Chicago Activities

Art & Design Tour

A survey of art, architecture and design in the Windy City.

Activities, Events...Other things to do...

Chicago is full of possibilities. This page lists some alternatives to Art & Design activities.

Go here for these activities: Galleries & Museums | Shopping | Restaurants | Audio Tours | Main Trip Info | Full Itinerary



Bike the Lakefront.

Segway anyone?

Bike or Segway the parks and walks along the lakefront with rented bikes or know, those Mall-Cop-on-wheels gizmos.

Bike Chicago | Chicago Bike Station

They offer guided tours or just good-old bike rental for use on Chicago's many lakefront bike paths.

Available at the McDonald’s Cycle Center just behind the Pritzker Pavillion. (on Randolf St, north edge of Millennium Park)

bike maps/routes

Cruise down the River.

Have dinner on Lake Michigan.

Riverboat architectural tours are a popular Chicago experience in good weather — even if you're not into architecture.

Chicago River Boat tours

WendellaBoats river and lake architectural tours

There are also cruises on Lake Michigan — some are "see the city from the Lake" rides, others are "have a good meal with the skyline as the backdrop."
(the Chicago skyline by night is great! If you don't want a cruise, wander out on Navy Pier, or walk along the shoreline to the Shedd Aquarium.)

See a Show

There is a wide variety of musical, dramatic and comedic action in Chicago — probably 30+ performances on any evening. So, if your game gets rained out or Sears Tower is cloudy...

Thursday | Friday | Saturday

April '10 options include: Billy Elliot the Musical , The Crucible, The Taming of the Shrew, Will Rogers: An American Original, etc.

Broadway in Chicago

Online: JustGreatTickets | ChicagoPlays |

Theater Map

April 2013:
Blue Man Group

Briar Street Theater

3133 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60657 (map)
tickets |

HotTix — Last-Minute Tickets:
If you haven't pre-ordered your tickets via the web, try checking the "day of" ticket vendors.
At about 10am each morning, they post available tickets. Many will be at 1/2 price. Ticket availabity changes throughout the day — some get sold out, others get posted as the day goes on.

Closest to hotel: At Randolf & Michigan (about 100ft west...on North side; at 72 E. Randolf ), near Millennium Park.

Near John Hancock: At Chicago Ave. & Michigan Ave (NE corner) is the Water Works Visitor's Center. Entry is on the north side. (163 E. PEARSON )

HotTix offers discount tickets online as well, but there are fewer shows offered online, than at the two "day of" outlets, above.


Live Music

The Blues

About two blocks south of Congress Ave. is Buddy Guy's blues club – one of the best authentic blues houses anywhere.
Buddy Guy's Legends
754 S Wabash Ave, Chicago - (312) 427-1190 (map) (April 2013 Calendar)
(Best Western to Legends)


Near the Loop's theater district is the well-known...
The House of Blues
329 N Dearborn St; (map)
(312) 923-2000

On the north bank of the river...just look for the two "corncobs" (Marina Towers). The House of Blues is almost underneath them.
And note...most of the music isn't the Blues.

April, 2013 Concerts

...& Back Porch performances...

04/04   06:30 p.m.  
09:00 p.m
The Gravediggers
Michael Charles

04/05   06:30 p.m.  
09:00 p.m.
Keith Scott
Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings

04/06   06:30 p.m.  
09:00 p.m.
Kate Diaz
Hadden Sayers Band

Live Music/Concerts

Metromix listings & recommendations

Live Music April 4-7



General Info


Amusement Park on the Lake — Navy Pier

Navy Pier has been developed into a varied exhibition space and amusement park. See the city from the top of the Ferris Wheel.
(did you know that the first Ferris Wheel ever was at Chicago's 1893 World Columbian Exposition?)
Directions: Head east toward the lakefront along Ohio or Grand...about 4 blocks.

Check out Navy Pier offerings here.

To get there from the hotel, go to State St. and take the 2/29 bus heading north.

You can also walk there — its about 1-1/2 miles — but you walk past some of the most beautiful architecture in the world...right up Michigan Avenue. (turn right, or, better, ask for directions once you get past the river)
Museum of Science and Industry

This was my favorite museum while growing up – the best school field trips were here…well, sometimes Brookfield Zoo was best. 
You can walk through the middle of a huge human heart to see its chambers and valves.   You can tour a (genuine) WWII German submarine – the U505 – the only submarine captured intact.  You can go down into a coal mine (yes, there is coal under the Chicago region).  There are all sorts of hands-on exhibits.  


The museum is about 6 miles south of the Adler/Shedd/Field museum campus – take the 10 bus from State St., or train down (Green Line to Garfield Station; then take 55 or X55  bus to the museum.).

Tickets are ~$13*...but you can easily spend the whole day here.

Field Museum

Everything related to natural history (think Night at the Museum) – for instance, they have the world’s largest and best-preserved T-Rex skeleton – known as Sue to the locals.

Field Museum

Tickets $20 (student ID) — $25*

You can walk or take bus 146 from State St.

