I recently returned from Chicago, and what a great city. Although the city is the third largest in the United States with a population pushing 3 million, never did I feel like it was a “busy” city. The people of Chicago were nice and friendly, but travellers come for the skyline, attractions, and food. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
The biggest concern for Canadians travelling to Chicago, or the U.S. for that matter will be costs. Prices in the city are on par with Canada, but of course you would pay in US dollars, so Canadians can expect to pay a 30% premium. This might turn a lot of travellers off, but that’s a standard cost of travel. Rome and London are also notoriously expensive cities, but I’ve never let that affect my travel plans.
The point is, if you have a travel budget, and you’ve done your research, then you shouldn’t worry too much about the costs. If you’re a Canadian visiting Chicago for the first time, here’s the top Chicago attractions you shouldn’t miss.
Chicago’s First Lady Architecture Cruise
If you only have time to do one thing in Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises is a must. As the official tour of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, there’s so much information to absorb since the city is full of history and culture. It truly would be a mistake to not take a tour on Chicago’s First Lady. Without a doubt, the cruise was the highlight of my trip to Chicago.
The focus of the tour is obviously on architecture, but you’ll also learn about the history of the city at the same time. Find out how engineers managed to reverse the flow of the Chicago River to improve public health, and how Chicago grew into a major business center. All cruises are lead by a member of the Chicago Architecture Foundation so you know you’re getting the best information possible from an expert.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise covers the architecture and design of over 50 buildings including:
- Marina City
- Trump International Hotel and Tower
- Aqua at Lakeshore East
- Merchandise Mart
- Willis Tower
- Lake Point Tower
- River Point
The 90 minute tour costs US $39.74 per person (+ city tax) for daytime tours and $42.58 (+ city tax) for the 7:30pm Twilight Tour. The cruise may sound expensive, but trust me, it’s money well spent. You can purchase tickets online through Ticketmaster or in-person at dock located at the southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive.
The Chicago CityPASS gives travellers access to 5 top Chicago attractions for a single cost of US $96 for adults or $79 for children aged 3-11; that’s a saving of 52%. More importantly your CityPASS will also allow you to skip most lineups which is an extra value that you can’t put a price on. Here’s the attractions I chose to go to with my Chicago CityPASS.
360 Chicago – Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, the 360 Chicago has some of the best views of the skyline, beaches, and lakefront. What’s great about the John Hancock building is that it’s located at the north end of the Magnificent Mile, which makes it a good break after a day of shopping. I chose to head up during the evening since I wanted a nice sweeping view of the skyline at night from 1000 feet above the streets.
Shedd Aquarium – I’ve been to some best aquariums in the world, and I’m happy to report that the Shedd ranks right up there. The aquarium is home to more than 32,000 animals from around the world. Personal highlights of the Aquarium include petting stingrays and seeing the beluga whales.
Art Institute of Chicago – Voted as the #1 museum in the world by TripAdvisor members for good reason, this museum is a must-see for visitors. The collection of impressionist and contemporary masterpieces is simply amazing. There are also galleries dedicated just to the art of Greece, Japan, Africa, and the Americas.
The Field Museum – Home to SUE, the largest and most complete T. rex ever found, The Field Museum is a popular choice for people of all ages. It’s impossible to see all 26 million artefacts on display, but its definitely worth a visit to explore what you can. The Field Museum is located right beside the Shedd Aquarium, making Museum Campus an easy all day affair.
Skydeck Chicago – Want to walk above the Chicago skyline? At the Skydeck Chicago you can literally walk out on the glass floor balcony, 103 floors over Chicago. This is the highest observation deck in the United states and offers a different view of the city compared to 360 Chicago.
Entry into the Museum of Science and Industry and the Adler Planetarium are also included but you have to chose those over some of the other destinations. CityPASS Chicago can be purchased online or at any of the participating venues.
Tickets to the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruise and the Chicago CityPASS were provided to me free of charge. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.