53 Best Places and Things To Do in Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the United States. Known as the “Windy City,” Chicago is a melting pot of cultures, with a rich history and a wealth of attractions to explore. Whether you’re a foodie, history buff, or art lover, there’s something for everyone in Chicago. Here are some of the best places and things to do in this amazing city:

1. Millennium Park

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One of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago, Millennium Park is home to the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as “The Bean.” Visitors can also enjoy free concerts and events at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, take a stroll through the Lurie Garden, and cool off in the interactive Crown Fountain.

2. Navy Pier

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A Chicago landmark, Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier on Lake Michigan that offers a variety of attractions, including a ferris wheel, an IMAX theater, a children’s museum, and a number of restaurants and shops.

3. Chicago Riverwalk

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Take a stroll along the Chicago River and admire the city’s architecture from a unique perspective. The Riverwalk features restaurants, bars, and outdoor seating areas, as well as public art installations and access points for boat tours.

4. Willis Tower

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Formerly known as the Sears Tower, Willis Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world and a must-visit attraction in Chicago. Visitors can take an elevator up to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor for panoramic views of the city.

5. Garfield Park Conservatory

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This botanical garden is one of the largest in the country, featuring 120,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor gardens and a vast array of plant species from around the world. Visitors can take a stroll through the lush greenery, attend a workshop or tour, or simply relax in the tranquil atmosphere.

6. Chicago Cultural Center

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The Chicago Cultural Center is a beautiful building in the heart of downtown that hosts a wide range of free cultural events, including concerts, art exhibitions, and theater performances. The building itself is a work of art, with stunning stained glass domes, mosaics, and marble columns.

7. Lincoln Park Zoo

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Located in the heart of Lincoln Park, this free zoo is a favorite among families and animal lovers. Visitors can see a variety of animals, including lions, tigers, gorillas, and penguins, and attend special events such as concerts and animal feedings.

8. Field Museum

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One of the largest natural history museums in the world, the Field Museum is home to an extensive collection of artifacts and specimens that showcase the natural world and human cultures throughout history. Visitors can see Sue, the world’s largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton, as well as explore exhibits on ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, and more.

9. Shedd Aquarium

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Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Shedd Aquarium is one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world, with more than 32,000 animals representing over 1,500 species. Visitors can see everything from dolphins and whales to sharks and penguins, as well as attend daily animal shows and educational programs.

10. Adler Planetarium

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Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Adler Planetarium is a must-visit for space enthusiasts. Visitors can explore exhibits on the history of space exploration, see a show in the planetarium theater, and even view the night sky through telescopes on the observation deck.

11. The Art Institute of Chicago

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The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, located in the city of Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1879 and has since grown to house one of the world’s most extensive collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, as well as significant holdings in American art, European decorative arts, Asian art, and modern and contemporary art.

12. Cloud Gate

A large, highly-polished, mirrored bean-shaped sculpture seen from the east, reflecting the skyscrapers to the north along East Randolph Street (The Heritage, Smurfit-Stone Building, Two Prudential Plaza, One Prudential Plaza, and Aon Center.

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Gate

The sculpture is made of polished stainless steel and has a unique bean-like shape. It measures 33 feet by 66 feet and weighs 110 tons. Visitors can walk underneath the sculpture and see their reflections on the mirrored surface, which gives the illusion of an infinite space.

13. Museum of Science and Industry

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The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the largest science museums in the world and is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts building from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The museum features over 400,000 square feet of exhibits, including a full-size replica coal mine, a World War II German submarine (U-505), a Boeing 727, and a 40-foot-tall indoor tornado. Other exhibits cover topics such as space exploration, genetics, and the environment.

14. Richard H. Driehaus Museum

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The Nickerson Mansion was built in 1883-1887 for Samuel Mayo Nickerson, a wealthy banker and art collector. The mansion was designed by prominent Chicago architects Burling and Whitehouse and features a mix of architectural styles, including Romanesque, Renaissance, and Gothic Revival.

15. Lakefront Trail

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The Chicago Lakefront Trail is a multi-use trail that runs along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago, Illinois. The trail is 18.5 miles long and stretches from Ardmore Avenue on the north side of the city to 71st Street on the south side. The Lakefront Trail is popular among runners, walkers, cyclists, and inline skaters. It provides scenic views of the lake and the city skyline, as well as access to beaches, parks, and cultural attractions such as the Museum of Science and Industry, Soldier Field, and Navy Pier.

16. Buckingham Fountain

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Buckingham Fountain is a large fountain located in Grant Park in downtown Chicago, Illinois. The fountain was built in 1927 and was designed by architect Edward H. Bennett in collaboration with sculptor Jacques Lambert. The fountain is one of the largest in the world and features a central water jet that shoots up to 150 feet in the air. The fountain’s water display is accompanied by music and lights, which make it a popular attraction in the evenings.

