The Best Cultural Spots in Chicago
Chicago is home to a vibrant, authentic culture that blends the grit of the Midwest with the sophistication of the coasts. From deep dish pizza to world-class blues and jazz, Chicagoans take pride in their city's distinct identity. The city offers plenty of theaters with amazing shows and concerts, world-class museums, historical and modern art and architecture, kid's activities, and gourmet cuisine from all over the world.
Chicago is home to some of the most exciting museums in the country, and once you visit, you'll see why. These institutions range from small local museums to world-renowned institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry. Visitors will find every type of museum from science-themed insitutions to history to museums that focus on other cultures. No matter what your interest, Chicago offers a museum for everyone from kids to adults.
This planetarium and museum focuses on the study of astronomy and astrophysics. It was established in 1930, making it the first planetarium in the country. It is also part of Chicago's Museum Campus. From outside of the museum you can enjoy a skyline view of the city, and when the weather is calm you might even catch it's reflection in the water.
1300 South Lake Shore Drive, South Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60605
Shedd Aquarium is Chicago's indoor aquarium with more than 32,000 animals. It's located on Museum Campus and has a number of exhibits that include fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and more.
1200 South Lake Shore Drive, South Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60605
The Field Museum of Natural History
The Field Museum is one of the largest national history museums in the world. It has impressive exhibits and educational programs as well as a large collection of specimen and artifacts. The exhibits are diverse and show fossils, cultures, and interactive programming that the whole family can enjoy.
1400 South Lake Shore Drive, South Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60605
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago dates back to 1879 and is found in Chicago's Grant Park. It's home to one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country where it houses a large collection of more than 300,000 works including Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist and Grant Wood's American Gothic.
111 South Michigan Avenue, Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60604
Museum of Science and Industry
This informative science museum has unique exhibits on everything from mirrors and mazes to the weather. It's a very interactive museum that's perfect for visitors of all ages. There's a restored U-505 German submarine as well as a simulated coal mine. The unique exhibits at this museum make it a popular destination within the city.
5700 S Lake Shore Dr., Hyde Park, Chicago, IL, 60637
The Oriental Institute Museum
This small museum is run by the University of Chicago and has archaeological artifacts from up to 6,000 years ago. Pieces are from around the globe including ancient civilizations such as Assyria, Anatolia, Israel, Egypt, Persia and in the Mesopotamian.
1155 E 58th St, Hyde Park, Chicago, IL, 60637
American Writers Museum
Located near Millennium Park, this unique writers museum is the first of its kind in the United States. It offers an overview on the history of American writing including a variety of genres such as fiction, poetry, journalism, and more. It highlights several specific authors and has a number of relics from the history of writing.
180 North Michigan Ave, Loop, Chicago, IL, 60601
The Boeing Galleries, which include North Boeing Gallery and South Boeing Gallery, are a pair of outdoor exhibits located in Millennium Park. The galleries display a series of contemporary and modern art works.
Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60601
Chicago History Museum
This fascinating museum has exhibits that educate visitors on the history of the city and it's unique personality. With information on everything from Abraham Lincoln to Chicago-style hot dogs, this museum offers a bit of insight into how Chicago became Chicago. There are old photographs, vintage vehicles, and plenty to explore.
1601 N Clark St., Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL, 60614
DuSable Museum of African American History
Opened in 1961, this African American history museum is one of the oldest of its kind in the country. It has a collection of artifacts that highlight the lives of important historical figures such as Ida B. Wells and Langston Hughes. There's a growing collection of pieces that range from African American art to Chance the Rapper's Grammy award.
740 E 56th Pl, Hyde Park, Chicago, IL, 60637
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum
This free museum will teach you all about money. You can keep your hard earned cash while you learn all about historical currencies, how the Federal Reserve works, and more. It's a fascinating and unique museum for anybody with or without money.
230 S LaSalle St., Loop, Chicago, IL, 60604
Museum of Contemporary Photography
This small museum is a unique place to visit. It has interesting vintage photos as well as modern works. There is an impressive collection by Dorothea Lange who photographed the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. There is also a featured exhibit that highlights Midwest photographers and their work with social issues from around the world.
600 S Michigan Ave, South Loop, Chicago, IL, 60605
National Museum of Mexican Art
The National Museum of Mexican Art highlights Mexican, Latino, and Chicano art and culture. This is the only Latino museum that's accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
1852 West 19th Street, Pilsen, Chicago, Illinois, 60608
Pritzker Military Museum & Library
This museum houses a number of artifacts, books, photographs, maps, and other items relating to the history of the American military. The museum fee includes a military themed tour and a number of exhibits on the history of American wars.
