flowers for Chicago's Top Tourist Tips

3 Days or More

If you have the luxury of having 3 days or more in the Chicago area, here are some other things to do:

  • Visit Brookfield Zoo with the family, if the weather is nice. You will find the zoo to be extremely extensive, and a pleasure to visit, as animals are given a fair bit of room to roam. There are also educational programs and tours that are offered, and, of course, a fun gift shop for your advance Christmas shopping. While the Lincoln Park Zoo is wonderful for a couple of hours when you are in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and known for its conservancy and animal support programs, the Brookfield, because of its location outside the city proper, is at least a half-day trip, not counting transportation time. Check the Brookfield Zoo site for directions, location and hours:
  • Again, if the weather cooperates, a stop in the Chicago Botanic Garden is very worthwhile, and not limited to the summer months. The beautiful area boasts different types of  gardens, including a peaceful Japanese garden, approached by a pleasant and rejuvenating walk through the Waterfall garden. There is also an English garden, a lot of space with fountains and bodies of water, a sensory garden, vegetable garden, an Education center and, for the not-so-nice days, an area with greenhouses with exotic plants. There is a cafe for both indoor dining with casual patio seating,  and all through the year, the garden puts on different and exhibits for the public e.g. a "junior train" exhibit, bonsai exhibit, even carillon concerts for the family to enjoy their picnic to! There is also a tram that circles the gardens to give you an overview, should you find walking difficult. For information on directions, location, hours:
  • Visit more of the museums! Family-friendly museums include the Museum of Science and Industry, where children are actually encouraged to push buttons and touch exhibits, and there is a popular ride into a coal-mine. Check for directions, hours and special exhibits. Also consider the Field Musuem of National History, which houses the most important T-rex remains ever found, called Sue. For more information, check
  • Some families may enjoy a day-trip to Six Flags Great America (check again a whole-day affair. Not far from Great America is one of Chicagoland's major outlet shopping centers, Gurnee Mills Mall, and often families divide themselves up, with the ride-happy going to Great America, and the others going shopping at Gurnee Mills. Check

  • Nightlife and entertainment: The options are endless. There are comedy clubs like Second City, that has given a start to so many luminaries in the film world, theaters for every taste, jazz and music, bars, concerts, including free concerts by the Grant Park Symphony in the summer. Even during the day, there are many free and high-quality events to go to e.g. on Wednesdays at lunchtime in the Chicago Cultural Center, there is a classical series that is broadcast live, and many emerging and semi-established artists play for an eager public, happy to take a cultured lunch hour, or rest their foot-weary selves.
  • Take a day trip, if you are driving. Some places would be better enjoyed with an overnight stay, e.g. Galena, a charming old mining town built on the Mississippi, with steep streets and beautiful old buildings. Closer in, there is Starved Rock State Park or Lake Geneva, just over the border in Wisconsin.
  • For a few hours, if you have access to a car (you could always rent one for a day so as not to be saddled with for the duration of your stay, as cars can be a liability in downtown Chicago, with parking issues and costs), a drive up the area called the North Shore is quite relaxing, especially during the spring, summer or fall. During the fall, the trees blaze gold and red and it is a feast for the eyes. The road called Sheridan Road leads north, through twists and turns, up through Chicago's most affluent suburbs, with many magnificent properties that front the lake. Up in the area called Wilmette, there is a charming shopping center called Plaza del Lago, where you can stop for a cup of coffee or browse some of the interesting stores there. Make a stop at the eye-boggling Bahai Temple, with its imposing facade and magnificently landscaped gardens. This particular building is unique, and Chicago is a major center for the Bahai faith. The building is a place of peace and meditation, whatever your faith may be.

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