24 hours in Chicago in Mid-July...what MUST I do?

Mid July this year I am going to be in Chicago for about a day (long story) with my wife and 11 year old. We have a hotel near Midway Airport for 2 nights and leave to head home at about 1pm the following day.

We know we want to go to Millennium Park, my daughter is an astronomy nut and wants to see the planetarium. I want a hot dog and some deep dish but don’t know where to get them.

What are the other things we MUST do while we are there? We don’t know when we will be back so we are happy to cram a whole bunch of stuff in. Restaurants, sights, unique experiences we want suggestions! Also, we do like “touristy” stuff, but if something is genuinely over rated and should be avoided, let us know.

What ya got?

Museum of Science and Industry was outstanding also. Its been 35 year for me but it was very good.

The Skydeck of Willis Tower is worth considering. If you like looking out from 1353’ up.

If you had more time, a game at Wrigley would be a must, but hard to coordinate that one right now, especially with a narrow window. Also night games in April in Wrigley can be brutally cold. I speak from experience.

I leave the rest of the suggestions up to our large Chicago contingent of posters.

If you can schedule an architecture boat tour, I highly recommend it. I’m from the area, and I was impressed. Seeing the buildings from the river perspective along with the guide’s storytelling was really something.

Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Take the el from Midway downtown. Walk around Millenium Park (tho not all that big of a deal, IMO). Hit at least a couple of the museums in the area - art/nat’l hist/planetarium/aquarium. Check out Buckingham fountain and stroll along the lakefront one way, and along Michigan Ave the other. Can grab a hot dog for lunch any number of places - but its just a hot dog. I’d recommend a beef sandwich instead. A boat ride on the river or lake can be nice - especially on a hot day. If you really want to check out the skydeck, go ahead. But that’s pretty much a full day. Maybe take an el ride up to the N side and back, stopping off for za along the way. Then el back to the hotel.

I’ll avoid the debate over where to get za.

If you’re at Millennium Park, less than a block off Michigan Ave. on Madison St. is GRAHAM CRACKERS COMICS… that’s if you don’t have a great comic book store at home (the store has great ‘Budget Bins’ if you want to let the kids pick out a few for the trip home:).

The boat tour is wonderful, but it’ll take up a chunk of your day, and may not keep an 11 year old amused.

I’m not a huge fan of “Deep Dish Chicagah-Style Pizza”, but you’ve got to try it. We like Giordano’s, Pizzaria Uno’s or Dué.

I’m going to second the boat tour. I, too, was impressed.

While the Museum of Science and Industry is impressive it might be hard to coordinate that AND the Adler Planetarium in the same visit in your given time frame. If you opt for the Adler then I’d recommend also taking in either the Field Museum of Natural History or the Shedd Aquarium, as they are all located near each other and are all excellent attractions. The Art Institute is also good, if you’re inclined towards that sort of thing.

If you opt for the Museum of Science and Industry the other nearby attraction I’d recommend is the Oriental Institute. In this case “Oriental” means Near East.

Honestly, any one of those could probably occupy you for days. You’ll still have to pick and choose among the museums.

Hell,. let’s just dive right into it. Do you want tavern style or deep dish? For deep dish, my sons will take me to Giordano’s or Lou Malnati’s rather than Gino’s or Pizzeria Une/Due

Thinking about what else your daughter would like besides the Planetarium: The Oriental Institute has real mummies. They made a huge impression on me when I was her age. The Museum of Science & Industry has always been my favorite. Field museum is right up there with Sue the T-Rex. Any of them would be a great outing. Art Institute is phenomenal but might not be her thing.

Agree with Italian Beef sandwiches over hotdogs.

Sounds like the Beef sandwich is being added to my list. Any place in particular we should be going?

Whether you’re downtown or near Midway, you could stop at any corner joint that sells Italian beef, gyros and dogs. Seriously. Make sure you get some pepperoncinis to go wit dat.

Sadly the Cubs are in Arizona on the day we are there. The White Sox are at home against the Astros, and it WOULD be fun to go Boo the Astros, but I don’t know that I can talk my family into that endeavor. They would understand going to Wrigley Field. Guaranteed Rate Field might be a bit of a stretch.

You’re going to have to pick what you’ll do this trip, and what you’ll save for next time.

And there will be a next time, if my family’s any indication… my kids still talk about our many “trips to the city”!

(Apparently ours is not a real city…)

Pepperoncinis? You mean giardiniera? Or sport peppers? (The former for the beef, the latter for the hot dogs.) I think somebody might look at you funny if you asked for pepperoncinis at a hot dog joint.

