Are you looking for indoor things to do in Chicago on a rainy day? You’re in luck because the Windy City has so many fantastic things to do indoors, you may never want to come outside again!
Here are 28 great things to do when it’s raining in Chicago including the top indoor activities, free things to do indoors, museums and attractions, recreational activities, indoor fun for kids, and more to brighten up those gray skies!
8 Top Indoor Activities in Chicago
1. Visit the Field Museum of Natural History
The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. It’s big enough and fascinating enough to keep you busy having fun on a rainy day in Chicago. One of the biggest draws to this museum is SUE, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered. Whether you love dinosaurs or not, you can't help but be awed by SUE. Other standout permanent exhibitions are “Evolving Planet” and “Into Ancient Egypt”. The Field is a fantastic destination for people of all ages making it one of the best Chicago activities for families.
2. Play an Escape Room
Don't let the Chicago rain stop you from an exciting time - head over to The Escape Game Chicago for awesome indoor fun! Experience the thrill of racing against the clock to escape one of several uniquely themed escape rooms. You’ll have to hurry and crack codes and decipher clues to find a way out in time. Stop a global catastrophe. Break out of a 1950s prison cell. Recover a stolen Monet painting from an evil genius art thief. Whatever mission you accept, playing an escape room at The Escape Game Chicago will keep the rainy day blues away!
3. Go to a Chicago Bulls Game
Rain or no rain, see a Chicago Bulls game when you’re in town! They are one of the most successful NBA teams of all time with legendary former players Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. They play their home games at the United Center. When the Bulls are out of town, the United Center hosts concerts of top performers of every genre, as it is the biggest venue in Chicago, with a seating capacity of up to 23,500 for concerts.
4. Take a Pizza Bus Tour
Chicagoans take their pizza seriously and while deep-dish pizza is one of Chicago’s most iconic foods, there are other types of pizza out there! Take advantage of the rain as an excuse to indulge in the best of Chicago’s pizza on the Chicago Pizza Bus Tour. This 3.5-hour bus tour takes you to try four different kinds of pizzas: a classic Chicago deep-dish, an artisan-style and a Chicago tavern-style thin, and either a Detroit-style, a New York slice, or a Neapolitan. If you want to try deep-dish pizza without taking a tour, check out these two famous pizza joints, Lou Malnati’s and Giordano's.
5. Learn about Chicago’s History
A visit to the Chicago History Museum (CHM) is a great way to get to know Chicago despite the rain. The CHM chronicles Chicago’s development and its role in American history. Its Chicago at the Crossroads gallery includes fascinating artifacts from days gone by, like the actual first passenger car to run on Chicago's iconic L train. Learn about Abraham Lincoln (born in Illinois), the election in 1860, his leadership during the Civil War, and his ultimate assassination. Other exhibits prove insightful into what makes Chicago such a significant city.
6. See Impressionist Masterpieces Art Institute of Chicago
Head to the esteemed Art Institute of Chicago on a rainy day to be inside and dry, rather than outside and soaking wet! This incredible museum has more than 300,000 pieces of art from around the world, some as old as 5,000 years! Most notably, the Institute also has the biggest collection of Impressionist paintings other than the Louvre Museum in Paris. See works from Ancient Rome and Egypt, Japanese paintings from the 19th Century, stone works from the Aztecs, masterpieces from Picasso, Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keefe and so many more.
7. Head to the Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium, an excellent aquarium in Downtown Chicago, has more than 32,000 animals housed in exhibits that mimic their natural habitat. See the creatures of a coral reef. Discover who lives in a flooded rainforest. Meet the sea life of the Caribbean. For an additional fee, you can participate in one of the Aquarium Encounters and get up close to otters, sharks, penguins, and even Beluga whales! For an extra fee, you can take a 75-minute behind-the-scenes tour that takes you to the best parts of the aquarium along with information from a knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide.
8. See Chicago on a bus Tour
Taking a sightseeing bus tour is one of the best rainy-day activities in Chicago since you’ll get to see the city without needing an umbrella! From the comfort of your bus, you’ll see the best of Chicago’s sights and landmarks. A guide accompanying you provides entertaining and educational information. The top bus tour companies in Chicago include Big Bus Tours and CitySightseeing.
Free Things to do in Indoors on a Chicago Rainy Day
One of the prettiest - and most temperate - indoor places in Chicago is the Lincoln Park Conservatory which is free to visit. The Victorian Era glass house, completed in 1895, displays exotic plants from around the world. Stay warm and dry while visiting the Palm House, Orchid House, Fern Room, and Show House. Similarly, the Garfield Park Conservatory houses more than 120,000 plants from over 600 species in eight indoor gardens. There is no admission fee but reservations must be made in advance.
One of the most interesting indoor things to do in Chicago is to take a free tour of the Chicago Pedway, a network of tunnels, ground-level concourses, and bridges that connects 50 buildings, stores, and train stations in Downtown Chicago. The Pedway makes it possible for locals and tourists to visit locations on Chicago Loop without ever going outside. You can explore this “city under the city” on this free pedway walking tour. The Pedway is also a refuge on hot days in Chicago since it stays nice and cool!
