Chicago

United States

Top City

"The places you must absolutely visit in Chicago"

 
Presented By: Brad Harbach, Top 100 Places Fanatic, Travel Blogger & Chicago Resident - www.absolutevisit.com
 
1

John Hancock Center

John Hancock Center
Located prominently at the start of the Magnificent Mile, in the heart of downtown Chicago, the one-hundred floor John Hancock Center offers the best views of the city. Many visitors contemplate viewing the city from the top of the taller Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) instead, however the views are not as good because of its southwest location. At the Hancock, you can skip the steep 94th floor observatory fee and head straight to the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor. This bar offers views that are just as good as the observatory and you can invest your hard earned cash into a relaxing cocktail instead of a throwaway ticket stub.
Must Visit
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2

Architectural Boat Tour

Architectural Boat Tour
In the late 19th century, local architectural pioneers built the world's very first skyscraper in Chicago. Around one-hundred years later the Willis Tower was constructed, which stood as the tallest building in the world for over twenty years. Today the city is dotted with massive architectural masterpieces that continue to impress visitors, even those who call other urban areas home. The Chicago River runs right through the city and offers the perfect passageway to casually float by all of the incredible buildings. Put your sunglasses on, secure a Bloody Mary on the boat and enjoy a narrated tour of some of the best architecture in the world.
Must Visit
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3

Magnificent Mile

Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile is simply Chicago's largest and most impressive shopping district. Spanning one-mile long down the famous Michigan Avenue, the shopping begins to the South at the Chicago River and continues until you run into Lake Michigan and the beach to the North. Every store you've ever heard of can be found as you stroll down the wide sidewalks, including several flagship stores. Even if you are not into shopping, this is definitely a must-do when you visit Chicago. On your walk, don't forget to admire the Chicago Water Tower, the famous survivor of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire which destroyed the city at the time, but ultimately paved the way for a newer, more prosperous Chicago that continues to thrive today.
Must Visit
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Overrated
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4

Lake Michigan Beaches

Lake Michigan Beaches
Many Americans regard Chicago as the best city to live in during the summer months. The Lake Michigan Beaches play a huge role in turning this often times frigid city into a warm urban playground during June, July and August. The beaches are always filled with Chicagoans soaking up the sun and taking a much needed break from the concrete covered streets they call home. North Avenue Beach is the most popular and the largest beach in the city. If you don't want to make the hike out there from your hotel, Oak Street Beach is another popular option that is closer to downtown. For those of you that want to see the beach, but avoid the swimsuit and sand, grab a bite to eat at Castaways restaurant on North Avenue Beach. Don't forget your sunglasses!
Must Visit
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Overrated
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5

Millenium Park

Millenium Park
Millenium Park is home to lots of incredible architectural masterpieces to explore, but the Cloud Gate (often referred to as "The Bean" by locals) steals the show! This $23 million dollar hunk of steel has quickly turned into one of the most iconic images defining Chicago. The unique reflective properties of this gigantic mirror will help you and your family take a few photos that are guaranteed to find their way into a frame upon your return home. Sunrise is the best time for photos, as it is nearly impossible at any other time of the day to take a photo of the sculpture without people in it. Do not skip this site just because you are not into art. I've never taken a single visitor to "The Bean" whose jaw didn't drop at first glance.
Must Visit
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6

Wrigley Field Cubs Game

Wrigley Field Cubs Game
Chicago is a sports town, baseball is America's pastime and Wrigley Field is perhaps the most historic stadium in the US. A trip to this residentially surrounded stadium is an absolute must on any summer visit to Chicago. The most unique experiences can be found sitting in the outfield bleachers or atop the famous rooftops hovering over the outfield walls. Bleacher seats are general admission, so be sure to arrive early so your group can find a place to sit together. Rooftop tickets are often sold at discounts last minute, so scour the net and see if you can pick up a great deal. Don't forget to check out the incredible bar scene located just outside of the stadium on Clark St. after the game.
Must Visit
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Overrated
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7

