The Windy City has something fun in store virtually every way you turn–the only problem is narrowing down your itinerary to a feasible list for just one trip. Fortunately, tourists of all tastes can take advantage of a wide range of Chicago attractions, from enriching cultural centers to famous national landmarks to entertainment hotspots. As the third largest city in the U.S., Chicago is a popular tourist destination for both American and international travelers.
Although you’re sure to find plenty to see in the city for an extended stay, you have to check out the following must-see attractions for your first trip.
Formerly (and better known as) Sears Tower, Willis Tower is an essential landmark for visitors due to its long-held title as the world’s tallest building. The tower’s SkyDeck offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area from 1,454 feet above, where tourists can spot Lake Michigan, Chicago’s glittering cityscape, and even all the way out to the surrounding U.S. states of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
A multimedia tour lets tourists in on the incredible, and slightly terrifying, fact that the building can sway four feet in each direction on a windy day. The architecture of the Willis Tower alone is certainly worth the trip.
A fun destination for the summertime, Navy Pier is a 1.5-mile long boardwalk that’s always bustling with tourists and nearby residents. More than 8 million visitors travel to the pier each year to check out tasty themed restaurants like Bubba Gump, Capi’s Italian Kitchen, and Billy Goat’s Tavern.
Visitors can shop for apparel, toys, souvenirs and more at various shops lining the boardwalk, or check out special events the pier holds regularly during the summer. Ride the Ferris wheel, take a stroll through the park, watch a theatrical performance, and enjoy the firework show for a full night of fun.
Judy Istock Butterfly Haven
Although not as well-known as the previous Chicago sites listed, Judy Istock Butterfly Haven is located just outside of the popular Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, surrounded by prairie, water conservation systems, solar panels, and rooftop gardens.
After watching an introductory video, visitors are escorted into a room with walls made of glass, a trellis covered in vines, a waterfall, a path filled with benches, and over 1,000 delicate and beautiful butterflies fluttering all around you. The museum regularly introduces new species into the mix, with often more than 80 distinct types present at one time. Visitors often describe this butterfly haven as a truly magical experience.
John G. Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium
Speaking of magical, Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium allows visitors to explore the mysteries of the deep for an insider’s look into our underwater inhabitants. The aquarium is one of the most visited in the country and is home to a 90,000 gallon coral reef display and 650 different species of fish, mammals and other underwater creatures.
Watch the mesmerizing movements of dolphins and whales, or boldly stare into the Wild Reef shark exhibit for a more intimate encounter with our planet’s deep sea-dwelling friends.
When you travel the distance to see the sites of Chicago, it’s important to plan for the best ones the city has to offer. Although your own itinerary may vary according to personal preference, the list above ensures an eye-opening experience into the cultural and fun-filled qualities of this popular tourist destination.