104 S Michigan Ave, Loop, Chicago, IL, 60603
Ukrainian National Museum
Located in the historical Ukrainian Village neighborhood, this museum houses a number of Ukrainian artifacts, artwork, musical instruments, and folk costumes.
2241 West Superior Street, Ukrainian Village, Chicago, Illinois, 60612
How much does it cost to visit the museums in Chicago?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $14 to $200. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $70. A few of the best options are below.
Chicago is famous for its rich history, and many attractions pay homage to the city's past. Chicago's history is diverse, with the city's earliest inhabitants coming from several countries. The Chicago History Museum offers exhibits that cover the city's history, with exhibits showcasing the city's early days as a Native American settlement, European settlement, and the city's industrial and maritime history. And plenty of other museums showcase the dynamic growth and stories of Chicago, too.
The Chicago 'L'
While many cities have underground subway systems, Chicago built a railway system that was actually elevated above ground, thus giving it the name 'L'. But it's more than just historic, as millions of locals and visitors ride the system every year to get around Chicago - above, on, and below ground. If you want to go for a ride above the streets, the downtown Loop area of central Chicago is the best place to do so as you'll see the most sites in a short period of time, and it only costs a few bucks.
Loop, Chicago, Illinois
Dearborn Station is the oldest of the six train stations in downtown Chicago. It currently has a shopping mall with retail and entertainment space.
66 West 9th Street, Printer's Row, Chicago, Illinois, 60605
Fox River Trolley Museum
This railroad museum is located in South Elgin, and it has a special focus on trolleys, street cars, and other commuter trains. Visitors can board and see a variety of historic trolley and passenger trains from various periods in history. It's also possible to take a ride on their tracks in one of the historic trains. With seasonal events throughout the year and during the holidays, this is a fun place to visit for the while family.
365 S La Fox St, South Elgin, Illinois
Head to Greektown for a lively nightlife scene and excellent restaurants. It's part of the Near West Side community area and this unique neighborhood brings locals and tourists together in a fun setting.
Greektown, Chicago, Illinois, 60607
Historic Michigan Boulevard District
Historic Michigan Boulevard District is a historic district in the Loop community area. It's considered a Chicago Landmark and has a number of important historic buildings, particularly along Michigan Avenue.
94 East Ida B. Wells Drive, Printer's Row, Chicago, Illinois, 60605
Illinois Railway Museum
Located in the suburbs of northwestern Chicago, this fantastic railroad museum features locomotives and train cars from a variety of historic eras in railroading. Children and adults like enjoy this museum as you can see and get on many of the exhibits.
7000 Olson Road, Union, Illinois, 60180
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a stage in Millennium Park that hosts regular concerts and events including the Grant Park Orchestra during the summer months (a series of free concerts). The Chicago Jazz Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, and Grant Park Music Festival are all held here as well.
201 E Randolph St, Millennium Park, Chicago, IL, 60601
Michigan–Wacker Historic District
Michigan-Wacker Historic District includes parts of the Chicago Loop. The area has two bridges and many impressive high rises and skyscraper buildings that date back to the 1920s.
Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60601
Prairie Avenue Historic District
The Prairie Avenue Historic District is in the Near South Side community. It was the location of the Battle of Fort Dearborn and later became a luxury residential neighborhood following the Great Chicago Fire. Today there are a number of small museums housed in the former mansions.
1920 South Prairie Avenue, Near South Side, Chicago, Illinois, 60616
Pullman National Monument
This historic district was the first planned industrial community in the country. It was the location of the 1894 Pullman strike and has a famous history as the location of the Pullman Company, which built sleeping cars.
10827 South Cottage Grove Avenue, Arcade Row, Chicago, Illinois, 60628
Walden Pond & Thoreau's Cabin
Henry David Thoreau, the famous American author, wrote some of his most famous works at this cabin which is now a museum and park. Visitors can walk around the famous Walden Pond which has a small beach area and walking trails. It's a nice spot for a swim in the summer. The area is now a state park and open to the public.
915 Walden St, Concord, Massachusetts
How much does it cost to visit the historic sites of Chicago?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $18 to $330. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $70. A few of the best options are below.
Food & Cuisine
Chicago has a food scene like no other. From deep dish pizza to authentic Chicago-style hot dogs, Chicagoans know their Chicago-style food and where to find it. And you can enjoy it, too, as these are some of the best ways to experience Chicago's food scene.
Andersonville offers a truly unique personality with a vibrant bar scene and an energetic atmosphere. This neighborhood is home to one of the city's largest LGBTQ+ communities and it hosts annual Pride celebrations. The neighborhood also has beautiful architecture and a charming urban atmosphere, particularly along its main street. There are a large number of independently owned shops here and the "shop local" movement runs deep. Head to Clark Street for the most restaurants including diners, dives, and pastry shops.
