Chicago is a wonderful city to explore solo or with a group. If you plan on traveling to the Windy City for work or play, make sure you pencil in some time to indulge in everything the city has to offer. From incredible restaurants to one-of-a-kind museums and landmarks, there’s no shortage of sights to see and things to do in Chicago. Let’s take a look at some of the city’s top attractions below.
The Buckingham Fountain
Situated in Grant Park, the Buckingham Fountain is one of Chicago’s most visited landmarks. Also known as the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain, the fountain opened on May 26, 1927, but the history of the fountain goes back even further. During the late 19th and early 20th century, there was a family by the name of Buckingham that lived in Chicago. They were known to be prominent figures in the art community. In fact, Clarence Buckingham himself was the director of the Art Institute for more than a decade. When Clarence passed away in 1913, one of his sisters, Kate Sturges Buckingham,took the responsibility of continuing his dedication to the arts.
In 1924, Kate donated a large some of money (up to a million dollars) to the city of Chicago to construct a fountain as a permanent memorial to her deceased brother. The work on the fountain began in 1925 and took approximately two years to complete. On August 26, 1927, more than 50,000 people gathered downtown to witness the grand opening of the fountain. Some fun facts about Buckingham Fountain include:
- The fountain measures 85 meters in diameter. This makes it one of the largest fountains in the world!
- It can hold up to six million liters of water.
- It is made from beautiful pink Georgia marble.
- A water, light, and music show takes place every hour at the Buckingham Fountain.
If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll definitely want to visit Wrigley Field during your trip to Chicago. The ballpark, which is home to the Chicago Cubs, originally opened in 1914, making it the second oldest baseball field in America. The stadium is located in a neighborhood known as Wrigleyville, which is now home to a number of popular restaurants and bars that you can enjoy before or after the game. A few interesting facts about Wrigley Field are:
- Lights weren’t added to the baseball field until 1988. Why, you ask? The ballpark originally planned to install lights in the early 1940s; however, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Philip K. Wrigley donated 165 tons of steel to the war effort instead.
- The city of Chicago actually issued an ordinance against night baseball games at Wrigley Field because they thought the lights would be a nuisance to those who lived in the neighborhood.
- The Chicago Bears football team actually played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970. At the time they were known as the Staleys, but after the first season they renamed themselves to coordinate with the Chicago Cubs.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is the perfect place to bring the kids during your trip. Founded in 1868, this zoo is one of the oldest in North America. As one of the only free zoos left in the country, you can enjoy visiting this landmark any day of the week at no cost! It’s the ideal place to see exotic animals like gorillas, kangaroos, lions, tigers, camels, seals, and much more. The zoo is nestled on the city’s North Side in a beautiful and charming neighborhood (Lincoln Park) where you can see fantastic views of the city.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is also home to one of the biggest zoo conservation programs in the country. This means that all of the animals get the best care and treatment available. All of the animal enclosures are designed to mimic each animal’s natural habitat as well.
- The Lincoln Park Zoo is home to more than 1,100 mammals, birds, reptiles, and more.
- If you’re going to the zoo with little kids, you’ll be pleased to learn about the Farm-in-the-Zoo exhibit. This fun and interactive exhibit incorporates domestic farm animals and play-based learning stations to create an educational space for toddlers and young kids.
- The Kovler Lion House will give you an in-depth look into some of the world’s most stunning and endangered mammals like African lions and red pandas.
- The McCormick Bird House features ten habitats and 45 unique species of birds. The zoo has worked hard to create natural-looking exhibits that replicate a range of ecosystems like tropical jungles and humid forests.
- Love polar bears? You must visit the Walter Family Arctic Tundra, which can be found on the northern-most end of the zoo. At this exhibit, you’ll enjoy a split-view of water and land as you watch polar bears and cubs play, swim, and eat.
Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s top tourist attractions that experiences more than nine million visitors each year. The pier is the length of six city blocks and extends directly into Lake Michigan. Designed by architect Charles Sumner Frost, Navy Pier was the first pier to combine a shipping dock with public entertainment in 1916. Today you can walk the pier while stopping by museums, restaurants, music and theater showcases, and more. Some of our favorite things to do at Navy Pier are:
- Visit the Chicago Children’s Museum with the kids. This wonderful museum features an array of interactive exhibits like Dinosaur Expedition and the Inventing Lab.
- Stop by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to watch vibrant productions that reflect Shakespeare’s storytelling. With as many as 650 performances a year, it should be easy to catch a show during your visit.
- Enjoy one acre indoor botanical gardens by visiting the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier. This six-story glass atrium hosts more than 80 live palm trees among other scenic foliage.
- The original ferris wheel has been revamped and redesigned for an even more enjoyable ride. Sitting at 196 feet tall and built to last through Chicago’s harsh winter conditions, it’s now one of the top six tallest ferris wheels in the world.
The Shedd Aquarium
Each year, the Shedd Aquarium welcomes more than two million guests. This incredible aquarium holds more than 32,000 animals from the world’s aquatic environments, and the Shedd is dedicated to saving endangered species and their habitats. When you visit the aquarium, you’ll get to see stingrays, belugas, penguins, sea lions, sea otters, sharks, and much more.
- Visit the Caribbean Reef to view a collection of oceanic life including turtles, stingrays, and sharks (all in a 90,000 gallon tank!).
- The Oceanarium Exhibit is home to the largest saltwater marine life on display. The 3,000,000 gallon tank is home to beluga whales.
- Browse the seasonal species of rare jellyfish at the Shedd.
The Magnificent Mile
As Chicago’s premier commercial district, the Magnificent Mile is the place to be if you want to shop til you drop. Home to a variety of upscale shops and fashion outlets, the Magnificent Mile is much more than a shopping destination. It is also home to some of the most historic structures in the Windy City, one of which is the famous Water Tower and pumping station. As one of the only structures to survive the Great Chicago Fire, Water Tower has become symbolic of the city’s rebuild.
As you can see, Chicago hosts an array of museums, attractions, and must-see monuments. If you’re planning a trip to Chicago and you’re flying out of the Denver International Airport (DIA), make sure to park your vehicle with ParkDIA. We offer the closest, most convenient off-site airport parking facility near DIA, and when you download our mobile app, you can reserve your parking space with the touch of a button.