Chicago had over 58 million visitors in 2018 according to the Chicago Tribune. With so many tourists visiting the city every year, whether you want to take it slow or cram in as much sightseeing as humanly possible, Chicago is the perfect weekend getaway! Below I will highlight a few of my favorite spots and activities that are perfect for your weekend itinerary. You probably will not be able to do all of these activities in a weekend, but hopefully, it helps inspire your Chicago getaway!
The Chicago River Walk
Probably the best way to see Chicago’s river & lake while learning about the city is through a river cruise. The city offers architecture, sunset, and firework cruises all departing from the Chicago River Walk near the Magnificent Mile. There are also other water sports such as kayaks for rents and nice paths to enjoy a walk alongside the river.
One of the biggest tourist attractions is Navy Pier. This 3,000-foot pier situated on Lake Michigan is home to restaurants, a botanical garden, and the renowned Ferris wheel. Fun fact—the first Ferris wheel was invented in Chicago in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Although the current Ferris wheel is substantially more modern, it remains a staple to the city. In addition to the Ferris wheel, Navy Pier is also where the fireworks shows are performed. As of summer 2019, fireworks are performed every Wednesday at 9:30 PM and Saturday at 10:15 PM.
North Avenue Beach
When thinking of a beach, I am guessing Chicago isn’t the first place that comes to mind. Despite no ocean access, Chicago does have some pretty nice beaches off Lake Michigan which offer great views of the city. In summer months this is a great spot to relax and even enjoy a coastal bike ride. Although winter will be far from ideal beach weather, you may be able to get some cool photos of Lake Michigan when the edges begin to freeze over.
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Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo
Potentially my favorite view of the Chicago Skyline is from Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Not only does this spot show an amazing view of the skyline, but it is a beautiful park with a lush green landscape. If you are familiar with NYC’s Central Park, the Nature Boardwalk gives off a fairly similar vibe.
Cloud Gate (The Bean)
Another must-see is what everyone calls the Bean. It’s a public sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park made of reflective stainless steel. The technical name is Cloud Gate as the sculptor intended for it to be a cloud; nonetheless, it is almost exclusively referred to as the Bean as the public believes it resembles a bean more than a cloud. The sculpture is also near one of the Chicago ice rinks so if you are in Chicago in the winter (my apologies) then that is also a cool place to check out.
Visit a Museum
Although Chicago is filled with picturesque locations, it is also a pretty cool city for museums. There is the Art Institute Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum and my personal favorite the Museum of Science and Industry. Outside of museums the city also has the Shedd Aquarium, and two zoos, Brookfield Zoo, and Lincoln Park Zoo, which are free. Even if you are not into museums, aquariums or zoos, the area around Museum campus is one of the best views of the Chicago Skyline. It is also a great place for a picnic or even an afternoon stroll.
One of my favorite spots to shoot in Chicago, especially for the sunset is Buckingham Fountain. Sunset photography in cities can at times be challenging when the buildings block the sun rays. With the skyline situated to the West of Buckingham fountain, this makes for a great view of a sunset skyline. This is a perfect spot to relax after a fun-filled day.
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