While there is so much to explore in Chicago during the day, there are just as many great things to do in Chicago at night. You can visit Millennium Park and the Giant Chicago Bean sculpture surrounded by the city lights, or you can see a Cubs game at the famous Wrigley Field. If you are looking for a unique dinner experience, you can try one of Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza restaurants, or book a themed Chicago food tour. To start planning your night activities, start by browsing our list of the best things to do in Chicago at night.
If you’re visiting Chicago on a budget, then you’re in luck – we’ve put together a guide that shows 26 Free Things to do in Chicago. Or, if you’re looking for our ultimate destination guide to Chicago, browse the 52 Best Things to Do in Chicago.
1. Chicago Bean (Cloud Gate)
The Chicago Bean is a nickname given to the famous Cloud Gate sculpture that can be seen in Millennium Park. It’s actually one of the most photographed pieces of public art in the world and you too can snap a selfie in front of this mesmerizing sculpture. Designed by Chicago artist, Sir Anish Kapoor, this sculpture was designed to resemble liquid mercury and from a distance, it does indeed look like molten metal.
It’s fun to walk around the Chicago Bean to see your reflection change and warp depending on what side of the sculpture you’re standing on. It’s truly an amazing and unique piece of art and well worth a visit, especially if you’re already exploring Millennium Park.
2. Navy Pier
If you want to experience Chicago’s most visited destination, then you’ll want to make your way down to the Navy Pier. This huge pier is bustling with activity and covers over 50 acres of space out over Lake Michigan. The Navy Pier is packed with fun for the whole family with amusement rides, gardens, parks, restaurants, shops, event spaces and so much more.
Originally built in 1916, the Navy Pier was originally called the Municipal Pier and used as a traditional loading spot that managed freight and passenger boat traffic, and through the years it has developed into more of a multi-dimensional entertainment and cultural center of Chicago. We think this is one of the top things to do in Chicago with kids and offers something for the whole family!
3. Magnificent Mile
For an upscale shopping and dining experience, you can stroll Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile near downtown Chicago. The Magnificent Mile is an upscale section of Michigan Avenue and features some of the most swanky retail stores and restaurants and has been compared to other famous shopping destinations, like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or 5th Avenue in New York. There are also many famous hotels and buildings lining the Magnificent Mile, and even if you won’t be shopping here, it’s worth walking this fancy district just to experience Chicago’s main luxury district. There are also typically interesting street performers showing off their unusual skills and this makes for an entertaining stroll along one of Chicago’s most famous streets.
4. Adler Planetarium
For another fun thing to do in Chicago with kids, you can visit the Adler Planetarium. This unique facility opened to the public in 1930 and features many different themed areas, such as the Space Visualization Laboratory that showcases many interactive astronomy exhibits. Another area is the Webster Institute for the History of Astronomy, which features a massive collection of science-related artifacts, instruments, artwork, and more to promote the preservation of the science of Astronomy and is one of the largest astronomy artifact collections in the world. For a fun thing to do in Chicago at Night, you can check out “Adler After Dark” – a 21+ event that happens throughout the month, where you can have a more “adult” experience of the planetarium with drinks and food and nighttime exhibits and entertainment.
5. Buckingham Fountain
Located in the very heart of Grant Park, the Buckingham Fountain is one of the main attractions in the park and mesmerizing to watch. With the fountain water show starting every 20 minutes, you can see the fountain in action – with a timed water show that’s a truly relaxing experience. This huge fountain was dedicated way back in 1927 and holds a staggering 1,500,000 gallons of water. Since the park is open all day and into the night, you can see the fountain water show from April to October, and the fountain can be experienced from 8 am to 11 pm at night. If you watch the show at night, the water is lit up with colored lights to go along with the water display, and we think that watching the show at night is the best way to experience of Buckingham Fountain.
6. Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
No visit to Chicago would be complete without indulging in one of this great city’s best inventions – Deep Dish Pizza. The pizza that you can find here in Chicago is unlike any other pizza you’ve tried with layer upon layer of cheese, sauce and other toppings, this legendary style of pizza is a decadent and distant cousin from what you normally think of when you order Pizza. These pizza slices are so thick that you typically don’t need much more than a single slice to be completely full. With multiple Chicago deep dish pizza shops vying for the top spot on the Chicago Deep Dish Pizza hierarchy, we’ll try to give a solid list of places to visit during your stay. One of the most classic deep dish spots is Giordanos – well known for their incredibly deep pizza pies. Other popular spots include The Art of Pizza, and Nancy’s Pizza among many others.
7. Wrigley Field
To enjoy one of Chicago’s finest sporting event venues, you need to catch a Chicago Cubs baseball game at Wrigley Field. This beloved baseball stadium is located just north of downtown Chicago and can hold a crowd of over 41,000 fans. Wrigley Field is one of the most iconic and well-known baseball stadiums in the United States and has become synonymous with the deep heritage of American Baseball. We think a visit to Chicago is incomplete without trying to see a Cubs game while you’re there.
