The Annoyance Theater
3747 N. Clark St.
The Annoyance is home to Chicago's longest running--and raunchiest--musical, Co-ed Naked Prison Sluts. The theater encourages the audience to "bring your own alcohol and tobacco products," and a slightly altered state might add to your appreciation of their off-beat humor.
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
The Art Institute is one of the premier art museums in the world, with a particularly outstanding collection of European art and impressionist paintings. The museum also hosts several major traveling exhibitions throughout the year; it is best to buy tickets for these a couple days ahead of time. If you have children in tow, head straight for the Kraft Education Center on the lower level for interactive activities. Suggested admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children, students, and seniors. Entrance is free on Tuesdays.
Chicago Neighborhood Tours
78 E. Washington St.
This tour company offers guided tours of nine Chicago neighborhoods. The half-day bus tours focus on a different neighborhood each week, so call ahead to see what area is featured during your visit.
43 E. Ohio St.
Family friendly: Yes
This 35,000-square-foot, sports-themed entertainment complex lies in one of the most touristed neighborhoods in the city. The complex stands as a tribute to Chicago's dedicated sports fans, offering the "ultimate sports viewing environment" and 10,000 square feet of interactive games and attractions.
600 E. Grand Ave.
Family friendly: Yes
This restored Chicago landmark offers gardens, shops, restaurants, and attractions all on Lake Michigan. Children will enjoy the huge Ferris Wheel and authentic carousel, and a visit to the hands-on Chicago Children's Museum. You can also watch a movie in the IMAX Theater or catch one of the sightseeing boat tours t hat depart from the pier. Free trolleys run every 20 minutes between Grand and Illinois streets to the pier if the self-parking lots are full. Look for the "Navy Pier Trolley Stop" signs.
Sears Tower Skydeck
233 S. Wacker Dr.
Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper, and few are as famous as the Sears Tower. The city still calls it the world's tallest building, disputing a competing claim from Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur. In any case, the Skydeck Observatory on the 103rd floor offers a spectacular view of the city on a clear day. Admission to the Skydeck is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for children.
Tour Black Chicago
35 E. Wacker Dr., Suite 222 (mailing address)
Family friendly: Yes
No visit to Chicago is complete without exploring the African-American influence on the city. TBC organizes several tours of the South Side, including the Douglas/Bronzeville community, which became a major political and cultural center for African Americans during the great northern migration in the early 20th century. Reservations are required for these custom tours.
Untouchable Gangster Tours
610 N. Clark St.
Family friendly: Yes
Explore Chicago's gangster past on a fun two-hour bus tour, where you'll see Al Capone's headquarters and the scene of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, among other infamous crime scenes. Reservations are recommended.
Chicago Historical Society
1601 N. Clark St.
The Chicago Historical Society is a good place to get an understanding of Chicago's past. Permanent exhibits include the story of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, one of the most formative events in the city's history. Suggested admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and $1 for children.
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 E. 56th Place
The DuSable Museum is the nation's oldest museum dedicated to African and African-American history and culture. The museum includes permanent installations on Chicago mayor Harold Washington, displays of African art, and several traveling exhibits. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and students, and $1 for children; Sundays are free.
Historic Pullman District
11111 S. Forrestville Ave.
The Pullman District was a 19th-century worker's community built for the railroad workers of the Pullman Palace Car Co. Start your tour at the visitor center, where you can view an exhibit on the area and an introductory 22-minute video. The guided walking tour gives you an exterior view of the homes that were vital parts of the community, inclu ding some of the executive houses, the doctor's home, and workers' cottages.
Jane Addams Hull House Museum
800 S. Halsted St.
Jane Addams founded Hull House in 1889, and became a major spokeswoman for issues relating to poverty and the goals of the settlement house movement. The museum is located in the original 19th-century mansion where Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr worked for social reform.
800 N. Michigan Ave.
This 154-foot limestone tower was one of the only structures to survive the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, along with the Pumping Station across the street. The Chicago Waterworks Visitor Center in the Pumping Station houses a staffed tourist-information booth, souvenir store, and a Hot Tix booth for discount theater tickets. You can still see the giant pipes and valves that were used to pump water around the city.
Arts, Culture, and Science
Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.
One of the oldest planetariums in the country, the Adler is currently undergoing a huge renovation, which has resulted in the addition of the two-story Sky Pavilion. The pavilion overlooks Lake Michigan and houses four major exhibition galleries, the StarRide Theater, an Education Center, and a new restaurant. Admission is "5 for adults, "4 for children and senior citizens. Entrance is free on Tuesdays.
Briar Street Theatre
3133 N. Halsted St.
The Briar Street Theatre hosts ongoing performances of Blue Man Group, originally a New York off-Broadway production. It's a loud, fun, techno performance that features three men, who are indeed painted blue.
Civic Opera House
20 N. Wacker Dr.
The Civic Opera House has recently been restored and acoustically improved. The Lyric Opera of Chicago performs from September through March.
Field Museum of Natural History
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Dr.
