A Few Of My Favorite Things In Chicago – Home Sweet Home!

Elliot McGowan

Seriously, you can find it all in the city I call home! From a Chicago hot to sky diving, it is in Chicago! Following are just few of my favorites!!

Photo of the Chicago River and Chicago Riverwalk surrounded by Chicago architecture taken on an evening in Chicago

Featured image from Shutterstock

“Going to Chicago was like going out of the world.” —Muddy Waters

The last few years will go down as some of the most turbulent years in recent history. They were years plagued with negative superlatives, unprecedented events, and months of turmoil. At the same time, it was undoubtedly an eye-opening time for millions providing us all with a stark reminder that we should never take our health and our freedom for granted.

Without dealing in clichés and overused proverbials like ‘life’s too short‘ or ‘carpe diem‘, recent world events have reminded us to make the most of every minute going forward. We spent enough time with our great city brought to its knees to realize that now we should enjoy it to its absolute maximum.

Luckily, we’re fortunate enough to live in a world-class city that is constantly impressing on a global scale. With a diverse and eclectic range of architecture, an iconic skyline, an abundance of stunning parksa revered food scene and some of the world’s most renowned museums hosting masterpieces from all over the world, there is so much to do and see around the Windy City.

We’ve here rounded up our top unique Chicago experiences to create a bucket listof what to do in and around Chicago. This is a things-to-do-before-you-die type of list aimed at Chicagoans and tourists in equal measure. Whether you’re a seasoned local or a thrill-seeking visitor, these are the best Chicago experiences and the must-do activities around the city that you must experience while you’re here!

1. Check off Chicago’s iconic landmarks

If there is one thing Chicago is home to it is a range of extraordinary landmarks and public art pieces. For that reason, I am kicking off with the most predictable recommendation.

Photo of the sun shining through buildings onto Chicago's famous Bean sculpture in Millennium Park

Any city-specific bucket list can’t go without mentioning its picturesque postcard attractions and Chicago is one of the most photographed places in the modern world for good reason.

Before you do anything in Chicago make sure to take in its most famed features. Sit mesmerized by The Bean, dance under the spurt of Crown Fountain, walk along Navy Pier, and enjoy the smaller iconic landmarks like The Historic Water Tower, Calder’s Flamingo, and the Picasso Statue. The list of renowned museums, skyscrapers, and parks goes on and on but it is these iconic landmarks that create Chicago’s prestigious character.

2. Peruse Chicago’s legendary street art

The consequence of a thriving artistic community is not just a plethora of museums and stunning art installations. The street art and graffiti scene in Chicago is alive and kicking more than ever before with new pieces popping up all over the city every week.

Some of these are so esteemed that they’ve embedded themselves in the very fabric of Chicago and are now as much part of the Windy City’s identity as its iconic sculptures and landmarks.

Photo of a man stood next to a Chicago mural reading Greetings From Chicago

Today murals do more than just provide an extraordinary spectacle for our eyes. They pay homage to icons, fight for equality, celebrate different heritages, and honor the heroes of society. Chicago’s art scene is another essential experience and with the many talented local artists frequently at work, it is equally as exciting for both tourists and locals alike.

If you’re not familiar with Chicago’s art scene and would like to learn about its history and the inspiration behind some of its famous murals you can head to our article on Chicago’s must-see murals or jump on an Offbeat Street Art Tour of Chicago and be guided by a seasoned street art enthusiast.

3. Revel in Chicago’s riverside rooftops

From the streets to the rooftops, equally as famed as its artistic community is the Windy City’s sublime skyline. Among its soaring cityscape, numerous rooftops can be found offering exhilarating experiences drinking and dining among the skyscrapers of Chicago. You will struggle to find a more memorable Chicago evening than one spent sipping cocktails under the stars.

Photo of flowers and seats on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Chicago River

Of the many choices, there is always something happening at River North’s vibrant and verdant Joy District rooftop, whilst London House Chicago is a photographer’s paradise known for its stunning vistas of the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue. Though not riverside, a really iconic Chicago photo can be had at Cindy’s Rooftop in the Loop where you’ll find sweeping panoramic views of Millennium Park and award-winning cocktails from a lavish setup.

