Things to do in
Illinois

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Our most recommended things to do in Illinois

Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

1. Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

Experience more of Chicago by boat than on any other architectural cruise. See architectural highlights and enjoy an open-air deck or climate-controlled interior as you travel the main River and its north and south branches. View all of Chicago's architectural highlights during this comprehensive sightseeing tour. Be entertained by the expert and friendly tour guides as they explain the 130 year-long history behind the skyline, while bartenders and staff keep you comfortable with refreshments.  Choose between the fresh air of the open-air decks or enjoy the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during your cruise. The tour starts at the Michigan Avenue (DuSable) bridge and goes up the main branch of the Chicago River past Wolf Point. It then cruises along the north and south branches of the river, before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Michigan. On the way, learn about ornate, historic early skyscrapers like the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, the imposing art deco Merchandise Mart, mid-century skyscrapers like the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building. Don't miss the circular Marina City Towers, the majestic Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower and the tallest building in Chicago) the soaring AON Center, and more modernist structures like Aqua, Trump Tower, Nuveen, and the new Vista Tower. During your cruise, have the opportunity to enjoy a full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits, and Garrett’s Popcorn. Don’t forget to take a selfie at the Grand Staircase at the front of the boat or pose for photos at the picturesque stern or bow of this classic vessel.

Chicago: Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Regular & Express Ticket

2. Chicago: Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Regular & Express Ticket

Experience the views from the Centennial Wheel at the Historic Navy Pier in Chicago with this attraction ticket. Be suspended over Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River. Marvel at the Chicago skyline and gaze out over the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan. Choose between two options: With the Regular Barcoded ticket, skip the ticket line and enter the line to board the wheel. The Fastpass Express ticket allows you to skip both lines, and gives you VIP access. Both tickets allow you to visit within 7 days of your scheduled ticket date. Enjoy the Centennial Wheel, which was built in 2016 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Navy Pier opening. Featuring 42 gondolas, each holding 8 people, it operates year-round. They also feature LED lighting, padded seats, TV screens, and speakers, as well as panoramic windows on all 4 sides. A ride on the wheel gives you plenty of time to enjoy these panoramic views of Chicago as they unfold around you, and allows you to visit the top three times. Relax and take in the view, or get your camera out to snap pictures of the ever-changing Chicago landscape.

Chicago: Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Ticket

3. Chicago: Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Ticket

Enjoy an unrivaled view over the city of Chicago on a trip up the city's Willis Tower. This famous building, once known as the Sears Tower, is not only home to a Skydeck on the 103rd floor, but it also features The Ledge, a series of 4 glass-paneled boxes that extend out from the building's facade to give visitors a view straight down. As you wind through the ground levels of the Willis Tower, you will be surrounded by museum-quality exhibits highlighting the iconic tower. Learn about Chicago's rich history and culture through these informative visuals. Watch a video presentation, "Reaching for the Sky," where you will be briefed on the history of the building and of architecture in Chicago. Then step into your elevator and you will be amazed at how quickly it ascends. As you travel, your multimedia-equipped elevator will inform you about your vertical progress. Upon reaching the 103rd floor, step out onto the Skydeck, which offers views spanning over 50 miles and across 4 states. Then summon your courage to step out onto The Ledge, a glass balcony that hangs over the edge, for vertigo-inducing views 1,353 feet (about 412 meters) straight down to the city below! Download the Skydeck Mobile App for a free viewfinder which points out many of Chicago’s notable landmarks. Learn more about sights like Navy Pier, Wrigley Field, Grant Park, Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum of Natural History.

Chicago: 1.5-Hour Lake and River Architecture Cruise

4. Chicago: 1.5-Hour Lake and River Architecture Cruise

Experience an architecture cruise along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, a family tradition since 1935. Admire Chicago’s historic and ever-changing skyline with a local expert guide as you cruise through the city. Choose between the open-air decks or the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during the cruise. Start the cruise at Michigan Avenue (DuSable) bridge and go up the main branch of the Chicago River to Wolf Point before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Michigan. Learn about historic skyscrapers like the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, the deco Merchandise Mart, mid-century skyscrapers like the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building, the circular Marina City Towers, the AON Center, and modernist structures like Aqua, Trump Tower, Nuveen, and the Vista Tower. After passing through the Chicago Lock and cruising past Navy Pier, admire the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan, one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world. Here you can also see the twin super-skyscrapers, the famous Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, and the John Hancock Building. See the majesty of Grant Park with its famous Buckingham Fountain, and iconic Chicago venues such as Soldier’s Field, Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. Enjoy several vantage points for memorable pictures throughout, and finally arrive back at Du Sable Bridge on Michigan Avenue.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office

5. Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office

Skip the lines at the ticket office and climb aboard a state-of-the-art cruise for a 60- or 75-minute cruise of all 3 branches of the Chicago River, and marvel at the architecture that has made the city so legendary. Get an insight into the buildings and engineering of a city that gave birth to the skyscraper and is the spiritual home of modern American architecture. Your expert guide will lead you down the Chicago River to uncover hidden gems, as well the city’s most renowned landmarks, such as the John Hancock building, Trump Tower, Marina City, Willis Tower, and more. Relax with a glass of something cold from the cash bar, as you cruise the Windy City’s waterway, and learn its status as a modern metropolis and one of the world’s most beautiful cities. End your tour in the same place where you boarded the boat.

Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

6. Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

Admire Chicago’s impressive architecture from a unique perspective aboard a cruise sailing down the Chicago River, which features an indoor and outdoor deck, along with live commentary tailored to entertain the whole family. Treat yourself to a full-service cash bar at your own expense. Experience the best of the Chicago River from Lakeshore Drive to the Willis Tower, navigating along the South branch of the river, before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan. Be entertained by the fun and experienced tour guides as they explain the history behind Chicago’s buildings along the river and the exceptional architects who created this ever-changing skyline. Enjoy the most relaxing way to sightsee in Chicago, exploring the city free of traffic, noise, and congestion. Make sure to visit the full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits. Explore the open-air decks that allow you to feel the cooling river breeze and see the city from many vantage points that provide perfect photo opportunities.

Chicago: 360 Chicago Observation Deck Skip-the-Line Ticket

7. Chicago: 360 Chicago Observation Deck Skip-the-Line Ticket

Marvel at the views from 1,000 feet over Chicago’s legendary Michigan Avenue with this ticket to the 360 CHICAGO observation deck on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. Save time with skip-the-line access to this popular attraction. Head up to the 360 CHICAGO observation deck to take in breathtaking views of Chicago’s lakefront and view the city skyline from above. Take a peak at four neighboring states from this height Feel the thrill of a 40-second ride in North America's fastest elevators to the observation deck to experience what 'Travel & Leisure Magazine' voted one of the best views in America. 360 Chicago provides easy access to Chicago’s premier shopping and dining districts.   360 CHICAGO also offers an interactive exhibit on the Ground Floor highlighting Chicago’s rich history and showcasing nine of the city’s culturally unique neighborhoods. Then, on the 94th floor, audio tours in 5 languages allow you to further explore the history and architecture of the magnificent city stretched out before you. If you wish, upgrade onsite to experience the Tilt. By pre-purchasing your timed ticket today, you get to skip the ticket desk and present your barcoded voucher to security to be scanned - you may have to wait in a short line at security, then head directly into the Ground Floor Exhibits, and then on to Elevator Line.

Chicago: 1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Cruise

8. Chicago: 1.5-Hour Romantic Sunset Cruise

Start your sunset cruise on the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue. Make your way along the main branch of the river towards Lake Michigan before entering the Chicago Locks, a modern engineering marvel, that will transfer the vessel onto the great Lake Michigan. The vessel will cruise along Lake Michigan as the sun sets behind the wonderful skyline offering several amazing views. Your local tour guide will give a very brief commentary along the Chicago River and entrance to Lake Michigan, but most of the 1.5-hour cruise is spent without narration, leaving you to watch the sun put on a beautiful display with the City skyline. Admire the many angles of the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan, one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world. Capture magical views of Chicago's twin super-skyscrapers, the famous Willis (formerly Sears) Tower and the John Hancock Building. You'll also get to admire the majesty of Grant Park with its famous Buckingham Fountain, and iconic Chicago venues such as Soldier’s Field, Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. During your cruise, treat yourself at the full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products. Try local beer and spirits and Garrett’s Popcorn. Choose between the fresh air of the open-air decks or enjoy the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during your cruise. Don’t forget to take a selfie at the Grand Staircase at the front of the boat or pose for photos at the picturesque stern or bow of this classic vessel.

Chicago: Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise

9. Chicago: Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise

Immerse yourself in the sights and learn about Chicago’s history and architecture during a cruise on Lake Michigan. Take advantage of skip-the-line entry privileges with a barcoded ticket that lets you proceed directly to the boarding line. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the city for the first time, taking in the spectacular views of Chicago's skyline from the lake makes for a perfect outing. You’ll see the city as never before while listening to commentary on Chicago's history and architectural gems. Simply hop on board, sit back, relax, and enjoy as you admire Chicago's most significant landmarks and striking buildings that make up the city's skyline that has appeared in so many movies and TV shows.

Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History Ticket or VIP Tour

10. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History Ticket or VIP Tour

Visit the Field Museum of Natural History, one of Chicago's great museums. With more than 35 world-renowned natural history exhibitions, there's something for everyone. Visit the Field Museum of Natural History, which holds over 35 world-renowned natural history exhibitions. Explore subterranean life in the Underground Adventure exhibit. Admire gemstones in the Hall of Gems and one of the largest collections of Chinese jade in North America in the Hall of Jades. Next, follow the stories of the Ice Age mammoth hunters and the temples of the Inca and Aztecs. Visit the Dinosaur Hall Evolving Planet exhibit to mingle with giant sloths, woolly mammoths, Sue, and Maximo. Upgrade to the All-Access Pass to see a 3-D movie and all 3 ticketed special exhibitions. Choose the Early Access VIP Tour option for a one-hour VIP tour of the museum's dinosaurs before the museum opens to the general public. Take pictures with Sue or Maximo without the crowds. Then explore the rest of the museum with an all-access ticket including a 3D movie titled "Waking the T-Rex."

Frequently asked questions about Illinois

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What people are saying about Illinois

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 11,976 reviews

Despite the chilly cold day, our architecture tour was fantastic. The guide was engaging, informative, and entertaining. My granddaughter (15) and I (68) both enjoyed it.

Very informative. We try to do this the first day in each new city. Take one full trip around then the second trip we hop on and off.

We liked the tour, we enjoyed the narration of the history of the passing of the years on how architecture developed.

It was a beautiful sunny day on the boat. We learned so much from the tour and had some great laughs too.

Great time excellent displays and very informative descriptions. Staff very grand helpful.