IHG Travel Blog

11 Windy City attractions to check out in a week

Must-do guide for those with only 7 days to spend in Chicago

Chicago is a rich city that offers amazing entertainment and education to its residents and those who visit. While you could easily spend a month on vacation in Chicago, if you’re well prepared, you should be able to squeeze in many of the following city attractions in less time than that.

1. Soldier Field

If you’re a sports fan, make sure to check out the infamous Soldier Field. Although it’s one of the National Football League’s smallest stadiums, the incredible atmosphere during games makes the 61,500 seat capacity stadium feel enormous. If it’s not football season, make your way over to Wrigley Field to catch a baseball game.

2. Frank Lloyd Wright’s House

Anyone who has taken an introductory architecture or design class is familiar with the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright. What you may not know, however, is that Wright lived and worked most of his career in Chicago. Feel free to visit the place where so much architectural history was made.

3. Millennium Park

Not many large cities offer parks in the downtown area, but Chicago isn’t an ordinary city. Millennium Park is a vast 24.5 acre park right by the shoreline of Lake Michigan. There are several gardens, pavilions, an ice rink, and even a theatre for you to peruse. You can easily spend a full day just at the park.

4. Navy Pier

If you’re in the mood for a variety of entertainment, head down to Navy Pier. This historic pier dates back to 1916, and has since become the home of many attractions. There are museums, a botanical garden, as well as the famous Shakespeare Theatre. When you’re done with those, you can take a short cruise and take in the beauty of the city.

5. The Sears Tower

Although it’s now officially called the Willis Tower, it is affectionately still referred to as the Sears Tower. This 108 story skyscraper is still one of the tallest buildings in the world. While there are offices inside the building, there are opportunities to ascend the building and get a bird’s eye view of the city.

6. The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC)

Whether you are an art fanatic or just a casual viewer, the AIC has something to offer everyone. It has a range of art from American, European, and Asian to contemporary. For those interested in design and architecture, there are many pieces specifically tailored to you.

The AIC has a rich history dating back to 1866, where it was founded on South Michigan Avenue. The institute also hosts art classes and the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries, which makes good use of its over one million square feet of space. It is the second largest U.S. art museum and one that you won’t want to miss during your visit.

7. The Magnificent Mile

While education and art are enjoyable, you should also schedule some down time to have some fun by exploring the shops. The Magnificent Mile is an impressive high-end section of the city that houses over 460 stores. Included in these are restaurants, entertainment attractions, and hotels. This is one of the most popular attractions in Chicago, which by itself has over 22 million visitors every year. If you’re a shopaholic, you might even consider booking your hotel in the area, so you don’t have to tote your bags all over the city.

8. Chicago Botanic Garden

One of the first stops for nature lovers visiting Chicago should be the Botanic Garden. Don’t let the name fool you, this is no small garden. Instead, the Garden is a 385 acre piece of land with an incredible variety of plant species on display. All of this includes nine small islands and four distinct habitats that contribute to the diversity of the offerings. The Garden opened in 1972 and is maintained by the Chicago Horticultural Society. It’s a great opportunity to learn about different plants and appreciate the beauty of nature while still being in a big city.

9. Field Museum of Natural History

If there was one museum in the U.S. that you have to visit during your lifetime, it’s the Field Museum of Natural History. Its size is extraordinary, considered one of the biggest natural history museums across the globe. When you go to the museum, there are many different ways you can learn. Taking part in a class or scientific workshop is one option, but so is examining and learning about historical artifacts. Over two million people visit the museum every year to inspect the large collection of early fossils and cultural artifacts.

The museum also contains a library, stocked with over 275,000 items to read. This ranges from material for children to academic research for those interested in the latest archeological and biological advances. If you’re lucky, you might even run into a researcher on the Field Museum’s staff, who regularly participate in research excursions.

10. Cosley Zoo

If you don’t mind a short drive, take a trip to the Cosley Zoo, just outside of Chicago in Wheaton. It may not be a world-class attraction like many others in Chicago, but can still make for an enjoyable day out, especially if you have children. It’s a five acre zoo with over 200 animals. Unlike other zoos however, you’ll find there is a focus on local animals as opposed to those impossible to find in this region of the U.S.

11. Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium combines the past and the future all at once by being the first planetarium in America. It is a National Historic Landmark that was built all the way back in 1930. Anyone with a love of space exploration needs to visit to appreciate the full-sized theaters that feature regular educational shows. There are amazing space exhibitions and a detailed collection of old scientific tools. Finally, it contains the Doane Observatory, which may offer a way for you to see the stars and planets of space with your own eyes.

Chicago is an amazing city with so much to offer. Make an effort to get to know the people and try some famous Chicago-style deep-dish pizza while you are visiting the above attractions.

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