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13 Best Things to do on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

13 Best Things to do on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

Are you searching for things to do on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile? Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of things there are to do on the Magnificent Mile?

After all, the 13-block stretch offers more than 50 popular attractions and historic landmarks along with hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and shops on Miracle Mile (as it’s sometimes called, along with the Mag Mile).

Whether you’re in town for arts and culture, visiting jazz clubs and iconic architecture, partaking in regional cuisine (think Chicago-style deep-dish pizza and loaded hot dogs), or paying homage to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

You can’t go to the Windy City without visiting Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and the Magnificent Mile.

Constructed in the 1920s, the Mag Mile got its name from developer Arthur Rubloff in the 1940s. The Mile runs along North Michigan Avenue and along the Chicago River to the south and Oak Street to the north in Chicago.

Located at the south end of the Mile, DuSable Bridge (formerly the Michigan Avenue Bridge) is the first double-deck double-leaf bascule (meaning it’s movable, like a drawbridge, via the use of counterweights) bridge ever built. It’s also the gateway for visitors to the Magnificent Mile, Chicago.

Let’s get started!

TLDR – The Best of the Mag Mile, Chicago, IL

Best and Fun Things to do on the Magnificent Mile

1. Go Sky-High at the John Hancock Center

John Hancock Center Tower

Conquer your fear of heights (or just learn to live with it) at the John Hancock Center. It comes in at a whopping 1,128 feet tall (1,499 at the tip of the antennas).

The 360 Chicago Observatory is on the 94th floor. Look out on the city from the TILT attraction where you’ll “tilt” out for downward-facing views from 1,030 feet.

2. Water Tower

Chicago Water Tower Architecture

Built in 1869, the historic Chicago Water Tower is now home to the Chicago Office of Tourism and an art gallery (City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower), which features local photography, film, and art.

The Chicago Water Tower survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and is the second oldest water tower in the U.S.

See Related: Chicago vs New York: What’s the Difference?

3. Millennium Park

Millennium Park's Cloud Gate

Part of the 319-acre Grant Park, the 24.5-acre Millennium Park offers a little bit of everything, including museums, green space, art installations, and events.

Check out the famous Cloud Gate statue (widely known as the “Bean), free yoga and workout classes, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which offers free movies, shows, and music festivals.

Explore and search for public art, reflecting pools, and video innovation at Crown Fountain, go flower gazing at Lurie Garden, and enjoy indoor cultural events at Harris Theater for Music and Dance during your N Michigan Ave trip.

See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit

4. Chicago River Architecture Tour

Chicago River Cruise

Take an Architecture Cruise on the river. The tour starts at DuSable Bridge (Michigan Avenue Bridge). You’ll then head along the north and south branches toward the Chicago Riverwalk and Lake Michigan.

Along the way, you’ll view historic landmarks, skyscrapers, and gothic, modern, and mid-century architecture such as the Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building, Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building, and the Willis Tower.

An onboard bar makes this an excellent way to unwind.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in the US

5. Retail Therapy

Gucci Store at Magnificent Mile
image by achimh is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

With more than 450 department stores, designer boutiques, and international stores to explore shopaholics, are bound to fall off the wagon along the Mile, at Water Tower Place, and the Shops at North Bridge.

Just a few Magnificent Mile stores include Macy’s, Nordstrom, Max Mara, David Yurman, Pandora, Cartier, Bloomingdale’s, Away, and the Disney Store.

6. Chicago Sports Museum

Chicago Sports Museum Entrance
image by Briannalelli is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Whether it’s the Bulls, the Bears, or the Cubs, the Chicago Sports Museum pays tribute to all of Chicago’s sports teams. You’ll find the White Sox, Blackhawks, and more within its walls.

Peruse sports memorabilia, an enormous collection of sports gear and equipment, and 2016 World Series memorabilia.

Through high-tech interactive experiences, you can take skill challenges such as learning how to throw a curve ball from Steve Stone or comparing your vertical leap to Michael Jordan and wingspan to Scottie Pippen.

You can even try on a replica of the Bears’ William “Refrigerator” Perry’s Super Bowl Ring – the largest ever created! The museum is one of the best attractions on a Chicago sports tour.

See Related: Most Beautiful Valleys in the US

7. Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium Aerial View
image by Sea Cow  is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Marine animals in the middle of the Windy City?

Sure!

This fun indoor aquarium offers a peek into the world of sharks, turtles, penguins, amphibians, reptiles, birds, belugas, and the Pacific octopus among many others. Habitats include the Caribbean reef, the Amazon, and the Great Lakes.