8. Chicago Riverwalk
A really fun thing to do while you’re in Chicago is exploring the Chicago Riverfront – Also known as Chicago’s “Second Waterfront”. This winding path follows along the downtown portion of the Chicago River and has been built up over time to include shops, boat facilities, gardens, and parks. For a fun and unique way to experience Chicago, walking the Chicago Riverfront is among the top ways to see the city and explore downtown.
9. Crown Fountain
For another unusual thing to do in Chicago at night – you can visit the famous Crown Fountain. This public art piece is located in Millennium Park and features two 50-foot towers that project digital images onto their sides to create interesting visual expressions. Also, since this is a fountain, it’s a fun place for kids to splash around in the shallow water between the towers. While Chicago seems to be full of public art installations, we have to say that Crown fountain is one of our favorites given its unique and imaginative design. If you’re going to be visiting Millennium Park, don’t miss out on this special fountain.
10. Jay Pritzker Pavilion
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a massive outdoor concert and event space located in the heart of Millennium Park and features many concerts, events, and shows throughout the year. The design of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is very unique and was designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2004. The stage area of the pavilion is designed out of a mesmerizing & flowing walls of metal that are meant to project the sound from the stage out over the audience. There is fixed concert seating for 4,000 people in the pavilion and beyond that there is a grass amphitheater that can hold 7,000, making this venue able to hold over 11,000 people at maximum capacity. It is a real treat to see a concert at this special venue, so be sure to review the Jay Pritzker Pavilion event calendar to see what’s playing during your visit.
11. Chicago Food Tours
For another fun and communal thing to do in Chicago at night, you can go on one of the many themed Chicago Food Tours that are offered by many different tour companies. Tours ranging from the serious to even wacky – with titles like “Underground Donut Tour“, to “Chicago Beer Experience” Tours, to a “Bikes Bites and Brews“, to even a chef-led “Chef Driven Food Tours“. It seems there is no end of creative tours you can take of the rich Chicago culinary scene and we think this is one of the best and most enjoyable ways to experience the Windy City. So, after reviewing what’s out there, book your very own Chicago food tour and eat and drink your way around town!
12. Chicago Sports Museum
Even if you aren’t a sports fan, we think that the Chicago Sports Museum is at the top of the list of Chicago’s best museums and they are open until 9 pm, so you can visit at night. This destination is much more than a stuffy museum, it’s an interactive, high-tech experience where you can experience sports and test your skills like never before. You can test your hockey scoring skills alongside Chicago’s great hockey players, or shoot hoops with Chicago Bull’s team members, or even test your racecar-driving skills on the Chicago Speedway! In addition to all the interactive exhibits, there are thousands of artifacts and memorabilia from famous events and players. Don’t miss this special museum during your visit.
13. Logan Arcade
If you are looking for an unusual thing to do in Chicago at night, you can visit the Logan Arcade to play their incredible collection of pinball machines and other vintage video games. It’s not every day that you get to play these mechanical games in our increasingly digital world and that gives this arcade a certain nostalgic charm and atmosphere. Logan arcade does serve alcohol, making this a 21+ venue, so be sure to plan accordingly. We definitely love the Logan arcade and it’s near the top of our list of unusual things to do in Chicago.
14. Centennial Wheel
If you are visiting the Navy Pier in Chicago at night, then you need to take a ride on the gigantic Centennial Wheel. This massive Ferris wheel features inclosed glass gondolas that allow you to take in amazing views of the Chicago skyline and at the peak, you are sitting 200 feet in the air. We think riding the Centennial Wheel is a great thing to do in Chicago at night to see all the city lights and also one of the more romantic things to do in Chicago. So, if you are visiting the Navy Pier area, head on over to the giant Ferris Wheel to enjoy the views.
15. Chicago Theatre
If you want to visit Chicago’s most historic and theatre, then head on over to The Chicago Theater. This iconic theater is located in the Loop district of Chicago and was originally opened way back in 1921. It was a big hit with Chicago residents and became the main theater operation in Chicago for many years. It eventually fell into decline until recent ownership changes have brought it back as one of Chicago’s main destinations for world-class stage performances, magic shows, stand up comedy, and music concerts among many other events that are now held here. For a fun thing to do in Chicago at night that will take you back to this city’s glory days, we can think of no better place to see a show than the acclaimed Chicago Theater.
For a truly cultural thing to do in Chicago at night, you can stroll the foreign streets of Chicago’s Chinatown district. As Chicago was one of the first and largest settlement of Chinese immigrants in the United States, it is no wonder that it now is home to nearly 100,000 Chinese people to this day. Walking the streets of Chinatown makes you feel as if you’ve transported halfway around the world, with authentic Chinese shops, restaurants, boutiques, and grocery stores lining the streets. We think a trip to Chinatown in Chicago is a great cultural experience for anyone and a fun place to visit especially if you enjoy authentic Chinese food.
17. Chicago Shakespeare Theater
For yet another reason why you should visit the Navy Pier, you can see incredible stage performances at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This renowned theater on the pier has weekly performances of its own Shakespeare play series and gives over 600 performances each year. The theater is actually a complex of multiple theaters of varying sizes used for different types of performances. You can learn more about upcoming performances and events at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website.