Chicago is full of historic architectural and cultural gems, which brought in a record number of 54.1 million tourists in 2016, according to Choose Chicago, one of the city’s tourism organizations. The PHOENIX lists 10 Chicago landmarks — both ticketed and free — not to miss.
1. Millennium Park
The 24.5 acre park is a center for art, music, architecture and design. The city of Chicago website states it was first planned in 1997 as a way to create new park land and transform unattractive train tracks and parking lots but has become a major hub of the city. Visitors can experience interactive public art, enjoy open air dining, go ice skating or listen to live music performances.
Notable attractions in the park include the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor stage that can accommodate a full size orchestra, and Cloud Gate, a giant, reflective bean sculpture.
2. Museum Campus museums
Museum Campus’ 57 acres surrounds three Chicago museums dedicated to the natural sciences: the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History, in addition to the Soldier Field football stadium and McCormick Place.
The land was transformed into Museum Campus in 1988 after the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive, which originally bisected the area, were moved west of Soldier Field. Visitors can now enjoy a scenic green space along the city’s waterfront.
3. Willis Tower (Sears Tower)
Standing at a height of 1,450 feet (or 110 stories) the tower is Chicago’s tallest and an iconic part the city’s skyline. It took three years and approximately 2,000 construction workers to complete, according to the tower’s website.
Skydeck Chicago, which is on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower, is the highest observation deck in the country, according to the website. The Ledge, a popular feature that attracts 1.5 million annual visitors, allows visitors to step out onto glass boxes extending from the building, according to the website.
4. The Art Institute
The Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1879 as a museum and school for the arts during a time of reconstruction following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The museum moved into a building at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street in 1893, where it has remained since. The museum is easily identifiable with its renown bronze lion statues greeting visitors as they enter the museum.
Loyola students receive free admission to the Art Institute by showing their student IDs.
5. Navy Pier
Opening in 1995, Navy Pier is a major tourist attraction, in addition to a public space for entertainment and exposition. The pier is the result of architect Daniel Burnham’s vision of transforming the lakefront into a useful and attractive space. Today, it hosts restaurants and cafes, public programs, exhibitions, cruises, rides and attractions.
Centennial Wheel, the Ferris wheel that rises almost 200 feet above Navy Pier, offers one-of-a-kind views of the city. Rides on other attractions, such as the carousel or the Pepsi Wave Swinger, are available for $5–$8.
6. Lincoln Park Zoo
Constructed in 1868, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a long and narrow piece of land that houses nearly 200 animal species. It’s one of America’s oldest public zoos, according to Choose Chicago.
From wine and wildlife nights to hands-on educational experiences, the zoo offers an array of events.
7. Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field is the second oldest major league ballpark in the country; it was built in 1914, two years after the first ballpark, Fenway Park, was built in Boston. The historic venue has seen a number of significant moments in baseball, such as Babe Ruth’s “called shot,” which took place when Ruth allegedly pointed to the bleachers in Game three of the 1932 World Series immediately before hitting a homerun.
Located in busy Wrigleyville, the baseball field is easily accessible off the Addison stop on the CTA Red Line. Wrigley Field can seat more than 41,000 people.
8. Soldier Field
Soldier Field is part of Museum Campus, along with three other museums and McCormick Place. Named the Grant Park Municipal Stadium after its initial opening in 1924, it was renamed Soldier Field a year later in honor of U.S. soldiers who died in combat, according to the Soldier Field website.
Currently, the stadium is known as the home to the Chicago Bears football team, but up until 1971, the Bears shared Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs baseball team. The team played its first game at the newly renovated Soldier Field in 2003, according to the website.
9. Magnificent Mile
Stretching from the Chicago River to Oak Street, famous shopping hub Magnificent Mile encompasses 13 blocks of Michigan Avenue. The space in between boasts more than 460 stores, 275 restaurants and 60 hotels, with entertainment and attractions sprinkled throughout, according to the Magnificent Mile Association website.
The historic Water Tower and John Hancock Center are two landmarks along the Magnificent Mile and are steps away from Loyola’s Water Tower campus.
10. Harold Washington Library
The Harold Washington Library is the Chicago Public Library’s main branch located in the city’s South Loop. Its bold, postmodern architecture and oversized owls posted on each corner of the building and entrance make it easily identifiable.
The library was ordered by and named after Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor.