Chicago is among the most well-liked travel locations in the country. Known for its world-class museums, amazing architecture, vibrant music scene, and delicious food, Chicago has something to offer every type of traveler. If you’re planning a trip to the Windy City, this guide will help you find the best hotels, top attractions, and famous Chicago restaurants.
Finding the Perfect Hotel in Chicago
It might be difficult to locate the ideal hotel with so many possibilities. Here are some of the best hotels in Chicago across different budgets and neighborhoods:
If you’re looking to splurge on your Chicago hotel, consider these 5-star options:
- The Langham Chicago – Located downtown on the Chicago River, this hotel features stunning views and an excellent spa. The on-site Travelle restaurant focuses on seasonal American cuisine.
- The Peninsula Chicago – This upscale hotel on Michigan Ave offers lavish rooms and suites with marble bathrooms. There are several dining options, including Shanghai Terrace for Cantonese fare.
- Park Hyatt Chicago – Situated on Michigan Ave, this sophisticated hotel has oversized rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. NoMI Kitchen on the 7th floor is a popular upscale dining spot.
Mid-Range and Boutique Hotels
For a more affordable but still stylish stay, these hotels offer great value:
- Hotel Zachary – Across from Wrigley Field, this fun baseball-themed hotel has rooftop dining with field views. Rooms are modern and comfortable.
- Viceroy Chicago – This hip Gold Coast hotel has polished rooms with wet bars and free minibar snacks. An on-site restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine.
- Acme Hotel Company – This eclectic boutique hotel in River North has a hipster vibe. Rooms feature funky, retro-inspired decor. The Berkshire Room bar is a popular hangout.
You can still find nice hotels in Chicago for budget travelers:
- Holiday Inn Express Chicago – This reliable chain hotel south of downtown offers clean, comfortable rooms at affordable rates. A free breakfast is included.
- Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown/N Loop/Michigan Ave – For a great location under $200/night, this Hilton-brand hotel fits the bill with its modern rooms and complimentary breakfast.
- Freehand Chicago – This fun hostel/hotel in River North has both private and dorm-style rooms. The shared lounge spaces often host free events and activities.
Top Things to Do in Chicago
With iconic attractions, over 200 theaters, 200+ music venues, and 77 distinct neighborhoods, there is no shortage of activities in Chicago. Here are some must-see places:
Museums and Galleries
- The Art Institute of Chicago – Among the biggest and oldest art institutions in the United States. housing over 300,000 works. Known for their impressionist and post-impressionist collections.
- The Field Museum – Massive natural history museum exhibiting everything from dinosaur fossils to ancient Egyptian artifacts. Home of the famous Tyrannosaurus rex fossil “Sue.”
- Museum of Science and Industry – Huge science museum with over 2,000 interactive exhibits. Experience a real coal mine, test your balance skills, and more.
- Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago – Cutting-edge modern art museum with exciting temporary exhibitions. The building’s architecture itself is impressive.
Parks and Recreation
- Millennium Park – Iconic downtown park featuring the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture (“The Bean”), Crown Fountain’s interactive video towers, and outdoor concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion.
- Navy Pier – Chicago’s most-visited attraction extending into Lake Michigan with rides, shops, restaurants, and beautiful lake views.
- Lincoln Park Zoo – A free 35-acre zoo with gorillas, monkeys, big cats, penguins and more. Located alongside Lincoln Park’s many walking paths and gardens.
Architecture and Sightseeing
- Willis Tower Skydeck – Step out in a glass box on the 103rd floor of what was once the world’s tallest building. Unforgettable views.
- 360 Chicago Observation Deck – Panoramic views from 1,000 feet up on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center.
- Architecture Boat Tour – Take a river cruise to learn about Chicago’s storied architecture and skyscrapers. Many tours available like those from the Chicago Architecture Center.
- Wrigley Field – Take a tour of the iconic 1914 ballpark of the Chicago Cubs, or better yet, attend a game in the lively Wrigleyville neighborhood.
Where to Eat: Chicago’s Best Restaurants
With so many acclaimed chefs and restaurants, Chicago is a foodie’s paradise. Try these must-visit Chicago restaurants:
Deep Dish Pizza
Chicago’s most famous food creation, don’t leave without trying deep dish pizza! Top spots include:
- Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria – Famous for their buttery crust, Lou’s has several locations throughout the city. The one in River North is closest to downtown.
- Pequod’s Pizza – This Lincoln Park pizzeria cooks their pies in a steel pan resulting in a crispy caramelized edge. Their house Special combines sausage and mushrooms.
- Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta – With locations downtown and in the Loop, this local chain serves up delicious deep dish pies, like their Supreme topped with sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and mozzarella.
Try these spots for a fine dining experience with seasonal tasting menus:
- Alinea – The 3-Michelin-star restaurant from acclaimed chef Grant Achatz offers an avant-garde 25-course tasting menu. Be prepared for whimsical dishes and molecular gastronomy.
- Schwa – Unmarked and intimate, this prix fixe restaurant offers a creative 15-20 course tasting menu from chef Michael Carlson. Reservations are difficult to secure.
- Everest – Located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Everest provides breathtaking city views and French cuisine, like duck breast or sea scallops.
Get a real taste of Chicago with these local specialties:
- Portillo’s – Beloved chain serving Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. Don’t forget the chocolate cake shake!
- The Wieners Circle – Late night spot where the staff notoriously yells at customers while serving char-dogs and burgers. Cash only.
- Al’s #1 Italian Beef – Classic Italian beef joint downtown serving dipped Italian beef sandwiches with sweet and hot peppers since 1938.
From world-renowned museums and architecture to an exploding food scene, Chicago offers endless opportunities for exploration. Use this guide to help plan your perfect Windy City getaway with the best hotel, top sights, and famous local restaurants to try. The only challenge will be fitting everything in! No matter where you stay or what you do, Chicago will wow you with its diversity, culture, and Midwestern hospitality.