17. Holy Name Cathedral

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Holy Name Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in the Near North Side neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. It serves as the mother church of the Archdiocese of Chicago and is one of the largest Catholic churches in the United States. The current cathedral was completed in 1875 and was designed in the Gothic Revival style by architect Patrick Charles Keely. It features a distinctive spire that rises to a height of 210 feet.

18. Maggie Daley Park

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Maggie Daley Park is a public park located in the Loop neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The park is named after Maggie Daley, the late wife of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and it covers an area of 28 acres. The park opened in 2014 and features a variety of recreational facilities, including a rock climbing wall, an ice skating ribbon, a playground, and a miniature golf course. It also includes several gardens, picnic areas, and walking paths.

19. Oriental Institute Museum

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The Oriental Institute Museum is a museum located on the campus of the University of Chicago in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The museum was founded in 1919 by James Henry Breasted and is one of the leading institutions for the study of the ancient Near East.

20. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House is a famous example of Prairie School architecture, which was a style developed by Wright and his contemporaries in the early 20th century. The Robie House is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, and was completed in 1910.

21. Chicago History Museum

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The Chicago History Museum is a museum located in Chicago, Illinois, that is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history of the city. The museum was founded in 1856 as the Chicago Historical Society and is one of the oldest cultural institutions in the city. The museum’s collection includes over 22 million artifacts, documents, photographs, and other items that tell the story of Chicago’s development and growth from its founding to the present day. The collection covers a wide range of topics, including art, architecture, business, politics, sports, and social history.

22. Lincoln Park Conservatory

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The Lincoln Park Conservatory is a greenhouse and botanical garden located in Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois. The conservatory was built in the late 19th century and is one of the oldest and most popular attractions in the city. The conservatory is divided into four display houses, each with a different theme and plant collection. The Palm House features tropical palms and ferns, the Fern Room showcases ferns and other shade-loving plants, the Orchid House is home to a variety of orchids, and the Show House displays a rotating collection of seasonal plants and flowers.

23. American Writers Museum

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The American Writers Museum is a museum located in downtown Chicago, Illinois, that celebrates the rich literary tradition of the United States. The museum was opened in 2017 and is the first and only museum in the country dedicated to American writers. The American Writers Museum features a variety of interactive exhibits and displays that showcase the works of some of the most important writers in American history. The exhibits cover a range of literary genres, including poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and journalism, and explore the impact that writers have had on American culture and society.

24. Crown Fountain

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The Crown Fountain is an interactive public art installation located in Chicago’s Millennium Park. The installation was designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and opened to the public in 2004. The Crown Fountain consists of two 50-foot glass towers that face each other across a black granite plaza. The towers are made of glass brick and are designed to resemble traditional pillars or columns. However, they are also covered with LED screens that display a rotating selection of faces from Chicago residents, which appear to be spouting water from their mouths.

25. Michigan Avenue Bridge

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The Michigan Avenue Bridge is a historic bridge that spans the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, Illinois. The bridge was completed in 1920 and is a popular landmark and tourist attraction in the city. The Michigan Avenue Bridge is a double-deck, trunnion bascule bridge, which means that it can be raised to allow larger boats and ships to pass through the river.

26. Grant Park

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Grant Park is a large urban park in downtown Chicago, Illinois. It covers an area of 319 acres (129 ha) and is located on the city’s waterfront, bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Randolph Street to the north, Columbus Drive to the east, and Roosevelt Road to the south. The park is home to many of Chicago’s most popular attractions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, the Buckingham Fountain, and the Museum Campus.

27. Tribune Tower

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The Tribune Tower is a historic building located in downtown Chicago, Illinois. It is the home of the Chicago Tribune, a major daily newspaper in the United States. The building was completed in 1925 and is known for its unique architecture, which includes Gothic Revival and Art Deco styles.

28. National Museum of Mexican Art

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The National Museum of Mexican Art is a museum in Chicago, Illinois, USA, dedicated to Mexican art and culture. It was founded in 1987 and is located in the Pilsen neighborhood, which has a large Mexican-American population. The museum has a collection of over 10,000 objects, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, and ceramics, representing Mexican and Mexican-American art from ancient times to the present day. The collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the United States.

29. Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral

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Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral is a historic Eastern Orthodox church located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was built in 1903-1905 in the Russian Revival style and is one of the oldest and most prominent Orthodox churches in the United States. The cathedral’s architecture is inspired by the medieval churches of Russia, with its onion-shaped domes and elaborate brickwork. The interior is adorned with intricate mosaics, frescoes, and icons, created by some of the most skilled Russian and Greek Orthodox artists of the time.

30. Chicago Children’s Museum

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The Chicago Children’s Museum is a museum in Chicago, Illinois, USA, that is dedicated to providing interactive learning experiences for children and families. It was founded in 1982 and is located in the Navy Pier, a popular tourist destination on Lake Michigan. The museum offers a wide range of hands-on exhibits and programs that encourage children to explore, learn, and play. Exhibits include the “Tinkering Lab,” where children can experiment with tools and materials, the “Treehouse Trails,” an indoor treehouse filled with interactive activities, and the “Skyline,” a miniature version of Chicago’s skyline where children can build and create.

31. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

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The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a natural history museum located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded in 1857 and is one of the oldest museums in the city. The museum is named after Peggy Notebaert, a philanthropist and conservationist who provided significant support for the museum’s expansion in the 1990s.

32. Picasso Statue

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Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Picasso

The sculpture is made of Cor-Ten steel and stands 50 feet (15.2 meters) tall and weighs over 160 tons. It is an abstract representation of a figure, possibly a woman, with a simplified form and sharp angles. The sculpture has become a beloved icon of Chicago and is considered a masterpiece of public art.

33. Oak Street Beach

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The beach is known for its beautiful views of the Chicago skyline and its soft, white sand. It is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike, who come to swim, sunbathe, and play beach volleyball. The beach is also a popular destination for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and other water activities.

34. Glessner House Museum

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The Glessner House Museum is a historic house museum located in the Prairie Avenue Historic District of Chicago, Illinois. The museum is housed in the former residence of John Glessner, a prominent Chicago industrialist, and his wife Frances. The house was designed by renowned architect Henry Hobson Richardson in the Romanesque style and completed in 1887. It features a unique design with a central courtyard and a layout that was ahead of its time. The house is now recognized as a masterpiece of American architecture.

35. Museum of Contemporary Art

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The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is a leading institution for contemporary art in Chicago, Illinois. The museum is located in the Streeterville neighborhood and features a collection of over 2,500 works of art from the mid-20th century to the present day. The MCA was founded in 1967 and has since become a cultural hub for contemporary art in Chicago and beyond. The museum’s permanent collection includes works by internationally renowned artists such as Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, and Frida Kahlo, as well as emerging artists from around the world.

36. Fourth Presbyterian Church

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Fourth Presbyterian Church is a historic Presbyterian church located in the heart of downtown Chicago, Illinois, USA. The church was founded in 1871 and has been an important part of Chicago’s religious and cultural landscape for over 150 years. The church is known for its stunning architecture, including its Gothic Revival style sanctuary, which was designed by renowned architect Ralph Adams Cram and completed in 1914. The sanctuary features beautiful stained glass windows, intricate wood carvings, and a stunning pipe organ.

37. North Avenue Beach

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North Avenue Beach is a popular beach located in Chicago, Illinois, USA, on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is known for its lively atmosphere, beautiful views of the city skyline, and a wide range of recreational activities. The beach is one of the busiest in the city, attracting thousands of visitors each year. It offers a variety of amenities, including bike and rollerblade rentals, beach volleyball courts, a playground, and several restaurants and bars. The beach is also home to the iconic beach house, which features a rooftop deck with stunning views of the lake and the city.

38. DuSable Museum of African American History

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The DuSable Museum of African American History is located in Chicago, Illinois, and is dedicated to the study and conservation of African American history, culture, and art. It was founded in 1961 by Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs and other community leaders, and is named after Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, a Haitian of African and French descent who is credited with being the first non-Indigenous permanent settler in what is now Chicago.

39. Ohio Street Beach

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Ohio Street Beach is a public beach located in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. It is situated on the shore of Lake Michigan and offers beautiful views of the city’s skyline. The beach is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and other water activities such as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. It has lifeguards on duty during the summer months, making it a safe and enjoyable spot for families with children.

40. Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

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The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is a hidden gem located in the heart of Lincoln Park, Chicago. It is a serene oasis that offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Designed by landscape architect Alfred Caldwell in 1936, the Lily Pool was originally intended as a demonstration garden for water lilies and other aquatic plants. Over time, the garden fell into disrepair, but it was eventually restored and reopened to the public in 2002.

41. International Museum of Surgical Science

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The International Museum of Surgical Science is a museum located in Chicago, Illinois, dedicated to the history and advancement of surgery. It was founded in 1954 by Dr. Max Thorek, a Lithuanian-American surgeon, and is housed in a historic mansion in the Gold Coast neighborhood. The museum’s collection includes over 10,000 artifacts, books, and manuscripts related to the history of surgery, as well as contemporary art inspired by medical themes. The exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including the development of surgical tools and techniques, the role of surgery in World War II, and the evolution of anesthesia.

42. McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

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The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum is a unique museum located in downtown Chicago, Illinois. It is housed in the McCormick Bridgehouse, which is one of the city’s iconic movable bridges that span across the Chicago River. The museum offers visitors a chance to explore the inner workings of the historic bridge and learn about the history and ecology of the Chicago River. The exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including the role of the river in Chicago’s development, the engineering and technology of movable bridges, and the wildlife that calls the river home.

43. Old St. Patrick’s Church

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Old St. Patrick’s Church is a historic Catholic church located in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. It is the oldest public building in the city that has been continuously used since its construction. The church was built in 1852 to serve the growing Irish immigrant population in Chicago. It was designed in a Gothic Revival style by John P. Hession, an Irish-born architect, and features a beautiful bell tower and stained-glass windows.

44. Montrose Beach

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Montrose Beach is a popular beach located on the north side of Chicago, Illinois. It is part of the Montrose Beach Park, which is one of the largest parks in the city and offers a variety of recreational activities and amenities. The beach stretches for over half a mile along the shore of Lake Michigan and features soft sand, clear water, and stunning views of the city skyline. It is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball, and other water activities.

45. Hyde Park

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Hyde Park is a historic neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. It is home to a diverse community, including students, professors, and residents from all walks of life. One of the most prominent features of Hyde Park is its close proximity to the University of Chicago, one of the world’s leading academic institutions. The university has a significant impact on the neighborhood, with many of its buildings and facilities located in Hyde Park, including the Oriental Institute, the Smart Museum of Art, and the University of Chicago Medicine.

46. Historic Water Tower

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The Historic Water Tower is a landmark building located in downtown Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the few structures that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and has since become a symbol of the city’s resilience and architectural heritage. The water tower was built in 1869 as part of a city-wide effort to improve Chicago’s water supply. It was designed in a Gothic Revival style by William W. Boyington, an American architect who specialized in the design of public buildings and landmarks.

47. St. John Cantius Church

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St. John Cantius Church is a historic Roman Catholic church located in the River West neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1892 by Polish immigrants and has since become a symbol of the city’s rich cultural and architectural heritage. The church was designed in a Baroque Revival style by Adolphus Druiding, a German-born architect who specialized in the design of Catholic churches and other religious structures. It features a stunning fa├žade, intricate stonework, and a beautiful interior adorned with frescoes, stained glass windows, and ornate altars.

48. Milton Lee Olive Park

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Milton Lee Olive Park is a small park located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago, Illinois. The park is named after Milton Lee Olive, Jr., a United States Army soldier and recipient of the Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Vietnam War. The park covers an area of approximately 6 acres and features a variety of amenities, including a playground, picnic areas, and walking paths. It is a popular destination for families, joggers, and picnickers who enjoy its scenic views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.

49. Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)

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The Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) is a museum located in downtown Chicago, Illinois, on the campus of Loyola University. The museum’s collection features over 4,000 works of art, including contemporary art, medieval and Renaissance art, and religious art from various cultures and traditions. The museum was founded in 2005 and is housed in the historic Lewis Towers building, which was designed by the renowned Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham, and built in 1926. The building underwent extensive renovation to create a space that was suitable for displaying works of art.

50. Jane Addams Hull-House Museum I,II

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The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is a historic site and museum located in the Near West Side neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. It is named after Jane Addams, a social reformer and feminist who co-founded the Hull-House Settlement in 1889.

51. Ukrainian National Museum

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The Ukrainian National Museum is a museum located in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is dedicated to preserving and promoting Ukrainian art, culture, and history. The museum was founded in 1952 by a group of Ukrainian immigrants who wanted to ensure that the cultural heritage of Ukraine was preserved for future generations. Today, the museum has a collection of over 40,000 artifacts, including paintings, textiles, traditional costumes, ceramics, weapons, and musical instruments.

52. Jackson Park’s Japanese Garden

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The Japanese Garden is a beautiful and serene park located within the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois. This traditional Japanese-style garden was designed by Koichi Kawana, a renowned landscape architect, and features a variety of plants, trees, and water features that reflect the natural beauty of Japan.

53. Aqua Tower

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Aqua Tower is a stunning skyscraper located in Chicago, Illinois. It was designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects and completed in 2009. The tower is a unique addition to Chicago’s skyline, with its undulating balconies that resemble the ripples of water. At 87 stories tall, Aqua Tower is the third-tallest building in Chicago. The building includes 262 luxury condominiums, as well as offices, retail space, and a hotel. The undulating balconies are not just for aesthetics, they also provide shade for the units and reduce wind loads on the building.

These are just a few of the many amazing places and things to do in Chicago. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this city is sure to leave you with lasting memories.