Chicago is one of the best cities in America where adults will find countless fun and exciting things to do. Top-notch museums, beautiful city parks, and amazing cuisine make it a place to add to your list of must-see destinations.
To get you started on planning your trip, here are 30 of the best things to do in Chicago for adults, whether or not you are traveling with family!
1. Pose with the Bean in Millennium Park
Seeing The Bean in Millennium Park is a must-do! This iconic sculpture, whose real name is Cloud Gate, is massive and weighs 110 tons! It’s one of the largest sculptures of its kind in the world. The Bean is in Millennium Park which itself is a destination. Spending time here is one of the best things adults can do in Chicago. The Pritzker Pavilion has events, concerts, and movies. In the winter, there’s ice skating at the McCormick Tribune Plaza Ice Rink.
2. Step out on The Ledge at Skydeck
Another great thing to do in Chicago is to go to Skydeck for breathtaking views of Chicago’s skyline and Lake Michigan. Skydeck is on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower and is the third tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. If you dare, step out onto one of the glass boxes that jut out from Skydeck and see Chicago’s streets 1,450 feet beneath you. If you are in town with family, this is one of the most popular things to do with teens in Chicago.
3. Find a way out of an escape room
The Escape Game Chicago is a perfect thing to do for adults who pictured themselves as a detective when they were younger! You’ll have 60 minutes to find the way out of a “locked” room by solving challenging clues and riddles. Rooms vary in amusing themes and difficulty levels. Rescue a stolen Monet painting from the hands of a maniacal art thief. Prevent a global catastrophe by hunting down evil conspirators hiding in a mysterious night market. Playing an escape room at The Escape Room Chicago brings out the inner sleuth in everyone!
4. See magnificent Impressionist artworks
At the Escape Game Chicago, you’ve got to hunt down a stolen Monet but at the Art Institute of Chicago, Monet paintings are right there! The Art Institute houses the largest collection of Impressionist art outside the Louvre. With over 300,000 pieces of art from around the globe spanning 5,000 years, the Art Institute will satisfy those who love all kinds of artworks. If you find yourself in Chicago on a rainy day, this museum, or any of the others in this article will keep you happy and dry!
5. Dig into a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza
Deep-dish pizza is perhaps Chicago’s most iconic food. Naturally, the competition is fierce over who makes the best deep-dish pizza. The top two spots are Lou Malnati’s and Giordano's. Lou Malnati’s is said to be the first family name in deep-dish pizza, serving pies since the 1970s. Giordano’s also opened in 1974, making its deep-dish pizza using a family recipe from the family’s ancestors in Torino, Italy. Whichever spot you choose, you’ll love this Chicago treat!
6. Catch the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field
Baseball fans will love seeing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, one of the oldest ballparks in America! This is an especially good thing to do if you are a group of adults looking for a fun time in Chicago, filled with pretzels, beer, and baseball history! Cubs fanatics will like the Chicago Sports Museum with its collection of exclusive items and gear used by some of the Cubs’ greatest players and the largest collection of memorabilia from the 2016 World Series.
7. Stroll along Riverwalk
Along the Chicago River is a picturesque 1.25-mile-long path called Riverwalk. A stroll along Riverwalk is a great way to see some of Chicago’s architecture, like the city’s recognizable Marina Towers, that's appeared in films and commercials. For adults looking for a relaxing thing to do in Chicago, Riverwalk is the place to go for a glass of wine at the water’s edge. Check out the nightly light show, Art on The Mart, where artwork is projected onto the massive Mart Building. It’s quite the sight! If you are looking for a perfect date night idea in Chicago, look no further than a stroll here.
8. Soak up the sun at North Avenue Beach
Chicago has 26 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, with more than 20 public beaches along Lake Michigan. One of the most popular Chicago beaches is North Avenue Beach where there are plenty of fun things to do for adults besides sunbathing. Join a volleyball game, take a yoga class, or rent a kayak and venture out onto lovely Lake Michigan. The beach is quite nice with spectacular views of the skyline and a 22,000-square-foot beach house, nearby restaurants, and beachfront bars. On a hot day in Chicago, gran a towel and head here!
