Whether you are a native Chicagoan or a first-time visitor, you'll find dozens of attractive places to visit in Chicago. The Windy City is famous for its beaches, parks, architecture and museums located all over the city and surrounding suburbs. With a little bit of planning, you can explore wide varieties of visually appealing sights while enjoying many of your favorite activities.
Regardless of Chicago's infamously cold and snowy winter weather, you still can stroll through the colorful green and floral gardens of the botanical conservatories. The Garfield Park Conservatory is just 10 minutes from downtown and offers self-guided and group tours, kids scavenger hunts, a gift shop and a variety of gardening and volunteer programs. The beautifully landscaped paths of exotic plants, floral beds and art displays make ideal backdrops for weddings and other formal photo shoots. The Lincoln Park Conservatory is equally as breathtaking inside and out. Located in the heart of the historical Lincoln Park neighborhood, the multiroom greenhouse is just steps from the sandy Chicago beaches and the zoo.
Set before the amazing Chicago skyline, you'll find one of Chicago's newer attractions, Millennium Park. The park was constructed in 2004 on the northwest end of Grant Park. The outdoor park features dozens of indoor and outdoor works of art, water falls, "the bean" -- a giant, mirrored, bean-shaped sculpture -- a five-acre urban Lurie garden and a stained-glass museum with antique masterpieces dated as far back as the 1700s. From the edge of Millennium Park you can view the historical Buckingham Fountain, or walk a short distance to feel the mist sprinkle your face. After dusk, colorful lights cast a rainbow of flowing spray into the air. For stunning daytime views of the city, visit the Willis Tower -- formerly the Sears Tower -- and step out onto the completely glass-enclosed Skydeck. If shopping is on your agenda, stroll the "Magnificent Mile" of Michigan Avenue to browse some of Chicago's finest architecture, shops and restaurants and the historical Water Tower Place.
In spring and summer, the Chicago lakefront is an ideal stomping grounds for outdoor fun. All of the Chicago beaches are set before a backdrop of the amazing skyline that stretches across the shores. If you're looking for attractive people to mingle with, Oak Street beach is known for being populated with hard bodies working out their suntanned muscles. North Avenue beach is a more family-friendly area with restaurants, sports events and a boat-shaped concession and restroom building. About a mile south down the shore is the renovated Navy Pier, where you can enjoy family activities, kids museums, amusement park games and rides, special events and sightseeing boat rides. A few blocks west of North Avenue beach is the Lincoln Park Zoo. The Zoo, with free admission, offers all of the typical creatures you'd expect to find, as well as a farm, nursery for infant animals and paddle boats, tucked into acres of historical architecture and impeccable landscaping.
Chicago is rich with historical architecture and many historical societies and architectural foundations offer several tours. Join a walking tour of Wicker Park or Logan Square and dine at trendy sidewalk cafes as you stroll through blocks of 1800s' Victorian mansions adorned with sculptures of lions, owls and gargoyles. Hop on a charter boat to gaze across lake Michigan -- or the Chicago River -- at more than 40 of Chicago's more modern architectural landmarks. On the edge of the city limits, take a tour of suburban Oak Park to marvel at the genius of famous contemporary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
One of the greatest things about Chicago museums is that they are amazingly attractive inside and out. The most prestigious museums are within walking distance from one another, and all are architectural Chicago landmarks. The Field Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science and Industry are across a park from each other on the beautiful stone shores of Lake Michigan. Just steps away is the dome-shaped Adler Planetarium, which sits farther out over the waters on its own concrete pier. If you stroll down the "Magnificent Mile," you'll reach the famed lion sculptures welcoming guests to the Art Institute of Chicago, where you can explore works of art from local and world-renowned artists.
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