Chicago To Do List

With our conference coming soon, our team is sharing some of their favorite places in Chicago!

Fun fact: Stephie and I BOTH used to live in Chicago! Stephie still lives in Illinois, but is back in her hometown, while I returned to the great state of tornadoes and seasonal allergies, Oklahoma.

This makes us the perfect combo to run down some of the awesomeness that our conference city Chicago has to offer.

Your Chicago To Do List: DISCLAIMER: You will not be able to see and do everything, so don’t try and don’t stress yourself out about it.

DISCLAIMER: You will not be able to see and do everything, so don’t try and don’t stress yourself out about it.

I lived there for 3+ years and I still didn’t manage to cram everything in.

There’s a ton of greatness in the Windy City and you can’t go wrong, so just make some choices and have a blast!

Follow along with our recommendations on our interactive Google map.

Chicago

Fun Things to Do and See in Chicago by Stephie

Our main conference hotel and venue, Palmer House Hilton and Venue SIX10, are both right in the heart of "The Loop," just steps from many of the city's best attractions. I'm going to run through just a handful of the best things to do and see while you're in Chicago – this is by no means a comprehensive list, but can give you a great starting point as you plan your stay!
The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

Photo Credit: www.artic.edu

The Art Institute is a must for any art lover. See pieces by van Gogh, Seurat, Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Monet, Renoir, and hundreds more. Even if you don’t have time to stop in, it’s worth walking by for a view of the famous lions outside!

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Crown Fountain

Crown Fountain

Photo Credit: millenniumparkfoundation.org

This interactive fountain features the faces of Chicago residents and is a favorite for families seeking refuge from the oppressive heat during the summer. Wait long enough and you’ll see the faces “spit” at those playing in the fountain!

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Millennium Park in Chicago

Millennium Park in Chicago

Photo Credit: www.choosechicago.com

This park features 25 acres of landscape, architecture and public art. During the summer months, the park even hosts outdoor music, movies and fitness classes.

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Cloud Gate “The Bean”

Cloud Gate “The Bean”

Photo Credit: millenniumparkfoundation.org

Known by everyone as “The Bean,” this is one of the city’s most beloved permanent art installations. Getting a selfie at The Bean is pretty much a must when you visit Chicago.

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Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

Photo Credit: www.choosechicago.com

This hella big fountain produces a fantastic water display every hour on the hour for 20 minutes starting at 9am. At dusk, lights and music are added to the display.

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Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

Photo Credit: Photo by Gautam Krishnan on Unsplash

I know you need to get your sea turtle fix while you’re in Chicago. Look no further than the Shedd! The conservationists there are not just showing off some amazing sea life; they’re also restoring the health of the Great Lakes and sparking compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world.

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Field Museum

Field Museum

Photo Credit: www.fieldmuseum.org

Aside from serving as a home to Sue, the Field Museum’s famous T. rex, the museum has a ton of both permanent and rotating exhibits to pique the interest of any science lover.

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Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium

Photo Credit: Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

If you’ve ever looked up in awe of the night sky, you’ll love taking a visit to the Adler. This is also a great one if you’re visiting with your family – there’s plenty of stuff to interest kids and adults alike!

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Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry

Photo Credit: Photo by Lucas Vasques on Unsplash

MSI has been a favorite of mine since I was a wee kidlet. In addition to a rotating schedule of shows and special exhibits, there are tons of hands-on/interactive exhibits that will bring out the kid in everyone.

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Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo

Photo Credit: Photo by Matthew Mazzei on Unsplash

Things I love about the Lincoln Park Zoo: the polar bear and it is always FREE! You can spend a few minutes meandering through or a whole afternoon making friends with the animals – it is totally up to you. But really – make time to see the polar bear. He’s pretty great.

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Navy Pier

Navy Pier

Photo Credit: Photo by Gautam Krishnan on Unsplash

Navy Pier has been a Chicago landmark for over a century. Visit the Crystal Gardens, take a ride on the famous ferris wheel, visit the Chicago Children’s Museum, or simply sip a beer while enjoying views of the lake and the city.

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Skydeck Chicago

Skydeck Chicago

Photo Credit: Photo by Emmad Mazhari on Unsplash

You won’t find a better sky-high view of the city than from the Willis Tower Skydeck. You can even step out on the Ledge if you’re feeling brave!

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John Hancock Observatory

John Hancock Observatory

Photo Credit: Photo by Jonathan J. Castellon on Unsplash

Not to be outdone, you can also head to the Hancock Building for incredible city views from its observation deck. You can also brave TILT – an enclosed moving platform that literally tilts you out over Michigan Avenue from the 94th Floor. (Ya know, if just reading that sentence didn’t make you pee your pants.)

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Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

Photo Credit: Photo by Heather Maguire on Unsplash

The Cubbies may be out of town during the conference, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t visit Wrigley Field! If you’re a baseball fan, you can still take a tour of the stadium, or simply stop by for some quick pictures.