I may be snobby about this, but I wouldn’t just go to any random hot dog stand. There’s a lot of mediocre stands, but I tend to be picky about my beef and hot dog spots. Beefy’s on Harlem is not far from Midway, and they serve up a respectable Italian beef, as well as a proper natural casing Vienna Beef hot dog (not the skinless crap they pass for hot dogs at many joints.) Their version of the full “Chicago style” is a little different, as it also includes fresh cucumber slices on it (which is not part of what has become the canonical “Chicago 7” toppings. That said, I’m not partial to the fully dressed dog, myself, having grown up with a pared-down Chicago dog.) There’s also a Portillo’s there on Harlem, which local food afficianados seem to have a love-it or hate-it relationship with, for some reason (probably because it’s become a national chain). That particular location is good and will give you a fair idea of a Chicago hot dog. Now if you’re flying out of Midway, Gold Coast Dogs in the airport serves a respectable Chicago dog, as well.

The perfect place for you guys for an Italian beef with an 11-year-old in tow would be Al’s #1 on Taylor Street, as it also has Mario’s Italian lemonade across the street, which the kid will love. The problem is you would probably need to Uber or Lyft or cab it there from downtown, as it’s not the easiest to get to with a compressed schedule.

Downtown, the best place for Italian Beef is Luke’s, 215 W. Jackson.

If you’re staying in that hotel complex on Cicero, Lou Malnati’s is a solid representation of Chicago deep dish. They’re pretty new to the area there, but have a long history in Chicago as one of the first. If you want to try deep dish, that’s solid. There’s also Giordano’s in the area, but they’re stuffed pizza, a later (1970s) offshoot of the Uno’s/Malnati’s style deep dish (which goes back to the 40s or possibly earlier.)

Oh, and I second @bobot 's suggestion of the architectural boat tour if you can swing it. If it’s a nice summer day, it’s a great way to get a perspective on Chicago you normally wouldn’t, along with some interesting architectural history. I went on it for the first time when I was 22 when I was dating a German woman, as I thought it might be a fun, touristy thing to do, and found it quite informative and entertaining myself.

I’ll third this. I’ve been to Chicago at least 8 times. I did the boat tour by myself on my first visit for business, with my wife when we went for a weekend, and with the whole family when we spent a summer vacation week in Chicago. Highly recommended.

I loved the architectural boat tour, but hesitated to recommend it for the 11-year-old who might resent having so much time taken up with it on such a short trip. But maybe she’d love it. Perfect for a July day.

Is the planetarium an absolute must do? It’s fine, but it’ll be expensive and take time away from anything else. Are you planning on driving or taking the train (Orange line) from Midway?

Do you have two full days to allocate to Chicago or half of arrival day?

If you’re planning on leaving at 1pm, there’s really no time for anything touristy that day at all having to go to and from Midway.

We will have a car. We are going to be driving in the night of the 15th from Iowa. And leaving on thr 17th at 1:30 pm. I don’t know if it’s better to take a car or not while we are in town. You tell me.

The planetarium is the only the my kid requested though she might be persuaded the Natural History Museum is more fun.

My kids were probably 9 and 12, but then again we’ve been to at least 3 Frank Lloyd Wright tours with them and they really enjoyed those too. I have somehow raised two architecture geeks. :star_struck:

Well, I lived in Chicago for over 15 years and I drove a car through the downtown area… once. So I’m not a big fan of driving in the Loop area. Parking is going to cost money, and it might be cheaper to take a cab/Uber/Lyft (I haven’t priced it out in awhile). You’ll be dropped off much closer to the door of where you’re going, and you won’t have to deal with the aggravation of looking for parking or doing a lot of walking to and from your car.

They are close to each other… The planetarium isn’t quite the draw the Field is, or as well known, but if she wants a planetarium that’s the one.

I have very fond memories of it, not the least because my late husband proposed marriage to me outside the rainbow doors (which are just what it says on the tin: doors set with glass prisms that throw rainbows everywhere), just outside the Rainbow Lobby. That was back when Meigs Field was still an airport and we’d been airplane watching that afternoon when he popped the question.

Definitely try an Italian beef sandwich or three, and be prepared because they can be messy, especially when soaked with juice. Don’t try to eat one standing, in a hurry, with long sleeves or without plenty of napkins.

What else to do there? Meet pulykamell and report back so I can nominate him in the “coolest person on the planet” thread. :grin: