You'll almost mistake Lake Michigan for an ocean with its vast expanse and seemingly endless shore. With beautiful blue water as far as the eye can see, you may think you've gone from Chicago to southern California. Chicago beaches are free to the general public, and generally open for swimming from the Friday before Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9am - 9:30pm.
Those not familiar with the vastness of Lake Michigan will be very surprised by the fact that Chicago is home to a miles long string of city beaches that just might make you wonder if you've somehow been transported to the west coast.
Chicago also looks great from every angle, whether you ’re exploring the city’s astonishing architecture during a guided tour (on foot or aboard a Chicago River boat, lakeshore cruise or sightseeing bus) or enjoying the birds-eye view from the 103rd floor of Sears Tower Skydeck or the 94th floor of Hancock Observatory. The city’s 29 miles of lakefront paths and beautiful beaches are just one reason Chicago is one of the world’s most walkable, danceable and beautiful cities.
Chicago is a friendly city – and you’ll agree when you accept the city’s warm invitation to sample such free attractions as Lincoln Park Zoo, home to more than 1,000 mammals, reptiles, and birds. Enjoy the peaceful gardens under glass at Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory.
To make sure you don’t miss out on anything the city has to offer, make your very first stop the Chicago Cultural Center - Chicago's Architectural Showplace for the Lively and Visual Arts and the city's official Visitor Center.
You’ll find magic in such sparkling Chicago attractions as Navy Pier – the Midwest’s top tourist destination – and its boardwalk, 150-foot Ferris wheel, boat tours, and countless dining or shopping options. Millennium Park offers dazzling music, art, landscape design and architecture – including the mammoth stainless-steel Cloud Gate sculpture – plus ice skating in the winter, splashing around in the interactive Crown Fountain during summer, and alfresco dining from spring to fall.
The centerpiece of Chicago’s lakefront Grant Park is the pink marble landmark, Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains in the world. From May to October the Fountain produces a major water display every hour on the hour for 20 minutes, shooting a water spout 150 feet into the air from its center jet. Beginning at dusk, every hour on the hour for 20 minutes the Fountain's water display is accompanied by a major light and music display. The final display of the evening begins at 10:00 p.m.
Within sight of the Fountain is Grant Park’s Spirit of Music Garden, home to the very popular SummerDance, with its 4600 sq ft open-air dance floor. From June through August Chicagoans and visitors alike join in the free outdoor dance lessons, of varying genres, offered four nights a week, then enjoy live music and dancing under the stars.