Housed in a striking landmark building completed in 1897, the Chicago Cultural Center presents hundreds of free cultural exhibits and performances every year. It’s home to the Preston Bradley Hall Tiffany Dome, the world's largest Tiffany stained-glass dome. Be sure to see the "The Great Chicago Fire in Focus" exhibit of images chronicling the devastation caused by this historic disaster. It’s free to visit, making this an even more enticing thing to do on a rainy day in Chicago.
12. Free Museums in Chicago
One of the best rainy-day activities in Chicago is going to a museum. Fortunately, Chicago has dozens and dozens of museums. Even better is that many of them are free! Here are a few of the city’s free museums.
- Museum of Contemporary Photography
- National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture
- Smart Museum of Art
- Design Museum of Chicago
- Oriental Institute Museum
- DePaul University Art Museum
- National Museum of Mexican Art
Below are more of the top Chicago museums, however, they do charge admission.
Museums and Attractions for a Rainy Day
Modern art lovers will love being stuck indoors at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The MCA is one of the world’s largest contemporary art museums and its collection contains thought-provoking artwork dated 1945 and after. The MCA has special over 21 evening events scheduled during the year, so keep this in mind if you are looking for something unique to do for adults in Chicago.
For some indoor fun, Chicago’s Sports Museum will hit the spot! This 23,000-square-foot museum offers interactive experiences for guests to learn about legends of Chicago sports. It’s like a playground for sports fans. You can shoot free throws, score goals, or throw curve balls through high-tech simulations. Plus, get a look at the largest collection of memorabilia from the 2016 World Series when the Chicago Cubs won the championship! Should you be looking for an activity for a work party or corporate event in Chicago, this museum is a great venue!
15. Volo Auto Museum
This is one of the coolest museums you can visit in Chicago- rainy day or not! You’ll see more than historic cars and slick autos from the early 20th century until today. The Volo honors mechanical triumphs of every sort, from singing robots to antique steam engines. There are amazing gadgets, incredible machines, and even a fleet of Batmobiles! The Volo Auto Museum is great for people of all ages, especially kids.
Founded in 1961, the DuSable Museum of African American History is one of the first African-American museums in the United States. It’s a Smithsonian-affiliated museum so the exhibits are outstanding. The collection consists of artwork of different mediums that educate the public about the history and culture of both Africans and African-Americans.
Chicago Indoor Activities for Kids
A visit to the Museum of Ice Cream is one of the most fun indoor things to do in Chicago! Guests indulge in unlimited ice cream as they tour 14 informative, dessert-inspired exhibits. Be sure to jump around in the enormous sprinkle pool!
The small nature museum is like an indoor garden in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory. Kids and grown-ups alike will love being entertained by more than 1,000 butterflies that live inside the museum’s Butterfly Haven. Other parts of the museum explore regional natural history.
Children ages 10 and under (yes, infants included!) will have lots of fun indoors at the Chicago Children's Museum. The littlest ones can crawl and play in safe areas, while older children can discover their creativity through the museum’s hands-on learning experiences.
Lego lovers, this is the very best inside thing to do in Chicago when it’s raining. This indoor attraction is over 30,000 square feet big and includes a building zone, a soft play area for toddlers, Merlin’s Apprentice Ride, a 4D movie theater, the LEGO Pirate Adventure Island, and a LEGO Shop and cafe.
Recreational Rainy Day Activities in Chicago
Try something different and daring at iFly Chicago’s indoor flying experience. After some training, you’ll get to feel what it's like to defy gravity inside the safety of a man-made wind tunnel as you ‘fly’ a few feet off the ground!
22. Lucky Strike Bowling
With 18 bowling lanes, ping pong tables, and over 100 arcade games, Lucky Strike Bowling is a perfect indoor activity in Chicago to pass a rainy day. If your Girls' Night Out was rained out, Lucky Strike has more than games. With a 21 and up ponly policy after 8 pm, Lucky Strike is a fine place to sip on craft cocktails
Get a workout without going inside at one of Chicago’s First Ascent’s indoor climbing gyms. From beginners to pros, you can climb the colorful walls and wipe those gray skies away!
Music and Theater for a Rainy Chicago Night
24. Chicago Theatre
Built in 1921, the landmarked Chicago Theatre, was the first large, lavish movie palace in the United States. Today, headline performers of rock and pop relish the opportunity to play in such a historic theater.
The Chicago Theatre District is where to go to see a Broadway show or theatrical performance. The district includes iconic theaters like the James M. Nederlander Theatre and the Cadillac Palace. It's one of the best places to spend a night out in Chicago. Check here to see what’s on when you are in town.
Founded in 1891, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has been heralded as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. With a vast repertoire from Baroque to contemporary music, the symphony performs over 150 concerts each year both in Chicago and on tour throughout the U.S. and abroad. How about seeing the symphony in your date night in Chicago?
27. Joffrey Ballet
Known around the world, the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet performs classical masterpieces and cutting-edge contemporary ballets during its annual performance season at the Civic Opera House.
28. Riviera Theatre
This gorgeous auditorium was built as a movie theater in 1917, Hollywood’s Black and White era. After changing hands over the decades, it eventually was turned into a private nightclub in 1986. Today, the Riviera Theatre is one of Chicago’s premier concert venues seating 3,600 guests for an array of top performers and shows that appeal to all ages and tastes.
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!