Things to do in Illinois

Our most recommended things to do in Illinois, USA

Chicago: Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Regular & Express Ticket

1. 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 River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

2. 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: 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: 360 Chicago Observation Deck Skip-the-Line Ticket

4. 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 peek at 4 neighboring states from this height. Feel the thrill of a 40-second ride in one of North America's fastest elevators to the observation deck to experience what 'Travel & Leisure Magazine' voted one of the best views in America. Enjoy an interactive exhibit on the Ground Floor that highlights Chicago’s rich history and showcases 9 of the city’s culturally unique neighborhoods. Then, on the 94th floor, explore the history and architecture of the magnificent city stretched out before you with audio tours in 5 languages. By purchasing this timed ticket, 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 the Elevator Line.

Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

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

6. 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: Museum of Ice Cream Entry Ticket

7. Chicago: Museum of Ice Cream Entry Ticket

The world-famous ice cream attraction is now open in Chicago. Step into an ice cream wonderland that is bound to ignite your senses through a theatrical experience with unlimited ice cream treats as you journey through 14 installations. Ride on the pink Sprink-L line, put your golf skills to the test on the Putt-Putt course, or take a dip in a pool filled with millions of sprinkles. Come with an empty stomach and get ready to make unforgettable memories. When you finish your experience, be sure to explore the museum's whimsical shop. The Museum of Ice Cream is not a traditional museum — every installation is interactive. This means touching isn't only allowed, it's encouraged.

Chicago: CityPASS® Save 48% or More on 5 Top Attractions

8. Chicago: CityPASS® Save 48% or More on 5 Top Attractions

Take in incredible views, fascinating science, world-class art, and more with Chicago CityPASS® tickets that include premium admission to Chicago’s top attractions and save travelers 48% or more on the price of the same tickets purchased separately. Enjoy an easy-to-use system with this city pass option, simply present your mobile (or printed) ticket to be scanned at the included attractions for entry. Head to the Shedd Aquarium, where you can see otters, lizards, whales, and dolphins, in a space that is home to more than 32,000 animals. Marvel at breathtaking views at Skydeck, which stands 1,353 feet above the city. Visit the Field Museum where you can see “Sue,” the world’s largest T. Rex. Spend some time getting acquainted with local artists at the Art Institute of Chicago.  This pass includes prepaid admission to 5 must-see attractions: 1. Shedd Aquarium Meet 32,000 animals from aquatic habitats around the world at Chicago’s “must-sea” destination. See penguins fly through chilly waters, dolphins leap high in the air, monkeys scamper through rainforest trees, and stingrays swim below your feet.  Have all-access admission including permanent exhibits, animal presentations, special exhibit, and the Stingray Touch (seasonal), plus a 4-D experience. 2. Field Museum See the world’s wonders and visit an ancient Egyptian tomb with 23 mummies. Explore over 10,000 years of Chinese history and culture, and “Sue” the world’s largest T. Rex dinosaur. Get an All-Access Pass (admission to all permanent and regularly-priced ticketed exhibitions, and your choice of one digital 3D film). Film selection subject to availability. Additional charges may apply for specially ticketed exhibitions outside of the All-Access Pass. 3. Skydeck Chicago Go atop the Willis Tower at Skydeck, which invites intrepid visitors to step onto The Ledge, which is comprised of four glass boxes jutting out from the observatory that are situated at 1,353 feet (412 meters). Admire jaw-dropping view of 103 stories above the city. Includes expedited Entry to Willis Tower’s 103rd floor. Your ticket includes expedited entrance to the Skydeck as well as to The Ledge. 4. Your choice of 2 from the following attractions: 4.1 Art Institute of Chicago Travel the globe through galleries featuring the art of ancient Greece, Japan, Africa, and the Americas. The museum also has one of the largest Impressionist collections outside France and features classic artists like Van Gough and Georges Seurat.  Make the most of your time with Fast Pass Admission to the permanent collection and non-ticketed special exhibitions; including an audio tour. 4.2 Museum of Science and Industry Learn about the science of storms, tour a real World War II German submarine, and run on a human-sized hamster wheel. Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry is the largest in the Western hemisphere. Includes museum entry, plus one timed-entry experience. 4.3 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck Discover magnificent views of Chicago’s skyline, beaches, and historic waterfront from 1000 feet up. Includes express entry admission. 4.4 Adler Planetarium, America's first Planetarium Interact with hands-on activities and uncover mind-blowing facts about the Universe. The planetarium has two domed theaters, with 60,000 square feet of exhibitions, and the Doane Observatory’s research quality telescope.

Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History Ticket or VIP Tour

9. 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. Fuel your passion for discovery with dinosaurs, ancient artifacts, cultural insights, and groundbreaking science. 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 1-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." If you want to see more, get a Discovery Pass to gain general admission to the museum as well as add one of their ticketed exhibitions or a 3D movie to your day. 

Chicago: Lake Michigan Skyline Sightseeing Cruise

10. 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.

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

Lizzy, our guide was so sweet! You walk through the beautiful city, stop here and there and listen to interesting facts and stories. Halfway through there‘s a break for getting some brownies and using the bathroom. Would definetly recommend! Lizzy always made sure everybody has a great time and no one gets lost and stays with the group. Loved it!

I had a very Knowledgeable and fun tour guide . The trip was interesting and funny. I learned a lot about the city and it's architecture. Highly recommended! Totally worth it.

Fun way to spend time in Chicago! It was easy to keep up with and hear our guide, and she led us to gems in the city we wouldn't have found otherwise!

Scott was fantastic! he deserves a raise!! he was not only funny,he gave us a ton of interesting facts!..he made the trip successful!!

Superb commentary from informed, intelligent and interesting boat tour guide.