4. Put your bravery to the test atop Chicago’s sensational skyline

Talking of skyscrapers, no trip to Chicago is complete without heading up Sears Tower, more formally known as the Willis Tower. Seeing one of the world’s most famous skylines from the tallest tower in Chicago (and the third tallest in the United States) is a unique and essential Chicago experience. Take a 60-second ride up to the cloud-piercing height of the Skydeck and enjoy unparalleled 360-degree views over this wonderful city.

Head up to  the Willis Tower Skydeck

Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and many of Chicago’s most famous landmarks are all visible from the top making it truly one of the most unique experiences Chicago has to offer. The glass ledge on the 103rd floor allows you to breach the building’s dimensions and stand 4ft outside its walls.

Looking down you’ll see a 1,353 ft drop staring back up at you as you sit in a tiny glass box protruding outside of what was once the world’s tallest building. Equally as impressive in the day as it is at night, it’s not to be missed.

Teeter On The Edge With The Chicago TILT

For another vertigo-inducing experience, on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center you’ll find the 360 Chicago Observation Deck and the home of TILT.

Photo of somebody looking down through the glass floor of the Chicago Skydeck onto the Chicago skyline below

Dubbed Chicago’s highest thrill ride and the first of its kind in the world, the TILT is an enclosed moving platform that literally tilts you out of the 94th floor. While Willis Tower gets a special mention for its title as the tallest skyscraper in Chicago, the TILT offers a unique Chicago experience you won’t find anywhere else!

You can head to the Skydeck website for more information and tickets.

5. Kayak down the Chicago River

Back down at a non-nauseating height, there’s a unique way of seeing Chicago from a whole different perspective. Kayaks and paddleboards can be rented from various operators at both Monroe Harbor and Chicago Riverwalk locations but it is the river where the most unique Chicgo experience can be found.

Photo of people kayaking beneath a bridge on the Chicago River with skyscrapers and Chicago architecture on either side

Flanked on either side by Chicago’s famous highrise architecture, you can venture through the city’s heart via skyscraper canyons and under historic bridges.

An evening kayak makes for a truly memorable night navigating the waters while the sun sets and the hustle and bustle of the riverwalk activity takes off around you.

Single kayaks, tandem kayaks, and kayaking tours are all available, allowing you to navigate Chicago’s winding river at whichever pace you desire. Learn about the sights with a tour guide or explore the river independently and see where it takes you.

You can head to Urban Kayaks for more information.

6. Bike along Lake Michigan

While kayaking offers a fantastic way to see the city via the river, cycling offers a wonderful way to explore the lakefrontand again combines exploration with exercise. Cycling has flourished in popularity in recent years and Chicago is consequently becoming more and more bike-friendly.

Photo of people relaxing along Chicago's Lakefront Trail with the skyline in the backdrop

However much the city changes, The Lakefront Trail will always be an iconic Chicago bucket list experience. Stretching 18 miles from the south of Chicago up to the north you’ll pass harbors, museums, and beautiful beaches, with the city’s sensational skyline on one side and the blue waters of the lake on the other.

Look out for Bike the Drive at the end of May each year when thousands flood the 30-mile stretch of Lake Shore Drive. For all other times of the year Bikes can be easily rented for full days and Chicago’s bike-share program offers over 6,000 Divvy bikes. For newcomers, the Chicago bike tour, known as Bikes, Bites, and Brews takes guests on a bike tour tasting signature Chicago dishes and sampling legendary Chicago craft beer along the way.

You can grab tickets to a Chicago bike tour here.

7. Skate or climb in Maggie Daley Park

Along with its art, gastronomy, lake, and skyline, Chicago’s plethora of parks and gardens are another source of pride and pleasure. The Loop’s Millenium Park and the connecting Maggie Daley Park are particularly beloved hotspots, In the latter, you’ll find another paramount bucket list experience in Chicago.

Photo of a couple skating on the Maggie Daley Park ice rink in Chicago with the climbing wall visible in the background

Surrounding an incredible climbing wall in Maggie Daley Park winds a public skating ribbon. In the warmer months, it is used as a scooter and rollerblade path whilst in the winter you can experience “alpine in the city” when it becomes an iconic public ice rink and one of Chicago’s most beloved winter-time activities.

