Get Your Culture Fix at Chicago’s Top Museums and Cultural Attractions

Known for inventing or advancing myriad performing arts, Chicago’s cultural legacy extends to  improv comedy; architecture; literature and the visual arts. As for its museums, well, they’ve earned their rightful place on the world stage.

Not to be forgotten is Chicago’s literary history. It’s here that poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and Carl Sandburg came to prominence and writers from Ernest Hemingway to Saul Bellow and Upton Sinclair lived and/or honed their skills. 

When you’re in need of a culture fix, these iconic spots certainly fill the bill.

Spend a day at Chicago’s Museum Campus (337 East Randolph St.), a 57-acre lakefront park adjacent to Northerly Island. Here, you’ll find five of the city's most notable attractions: the Adler Planetarium, America's first; the Shedd Aquarium; the Field Museum, its origins traced to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition; Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears; and the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place, an exhibition space.


Escape the cold — or simply the outside world — at the stunning Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N. Central Park Ave., 773-638-1766, garfieldconservatory.org). This lush, 10-acre botanical landscape-under-glass is a year-round destination, with indoor display gardens in a variety of habitats. 


Take time to stroll through the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave., 312-443-3600,  artic.edu). Located in Chicago's Grant Park, just a short walk from the interactive Crown Fountain and The Bean, this Beaux Arts beauty — flanked by two bronze lions — houses a 300,000-strong, permanent collection of art. From Japanese prints to ancient Greek sculptures; Edward Hopper's Nighthawks; Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte; and Grant Wood's American Gothic, it also houses the Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing and destination-worthy restaurant Terzo Piano, with its breathtaking views of Millennium Park.


Set smack-dab in the heart of Lincoln Park, free, 35-acre Lincoln Park Zoo (2001 N. Clark St., 312-742-2000, lpzoo.org)  is one of the oldest zoos in the nation. As you stroll through the scenic, park-like setting, glean big cats, penguins, gorillas, polar bears, reptiles and monkeys — not to mention long-legged Chilean flamingos.


Learn what makes Chicago Chicago at Lincoln Park’s Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark St., 312- 642-4600, chicagohistory.org). With a collection that ranges from dioramas to newsreels and artifacts, it offers insight into Chicago’s past, present and future. There’s also a diverse roaster or programming that’s worth a look-see.


No matter how long you’ve lived in Chicago, there’s always something new to discover. Walking tours and river cruises from the Chicago Architecture Center (111 E. Wacker Dr., 312-922-3432, architecture.org) are a great place to expand your knowledge, whether it’s about Art Deco structures or the mid-century architecture of Mies van der Rohe.


Located in the jaw-dropping, Art Deco Civic Opera House, the Lyric Opera of Chicago (20 N. Upper Wacker Dr., 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org) is among the country’s most respected opera venues, putting on lavish performances in a historic setting. Prefer classical music? The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (220 S. Michigan Ave., 312-294-3000, cso.org), housed in the Symphony Center, is among the world's leading orchestras. Trying to save bank? The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra (312-294-3000, www.grantparkmusicfestival.com) performs for free at the Grant Park Music Festival, a summer concert series, in Millennium Park.


Looking for more inspiration? You’ll find it here.

Leave a Comment