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Chicago: Things To Do + Where To Eat, Drink And Shop

Chicago, located in Illinois, is the third-largest city in the United States. Also known as the “Jewel of the Midwest” or “Windy City”, Chicago is a popular tourist destination with its cultural diversity, friendly locals and amazing food. Chicago is the perfect place to enjoy bold architecture with iconic skyscrapers, interesting museums and famous deep-dish pizza. If you have an appreciation for the arts, the stunning skyscrapers, museums and art scene will surely appeal to you. Not to mention, the locals in Chicago are also diverse and friendly!

When should you visit Chicago?

It can get pretty chilly in Chicago, with its biting winds and rapid snowfall. If you’re looking to visit Chicago for a fun, summery time, your best bet is to visit any time from April to October. During this period, temperatures are relatively warm with plenty of activities and festivals to attend. However, if you’re looking to enjoy a white Christmas and hot chocolate weather, popping by during winter would be the move for you.

Things to do in Chicago

Chicago, Illinois, USA – June 23, 2018: The ‘Cloud Gate’ also known as ‘The Bean’ in Millennium Park in Downtown Chicago.

1. Lincoln Park Zoo

Chicago’s zoo, the Lincoln Park Zoo, is a pretty popular destination for tourists looking for an enjoyable and fun time with family and friends. This zoo is a 35-zoo and was founded in 1868, making it the 4th oldest zoo in the United States. What’s even better, is that admission is completely free! Yup, you don’t have to pay a single cent to enter and gaze upon adorable or menacing animals within safety. Besides having free entry, it’s also open to the public on any day of the week. However, since COVID-19, some restrictions have been put in place. There are capacity limits and strict guidelines in place, so make sure to visit during opening hours, which is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you’re visiting with kids, entertain them with the Lionel Train Adventure or AT&T Endangered Species Carousel. Both rides are $4 for 1 ticket, making them an affordable and fun activity for your family. Taking a zoo tour also sounds like a good idea for those worried about getting lost. These tours are usually 2 hours and ensure that you get to see as many furry friends as possible! Some tours include the Big and Furry tour, where you’ll meet giraffes, sloths, polar bears, rhinoceroses, seals, gorillas and bears! Another tour for those looking for more unique animals includes the Weird and Wonderful tour, where you’ll spot meerkats, the golden silk spider, vultures, lemurs, bats and even mole rats.

Lincoln Park Zoo
Address: 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, United States

2. Shedd Aquarium

Interested in fishy friends instead? Chicago has an indoor public aquarium – the Shedd Aquarium. It was opened in 1930 and at one point was one of the largest indoor facilities in the world. This colossal fish tank is home to about 32,000 animals. Keep in mind the news regulations in place due to COVID-19, such as showing proof of vaccination and ID if older than 16. Masks are also mandatory for visitors over the age of 2. The ticket pricing for the Shedd Aquarium is as seen below.

Ticket TypeGeneral AdmissionChicago Residents
Adult$39.95$19.95
Children (3-11)$29.95$14.95
4D Upgrade$4.95$4.95

Head over to the aquarium to meet underwater creatures such as the beluga whale, bluegills, rockhopper penguins, rockfish, alligators, snapping turtles and more. You get to explore the world’s oceans, lakes, rivers and reefs all in one place, in Chicago. Wanna meet the animals up-close and personal? Meet the Stingrays at Stingray Touch and Stingray Feeding. Or, hold hands with a Starfish and brush fins with a Sturgeon instead. These touch and feeding experiences are open with limited hours, so make sure to plan your trip to catch them in time!

Shedd Aquarium
Address: 1200 S DuSable Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States

3. Michigan Avenue

I’m sure everyone has heard of Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Also known as The Magnificant Mile, North Michigan Avenue is a north-south street in Chicago that runs at 100 east on the Chicago grid. This vibrant shopping street is the best place for entertainment and fun. Besides the famous Water Tower landmark, there is the Water Tower Park and Water Tower Place, which is a shopping centre. Michigan Avenue is considered the heart of downtown Chicago and runs from the banks of the Chicago River to the south and north of Oak Street. The Magnificant Mile is a full square mile from North Michigan Avenue, so be sure to slip on a pair of comfortable shoes when deciding to go shopping!

