First opened in 1925, Chicago’s Union Station has been a major hub of public transport in Illinois and the rest of the country almost since its inception. Nowadays, the station moves well over one million passengers every year along its 24 train tracks, connecting downtown Chicago with the rest of the state and beyond.
Union Station is the fourth busiest train station in the United States and the busiest outside of New York. So the last thing you want to do is carry heavy bags around a place like this. Drop off your bags at a Chicago Union Station luggage storage and explore some of the great things to do in this part of the city. Thanks to its central location, Union Station is close to a lot of what makes Chicago worth visiting, so you won’t have to go far to enjoy yourself in the city.
Believe it or not, Union Station is itself one of the most interesting historic buildings in the city. And your exploration of Chicago can begin even before you leave the station. Join a free, hour-long tour of the facility that departs from the Great Hall every day at 10:30 a.m. These tours are conducted by volunteers and offer an insider’s view of this architectural marvel. You’ll learn about the station’s construction and get to see some of its most interesting features, like the Fred Harvey Company restaurant and the Women’s Lounge.
If you’re interested in taking a tour but can’t make it at 10:30 a.m., you can also book a private tour for your group through the Chicago Union Station website.
Art Institute of Chicago
Just a short walk from Union Station is the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the most renowned art museums in the world. The permanent collection features works by some of history’s most celebrated artists, including Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Salvador Dali. Even if you’re not an art lover, the museum is worth a visit for its stunning architecture alone.
The Art Institute is open every day except Mondays, and tickets can be purchased on the spot or in advance online. If you plan to visit other museums while you’re in town, you might want to consider buying a CityPASS, which includes admission to five of Chicago’s top attractions, including the Art Institute, at a discounted price.
Cloud Gate, also known as “The Bean,” is one of Chicago’s most iconic landmarks. Located in Millennium Park, this massive sculpture is made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together to form a seamless whole. Its surface reflects the city skyline and the clouds above, making it a truly unique piece of public art.
You can walk around Cloud Gate any time for free, but if you want to get closer (and have your photo taken), the best time to go is early in the morning or later at night when the park is less crowded.
While you’re in the area, be sure to explore all that Millennium Park has to offer. In addition to Cloud Gate, the park is home to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue with a striking steel frame designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. The pavilion hosts free concerts throughout the summer, so check the schedule before you go and see if anything catches your fancy.
You can also stroll through the park’s beautiful gardens, relax by the reflecting pool, or take a ride on the Centennial Wheel, Chicago’s very own Ferris wheel.
No trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, the stadium is worth a visit for its historic significance and its beautiful setting. Built in 1914, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball (after Fenway Park in Boston) and one of the most beloved.
You can take a guided tour of the stadium on game days and non-game days alike. Tours typically last about an hour and include a stop in the Cubs clubhouse, a visit to the press box, and a walk through the bleachers. You’ll also get to see some of Wrigley’s unique features, like the hand-turned scoreboard and the ivy-covered brick outfield walls.
If you’re interested in catching a game, tickets can be purchased online or at the stadium on game day, but they can be hard to come by.
Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions, and it’s easy to see why. With over 35,000 artifacts on display, the museum has something for everyone. From interactive exhibits to hands-on demonstrations, there’s a lot to see and do.
Some of the museum’s most popular attractions include the U-505 submarine, the Apollo 8 spacecraft, and the elaborate miniature railroad. The museum is also home to an IMAX theater, which shows educational films throughout the day.
If you’re visiting with kids, be sure to check out the Museum Campus, a separate area of the museum that’s specifically designed for children ages 2-12. Here they can explore a working farm, climb aboard a real airplane, and much more.
The Museum of Science and Industry is open every day except Christmas, and tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
The Chicago Riverwalk is a beautiful pedestrian path that winds along the banks of the Chicago River. The riverwalk is open year-round, and there’s no better place to take in the city’s stunning skyline.
In the summer, the riverwalk is lively and bustling, with people enjoying the weather and the views. In the winter, it’s a bit quieter but no less beautiful. Either way, it’s a great place to go for a walk, grab a bite to eat, or just relax and people-watch.
There are plenty of things to see and do along the riverwalk, so you can easily spend an afternoon exploring.
Chicago’s Union Station has been welcoming visitors to the city for a century. And if you’re one of the million people who pass through the station every year, you’ll find yourself right in the heart of everything that makes Chicago so special. Leave your bags behind at Union Station and try some of these great attractions to see for yourself what Chicago is all about.