The Field Museum boasts a large collection of natural history artifacts, including the largest, most complete skeleton of a T. Rex, and permanent exhibits on Africa and women in science. The museum's newest permanent exhibit, "Underground Adventure," allows visitors to walk through a soil ecosystem as if they were one-thousandth of their normal size. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children, seniors, and students with valid ID. Admission is free every Wednesday.
200 S. Columbus St.
Chicago's first and largest no t-for-profit theater, the Goodman is in many ways the backbone of the Chicago theater scene. In 1992, it won a Special Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
John G. Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
The world's largest indoor aquarium, the Shedd Aquarium houses nearly 8,000 aquatic animals. The largest attraction in the museum is the Oceanarium, an exhibit that recreates the ocean habitat of the Pacific Northwest. Visitors can attend educational shows that demonstrate the natural behaviors of marine mammals. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children, and free for senior citizens.
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Since the MCA made its home in a new building in June 1996, it has become another major landmark on Chicago's museum landscape. The MCA displays art created after 1945, and is one of the nation's largest venues for contemporary art. Admission is $6.50 for adults and $4 for students and seniors. The museum is free the first Tuesday of the month.
Museum of Science and Industry
57th Street and Lake Shore Dr.
The Museum of Science and Industry is the oldest hands-on, interactive science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Some of its most popular permanent exhibitions include a Boeing 727 that visitors can walk through, a WWII captured German submarine, a working coal-mine shaft elevator from 1933, and the world's first permanent exhibit on AIDS/HIV. The museum is huge, so it is best to study a floor plan and allocate your time here carefully. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $3.50 for children. The museum is free on Thursdays, and combination tickets that include Omnimax shows are available.
5153 N. Ashland
A Chicago original, the Neo-Futurists were an ensemble created for the 1988 premier of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, an ongoing attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. Since it opened, the show has become a Chicago staple, with new performances every weekend. This is not your typical theater experience; ticket price is based on the roll of a die, and when they sell out the 154-seat theater, they order a pizza--extra large.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2060 N. Clark St.
Chicago's newest museum, the Academy of Science's Nature Museum, encourages understanding the natural world through hands-on learning experiences. Permanent exhibits include Butterfly Haven, City Science, and several outdoor exhibits that take advantage of the museum's Lincoln Park location.
Royal George Theatre
1641 N. Halsted St.
A major theater complex since its construction in 1986, the Royal George offers three stages, and has been the chosen venue for many major Midwest premieres, as well as the long-running Forever Plaid.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company
1650 N. Halsted St.
Now in its thirties as a professional theater company, the award-winning Steppenwolf is a mainstay of Chicago theater.
220 S. Michigan Ave.
The recently renovated Symphony Center is home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and also hosts visiting orchestras, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Chicago Youth Symphony, Saturday morning children's concerts, and a jazz series.
Parks, Beaches, and Zoos
8400 W. 31st St.
Family friendly: Yes
Brookfield Zoo is located 14 miles west of downtown Chicago, and offers permanent exhibits on African wildlife and species of the American swamplands. Visitors can take motorized safari rides through the zoo in the summer. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for seniors and children.
Roosevelt Road to Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue to Lake Michigan
Chicago's main downtown park, right on the lake, hosts many major festivals throughout the summer, including the Taste of Chicago and Blues Fest. Even when there's no festival, Grant Park is a wonderful place to enjoy the lake and views of the city skyline. In the summer, stop by the famous Buckingham Fountain and watch the light and water show, which runs from dusk to 11pm.
71st Street to Hollywood Avenue, along Lake Michigan
The City of Chicago has done an amazing job of maintaining its beautiful lakefront. A paved path runs along the lake from 71st Street on the South Side to Hollywood Avenue at the city's northern border. You can pick up the path from any point, and walk, jog, rollerblade, or bike as far as you like. The path can be very crowded on summer weekends, but if you venture to the far north or south legs of the path, you'll find it much less congested.
Between North Avenue and Belmont Avenue, along Lake Michigan
This 1200-acre park is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago Historical Society, and the new Nature Museum. The North Side Park also has softball and soccer fields, tennis cour ts, and several lagoons where you can rent paddle boats.
Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 N. Cannon Dr.
Family friendly: Yes
The nation's oldest zoo and one of the only free zoos in the country, Lincoln Park Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals, including the largest collection of lowland gorillas in the country. There is also a children's petting zoo, a recreation of a Midwest farm, and an interactive environmental learning center.
North Avenue Beach
North Avenue and Lake Michigan
One of the most popular beaches in the city, the North Avenue Beach is near Lincoln Park on the city's North Side. It is popular among the young professionals who live in the area, and has several sand volleyball courts.
Oak Street Beach
Oak Street and Lake Michigan
The closest beach to downtown Chicago, this small sand beach is directly across Lake Shore Drive from the Drake Hotel. It can be packed with people on hot summer afternoons.
Six Flags Great America
542 N. Route 21
Family friendly: Yes
Located in Gurnee, just 40 miles north of Chicago, Six Flags Great America is a mecca for roller-coaster lovers, with some of the most popular coasters in the country. The park also has its share of games, shows, and children's attractions, including an ornate 10-story carousel.