The quarter-mile winding ribbon curves up and down around the 40-foot climbing wall twisting, turning, inclining, and declining with the city’s stunning skyline in the backdrop.

It’s a truly unforgettable Chicago experience, whatever the season. For those keen to challenge themselves a little more, during the warmer seasons, you can have a shot at scaling the climbing wall. There are varying routes with many different difficulties so you need not worry about not being able to make it to the top.

You can head to the Maggie Daley Park website for more information.

8. Watch the enormous Art on theMART projections

Holding the title of the “largest permanent digital art projection in the world”, Art on theMART attracts thousands to the Riverwalk and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago every week by transforming the 2.5-acre river façade of the Merchandise Mart with prismatic moving art projections.

A photo of Chicago's Art on the Mart winter program displaying The Nutcracker by Joffrey Ballet of Chicago

It provides a public platform for local artists, national artists, and international artists with work ranging from schools to renowned exhibitions and everything in between.

The 30-minute shows run for more of the year with a short winter break before a spring schedule kickstarts an ever-changing run of nightly themed projections. The best places to view the projections are from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells and Franklin Streets.

More information can be found at artonthemart.com/programming.

9. Bathe in a serene Chicago spa

With the lively pace of Chicago and the array of exhilarating activities on offer sometimes we also need to sit back, relax and unwind. Luckily enough Chicago knows how to do that too and there are an array of idyllic spas and bathhouses in Chicago.

The most unique of these in our opinion has to be, AIRE’s Ancient Baths. Located in a restored historic River West factory dating back to 1902, the baths are inspired by the traditional Roman, Greek, and Ottoman ancient experiences of bathing.

Photo of a rustic bathhouse in Chicago with warm blue water, candles, exposed brick walls and wooden beams

This preserved structure has been restored to its original splendor and you can now find optimum relaxation within the exposed brick, wooden beams, and industrial columns of the building.

The unique body and mind experience offers baths of different temperatures, relaxing massages, couples experiences, and more. With all the activity and experiences taking place in the Windy City sometimes we just need to cool off for a bit and there is no better place than Chicago’s ancient baths.

You can head to the AIRE Ancient Baths website for more information.

10. Experience a gorgeous Candlelight concert

Of all Chicago experiences, few are as enchanting as watching one of the wildly popular Candlelight concerts. The candlelit spectacle is a relaxing yet unforgettable experience that can be found in outdoor and indoor venues all over the city throughout the year.

Photo of candles surrounding classical musicians performing at an open-air concert in Chicago

Flickering candles and melodic sounds combine phenomenally to create magnetic atmospheres in some of Chicago’s most unique locations such as the elegant former Masonic temple, Stan Mansion, and Thalia Hall, a world-class performance space built in 1892 and modeled after the Prague Opera House.

There is a range of concerts happening in astounding venues throughout the year. From jazz and soul concerts to tribute performances to icons like Amy Winehouse and ABBA on strings and piano, and now even ballet by Candlelight, there is something for everybody.

You can find more information and tickets for Candlelight concerts in Chicago here.

Special Mention: Chicago Skydiving

Photo of somebody jumping out of a plane during a skydiving experience

Image from Shutterstock

Quintessential international bucket lists usually have a few spots reserved for the typical do-before-you-die activities such as swimming with dolphins, bungee jumping, and, of course, skydiving. While you won’t find swimming with dolphin experiences or bungee jumping in the Windy City (as far as we are aware) the latter of the three aforementioned activities is by far the most accessible in Chicago.

Now, we’re not saying jump out of a plane in the freezing skies above Chicago straight away, but we are saying give it a go in one of Chicago’s cutting-edge indoor sky diving centers to get a taste of what it is like and why it is such a popular bucket list experience.

With a state-of-the-art iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Lincoln Park and another iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Rosemont, Chicago is home to two conveniently located centers where kids and adults can get the same sensation you’d get 12,000 feet up in the sky.

If the experience has you wanting more you can test your vertigo above Chicago’s iconic skyline at one of the world’s largest skydiving resorts named Skydive Chicagoand boast that you’ve jumped out of a plane above the Windy City


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