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Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

Photo Credit: https://www.chicago.gov/

This building is home to beautiful architecture as well as tons of free music, dance and theatre events, films, art exhibitions, and family events.

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Chicago Riverwalk

Chicago Riverwalk

Photo Credit: Photo by Gautam Krishnan on Unsplash

Stroll along the main branch of the Chicago River on this 1.25-mile-long path. It’s a beautiful way to simply see some of the city, but will also take you by a number of wonderful restaurants and art installations.

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Chicago Historic Water Tower

Chicago Historic Water Tower

Photo Credit: Photo by Gautam Krishnan on Unsplash

This was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire and has become a real icon on Michigan Avenue. It also houses the City Gallery, for anyone interested in photography.

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Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach

Photo Credit: Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash

Ok, I’ll admit, Illinois is not exactly what you think of when you think of beaches. But trust me – on a blisteringly hot Chicago day, there’s nothing better than a day at one of the beaches along Lake Michigan. Oak Street Beach is just one of many options!

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GREAT EATS & DRINKS

Full disclosure, there are approximately 18 bajillion excellent places to eat in Chicago. Given this totally accurate number, there’s no way we can recommend all of the amazing restaurants, bars, and breweries.

The locations listed on the Google map are based on places we have eaten or that have been recommended to us. A simple Google search will pull up a ton of other options based on what you are hungry for; it’s hard to go wrong!

Note that some of these restaurants will require reservations, particularly if you want to go with a larger group. It’s worth planning ahead!

Jenny's Top Picks in Chicago

As we've already said, Chicago is loaded with things to see, do and of course, EAT. Many of the top attractions are located near our conference venues, but here are a handful of my favorite places, scattered throughout the city.
Hutchinson Commons inside the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago

Hutchinson Commons inside the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago

Photo Credit: https://uchicago.edu/

If you want to live your Harry Potter dreams, take a trip to Hyde Park and visit the University of Chicago’s Hutchinson Commons inside The Reynolds Club. Their main room will make you feel like you’re in the Dining Hall at Hogwarts, especially if you visit at night. (For good reason too, as this spot was modeled off Oxford’s Christ Church, which is used in the movies!) Plus, the whole U of C campus is stunning and Hyde Park is just south of where the conference is taking place.

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Greektown

Greektown

Photo Credit: Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

While you’re strolling down a cinematic memory lane, make sure you don’t miss Greektown. This neighborhood was made famous in the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding. While Dancing Zorba’s was invented for the movie, this distinctive area of the West Loop is loaded with incredible, authentic Greek restaurants. No meal here would be complete without an order of saganaki (flaming Greek cheese). OPA!

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Chicago's First Lady - Public + Private Cruises | Chicago's First Lady Cruises

Chicago's First Lady - Public + Private Cruises | Chicago's First Lady Cruises

Photo Credit: www.cruisechicago.com

Take an architecture boat tour on the Chicago River. Trust me. On my favorite line, Chicago’s First Lady, you can even enhance your cruise with a mimosa.

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Theatre in Chicago

Theatre in Chicago

Photo Credit: Photo by Yu-Shao Wu on Unsplash

See some of the finest theatre and improv in the world. Whether you want to laugh at Second City, the iO and ComedySportz or cry at the Steppenwolf, the Goodman or Chicago Shakes, this is my favorite place in the world to watch live theatre. There’s also a little production in residence in this city that you MIGHT have heard of? I believe it’s called Hamilton…?

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Randolph Street's Restaurant Row - Chicago's Best Foodie Street

Randolph Street's Restaurant Row - Chicago's Best Foodie Street

Photo Credit: www.foodandwine.com

Eat your way up and down Randolph Street’s Restaurant Row. This stretch of real estate in the West Loop houses the largest concentration of deliciousness in the city. From Top Chefs to Michelin Stars, this street has it all.

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Green City Market

Green City Market

Photo Credit: Photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash

Celebrate summer, aka magic time in Chicago. When you live in a frozen tundra more than half the year, you take absolute joy in every moment of warmth and sunshine that come your way. NO CITY loves their summers more than Chicago. So go to the beach, take in a game at Wrigley (or that other place) and spend your Saturday morning at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. The Green City Market is Chicago's largest and first year-round sustainable farmer's market and they. have. RACLETTE.

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Savor the Icons

Savor the Icons

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Savor the icons. Deep dish pizza, a Chicago dog and an Italian beef sandwich are the standards. My personal pick is Pequod's in Lincoln Park for your 'za and regional chain Portillo's takes care of the sammy and the dog. If you want to enjoy like a local, ask for some giardiniera on top. (Note: There are SO many iconic foods in Chicago. You could also make an argument for popcorn from Garrett's (the Chicago staple mix is cheese and caramel corn) and cheesecake from Eli's.)

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Here’s our map of the best things to do in Chicago!