Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is an exciting city with lots of energy and plenty to see and do. Since it’s so packed with just about everything for anyone, Chicago is always swarming with tourists. It also helps that there is a wide array of accommodations available, including hotels with the best views and non-traditional options such as luxury Airbnb vacation rentals in Chicago. From the fun vibe at historic places such as Navy Pier and Wrigley Field to melodic vibes at a live jazz club, top tourist destinations are sure to be filled with throngs of tourists. If you want to stray off the beaten path and discover what locals may be doing in their free time, then read on to uncover the top non-touristy things to do in Chicago, Illinois.
One of the most fun things to do in Chicago, Illinois, is to unleash your inner artist at this unique experience offered by local Chicago artists at Studio W.IP. Guests can get creative and experiment with spray paint using different techniques on a 50 feet (15.24 meters) wall! Guided by the artists, guests can learn various techniques such as lettering, using stencils, and cap techniques.
Guests can commemorate this experience by taking home their very own unique piece of the mural. Guests should feel free to bring a beverage and just have a fun yet relaxing time exploring their artistic side.
Duration: 90 mins
2. Adler Planeterium
Are you a science buff fascinated with all things space-related? If yes, the Adler Planetarium must be included in your travel itinerary to experience the perfect off-the-beaten-path in Chicago. Founded in 1930, this attraction is not just Chicago’s but America’s first planetarium. It has an impressive collection of celestial artifacts and immersive displays and hosts several interactive and fun-learning sky shows in its iconic dome theater.
Guests can have interactive and immersive experiences at the vibrant Clark Family Welcome Gallery, the Doane Observatory, Space Visualization Lab, and many more. This is the perfect destination to visit for not just kids but people from all age groups.
Address: 1300 S DuSable Lk Shr Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States
Website: Adler Planetarium
Opening hours: Thu - Tue: 9am - 4pm; Wed: 4pm - 10pm
Price: Adults: 28 USD; Children: 17 USD
3. The Hideout
Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account
One of the top things to do in Chicago is to have a drink at The Hideout Bar, which is nestled in Chicago’s industrial Lincoln Park neighborhood. It is a cherished local gem with an eclectic vibe. A historic venue since 1881, its unassuming façade conceals a vibrant music and arts scene. Patrons relish the unpretentious ambiance, characterized by dim lighting and rustic décor. The bar hosts an array of live music performances, spanning genres such as blues, folk, and indie rock, attracting both established acts and emerging talent. This is the ideal place for couples, they can relax in some of Chicago’s famous spa resorts and head into town for date night. Known for its sense of community and charm, The Hideout Bar remains an authentic haven for those seeking genuine experiences amidst the city’s bustling entertainment landscape.
Address: 1354 West Wabansia Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
Website: The Hideout
Opening hours: Mon: 5pm - 10pm; Tue - Thurs: 5pm - 12am; Fri: 5pm - 2am; Sat: 6pm - 3am, Sun: 6pm - 12am
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4. Garden of the Phoenix
Looking for free things to do in Chicago, Illinois? Discover the Garden of the Phoenix, a hidden gem tucked away from the touristy bustle. Nestled on Wooded Island within Jackson Park, this serene haven offers a tranquil escape for locals and visitors alike. Unveiling its rich history, the Garden of the Phoenix symbolizes the enduring bond between the United States and Japan. Stroll through enchanting landscapes, admire the striking Japanese pavilion, and immerse yourself in the serenity of its surroundings. Whether you seek solace or a cultural retreat, this lesser-known attraction promises an unforgettable experience in the heart of Chicago.
Garden of the Phoenix
Address: 6300 S Cornell Ave, Chicago, IL 60637, United States
Website: Garden of the Phoenix
Opening hours: 6am - 11pm (daily)
Price: Free of cost
Want to go skydiving, but can’t muster the courage to actually jump out of an airplane? If this is the case, then the Chicago-Lincoln Park Indoor Skydiving Experience is for you. At iFLY Chicago in Lincoln Park, you can experience the pleasure of skydiving at this outstanding indoor facility that’s powered by an amazing state-of-the-art, 800-horsepower vertical wind tunnel. No experience is required. After completing a simple training session, you’ll enjoy the thrill of floating at wind speeds reaching 130 to 175 mph (209 to 282 kph)! This package includes two 60 seconds of heart-pounding free-fall action. Chicago-Lincoln Park Indoor Skydiving Experience is a fun alternative to skydiving, and it won’t bruise your wallet.
Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
Explore the natural beauty of Lake Michigan aboard the fun and easy to operate three-wheeled Aqua Water Trike. No lessons are needed for this unique mode of transportation, just jump on and start pedaling. This delightful self-guided water excursion allows participants to relax and enjoy the calm waters and bask in the sunshine. Life jackets are issued to all riders. A safety briefing and instructions are provided before you head out onto the lake, and kids under 13 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Aqua Water Trike Rentals is an excellent group adventure that you won’t soon forget!
Duration: 30 minutes
Chicago Puzzling Adventure puts a new spin on the traditional walking tour. Combining the customary walking tour with the fun of a puzzle game, Chicago Puzzling Adventure makes your smartphone your guide on this unique adventure. Participants choose their start time and then go on a brain-teasing and educational walking tour of your chosen neighborhood. Visit various locales and answer questions or solve puzzles in order to receive your next instruction. Chicago Puzzling Adventure is not a race to see who finishes in the fastest time. The aim is to simply enjoy the exciting Chicago surroundings from a different angle.