Adler Planetarium

Offers outstanding astronomical experiences. Their huge domed theater offers a variety of shows. Near Christmas, they show the night skies at the time of Christ's birth — from Bethlehem.
They also occasionally play Dark Side of the Moon to a pretty intense non-astronomical light show.
Take your pick.

Adler Planetarium

Tickets $10 (to $25, for shows)*

From the hotel, you can walk (~25min.) or take bus 146 from State St., heading south.

Shedd Aquarium An outstanding, world-class aquarium within (a long) walking distance of the hotel (20min?).  It located between the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium — which are both outstanding visits as well.

Tickets $16-$18*

You can walk or take bus 146 from State St., heading south.

Passes for Museum Entrance Discounts

There are two passes for Chicago museums. If you are going to be in Chicago for longer than a couple of days, these can be a smart buy.

Go Chicago Card
Chicago CityPass

The Go Chicago Card gets you into a huge array of sites and tours. The cost depends on how many days you buy. ( e.g. 1-day/$60; 5-day/$140)

The CityPass covers only the major sites — it allows one visit to each over a nine day period. (thus, no need to rush) $59

Lincoln Park Zoo

This is an impressive, free zoo on the north shore of Chicago — the combination of the zoo and lakefront is really quite nice. While not nearly as large as Brookfield Zoo (below), this is much closer, and free!

Lincoln Park Zoo

Public Transport:  Take the 151 bus from State St.(between Jackson & Washington) or Mich. Ave. (151 begins north of Millennium Park/Washington Ave.))

Brookfield Zoo


Brookfield is much bigger than Lincoln Park Zoo – roughly 5x as many animals. But Brookfield is tougher to get to from downtown.  It is WSW of the city.


Usually has an entry fee.  Some days are free.  The Winter months are free.  
(Public Transport from downtown:  take the CTA Pink Line all the way to the end (54th/Cermak). 
From there, get on PACE Bus 304 – it’ll take you right to the zoo.
(I’m not sure if there is a separate charge for the Pace 304 bus…there likely is.) 
John Hancock Building

Observation deck and restaurant:  this is a great place to see the city from.  Its not quite as tall as the Sears/Willis Tower, but the location allows you to look back and see the city skyline well, along with being close to the lake.


Advice: You can spend $15 and visit the official observation deck on the 94th floor, or you can wait in another line, sometimes shorter, and always free to go to the Lounge on the 96th Floor.
The view isn't as dramatic with tables, and bars and people sprawled along the window seats, but for the budget traveler, you can get an excellent view and spend your $15 on expensive drinks or snacks.

Sears/Willis Tower

*formerly the Sears Tower

Observation deck
233 S. Wacker Dr. Suite 3530 . Chicago IL 60606 (Enter Skydeck on Jackson Blvd.)
312-875-9447 . . 312-906-8193 fax

The Ledge: the new owners (2009) added an impressive feature to the observation deck — a glass ledge. Its basically a glass box you can step into — allowing you to look straight down 100+ stories...

a warning: “Before you stand in line to buy a $15 ticket, ask the elevator attendant what the visibility at the top is like. He or she will know, and will probably tell you. If he or she says the visibility is bad, save your time and money for another day or another attraction.
Do not assume that because it's a great, sunny day on the street, that the view will be fantastic. Many times there is a haze that prevents visibility 'up there' that you won't notice until too late.”

Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows

(on Navy Pier) Roughly 800 stained glass windows, most removed from homes, churches and buildings in the Chicago region.
Head toward the lakefront (below) along Ohio or Grand.

Smith Museum

Free public tours of the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows are available most Thursdays at 2 p.m. For more information or to receive times and dates of upcoming public tours, please call (312) 595-5024
Take a hike along the lakefront...

Take a late evening (or early morning) walk along the lakefront...head east when you leave the hotel (cross Michigan Ave.), and don't stop until you're at the water's edge. (From Inn of Chicago: hotel to lakefront is just over 3 blocks...and there is a pedestrian underpass on Ohio to get you across Lake Shore Drive. )


At the lake, turn right to head towards the Museum Campus -- you can see the skyline beautifully from the Shedd Aquarium or Adler Planetarium.
...or along the river... A walk along the Chicago River can be a good time.

The main branch of the river is directly south of the Inn of Chicago hotel, and about 10 blocks north of the Best Western.
Try the river walk along the north bank.

If you don't want to walk to the river from the hotel, you can...
A) go to State St and get on the northbound either of the 2/10/145/146/147 buses.
B) go to Michigan Ave (far side) and get the 3/4/6/26/143.
C) step right outside the hostel and wait for the westbound 147.
Just get off when you see the river...or just past the bridge.

...or among the museums and the lake. Take the southbound 146 bus on Michigan Ave. to the Museum Campus...just walk along the peninsula leading out to and around the Adler Planetarium, around the Field Museum, or even along the grassy park southward.



Urban Architecture, Residential Architecture, Oak Park, Hyde Park, Prairie Avenue

Chicago DeTours (various tours and exhibits) — Official site of Chicago Tourism
Chicago Cultural Center — Exhibits and events


White Sox — 



Listings of Free events & activities... Free Chicago This site is updated regularly. It lists pending events and activities in Chicago that are free. Events include museum openings, gallery tours, Chicago park festivals, etc.

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