The great state of Illinois has a lot going on – from wide open prairies to a bustling urban jungle and even rolling hills and valleys in the upper western region (thanks to a glacial miss that didn’t flatten the state like the rest of the area!). Below you’ll find a list of some of our favorite spots to explore and things to do in Illinois, whether you want to explore nature or get cultured in the Second City!
What are the best things to do in Chicago?
I’m glad you asked that question, because there are a TON of great things to do in Chicago. No matter if you want to soak in some culture, grab a bite (or many), enjoy the bountiful green spaces throughout the city, or bask in the historic architecture that marks the Windy City as a great Phoenix that rose from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire, this city has something for you. Below are a few of our favorite things to do!
Take a Stroll and Find All the Murals in Chicago
This city is home to an incredible creative energy, and has launched many a big-time artists career (in all aspects – art, music, theater, entertainment – hello, Second City!). One of our favorite ways to take in the art scene is to take a self-guided tour of all the murals in Chicago. From Wicker Park to Pilsen (you can even visit Chicago artist and muralist Anna Murphy‘s gallery while you’re there!) to Lakeview and especially West Loop/Fulton Market, you’ll find some incredible mural scapes that serve as a great spark of inspiration – as well as a perfect backdrop for a souvenir photo.
Stuff Your Face with Lots of Great Food
There’s a saying that Chicago is the city that works, and while that may be true, Chicago is also the city that EATS. We love our food. From deep dish ‘casserole’ Pizza to dim sum in Chicago’s Chinatown to hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches and donuts, we don’t mess around when it comes to food.
Best Pizza in Chicago
Gonna make this real short. There are lots of great pizza options in Chicago – our philosophy? It just depends on what you’re in the mood for.
- Best Well-Rounded Za: Lou Malnati’s
- Best Second-Day Pizza: Pizza Capri
- Best Crust: Jet’s Pizza
- Best Unique Flavor: Peaquod’s
- Best Thin Crust: Rosatti’s
- Best Artisanal Pizza: Parlor Pizza Bar (get the Burrata Be Kidding Me. Drool.)
Best Coffee & Pastries in Chicago
One thing Chicago doesn’t have a shortage of is coffee shops.
Get Out Into Urban Greenspace on the Lakefront Trail, Riverwalk or 606
The Chicago Lakefront Trial
One of the best things about Chicago is that they didn’t skimp on green space. The Lakefront trail is a great place to rent a bike, stroll or jog and take in the lake so big it looks like an ocean (Lake Michigan) as well as the glorious skyline. You’ll find beaches, fields, public works of art and more on the Lakefront Trail. Best photo spot? The Adler Planetarium, looking back at the skyline.
The Chicago 606
The 606 is an old railroad line that runs mostly through some of the western neighborhoods – beginning in Bucktown/Wicker Park and snaking through to Humbolt Park, you’ll get a great vantage point of some of the greatest neighborhoods in the city while you stay away from cars and traffic. Just remember to be courteous to others!
The Chicago Riverwalk
The Riverwalk took a long time to complete and they’re still improving little by little. Basically, they cleaned up the gross river and in addition to clean and well-lit walkways right on the water, there are also Water Taxi stops, seating areas, AND bars and restaurants. Oh – did I mention live music, outdoor workouts and other great things to do?
Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the largest zoos that is still mostly free in the country. The zoo is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and has a beautiful system of trails and paths perfect for strolling or even jogging. One of the best places to grab a glimpse of the skyline is from the nature boardwalk area.
Fun fact – Galena is the name of a mineral that is crucial to making lead. Galena, Illinois, is actually the site of the first official mineral ‘rush’ in the United States.
Dupage County, Illinois
Not to be missed when considering things to do in Illinois, DuPage County is home to a ton of forest preserves and natural areas that are perfect for day trips out of the city or as a destination in and of itself.
Eaglewood Resort is a convention center and golf resort in DuPage County, Illinois, that also boasts a full spa, golf simulator, a number of dining options and recreation for the whole family.
Get to Know the Chicago Community
Wider Worldview: Chicago Detours Founder & Executive Director Amanda Scotese on Exploring Your Own Backyard