Giordano's Stuffed Crust Pizza

Giordano's Stuffed Crust Pizza
Anybody who lives in Chicago will tell you that the best pizza in the world is found here. Copious amounts of mozzarella, chunky tomato sauce and the famous thick stuffed crust elevate this pie above the rest. Giordano's Pizzeria makes the best pizza in the city and it can not be missed when you visit Chicago. My advice is to not go too crazy with the toppings and just stick to a simple pepperoni stuffed crust pizza. Too many toppings takes away from the other natural flavors in this Chicago delicacy, a mistake which unfortunately is often made by foreigners. If you don't like pepperoni or must have two toppings, spinach at Girodano's is always a win!
Must Visit
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Overrated
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"A few of my local favorites"

Tango Sur

Chicago BYOB Food Experience

What is BYOB? BYOB stands for "Bring Your Own Beer". There are tons of restaurants in Chicago that don't sell alcohol and instead allow you to bring your own beer, wine or liqour. Tango Sur, an Argentinean steakhouse located north of the city in Lakeview is my hands down favorite BYOB spot in the city. The ambiance and the food is incredible. They don't take reservations, so be sure to arrive early on weekends to grab a table!

River Kayaking

Adventurous Architecture Tour

Exploring the Chicago Architecture is an absolute must-do when you visit Chicago. Most people hop aboard hundred person boats and float by it all. While this is a great experience, the more active and adventurous will certainly have more fun paddling their way along the Chicago River from building to building. There is a company - Water Riders - that offers a collection of guided tours along the river which are spectacular.

Barrelhouse Flat

Perfectly Mixed Cocktails

This unassuming bar located north of the city in Lincoln Park serves up some of the best craft cocktails in the city. If you're looking to escape the endless walls of plasma tv's that have come to define the Chicago bar scene, this refreshing spot is definitely worth checking out. I've not tasted a Manhattan anywhere in the world (even in Manhattan) that stacks up to what the skilled mixologists serve you at Barrelhouse Flat.

The Hangge Uppe

Post-College "Late Night" Bar

In Chicago most bars close between 2-3am, while a handful of older bars are allowed to keep the music jamming and the drinks flowing until well into the morning hours. On the weekends, everyone looking to keep the party going at bar close funnels into this handful of "late night" bars. The "Hang Up" is the most notorious of them all. Show up around 2am on Saturday. The closer you are to age 21 and the more drinks in you, the more fun you will have!

The 'L' (Brown Line)

Ride Like a Local Through The City

The 'L' (short for elevated) subway is the primary transportation method for moving all of the urbanites to and from downtown each day. A ride along the Brown Line of the "L" takes you on a loop through the center of the city and then out through some of the most sought after neighborhoods north of the city. It's a cheap tour and a fun way to explore Chicago! Hop off at the Armitage or Diversey stop and walk east to the lake.

Halsted & Armitage

Street Walking, Shopping & Brunch

My ideal Saturday morning in the city is spent near the intersection of Halsted & Armitage. To me this is the heart of Lincoln Park and one of the most beautiful areas of the city that people live in. Put your name in for brunch at either Toast or Nookies and enjoy the surrounding boutique shopping on Halsted while you wait to get your table. After breakfast, try your best to take the hour-long walk back to the city and explore some more great areas.
 

Meet Brad Harbach

Top 100 Places Fanatic, Travel Blogger & Chicago Resident - www.absolutevisit.com
Passionate traveler, photographer in training and a semi-retired computer geek - Brad has lived in Chicago for the greater part of the last decade. Chicago offers the perfect balance of midwestern friendliness with the energy and options of a major global city. When my friends visit we soak up some sun at North Avenue Beach, clean up to enjoy a craft beer at one of the many incredible outdoor bars and enjoy a delicious meal at a stylish BYOB restaurant in one of Chicago's many great urban neighborhoods.
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