Enjoy gardens, outdoor terraces, and even jazz concerts along the Magnificent Mile.

See Related: Under the Sea – Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

8. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Entrance
image by hibino is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

One of the largest contemporary art museums in the world, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is filled with paintings, sculptures, illustrations, and photographs from some of the best artists in the country. Check the website for special events and gallery openings.

You can explore different attractions in Chicago with ease by getting a Chicago Go City Explorer Pass.

See Related: Hidden Gems in Old Town Chicago, Illinois

9. House of Blues Chicago

Performance in House of Blues Chicago
image by swimfinfan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The House of Blues Chicago features live music (and not just blues; expect a variety of genres), a restaurant, and multiple bars. Don’t miss Gospel Brunch Sundays to get your week, and Chicago vacation, off to a terrific start. If you’re traveling with mom and dad, they’re bound to love this cool spot.

See Related: Is Chicago Safe? What Travelers Need To Know

10. International Museum of Surgical Science

International Museum of Surgical Science Building
image by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

It’s more than 10,000 square feet of space dedicated to surgery science. Need we say more?

The International Museum of Surgical Science is one of those off-the-beaten trail types of places that are perfect for fans of science and maybe a little macabre history. You could spend hours at this cool museum.

Learn about the history, development, and advances in surgery, medicine, and more through paintings, illustrations, sculptures, antique equipment, and interactive displays.

There are exhibits on 19th-century apothecary, dental gear, contemporary women in STEM, pathology in modern medicine, Norman Rockwell paintings, and displays on the spine, orthopedics, and HIV/AIDS.

See Related: Best Chicago Walking Tours

11. Navy Pier

Navy Pier and Skyline

Synonymous with the city of Chicago, the 3,300-foot-long Navy Pier is a must while visiting Chicago and the Mile. Located near Ontario St and Lake Shore Drive, you’ll find dining, shopping, public art, free events, and more as you explore and stroll along the more than 100-year-old Pier.

Dine at restaurants such as Giordano’s, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and Harry Caray’s Tavern. Enjoy the Lake Michigan waterfront and take in sweeping views of the urban skyline from 150 feet up on the Ferris Wheel.

See Related: List of US National Monuments to Visit

12. Partake in Chicago-Style Pizza, Popcorn, and Hot Dogs

Plate of Chicago-Style Pizza
image by TNVWBOY is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is the place to go for authentic Chicago-style pizza. Chicago-style deep dish pizza is no fold-over and goes NYC slice. It’s a super thick slab of deliciousness you’ll need a plate, a knife, and fork, and plenty of napkins to tackle.

Garrett Popcorn has been popping caramel, cheddar, chocolate, and other buttery flavors of corn for more than 70 years.

Don’t leave the famous Mile without trying an authentic Chicago hot dog.

This mega-dog has a poppy seed bun, an all-beef frank, and the works: mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickle spears, peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt. There’s a Relish Chicago Hot Dogs stand in Grant Park near the Art Institute of Chicago.

Participate in a food tour to sample some of the city’s most famous dishes.

See Related: Do You Need a Car in Chicago? Things to Know

13. Skyscraper Gazing

Chicago Architecture and Skyline

History buffs in your Chicago traveling crew will appreciate the mix of modern and historic architecture and design found along the Mile.

The 438-foot-tall Wrigley (yes, the gum company) Building is a must-visit. Constructed out of glazed terra-cotta, the structure’s tower is designed after the Giralda bell tower at Spain’s Seville Cathedral (along with French Renaissance features).

Wrigley Building

The property has a secluded park that overlooks the river and makes a terrific spot to recharge on the Magnificent Mile year round. Consider this one of those insider travel tips you’ll be glad you knew about.

The Wrigley Building is across from the 463-foot-tall neo-gothic Tribune Tower, an international symbol of the city of Chicago since its construction in 1925.

Willis Tower and Skyline

 The 1,450-foot-tall Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It offers a Skydeck experience where you can step out onto a four-foot-wide plexiglass floor 1,353 feet in the air.

See Related: Unique & Unusual Things to Do in Chicago, Illinois

Where to Stay on the Magnificent Mile

With more than 70 hotels along this famous street, you’re sure to find something that suits your traveling style and other travelers in your group. Choose from budget hotels, luxury resorts, mid-range options, and even vacation rentals along N. Michigan Ave, State St, and other Chicago streets.

