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23 of the Best Chicago Activities For A Hot Day

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Chicago on a hot day, head to the city's many fun air-conditioned indoor places as well as activities on the water. This article has 23 great ideas of how to beat the heat and still enjoy what the Windy City has to offer!

Mar 14, 202317 min read

Anecia Ascalon
Anecia Ascalon
Team Building Expert

Are you wondering what are some fun things to do in Chicago on hot days? Plan your day to include one or more air-conditioned indoor places in Chicago. When the hot temperatures aren't too bad, take advantage of some of the fun outdoor activities in Chicago

This article is filled with great ideas of how you can beat the heat while still enjoying so much of what the Windy City has to offer!

Here are 23 of the best things to do in Chicago on a hot day!

Fun Chicago Activities When It’s Hot Out

1. Take a cruise

Chicago cruise

A great choice of activities for a hot day in Chicago is to get out on the water by taking one of the many cruises and boat tours offered. Some of the most popular boat tours are the architecture cruises along the Chicago River. The city is known for its magnificent architecture and on a river cruise, you’ll see many historic buildings while an expert guide tells you the stories behind the iconic architecture.

Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise is one of the best tours. For other types of boat excursions, fast-paced thrill rides, and family-friendly cruises, check out Wendellas Boats. If you want a more active experience, take a kayak tour from Urban Kayaks at Monroe Harbor.

You don't need to take a boat tour to enjoy watersports on Lake Michigan. You can rent jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards from Chicago Water Sport Rentals at 31st Street Harbor.

2. Play an escape room

The Escape Game

One of Chicago’s most fun indoor activities is playing an escape game. Head over to The Escape Game Chicago in River North to play one of several exciting escape rooms! You can choose from rooms with distinct themes and difficulty levels and all games include multiple rooms to search. Whichever game you choose, you’ll have just 60 minutes to escape the room by solving riddles and puzzles, deciphering clues, and cracking codes.

As a special ops agent, Special Ops: Mystery Market challenges you to stop a global catastrophe by using your tactical skills. In The Heist, you’ve got to recover a priceless Monet painting stolen by an egomaniacal museum curator. In Mission to Mars, time’s running out for you to fix your broken spaceship on Mars before a deadly solar flare hits you.

The Escape Game Chicago is open starting at 8 am and as late as 1 am. Find a time that’s right for you and escape the heat while having a blast!

3. Catch the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

Hot days in Chicago mean it's summer and that means… baseball season! From Mid-April to Mid-October you can see the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, a uniquely-Chicago activity! Wrigley Field is one of the oldest ballparks in the United States and seeing a baseball game here is not just fun, but also a little bit like traveling back in time to the early days of this great American pastime.

It’s even better if you are a Cubs fan. If so, check out the Chicago Sports Museum which has a collection of exclusive gear worn by some of the Cubs’ greatest players as well as the largest collection of memorabilia from the 2016 World Series. Planning a work party in Chicago? This museum is a great option for a venue!

4. Get breathtaking views from an observation deck

view from Skydeck

If the sun's beating down, it’s likely a crystal clear day, which is the best time to go to one of Chicago's Skyscraper observation decks so you can get a breathtaking view that goes on for miles. There are two options: Skydeck and 360 Chicago. 360 Chicago is on the 94th floor of the John Hancock building. Thrill seekers will love TILT, an enclosed moving enclosed glass platform that tilts you out over Michigan Avenue!

An alternative to 360 is Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, the third-tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere. If you are feeling brave, step out into one of the glass boxes jutting out from the observation decks to see Chicago's streets 1,450 feet below!

These are both awesome indoor places in Chicago to visit if you are from out of town. Whichever you choose, you won't be disappointed!

5. Indulge at the Museum of Ice Cream

Museum of Ice Cream

One of the most delicious things to do indoors in Chicago is to visit the Museum of Ice Cream. Learn all about this frosty cool treat across 14 multi-sensory dessert-inspired installations. Enjoy unlimited ice cream (including dairy-free options) of many flavors, textures, and toppings. Speaking of toppings, jump around in the museum’s world-famous sprinkle pool and ride on the Chicago “Sprink-L” line! Teens especially love this museum since it has so many Instagrammable moments. See what other things teens love to do in Chicago here.