4. Field Museum of Natural History

The Field Museum of Natural History, also known as The Field Museum, first opened in 1894. This natural museum is home to nearly 40 million artifacts and specimens. It first began in 1893 as an exposition filled with natural wonders and cultural artifacts, before opening at Lake Michigan in 1921. The Field Museum has more than 150 scientists and researchers travelling to far corners of the world in search of new discoveries and clues to what life was like hundreds, thousands, and millions of years ago.

If you’re excited to learn more about the past, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Field Museum not only displays real Egyptian mummies, but also the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered, named SUE. Besides meeting SUE, you’ll get to see the man-eating lions of Tsavo and Inuit masks and more. The Field Museum prides itself on its real collection, instead of replicas. Tickets start from $18 to $27. The Field Museum is also only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so be sure to plan your trip in advance!

Field Museum of Natural History
Address:1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States

Places to eat and drink in Chicago

Chicago Style Deep Dish Cheese Pizza

1. Giordano’s

You can’t leave Chicago without trying some iconic, Chicago style deep-dish pizza. Everyone knows about Windy City’s popular pizza style, which was popularised in the 1940s. A deep-dish pizza is filled with tons of mouth-watering cheese and other ingredients before it is finally topped with some tomato sauce. One of the best places to grab some deep-dish pizza is at Giordano’s. It’s a nice change from the usual, thin-crust pizzas that can leave you hungry for more.

Giordano’s is an American pizzeria chain that specializes in Chicago-style stuffed pizzas. It was founded in Chicago, in 1974, by the Boglio brothers. With over 40 outlets in Illinois, it’ll be easy to find some delectable, cheesy pizza for you to find. If you’re relaxing at home with friends and would rather get delivery, order some Giordano’s pizza online here.

Giordano’s
Address: outlet locations found here

2. Lem’s Bar-B-Q and Chicago Q

Chicago barbecue is another popular food item that is both delicious and fun to eat. There are different kinds of barbecue that you’ll find in the Windy City, such as boilbecue and a smokeless roast. Delt style rib tips are also equally as popular. However, the biggest Chicago-esque barbecue feature includes an aquarium smoker, which is usually only seen on the South Side and far West Side of Chicago. Plenty of people in Chicago agree that no smoke in a barbecue means that it’s not a real barbecue.

South Side pitmasters first invented the aquarium smoker, also known as an aquarium pit, which is essentially a box of bricks wrapped in stainless steel and topped with a grate. The metal base and top with tempered glass doors give it a ‘fish tank’ appearance, which is what it’s called an ‘Aquarium’ style smoker. If you’re looking to try out a barbecue from an aquarium pit, we recommend Lem’s Bar-B-Q for an authentic experience. If you’re looking for a more upscale setting, head over to Chicago Q instead, which has house-smoked Southern BBQ along with a full bar and bourbon flights.

Lem’s Bar-B-Q
Address: 311 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619, United States

Chicago Q
Address:1160 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60610, United States

3. The Jibarito Stop

In Puerto Rico, jibaro is a reference to the island’s rural, agrarian population. In Chicago, however, a jibarito is a Chicago-born sandwich inspired by culinary traditions of Puerto Rico, created by Puerto Rican immigrants at the Borinquen restaurant in Humboldt Park. The Jibarito, pronounced, “hee-barito”, is usually a steak sandwich combined with mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and cheese. The twist – it’s wrapped with two, crispy slices of plantain instead of your typical white bread. Using plantains in place of bread is a long-standing tradition in Puerto Rico. 

If you’re looking for authentic jibarito’s in Chicago, head over to the Jibarito Stop, which serves breadless and gluten-free sandwiches made with plantains. Besides Jibaritos, they also have frituras and other vegan items that will be sure to please your palates!

The Jibarito Stop
Address: 1646 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608, United States

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