Take a walk along the Chicago River downtown
Downtown Chicago is an attraction in itself! We weren’t expecting to find such a beautiful river, boardwalks, numerous parks and a stunning contrast between modern and classical architecture. Stroll beside the Michigan River amongst active locals and take all the sights in.
Take a walk down the ‘Magnificent Mile’ (Michigan Avenue) if you enjoy checking out all the top designer shops or stroll around the the Chicago Loop if you’re looking for beautiful architecture, unique shops and tasty restaurants.
Bask in city and lake views for free at the Signature Room – 96 floors up!
If you want to see Chicago from above, it’ll normally cost you $30 to check out 360 Chicago – the city’s highest tower and public viewing platform. However, a local recommended we check out the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building; normally a buffet restaurant and lounge, you can take the elevator up and enjoy a drink with a pretty impressive view – or if you’re like us and on a tight budget, just take photos from the mezzanine!
Obviously the Signature Room is extremely popular so try to plan your visit in a quieter time (mid-morning or mid-afternoon). The restaurant is very well reviewed and we were surprised at the fair prices we noticed on the menu. If you’re looking for a unique venue to celebrate something special then check it out.
Taste the best cheeseburger in the city – or perhaps the entire world
As soon as we arrived in Chicago we heard about this famous cheeseburger. We promised our friend that we’d check out what all the hype was about so booked a table at Au Cheval in the old meat packing district and prepared to be wowed.
We certainly were wowed when we saw the menu – not by the food but by the price! Each cheeseburger cost $ 11.95 without taxes or tips and didn’t even include a side of fries!
Although we’re travelling on a budget we decided to splurge and try the burger anyway.. and oh boy, are we glad we did.
The bread is a super soft and buttery brioche filled with two juicy beef patties, creamy handmade saucy, lots of cheese and home pickled cucumber to cut the richness. Definitely worth the exorbitant price once in your life!
Take a ride along the shores of Lake Michigan
Like most big cities, Chicago offers a public bike hire system called Divvy Bikes. Although we didn’t rent bikes, they would have been super useful as we walked for miles and miles to explore the city.
The banks of the Michigan Lake are absolutely stunning on a clear day and the city offers great bike paths in every region with Divvy stations around every corner.
Try Chicago’s famous cheesy caramel popcorn at Garrett’s
History states that for more than 65 years people have been queuing out the front of Garrett Popcorn stores all over the city to get their crunchy, cheesy and sweet popcorn fix. It’s not difficult to understand why – even those who aren’t big popcorn fans, like Alex, will be licking their fingers after finishing a bag of this divine scrumptiousness.
Flavours include traditional buttery salt, CaramelCrisp, CheeseCorn and even chocolate covered and nut cluster popcorns. But you have to try the Garret Mix – a combination of sweet CaramelCrisp with savoury CheeseCorn.
Explore Navy Pier
Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s main tourist attractions, and with the main building recently renovated and ever changing exhibitions and events taking place its definitely worth checking out.
Inside you’ll find a range of local and international shops with a food court that extends to the beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking the stunning Lake Michigan.
In summer you’ll find a fun park set up with great family activities and, in winter – ice skating of course!
Take a selfie at iconic Cloud Gate and check out the Chicago’s incredible parks
Whether you call it The Bean, Cloud Gate or the Mirror Blob this sculpture is known the world over as a Chicago icon and is pretty impressive in real life.
It reflects the city’s skyline on one side and Millennium Park on the other, but our favourite view was from right underneath the giant sculpture.
While you’re checking out Cloud Gate don’t miss visiting the rest of Millennial Park and neighbouring Maggie Daley Park. You’ll be presently surprised when you find public rock climbing walls, ice skating, a massive outdoor theatre, beautiful fountains and countless playgrounds all surrounded by lush plants and grassy areas.
Buy cheap yet mouthwatering goodies at Blommer Chocolate Factory
You’d find this place by following your nose just North-East of downtown Chicago. The smell of melting chocolate is divine and as we walked past the massive factory we couldn’t resist checking out the Blommer Chocolate Outlet store.
You’ll find everything here form delicious chocolate covered nuts and lollies to gift boxes, drinking chocolate and best of all cheap ‘second’s’. These broken or discontinued chocolates are being sold super cheap – we picked dup half a kilo of dark chocolate drops for $3.95.
Try Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza
Also known as ‘pie’ (because of its depth), deep dish pizza is a must try while in Chicago. With a crumbly, buttery crust, piles of gooey cheese, concentrated herby tomato sauce and salami you’ll be able to eat a whole one just on your own! Check out this list of Chicago’s best deep dish pizza to help you decide where to try this delicacy!