6. Discover Chicago on a bus tour

Chicago Bean

Don't miss out on Chicago's attractions just because it’s a hot day. Instead of seeing the city on foot, take a sightseeing bus tour and see the city while staying cool in the air-conditioning. Sightseeing tours provide an overview of Chicago while a live guide shares stories of the city. These tours last between 90 minutes and three hours.

If you don't mind the heat too much, take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour that lets you get off the bus at attractions that interest you, and get back on the next bus on the route when you are finished at that location. You can hop off as many or as few times as you like so you can see the city at your own pace. Bus tours are also a wise idea when its raining in Chicago.

Some top bus tour companies in Chicago are Big Bus Tours, Grayline, and CitySightseeing.

7. Head to the beach

Chicago beach

Chicago has 26 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan with over 20 public beaches. Heading to one of those beaches is one of the smartest things to do in Chicago when it's hot. The water is, on average, 75 degrees in the summer, so it won't be icy cold. Instead, the water temperature is just right to swim in and cool off.

Two centrally-located beaches that you can reach without a car are Ohio Street Beach and 12th Street Beach. Ohio Street Beach has excellent swimming conditions for those that want to do more than just splash about. There are umbrella and chair rentals, locker rooms, and restrooms. 12th Street Beach has concessions, restrooms, and non-motorized boat launches. Plus an adjacent park with shady areas if the sun gets too strong.

Find out more about Chicago's beaches.

8. See a movie

a movie theater

Sit back and soak in the air-conditioning at one of Chicago’s movie theaters! There are lots of different types of theaters, of all sizes, showing all genres. The Music Box, a beautiful historic theater, has two screens showing independent and foreign films, movie classics, and documentaries. The popcorn is served with real butter!

In contrast, there is River East 21 in Downtown Chicago. With 21 screens showing blockbusters, art films, and everything in between, it's a sure bet something is playing that you'll want to see. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema shows current hits, independent films, and movies for kids. The Alamo cinema chain is known for having a full dining menu and servers bring your food right to movie-goers’ seats!

9. Wander through the flowers and plants

Lincoln Park Conservatory

With no admission fee and comfortable temperatures year-round, visiting one of the two Chicago conservatories is one of the best free indoor things to do in Chicago on a hot day, rainy day, or any day! The Lincoln Park Conservatory and Gardens is housed in a Victorian-era glass, built between 1890 and 1895. The four rooms, the Palm House, Orchid House, Fern Room, and Show House, display plants from around the globe.

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and most impressive conservatories in the United States. The conservatory’s indoor space is approximately two acres spread across eight rooms and contains more than 120,000 plants from over 600 species. Admission is free but you must make a reservation in advance.

10. Take a Pizza Bus Tour

deep dish pizza

Chicagoans are serious about their pizza, and while deep-dish is one of the city's most well-known types of pizza, there are other varieties as well. On the Chicago Pizza Bus Tour, you can stay cool on a hot day and try Chicago’s terrific pizza! You’ll sample four distinct types of pizza on this 3.5-hour bus tour, including Chicago deep-dish, artisanal pizza, Chicago tavern-style thin, and either a Detroit-style, a New York slice, or a Neapolitan.

If you want to sit down for dinner instead of a tour, you can eat some of the best deep-dish pizza at these two famous pizzerias, Lou Malnati’s and Giordano's.

11. Explore Chicago’s Pedway on a free walking tour

Avoid the sun on a hot day by exploring Chicago’s Pedway, an underground and indoor system of tunnels, ground-level concourses, and bridges that connects buildings, stores, and train stations in Downtown Chicago.

The Pedway keeps Chicagoans working downtown, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Plus it's a convenient way to get around. Free tours of the Pedway are available so you can learn about the city and the Pedway from an entertaining and knowledgeable guide.

Stay Cool Indoors at Chicago Museums

12. Field Museum of Natural History

T Rex at the Field Museum

The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the biggest natural history museums in the world, with 40 million artifacts and specimens. One of the museum’s most famous specimens is SUE, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered! The Grainger Hall of Gems showcases rare jewels and precious gold objects from around the world.

Another permanent exhibition, “Inside Ancient Egypt” contains the museum’s Egyptian objects which include one of the most extensive collections of mummies in the nation. Guests can explore a three-story Egyptian tomb that’s 5,000 years old. The Crown Family PlayLab, geared toward children between two and six years old, is an interactive, hands-on space for kids. The Field Museum is one of the most family-friendly places to go in Chicago!

