University of Illinois Chicago

Exploring Chicago

So much to do and see in one of the world’s great cities

Chicago is a dynamic city where you can spend an afternoon enjoying parks and beaches or discovering art and artifacts. Whether you stroll down Michigan Avenue or cruise down the Chicago River on a boat tour, there’s something for everyone.

There are 77 neighborhoods within the city, made up of people from all ethnicities. Greek, Polish, Hispanic, Chinese, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and African are just a smattering of cultures that can be found in America’s third-largest city.

You can dine at ethnic restaurants, visit museums to learn about diverse traditions and attend parades featuring various nationalities. Chicago truly is a melting pot.


With more than 8,100 acres of green space in more than 600 parks, there’s a reason Chicago calls itself “City in a Garden.”

View of park and downtown through a sculpture at Lincoln Park

Located side by side in the Loop, Grant Park and Millennium Park are popular with residents and visitors from around the world. Explore the musical extravaganza Lollapalooza at Grant Park or concerts all summer long at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park. Millennium Park is also home to the McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink, the Cloud Gate sculpture, known as “the Bean,” and Maggie Daley Park. In warm weather, enjoy the picnic groves, climbing wall and play garden. In winter, you can try the ice-skating ribbon.

For a more relaxed scene, visit Palmisano Park in Bridgeport or the Lincoln Park Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. And the Lincoln Park Zoo houses a world of cuddly animals and roaring beasts.


Chicago’s beaches extend for 26 miles along Lake Michigan.

Men playing volleyball at the beach

Each of Chicago’s more than two dozen beaches offers a variety of sandy fun and its own food, drink and amenities. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) makes it easy to get to the sun and surf with convenient park and beach service.

One of the most popular locations, North Avenue Beach, has free Wi-Fi for visitors and an ocean-liner inspired beach house. Enjoy a game of volleyball with friends and family at the south end of the beach or at Oak Street Beach.

Want to bring along furry family members? Dog-friendly areas include Montrose Beach and Belmont Harbor Beach.

Cultural attractions

Chicago offers endless opportunities for a cultural experience, from museums to music, dance and art.

People on the lawn at Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion

Tied together by green space, the Museum Campus is home to world-renowned institutions of art and artifacts. To explore world cultures, visit the Field Museum, and say hi to Sue, the museum’s dinosaur. The Adler Planetarium shows visitors outer space and beyond, and the Shedd Aquarium is filled with colorful reefs and sea creatures sure to make everyone smile.

Other cultural offerings include the Chicago History Museum, which showcases the city’s past and future, the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Chicago is home to extraordinary musical talent, such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago. For a more casual performance, Ravinia is a train ride away. North America’s oldest music festival hosts concerts all summer.


When winter ends, Chicagoans rejoice and take advantage of the warm weather.

Group of tourists on a river cruise

One the most iconic places to visit is Navy Pier, an extravaganza of outdoor fun. Enjoy a boat ride on the lake, a trip to the top of the Ferris wheel, Fourth of July fireworks or a scoop of ice cream on a hot day.

Pack a picnic basket and enjoy movies in the park with friends — there are more than 250 screenings every summer across the city.

Want to sample all of the exciting cuisines that Chicago has to offer in one place? The Taste of Chicago, which moves to different parks around the city, has endless food options as well as musical performances.

Want to check out a festival? Take your pick — there are enough neighborhood festivals to fill every weekend of your summer. One of the world’s most well-known musical festivals, Lollapalooza, happens in the heart of Chicago.

Winter activities

Chicago may be known for its cold and snowy weather, but there’s plenty of winter fun, indoors and outdoors.

People ice skating at Millennium Park

Try ice skating at Millennium Park’s ice rink or the ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, a place for arctic fun where visitors can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate along the path.

During the holiday season, Lincoln Park Zoo has Zoolights, a sparkling outdoor display of more than 2 million lights with musical shows and 3D animal-themed displays. To escape the cold, Navy Pier’s indoor Winter Wonderfest offers dazzling lights, holiday activities, food, drink, an ice rink and rides.

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and most amazing botanical conservatories in the nation and is often referred to as “landscape art under glass.” It offers a beautiful and warm respite to the chill winter air outside.