Chicago's Chinatown is a unique area to explore with authentic Asian grocery stores, family-owned restaurants, and excellent dumplings and dim sum. The neighborhood has a number of beautiful archways, pagodas, and statues. There are also shops that sell traditional items next to souvenirs and other trinkets. The original part of Chinatown runs along Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue. Chinatown Square mall is in the area as well.
Bordering the shore of Lake Michigan to the east, Lakeview is a relaxed neighborhood with a laidback vibe. The area combines East Lakeview, Central Lakeview, Boystown, and Wrigleyville and it offers a number of entertainment options, shopping districts, as well as bars and restaurants that are popular with locals and tourists alike. There are live music venues, theaters, and dance clubs. There are also outdoor activities like the Lakefront Trail, picnic areas, a golf course, and summer street festivals. Boystown is also notable as the first gay neighborhood in the United States to gain official recognition by a city government. You can visit during June to celebrate the annual Pride Parade.
Logan Square is a trendy neighborhood that is popular with artists, musicians, and anybody with a creative vibe. The neighborhood is home to the Logan Theatre, which hosts the Chicago Underground Film Festival. It's also a popular nightlife area with its cool cocktail bars and local music scene. There are also a number of breweries in the neighborhood. For foodies, there are a few Michelin star rated options, as well as more casual pizza and noodle shops. Near Logan Square there's a Sunday Farmers Market that's held year round.
Chicago's South Loop is where you'll find the popular lakefront Museum Campus. This is home to several of the city's most notable attractions including the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, Soldier Field, and the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place. The neighborhood also has many popular jazz clubs, great restaurants, and several historic districts. Millionaire's Row is in the Prairie Avenue District and it's filled with elegant mansions and impressive architecture.
Streeterville is a popular neighborhood for tourists in Chicago. It's where you'll find the historic Navy Pier, the Museum of Contemporary area, and the Chicago Children's Museum. This family-friendly area sits on the edge of Lake Michigan and offers all kinds of activities for people of all ages. They often show outdoor movies and Navy Pier is filled with amusement rides including the 200 foot Centennial Wheel. There are also a number of boat cruises that leave from the area. Restaurants of all types are nearby, many with kid-friendly menus.
Uptown is known for its long history, cultural diversity, fun music scene, and lively entertainment options. The Green Mill is a popular spot in the neighborhood. It's a 100 year old jazz club that still has its Prohibition era vibe. Argyle Street is the place to go for Asian restaurants that offer Peking duck, sushi, dim sum, banh mi, and pho.
Chicago is famous for its theater, and the city's theater district has dozens of theaters for touring shows and performances. Most theaters offer tickets at a discount for students, and there are also a number of free performances to watch throughout the summer months. From Broadway shows to locally produced features, visitors and locals alike enjoy the musicals, dramas, dancing, and more.
The Chicago Theatre
This famous theatre resides in the heart of Chicago. Visitors will be greeted at the entry with the large and frequently photographed "Chicago" sign out front, and then mesmerized by the gorgeous and historic interior with murals on the ceilings and sculptures throughout. The venue puts on a large number of shows from concerts to theatre productions and plays and musicals throughout the year. If you're in town, grab a ticket to any event and you won't be dissapointed.
175 N State Street, Loop, Chicago, Illinois
Bank of America Theater
This theater is found in the Loop area of downtown Chicago and is managed by Broadway In Chicago. It seats about 1800 and shows regular Broadway performances.
16-22 West Monroe Street, Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60603
James C. Petrillo Music Shell
This outdoor amphitheater is in Grant Park and hosts many large music festivals including Lollapalooza, the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival, and more.
251 South Columbus Drive, Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60601
This music complex is home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and the Institute for Learning, Access, and Training.
220 South Michigan Avenue, Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60604
How much do theater tickets cost in Chicago?
Art & Art History
Chicago is famous for its art, from its impressive collection of public art, to its world-renowned museums. From its public art, like the Cloud Gate, to the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago has no shortage of artistic finds for locals and visitors alike.
Museum of Contemporary Art
This museum houses an impressive permanent collection with more than 2,500 pieces on display on a rotational basis. The works span the 1920s through present day. There are also a number of summer events hosted here including Tuesdays on the Terrace which offers free live jazz performances in the museum gardens. On summer mornings there are weekly farmer's markets.
220 E Chicago Ave, Streeterville, Chicago, IL, 60611
Smart Museum of Art
Located on the University of Chicago campus, this art museum houses the university's collection of fine arts and antiquities. There are ceramics and ancient works all the way to contemporary pieces. There's also a sculpture garden in the courtyard.
5550 S Greenwood Ave, Hyde Park, Chicago, IL, 60637
How much does it cost to see the artwork in Chicago?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $25 to $30. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $27. A few of the best options are below.
Where to Stay in Chicago