The Windy City is a hotbed for tourism, culture, cuisine and of course Irish students in the summer. Located on the south-west side of the vast Lake Michigan, Chicago offers some of the most beautiful views year round, but the summer months is when the city especially bursts into life! With a rich history, several beautiful beaches on the lakefront, magnificent architecture, temperatures pushing into the 100s, a top quality music scene and one of the most desirable food locations in the US, Chicago is a choice destination for keen travelers.
Here are the top 17 things you MUST do in Chicago this summer!
17. Take advantage of the many music festivals.
Chicago offers a wide variety of massive music festivals with the best lineups from musicians around the globe. Lollapalooza, Spring Awakening, Pitchfork, Riot Fest and North Coast are the 4 big name music festivals that you can't miss, each one with their own unique style and brand of music.
16. Step out onto the Chicago Skydeck.
Located on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, the Skydeck is a clear glass box secured just outside the building which will 1) put the fear of God up you, 2) give you an incredible and unmatched view of the city and 3) make for a life-changing selfie that you'll never forget! Just don't all get on at once!
15. Try the infamous deep dish pizza!
Chicago is the birthplace of the deep dish pizza and it's the ONLY place where you should go to try your first one. Chicago is loaded with top quality pizza restaurants but there's one establishment that stands a head above the rest - The Original Gino's East! Located just off Michigan Avenue, Gino's is flooded with hungry customers so make sure you book a table in advance. They also allow you to sign your name on the wall of the restaurant in a fun and unique feature, which ensure your name will be remembered in Gino's forever!
14. See the fireworks at Navy Pier.
Navy Pier wouldn't be top of my list of things to do but you can't visit Chi-town and not see Navy Pier. It's a 1.5 mile stretch of bars, restaurants, stores and fun activities for kids. A great location for families with young kids. However the fireworks really are something special, no matter how old you are, and you'll be lucky to see a show like it. They feature every Wednesday and Saturday night along the pier.
13. Have a cocktail in the Hancock Tower's Signature Room.
The Signature Room offers you an unmatched fine dining experience on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower. Do your best to get a window seat for your meal or drink, as you won't eat anywhere with a better view than this.
12. Explore the Shedd Aquarium.
The largest indoor aquarium in the world, Shedd Aquarium rests on the shore of Lake Michigan and is home to over 32,500 marine animals and 80 different habitats. The underwater world allows you to come within touching distance of a piranha, explore the vast and mysterious world of jellyfish, greet the aquarium's newest arrival - a baby beluga whale named Naya - and much more. It is included in the CityPASS allows you to visit 5 of Chicago's biggest attractions at a discounted price!
11. Challenge Adam Richman's triple sandwich record!
Featured on the Travel Channel's "Man VS Food", Lucky's Sandwich Co was where Adam Richman took down 3 Lucky's triple-decker monster sandwiches AND fries in under 12 minutes! That's a serious feat for any man. If you can finish 3 in under 20 minutes, Lucky's will take your photo and add you to the wall of fame beside Adam! Think you have what it takes? Give it a try - what's there to lose?
10. Take a morning Segway tour.
Who doesn't look cool on Segways? EVERYONE, but that's the fun of it. Take a ride down the lakefront in the morning when it's not too hot and take in some of the city's main attractions for yourself. You'll witness the Colombia Yacht Club, Soldier Field, Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago and many more.
9. See a baseball game.
Chicago is tensely divided between the Cubs and the Whitesox. You'll soon find out that the Cubs are terrible (the equivalent of Sunderland in the Premier League) so let's hope you chose your team wisely!
8. The Magnificent Mile pub crawl.
On this historic Chicago pub crawl with an educational twist, you'll enjoy a few beers and explore the Windy City's tales of the prohibition, jazz, theatre and much more. And if you don't like that sort of thing, you can always detour on your own bar crawl as you're never too far away from another watering hole on the Magnificent Mile!
7. Flick the Silver Bean (Cloud Gate)!
No not that bean! Cloud Gate is the centrepiece of Millennium Park and gives just a taste of the city's unique feel and architecture. The massive shiny, mirrored bean makes for a fantastic profile picture!
6. Taste of Chicago.
Are you a foodie? If so, this is definitely the place for you! Taste of Chicago is the world's largest food festival held every July in Grant Park. The city is know for its delicious cuisines and this is the place to explore and try them. In 2005, "The Taste" drew over 3.9 million visitors, sending them all home with full bellies.
5. Visit Lincoln Park Zoo.
Get ready - it is free - YES, absolutely free. You will be hard pushed to find one of those around nowadays, especially one as big as Lincoln Park Zoo. It is a prime location for a day out in the sun as it sits adjacent to North Avenue Beach. The Chicago Getaway Hostel in Lincoln Park is a great place to stay, just around the corner from the busy Clark Street, 15 minutes from the Lincoln Park Zoo and the beach! We cannot recommend it enough - the staff are lovely, and you'll have a blast at the hostel's organised BBQs and bar crawls!
4. Lakefront bicycle ride.
Bobby's Bike Hike offers a wide variety of walking and bike tours which allow you an easy, carefree way to take in the city and at your own pace too. Voted the number 1 tour company on Tripadvisor!
3. Chicago architecture boat tour.
The Chicago boat tours are an excellent way to see the city's skyscrapers, beaches and sail through the city and around the loop on the river. Work on that tan while casually sailing through the city and soak up that Chi-town culture and history along the way.
2. Soak up the Chicago festivals!
Chicago is home to many exciting and exotic festivals during the summertime. Street, neighbourhood and food festivals are always a riot but the blues and jazz festivals are a must for any of you music lovers! Milennium Park also hosts a number of free film screening and concerts in the summer months where Irish musician Glen Hansard has become a familiar face!
1. Chicago night helicopter tour.
This will blow your mind. You've seen the city by land and sea - now you have to see it by air! Chicago Helicopters Express offers a variety of air tours across the scenic Chicago skyline and it is highly recommended you take one if you have the chance. They can be a little on the expensive side but you'll experience a sight like no other and create a memory for life.