13. Art Institute of Chicago

"A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” painting

This highly regarded museum has over 300,000 works of art from all over the world, some of which date back as far as 5,000 years! See artwork from Ancient Rome and Egypt, Aztec stone works, 19th-century Japanese paintings, and more. Impressively, the Art Institute has the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist artwork outside of the Louvre Museum in Paris including Seurat’s magnificent, "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” (see picture above).

Just a few of the museum’s other famous works include Self-Portrait by van Gogh, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, and multiple works by Picasso, Pollock, O’Keefe, and so many more. This is truly an incredible museum and is a must see when in Chicago.

14. DuSable Museum of African American History

The DuSable Museum of African American History, which opened in 1961, is one of the first African-American museums in the U.S. It’s a Smithsonian-affiliated museum so you know the quality of the exhibits will be exceptional. The collection is made up of works of art in a variety of media that inform the public about the history and culture of both African-Americans and all people of African origin and descent.

15. Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Contemporary Art

With thought-provoking works from 1945 and after, this museum is a must for Modern art lovers. The air-conditioned Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) offers free tours so you can learn about the works on display. MCA holds after-hours events, which is a fantastic activity for adults on a hot night, or any night out in Chicago for that matter!

16. Chicago History Museum

Abraham Lincoln

The Chicago History Museum (CHM) is the museum of the Chicago Historical Society, which was founded in 1856. As early as the mid-19th century, the city’s historians knew how important it was to study Chicago's history and its role in American history as well. Today, the CHM has more than 20 million items in its collections.

The Exhibit, “Chicago: Crossroads of America'' demonstrates why so many people choose to call Chicago home. Guests come to understand the city’s history through a series of themed galleries with multimedia presentations and interactive features. In the exhibit “Abraham Lincon”, discover more about this former president, his leadership during the civil war, and his assassination.

17. Free Museums in Chicago

What could be better on a hot Chicago day than free air-conditioning and interesting art? Here are a few of the city’s free museums.

Things To Do On A Hot Night In Chicago

18. Stroll the Riverwalk

Riverwalk at night

One of the most popular things to do in Chicago when it’s not too hot is to stroll along the Chicago River via the 1.25-mile-long path called Riverwalk. You’ll see some of Chicago’s iconic buildings and can check out the nightly Art on The Mart, where artwork is projected onto the massive Mart Building. If you are looking for a romantic date night activity for a hot Chicago night will find Riverwalk ideal. You can have a nice meal or a glass of wine or beer at the water’s edge.

19. Go to Navy Pier

Navy Pier at night

Visit Chicago's Navy Pier for a laid-back evening outside and catch a breeze from Lake Michigan. Take a walk along the boardwalk, eat at one of the many restaurants, and take a ride on the 200-foot-tall Centennial Wheel for fabulous vistas of the city. Every Wednesday and Saturday night during the summer, a fireworks show takes place.

20. Take in a show in the Theater District

Chicago Theater

Air-conditioned theaters are the perfect place to be on a hot night so Chicago’s Theater District fits the bill! The district includes historic theaters like the Chicago Theatre, the Cadillac Palace, and the James M. Nederlander Theatre. You can see top-notch Broadway productions and other types of performances. Seeing a show is a pretty fun thing to do for a Girls' Night Out in Chicago. Check here to see what’s on when you are in town.

Indoor Activities in Chicago for Families

21. Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium has more than 32,000 animals housed in environments that replicate their natural habitat. See who lives in a flooded rainforest, coral reefs, and the waters of the Caribbean. With a separate ticket, you can participate in an “Aquarium Encounters” to get up close to sharks, penguins, Beluga whales, and other wonderful creatures!

22. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

a butterfly

This small nature museum inside Chicago's Lincoln Park Conservatory is home to Butterfly Haven with more than 1,000 butterflies to delight children and adults alike. The museum's other sections focus on local natural history.

23. Chicago Children's Museum

The Chicago Children's Museum offers loads of indoor activity for kids ages 10 and younger, who can explore their creativity through the museum's interactive exhibits. For infants, there are soft areas where they can crawl around safely.

Find out about more things to do in Chicago here.

For suggestions on how to plan your time, check out our 2 day Chicago itinerary!