By Chicago Tribune staff
Originally published: 06/13/2013
Overhead trains, river-touring boats, legendary dinosaurs and American Girls: Chicago's best attractions appeal to all ages. And though it's a big city, Chicago extends a warm Midwestern welcome to visitors while keeping it real with an ample dose of thrift. Here are a few ideas for sightseeing in Chicago.
Field Museum. Chicago's natural history museum, the Field Museum houses the world's most complete T-rex -- sweetly named Sue -- as well as exhibits on African animals, underground bugs and Native Americans.
John G. Shedd Aquarium. Beyond the standard fish tanks of most aquariums, the Shedd Aquarium stages dolphin shows in its Oceanarium pool and lodges a 400,000-gallon shark tank underground. Admission can be steep but worthwhile.
Museum of Science and Industry. This south side institution specializes in immersive exhibits such as a ride down a coalmine shaft or a walk through a World War II submarine.
Lincoln Park Zoo. The largest free zoo in the country is a favorite. Don't miss the ape house and the immersive African exhibit, both recent additions.
Navy Pier. Chicago's most visited tourist attraction, the carnival-like Navy Pier juts into Lake Michigan, offering boat rides (power or sail), a Ferris wheel, the Chicago Children's Museum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, restaurants and more.
Wendella River Cruise. Hop a boat that plies the Chicago River to ogle the towering buildings that have made the city an architectural innovator, not to mention the home of the skyscraper.
Lake Michigan Lakeshore. Fifteen miles of beach span the Lake Michigan shore. Play in the sand or rent bikes (at Navy Pier) and cruise some of the 18-mile lakefront recreational path.
L train. Take a ride on the Chicago elevated trains, known as the "L." Try the Brown Line, which circles downtown and takes a scenic route over the Chicago River, north from the Madison and Wabash stop, just a few blocks from Millennium Park. To return, simply get off at the end of the line or anywhere along the route once over the river, cross the tracks and return for no extra charge -- the train will return you back to the same stop.
Millennium Park. The reflective kidney-bean-shaped sculpture "Cloud Gate" and video fountains that folks of all ages love to wade through make this downtown addition to Chicago's Grant Park a hit.
Sears Tower Skydeck. Sure, it's been renamed -- but we Chicagoans still call it Sears Tower. See four states on a clear day from the 103rd floor of one of the world's great skyscrapers -- tallest in the western hemisphere.
Adler Planetarium. You're sure to marvel at the star shows projected on the planetarium dome.
Art Institute of Chicago. This world-class art museum has a semi-recent modern wing addition.
Buckingham Fountain. Check out the light show on this Grant Park landmark dating to 1927.
For more great travel ideas, download a copy of the Chicago Tribune's "Destinations" e-book, written by Tribune travel writer Josh Noel.
Text and photo courtesy of our friends at the Chicago Tribune. Top image via Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune.