When I moved to the Midwest from Hawaii nearly two decades ago I instantly fell in love with Chicago. It’s has that big city feel (though is immensely cleaner than New York), it’s located on beautiful Lake Michigan, the shopping is fabulous… and yes, the cultural diversity and world-class attractions don’t hurt either.
If you have never made the trip to the Windy City I would highly recommend doing so. If the city is near and dear to your heart why not make a return trip this holiday season. When you do check out some of my favorite Chicagoland attractions (listed in no particular order):
1. Shedd Aquarium— It is the largest indoor aquarium in the world, and located appropriately enough on the banks of Lake Michigan. It is home to sharks, beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, penguins and much more… oh and did I mention it’s my 2-year-old’s favorite place in the world? For money saving advice, parking tips, and tips on how to navigate through Shedd’s massive buildings with a toddler in tow click here.
2. Sears Tower– At 1450 feet and 110 stories high, Chicago’s Sears Tower is the tallest building in North America and the third tallest building in the world. The views from the top floor observation deck are spectacular. On a clear day you can see 40-50 miles, including parts of Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. To read my personal Sears Tower travel tips click here.
3. Brookfield Zoo—Shedd Aquarium may be my daughter’s favorite place on Earth, but the Brookfield Zoo comes in a close second. Brookfield Zoo is located in Brookfield, Illinois, just 14 miles west of downtown Chicago. It sits on 216 acres of landscaped grounds and has fabulous exhibits that feature everything from dolphins to antelopes. However, it is the Hamill Family Play Zoo that makes it a family favorite. To read more about our adventures there click here.
4. Lincoln Park Zoo– Lincoln Park Zoo is an exceptional piece of property that gives you a spectacular view of Chicago’s skyline. It is a beautiful park conveniently located near downtown Chicago and its proximity to other area attractions is unmatched. It’s also one of the last major cultural attractions in the United States that’s free. I’m not sure what I like more about this zoo… its location or its contents. It is truly a remarkable spot that provides Kodak moments at each turn. The zoo is lined with old shade trees and the lagoons are filled with swans and flamingos. There are pools where sea lions frolic and polar bears lounge. And everything is very visible… clear barriers in many exhibits make you feel like you can reach out and touch the amazing creatures that call this zoo home. You can stand only inches from penguins and puffins in the seabird house, or view an African lake from underwater. My young daughter loves the Farm-in-the-Zoo, where wooden barns and sheds create the feel of being on Old MacDonald’s Farm. Don’t leave without seeing the zoo’s most unique residents: the naked mole-rat and the fruit bat.
5. The Magnificent Mile– The Magnificent Mile is the term used to describe the northern part of Michigan Avenue between the Chicago River and Lake Shore Drive. It is Chicago’s version of the Champs-Elysées. It is a shopper’s paradise and home to world-class shopping (Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Ralph Lauren, Crate and Barrel, FAO Schwartz, and much more) dining, museums, and ritzy hotels. Click here to read about one of our family’s favorite stops along the Magnificent Mile.