Duration: 1 to 3 hours
Spend a delightful evening immersed in a bygone era. Kiss Kiss Cabaret at Uptown Underground offers fun Vaudeville-style entertainment in Chicago. Rumored to have been a speakeasy owned by gangster Al Capone at one time, Uptown Underground offers hot burlesque dancers, sweet-sounding singers, astounding magicians, hysterically funny comedians, jaw-dropping acrobats, amusing jugglers, and so much more. Possessing a wonderful jewel box stage, Uptown Underground’s venue is spectacular, boasting a marvelous performance hall ambiance reminiscent of the 1920s. You must be at least 21 years of age to enter and Uptown Underground is wheelchair accessible.
Duration: 90 minutes
Instead of using your smartphone to map out overcrowded tourist spots to visit, why not use the device to play a fun game that takes you to out-of-the-way places and hidden gems in Chicago. Clue-Gathering Adventure Game, courtesy of 3Quest, is a 21st-century version of the classic scavenger hunt This digital adventure sends participants on a journey throughout Chicago. Make your way to each checkpoint, answer a question to collect a clue, then perform a challenge. Each question you answer correctly gets you a point. After completing all the Quests, head back to Home Base and use the clues collected to solve the final puzzle. There’s no worries about getting lost because a guide is just a text or call away to help you through the activity if you need it.
Duration: 2 hours
On a scale of one to 10 regarding unique non-touristy activities Axe Throwing at BATL - The Backyard Axe Throwing League in Chicago definitely hits the mark at 10…and beyond. Axe Throwing at BATL is the first organization in the world to create this rare attraction in an urban setting. Guests can experience the excitement of axe throwing in a secure environment. The session lasts about one hour and it’s paired with a one-on-one safety instruction given by an axe-throwing expert. Be aware closed-toed shoes are required and participants aged 16 and 17 must have a parent or legal guardian present.
Duration: 60 minutes
Enjoy a night at the theater with this amazing production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago. The Jules Verne classic is presented in spectacular fashion by the celebrated Lookingglass Theatre Company, which has been entertaining theatergoers in Chicago since 2003. The Company’s emphasis on grand productions makes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea an ideal and ambitious production to witness on the stage and is certainly a break from the usual tourist traps. Please note, even though the story is a deep-sea adventure, it’s not recommended for kids under eight years of age.
Duration: 2 hours
The largest science museum in the United States, Museum of Science and Industry Chicago Plus Giant Dome Film is an amazing way to spend an afternoon. Comprised of 14 acres (5.6 hectares) of great hands-on exhibits, guests can experience once-in-a-lifetime thrills: zigzag your way through a mirror maze, stand toe-to-toe with a 40-foot (12-meter) tornado, take a seat in a 727 aircraft suspended from the ceiling, jog on a human-sized hamster wheel, watch baby chicks hatch, and so much more! The museum entry also entitles guests to view an entertaining film in the facilities impressive five-story domed theater.
Tip from Trip101 local expert
An all-around top museum to visit in the City of Chicago, it has something on offer that few other locations in the world give you the opportunity to explore. Situated inside the museum is the complete U-505, a German submarine from World War II. Personally my favorite experience at the museum, you get the opportunity to walk through and explore this living piece of history. If you have a keen interest in history, this is an opportunity included with your museum entrance cost that you can't pass up!
Duration: 1 to 8 hrs
The Middle Ages were never this much fun. Spend the evening in a fantastic castle, replete with polished armor, intriguing artifacts, and impressive coats of arms, when you visit the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament Chicago. A one-of-a-kind adventure that provides a fabulous four-course feast served by a friendly medieval wait staff. While dining, you’ll be thoroughly entertained by the amazing displays of horsemanship and falconry. There’s even jousting tournaments, where you can cheer for your favorite knight. This venue offers easy access for wheelchair-bound individuals, and vegetarian options are available if you request at the time of booking.
Duration: 2 hours
Chicago River Ghosts and Gangsters Kayak Tour offers a rare kayaking experience that also introduces participants to a different side of Chicago. This small group tour glides through the heart of the city, and a guide instructs you on effective paddling techniques and how to properly maneuver your kayak. As you make your way through the illuminated downtown portion of the river, hear tantalizing stories about Chicago’s gangster and ghoulish past. With spectacular views from a unique perspective and entertaining tales of the city’s gritty and bloody history, you can’t help but be enthralled by this offbeat adventure.
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
With its sheer volume of things to do, Chicago is a place of non-stop action and excitement. Luckily you’re surrounded by so much in Chicago you can easily skip the most popular tourist destinations and still have a very satisfying experience. So if you’re tired of weaving your way through massive crowds at Millennium Park and the Chicago Riverwalk, then opt for an out-of-the-ordinary diversion you can certainly receive from this compelling list of Chicago’s less publicized entertainment.
Frequently asked questions about about the non-touristy things to do in Chicago, Illinois
1. What are some fun things to do in Chicago for kids and teenagers?
Some of the fun things to do in Chicago for kids and teenagers would be to spend the afternoon at the Adler Planetarium and later, enjoy an evening stroll in the beautiful Garden of Phoenix to enjoy the beautiful sunset views.
2. What are some romantic things to do for couples in Chicago?
Some of the romantic things to do for couples in Chicago include trying this street art an aerosol Workshop to explore their creative sides together, having a drink at the famous Hideout Bar, and taking a walk through the beautiful Garden of Phoenix.
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