second City (Improv Comedy Club)
The Second City, founded by University of Chicago alumni, is Chicago’s most popular improv comedy club. You may have seen their videos online, but visit their location to see a show in person, or try an improv workshop in their training center.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute is both a museum and a school, features collectures of art from ancient to classical to modern, and hosts classes for the everyday artist. The museum is surrounded by gardens on the North and South side, and has a fine dining cafe on the 3rd floor. Admission is $18 for adults, $12 for students, and free for UofC students.
Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art features a number of eclectic collections at a time, changing every three months or so. MCA also hosts occasional dance and song performances as well. Admission is $12 for adults, $7 for students, and free for IL residents on Tuesdays.

Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium features aquatic exhibits from all over the world, from jellies to penguins, from sharks to tiny tropical fish. Admission starts at $8, but ranges from $25 to $35 (adults) for more shows and zones. A Chicago CityPass may be a good choice, as it includes all of Shedd’s areas, as well four other major attractions. Shedd, Field, and Alder are all located at Museum Campus.
Field Museum (Zoology, Botany, to Geology)
If you’re done exploring the waters, visit the Field Museum to learn everything about the land. The Museum combines the disciplines of Anthropology, Zoology, Botany, Geology, and Paleontology, to engage visitors in exhibits ranging in scale from dinosaurs to ants. Basic Admission starts at $15 for adults, and ranges to $30 for All-Access. Shedd, Field, and Alder are all located at Museum Campus.
Alder Planetarium
After exploring all of earth, explore the galaxy and beyond. The Adler Planetarium overviews our own solar system and how we took off into it, and features a number of dome IMAX-like films about the skies. General Admission is $12 for adults, with additional tickets for certain shows. Shedd, Field, and Alder are all located at Museum Campus.
Lincoln Park Zoo (Free)
Just north of downtown Chicago, the Lincoln Park Zoo is free (though there are meters for parking). The Zoo offers a whole host of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Explore the Lincoln Park neighborhood and beaches while you’re at it. See below.
Cultural Museums

In addition to the comprehensive collection of science and art museums, Chicago is also home to a number of cultural museums. These may focus on the story of the Chicago River, African American history, Mexican history, broadcast communication, and beyond. Visit UofC Chicago Studies or the Chicago tourism website for more.


The City of Chicago includes 77 diverse neighborhoods just north and south of the loop. Each features its own style of art, shop collections, cultural cuisines, and rich history. Here are a few, listed from closest to farthest from Hyde Park. The parenthesis shows the cuisine, art, or attraction it tends to be known for.

Chinatown (Chinese)

The community of Chinatown is decorated with traditional red arches and dragons, and a favorite location for all styles of Chinese food, bubble tea, and dim sum. There are a number of pastry shops and supermarkets that offer authentic Chinese products.

Pilsen (Mexican)

Pilsen is the home of the historical Museum of Mexican Art, and is a bustling center for art galleries and authetic Mexican food. The buildings here are vibrantly colored. Irish, German, Polish, and Italian cultures are also found here.

Greektown/Little Italy (Greek/Italian)

Greektown keeps the Greek heritage alive, with the National Hellenic Museum, an annual Taste of Greece, and well-established Greek restaurants. The area known as Little Italy features a number of Catholic churches, the Hull House Museum, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the expected Italian restaurants.

Old Town (Fancy old Chicago)

Old Town is where the busy heart of Chicago used to be, with ornate upscale townhomes, picturesque landscaping, and a number of boutiques. Second City, along with the Steppenwolf Theatre, find their homes here.

Lincoln Park (Zoo and beaches)

Lincoln Park is right by the lakeshore, with good beaches and tree-lined streets for jogging. There are a number of boutique stores and restaurants here, as well as a number of attractions. The Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago History Museum, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Lincoln Park Conservatory, and the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool are all here.

Bucktown/Wicker Park (Progressive art and cafes)

The Wicker Park and Bucktown area is famous for its numerous art galleries, theatres, nightclubs, and coffeehouses. Thrift and gift shopping are favorites here. Restaurants and buildings in the area have German and Eastern European influences.

Lakeview/Boystown (Vibrant LGBTQ neighborhood)

Lakeview is a neighborhood with a number of diverse cultural stores and cuisines, as well as entertainment groups small and large. It encompasses Boystown, the home of the annual Chicago Pride parade, features many LGBTQ-oriented shops, bars, and restaurants. The Center on Halstead here is one of the premiere LGBTQ community centers in the world.

Andersonville (Scandinavian, Middle Eastern)

Andersonville is a good choice for brunch, Middle Eastern bakeries, gastro-pubs, and Swedish restaurants. Its architecture seems to have Greek roots, and the buildings are painted cleanly and colorfully. Andersonville is also home to a vibrant gay and lesbian community.

Devon Avenue/Rogers Park (Pakistani, Russian, Ethiopian)

Rogers Park is a little like Hyde Park in that it is a college town (Loyola University), features some Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, and a number of live theatres. It is also is adjacent to a few nice beaches. There is a plethora of ethnic restaurants here, ranging from Pakistani to Russian.

Engage Chicago

Prospective students may want to engage Chicago further, not just through its history, attractions, and diverse neighborhoods, but by volunteering, taking a hands-on course on Chicago from Chicago Studies, and interning downtown for a non-profit organization or corporation.

Have a general question about visiting the University? Contact us.

For specific questions regarding admission as an undergraduate or graduate student, visit the Office of Undergraduate Admissions or Office of Graduate Admissions.

Please refer to the contact information for College Admissions and UChicago Grad.

A view of downtown Chicago from the lakefront path.
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