Budget Hotels

The Whitehall Hotel

Whitehall Hotel Building
image by Booking.com

Spacious guest rooms at the Whitehall Hotel feature luxury Egyptian cotton linens, marble floor bathrooms, granite countertops, and free Wi-Fi. There’s a fitness center, an on-site Italian restaurant, and in-room dining services at this pet-friendly hotel.

The Whitehall Hotel is near the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, Water Tower Chicago, and 360 Chicago.

Hotel Audrey

Chicago Hotel Collection Magnificent Mile Building
image by Booking.com

Centrally located, Hotel Audrey or the Chicago Hotel Collection Magnificent Mile offers the convenience of nearby shopping and dining for travelers on a Chicago trip.

There’s a restaurant, a bar, a fitness center, and a business center. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, a mini fridge, workstations, and coffeemakers. You won’t have to search for things to do, as you’ll be in the heart of it all.

Mid-Range Hotels

Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile

Chicago Marriott Downtown Building
image by Booking.com

Situated right on the Mile on Michigan Ave, the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile has a fitness center, an on-site restaurant, free Wi-Fi, and contemporary-style guest rooms. Rooms at this Michigan Ave hotel have flat-screen TVs, cable channels, a large work desk, and a coffeemaker.

Springhill Suites by Marriott Chicago Downtown/River North

SpringHill Suites Chicago Downtown Building
image by Booking.com

Springhill Suites by Marriott Chicago Downtown/River North, on North Dearborn Street, offers spacious and modern rooms with easy access to Mag Mile attractions. Guests can enjoy a mini fridge, a microwave, free Wi-Fi, and a free daily breakfast.

Luxury Hotels

Drake Hotel

The Drake Hotel Building
image by Booking.com

Built-in 1920, the Drake Hotel has seen famous guests such as Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio within its limestone walls. Managed by Hilton, it has 535 guest rooms and 74 suites. There’s a restaurant, a piano lounge, meeting rooms, banquet facilities, and a fitness center at this pet-friendly hotel.

Four Seasons Hotel, Chicago

Four Seasons Chicago Building
image by Booking.com

Four Seasons Hotel, Chicago, is within walking distance of Lake Michigan beaches and Magnificent Mile shopping and dining. There’s a spa, an indoor pool, a fitness center, a restaurant, free Wi-Fi, and a Kids’ Clubroom with video games, arts and crafts, foosball, and movies.

The Westin Chi River North

Westin Chicago River North Hotel Building
image by Booking.com

The Westin Chi River North is one of the most luxurious hotels on the Mag Mile in Chicago. It’s near Navy Pier and the Willis Tower. Rooms have seating areas, marble bathrooms, and a coffeemaker. There’s a restaurant, a fitness center, and a business center at this luxury hotel.

Rentals

Sonder Jewelers Row – Studio Apartment

Sonder Jewelers Row Room
image by VRBO

Situated in the Chicago Loop, this stylish and modern one-bed one-bathroom studio apartment in Jewelers Row is within easy access to Millennium Park, the Theater District, and State Street shopping.

There’s a kitchen, laundry facilities, and internet access to provide convenience to your trip along the Magnificent Mile.

See Related: Unique Places to Stay in Chicago, Illinois

Getting Around the Magnificent Mile

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)

The CTA has a bus system, elevated trains, and subway trains to get to and from all the excitement of the Mag Mile year round. Take the Red Line Train to Chicago Avenue or Grand Avenue. There are 13 buses that have drop-offs and pick-ups along North Michigan Avenue, so you won’t have to search long for transportation.

Water Taxi

Chicago Water Taxi
image by Luke Gordon is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For a super unique mode of transport, the Chicago Water Taxi is an excellent way to get to and from the Mag Mile and its many restaurants, shops, and activities.

FAQ

What is the best thing to do with kids on the Magnificent Mile?

For outdoor enjoyment, Millennium Park is a terrific destination for kids to release energy. Sporty kids will enjoy the Chicago Sports Museum and its vast collection of Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, and Cubs memorabilia.

What are some fun things to do on the Magnificent Mile?

Pay a visit to the Magnificent Mile’s many fun sites and activities such as Navy Pier, jazz and blues clubs, and art museums. Take a river tour or a skyscraper sightseeing cruise.

What are some things to do on the Magnificent Mile when it’s raining?

When rainfall enters your day, it’s time to head to an indoor spot like the Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Contemporary Art, or any one of the retail shops and boutiques along the Mag Mile.

What are the best tourist attractions on the Magnificent Mile?

The most well-known tourist attractions near the Mag Mile are the Willis Tower, the Pier, and Millennium Park.

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