9. Take a Lake Michigan Tour
The views from the beach are lovely but the views from a cruise on Lake Michigan are amazing! If you aren’t up for a kayak ride at North Avenue Beach, look into one of several cruises that get you out onto the water, enjoying a nice breeze, and taking in the skyline sights. Most tours showcase the key sights along the shore. Some offer educational information about the marine life of the lake. Combine your cruise with lunch or brunch or take a romantic nighttime cruise. Many cruises depart from Navy Pier, a fun destination in Chicago. Find out about cruise options here.
10. Head to Navy Pier
For an awesome night out in Chicago, head to Navy Pier. Walk along the boardwalk, dine at one of several restaurants, and do some light shopping. For amazing views of the city, ride the famous Centennial Wheel that takes you 200 feet up in the sky. If you are in Chicago in the summer months you can see fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night.
11. Stop by Chicago’s most famous fountain
Before The Bean landed in Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain was Chicago’s most-visited landmark. Located in the center of Grant Park, this 1927 fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world. Its Beaux-Arts-style design makes it one of America’s finest fountains. Its main appeal in the modern era is the nightly light show that uses 15,000 gallons of water per minute and lights of all colors accompanied by music. The show takes place every hour on the hour.
12. Say hello to Chicago’s animals
Located in Lincoln Park, the free Lincoln Park Zoo is an easy-to-reach zoo with over 1000 animals both big and small. See majestic gorillas, playful meerkats, red wolves, pygmy hippos and so many other of nature’s creatures. Just north of the zoo is the Lincoln Park Conservatory with manicured outdoor gardens and an elegant 1890 glass house with exotic flora and fauna. In town with children? A visit to the zoo is one of the top things to do with kids in Chicago!
13. See some comedy
An iconic spot of Chicago’s nightlife, the Second City offers adults a fun night out with excellent comedy shows. Second City is best known for launching the careers of dozens of Saturday Night Live alumni and movie stars including Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, John Candy, and Catherine O'Hara. Planning a work party in Chicago? A comedy show is just the thing to keep everyone having a great time!
14. Meet SUE, Chicago’s T. Rex
A top Chicago museum for both adults and kids is the Field Museum of Natural History, one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Dinosaur lovers will go crazy for SUE, the largest and most complete T.rex ever discovered. Pass through Evolving Planet which follows the evolution of life on Earth over 4 billion years, Inside Ancient Egypt where you can see mummies and artifacts of everyday life, and the Grainger Hall of Gems with a large collection of diamonds and gems.
15. Have a Chicago-Style Hot Dog
A Chicago Hot Dog is not just your average frankfurter. It’s all about how it’s served that makes it unique. A Chicago dog starts with an all-beef frank inside a poppy seed bun. It’s then covered with yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, chopped white onions, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt topped off with a dill pickle spear. Whatever you do, do NOT ask for ketchup! Popular spots for a Chicago hot dog are the historic Portillo’s and Superdawg.
16. Take a bike ride
Chicago is quite bike-friendly and has 26 miles of lakefront trails you can bike along. Lakefront Bike Path is 18.5 miles long and is perfect for a leisurely ride with nice views. You can rent bikes from a private bike rental company like Bike and Roll or Chicago Bike Adventures or opt to use Chicago’s bike-share program, Divvy. Just rent a bike from one of Divvy’s self-service docking stations anywhere in the city and then return it to any dock.
17. Get to know Chicago’s history
The Windy City has a storied past and you can learn about it at the Chicago History Museum (CHM). A big part of the city’s past is the Chicago Fire of 1871, and the CHM covers it extensively in its permanent exhibit City on Fire. Another element of Chicago’s history is the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the museum has a mammoth collection of related objects and artifacts. Its visiting exhibitions are also excellent.
18. Walk the 606
The 606 is a recreational walkway built on an old, elevated train line that runs through several neighborhoods in Chicago’s northwest. With multiple access points, visitors can enter or exit the 606 and visit any of the interesting attractions along the way. The 606 itself has interesting stops including permanent public artworks and Damen Arts Plaza featuring rotating art exhibits. Make a stop at Park No. 567 for interesting events like astronomy nights and live concerts.
19. See the Chicago Bulls
Basketball fans will love being able to see the Chicago Bulls, one of the most successful NBA teams ever. They play out of the United Center and though you won't be seeing legends like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, you will have an exciting time watching a great team! When the Bulls aren't playing at home, the United Center hosts concerts of top performers as it is the biggest venue in Chicago.
