One day in Chicago, what to do?

Chicago superstar, I sure could use your help.

I’m in training for work M-W this week.
I’m thinking if taking Thursday off and hanging around to see the city, its my first time here.

Any suggestions, it things to do it avoid?


Chicago is VERY big. You’re going to need to narrow things down with respect to where you will be and how much transportation you’ll have access to. Will you have the evenings M-W to do other things as well? How touristy do you want to be? Food and drink? Museums and architecture? Sports and culture? Gonna need something to go on.

I agree, you will have to narrow it down, but I think seeing the bean, walking along the lake, and going to the Art Institute should all be under consideration.

Shedd Aquarium and The Field Museum are within walking distance of each other. They were the highlight of my Chicago trip. We stayed at a downtown hotel and walked by the lake to the Aquarium. The Field Museum has a captured Nazi UBoat and currently have a Mummies exhibit. There was a pyramid inside the museum when I visited 15 years ago.

Bzzz. Nope, the U-boat is at The Museum of Science and Industry. Personally it’s my favorite of all the museums in Chicago. It’s a little bit more of a trek to Hyde Park, but worth it.

The Field is great and convenient as is the Art Institute, since both are basically adjacent to the Loop. The Shedd is also interesting but it’s not exactly Sea World.

Museum of Science and Industry > Field Museum > Art Institute >> Shedd Aquarium > Adler Planetarium.

All are worthwhile ways to spent time, and the proximity of the Field, Shedd and Adler makes them a good combo but MS&I is by far the most engaging for the typical person who’s not enamored of fine art or especially interested in the Field’s current exhibits. Unfortunately if you only have 1 day you’d have to choose between the MS&I and the Field/Shedd/Adler.

The Bean (aka Cloudgate) is really cool as is the Crown Fountain. Both are in Millennium Park and could be explored in a hour or two during lunch or early evening. Buckingham Fountain is a classic spot nearby as well, but both fountains are not at their best in winter when they are off. Still, if you have the time to stroll through Millennium Park and Grant Park while everything else is closed or you’re on your way to Michigan Ave there’s no reason not to go.

Skip the Sears Tower observation deck, it’s cool but if time is limited you’re better off going up to the Signature Lounge at the top of the Hancock for drinks/dinner. Again, it’s open late so you can take advantage of that.

The Architecture Cruises along the river can be a lot of fun. They might be tough to squeeze in with everything else, but it’s not a bad way to get to see a lot of the buildings in a short period of time and soak up some banter and history from the guide. Skip the gimmicky “gangster bus” tours. I haven’t been on one, but I’ve seen them driving around Lincoln Park and there’s not much to see unless you like stories like “Hey, see that pizza place? That where’s the St. Valentines Day massacre happened, it used to be a parking garage”. If you’re really into the crime stuff it might be worthwhile since I suspect some of those narrators are pretty good and tell a nice yarn, but don’t expect to really see anything.

I’ll stop there for now until I see something more to go on.

I was pleasantly surprised at how safe we felt walking around by the lake. I recall a lot of joggers and people pushing baby carriages. We had a great time.

I’m a big fan of going for a drink in the evening at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building. The drinks are a little pricey, but the view is great and you don’t have to buy a ticket or wait in line as you would to go up to the observation deck of the Sears/Willis Tower.

I’m glad someone beat me to suggesting this! I went there for my 21st birthday, and it was an extraordinarily memorable experience. There are no assigned seats, it’s very dog-eat-dog up there. So if you get up, someone will usually take yours very quickly. Everyone jockeys for the window seats, but even if you have to sit in the middle, the view is amazing. And there are places to stand and take pictures, even if you can’t get a window seat. Seriously try to get one, though. You might have to step on a couple people but it’s worth it :wink:

Wow, thanks for the great comments!

I’m staying in Arlington heights, which I gather is not actually part if Chicago…

Looking around, the museums interest me, as well as the observatory. Im a big fan of science and technology and museums, and i like array stuff as well.
I’m not really into sports, though I won’t necessarily turn down something because it has it in it.

Thanks again,
During the evenings, I’m not sure how far I’m going to be going, as I’ve git worn in the early mornings. But Wed night is my own, and all of Thursday day until around 7 it 8 pm.

Depending on where in Arlington Heights you are you can jump a Metra train to Union Station downtown in the evenings and see a few additional things if you’re feeling motivated. Arlington Heights has a decent little downtown area for beers and food, but nothing really to see or do. It’s perhaps a 45 minute train ride each way, do able depending on when they cut you lose from training.

MS&I would be your best bet for your interests, but you’d probably want to save it for Thursday morning. It’s a big place with tons to do, you could easily spend a full day there. You’d have to transfer from the Metra Union Pacific line to the Metra Electric Line if you’re making the jaunt in one fell swoop. The other Museums would be walking distance from Union Station.

Personally I’d try and spend Wednesday night downtown if possible to maximize the available time from Wednesday evening to Thursday night. Getting to the airport from downtown is easy on the CTA Blue Line, though not quite as close as Arlington Heights. If you’re willing to spend some money taking Taxis around you’ll gain a bunch of time. Cabs aren’t too expensive if you stay near the Loop (maybe $5 - $10) and they are everywhere. That said, in just a day you’ll probably want to walk to the Museum Campus then hit Millennium Park right across Lake Shore Drive and then walk around the loop a bit to shop and find touristy places to eat (Steak, Deep Dish Pizza, Pasta, Hot Dogs etc.) and finish up with the Sears Tower. Hancock is a better value and there’s booze which is nice, but if you can’t squeeze that in one evening earlier in the week the Sears Tower is closer to the train and “L” and is walking distance to the rest of the stuff I mentioned. You could go straight from the Sears Tower to the Airport on the Blue Line if you wanted.

So far, I think that my plan is going to be trying to get out tonight, maybe see the observatory or something.

Tomorrow morning, I’m planning on catching a ride to downtown and checking the museum of Industry and whatever other trouble I can get myself in to.

Since the hotel in arlington heights will hold my bags, I’ll catch a ride back there (very near oak grove) and the shuttle from there should drop me off at the airport with plenty of time to spare.

Thanks again you guys for your awesome suggestions, and let me know if there’s just something that I really should do.

FYI, keep an eye on the weather for that. It’s supposed to cloud up and start raining / flurries this afternoon into evening so that might kill any views you’d get from the top of a building. I’ve been up there on particularly foggy days and you literally can’t see anything out the windows. It was just pure fog.

I thought “One Night In Bangkok” was better.

My wife and I went to the lounge in the Hancock building on a rainy/cloudy day. We just didn’t think it through, and when we got up there it was completely fogged in. We might as well have been drinking in a basement for all the view we had.