6 Unique Things to Do in Chicago That Every Local Should Know About

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Updated on September 6th, 2023

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If you’re living in Chicago, chances are you’ve seen popular tourist attractions like Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean, or have walked around the Navy Pier. Although these attractions make Chicago unique, have you ever wondered what else is out there? If that’s the case, Redfin has you covered. We’ve gathered Chicagoans to share their favorite unique things to do in Chicago to give you some fresh ideas. So whether you’re ready to shake up your routine or new to the city looking for homes for sale in Chicago or apartments for rent, check out locally approved attractions you want to take advantage of.

Chicago River Cityscape at Sunset
Mlenny via Getty Images

1. You can’t go wrong with the Art Institute of Chicago

Are you looking to step back in time? The Art Institute of Chicago will help transport you as you like. The museum houses one of the country’s largest permanent collections and other centuries-old artwork.

Martin, a local Chicagoan from SmartMoneyMatch, a network that connects the global investment community, recommends the Art Institute of Chicago when the weather is terrible. “It’s always worth a visit. It’s filled with masterpieces from every era, from Georges Seurat’s iconic painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte to Andy Warhol’s print of actress Elizabeth Taylor.”

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2. Visit the Chicago River in the summer

In the summertime, Chicago becomes an outdoor oasis for all residents and visitors. From the various parks and the waterways, you’ll find a place you’ll love to explore.

“My favorite unique thing to do in Chicago is to go kayaking on the Chicago River in the summer,” says May, a Chicago local from Nutrition Happens, a space dedicated to health, wellness, and nutrition. “Whether you’re a resident or just visiting, there’s nothing better than soaking in the famous skyline views with a peaceful paddle down the river.”

Chicago local Jane Simon Ammeson agrees. “Rivers were the highways of the past, but the Chicago River offers uniquely modern adventures for me. I can paddle its waters and shiver at scary stories during a Ghost and Gangster kayak tour, and sip a Spanish Rioja while gazing at the city lights. I love to stroll along the Riverwalk, choose a favorite place to dine, and plan my next adventure while watching the boats go by.”

Aerial View of Shedd Aquarium
tomprout via Getty Images

3. Take a visit to the Shedd Aquarium

Bungee QC Fitness shares that their favorite unique thing to do in Chicago is visiting the Shedd Aquarium. “With over 1,500 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates from around the world, the Shedd Aquarium showcases an impressive array of aquatic life. 

The Shedd Aquarium is one of the country’s oldest and most respected aquariums. If you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss it.

4. Explore nearby neighborhoods

Chicago is full of charming neighborhoods like River North and Edgewater. You’ll indeed find beautiful places in Chicago that will blow you away within a matter of minutes from each other. So grab your shoes, head out the door, and get ready to explore.

“Chicago is a great city for food and family fun,” says Jenny and Sheena, local Chicagoans from “And Then We Had Kids” Podcast. “Park & Field, located in the Logan Square neighborhood, is an excellent restaurant for all ages, and they even host fun family events and a bottomless boozy brunch on the weekends. If you’re looking for a place to host your event, Park & Field features fee-free party rentals. And the best part is they’re dog-friendly.

Friends having lunch
Studio4 via Getty Images

5. Dine in local favorite restaurants

Whether you’re searching for homes for sale in Pilsen because of the authentic eats or just looking for hidden gems in Chicago, you’re sure to find something that will make your mouth water. 

If you’re a foodie, you’ll want to check out the Irish Nobleman Pub on the West Side. Enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine while enjoying the lush foliage, flowers & hummingbirds in the summer. The patio is lined with AstroTurf, so it’s like a green oasis near downtown Chicago – and that also makes it super comfortable for bringing my dog along. It’s not just a Chicago favorite spot to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; the summertime patio is an attraction on its own.

Are you looking for a fancy night on the town? Vess, a local from Bus Connection, a sophisticated transportation service, recommends stopping by Bavette’s Bar and Bouf. “One of Chicago’s finest steakhouse restaurants, Bavette’s Bar and Bouf is truly a hidden gem. Feel the swanky ambiance of a prohibition-era speakeasy, softly lit with red velvet wraparound booths and sultry jazz music soundtracks. It’s the most unique and intimate place to wine and dine.”

6. Go to any event hosted by Sofar Sounds

Sofar Sounds connects the community with secret concerts in unique spaces. You’ll receive the address of the event within 36 hours before the event. You’ll experience different shows, from musical genres and comedy to dance. 

“My recommendation for a unique thing to do in Chicago is to go to events hosted by Sofar Sounds,” says Emily from Mezz Entertainment. “Through this experience, you can attend intimate gigs throughout the city, like the loop and Lincoln Park. I love discovering new artists to listen to from these shows.” 

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.
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Ana de Guzman

Ana is part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about home improvement and life & style. Her dream house would be a Mediterranean style home featuring expansive windows.

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