20. Marvel at Modern Art
While so much attention falls on the Art Institute, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is worth visiting for modern art lovers. With provocative artworks from 1945 and after, the museum is one of the world’s largest contemporary art museums. You can take a free tour to learn about the works on the walls. For a fun thing to do in Chicago, enjoy one of MCA’s after-hours events for adults, 21 and over that are scheduled throughout the year.
21. Go on a self-guided street art tour
No need to go inside to see captivating art! Chicago has a vibrant street art scene featuring large-scale murals found in many neighborhoods. Take this free, self-guided mural walk that takes you through alleys and off-the-beaten-track streets in three sections of The Loop in Chicago's downtown. If you prefer a guided tour, look into this free Wicker Park Culture & Chicago Street Art Tour.
22. See a show in the Theater District
The Chicago Theatre District is where to go to see a Broadway show or theatrical performance. The district includes iconic theaters like the Chicago Theatre, James M. Nederlander Theatre, and the Cadillac Palace. Shows to see include top Broadway hits, like Chicago, including Les Misérables, Cats, 1776, Annie, The Book of Mormon, A Soldier’s Play, Jagged Little Pill, Into The Woods, Disney’s Aladdin, MJ, Hamilton, A Wonderful World, and BOOP! The Musical. Check here to see what’s on when you are in town.
23. Explore Magnificent Mile
This eight-block stretch of Michigan Avenue offers so many things to do in Chicago that you may end up spending hours here! Magnificent Mile is lined with stunning architecture, from the 1920s like the double-decked steel DuSable Bridge, Wrigley Building, inspired by a Spanish Cathedral, and the Gothic Revival style Tribune Tower. Not only is Magnificent Mile dazzling, but it’s also jam-packed with 275 restaurants and more than 460 retailers! If you are in Chicago for a Girls' Weekend, Magnificent Mile is a must-visit!
25. Discover Aquatic Creatures
Located in Downtown Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium has more than 32,000 specimens of sea and ocean life from 1,500 species. The aquarium’s engaging exhibits contain different natural habitats that feature marine life and animals found in those habitats. There’s a coral reef with sharks, stingrays, and turtles, and a flooded rainforest with exotic frogs, birds, snakes, and more. The Abbott Oceanarium introduces guests to the colorful coastal ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest with dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, and beluga whales. The Shedd truly is a notch above other aquariums.
Chicago Tours Adults Will Love
Sometimes it's nice to have another adult do all the explaining, which is why city tours are such a popular thing to do in Chicago. Here is a list of tour options.
25. Walking Tours
Chicago is very walkable but it is also very big! Walking tours generally cover specific neighborhoods to condense your sightseeing into a compact amount of time. Plus, guides are usually very knowledgeable and entertaining. Take a look at tours by the Chicago Architecture Center, Inside Chicago Walking Tours, and Free Tours By Foot Chicago.
26. Chicago River Tours
These tours are a relaxing way to see Chicago’s beautiful buildings along the Chicago River and learn about the city. Companies with excellent offerings are Wendella Boats and Shoreline Sightseeing.
27. Bus Tours
Chicago has several bus tours that let you discover the city at whatever pace you like. Take a sightseeing bus for an overview of Chicago or a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to disembark at attractions of your own interest. The top companies are Big Bus Tours, Grayline, and CitySightseeing.
28. Bike Tours
Chicago’s flat terrain makes seeing the city on a bike a really fun thing to do! There are all kinds of bike tours in Chicago. Choose from classic sightseeing tours, food tours, night tours, and even ghost tours! Bobby’s Bike-Hike and Bike and Roll are great companies.
29. Food Tours
Taking a food tour helps you avoid the hit-or-miss process and guarantees you’ll try the best of the rest! Look into these highly rated companies: Sidewalk Food Tours of Chicago, Secret Food Tours, and Chicago Food Planet.
30. Segway Tours
Chicago’s a big city with a lot to see! Segway tours are a fantastic way to cover a lot of ground without getting on a bus. Some segway tour companies are Absolutely Segway Tours, City Segway Tours, and #1 Chicago Tours.
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!