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10 Unique Things to Do in Chicago

Chicago city which is found on the shores of Lake Michigan in Illinois, is among the largest cities in the United States. There are so many things to do in Chicago. The city is famed for its bold architecture, it has a city skyline bristling with innovative skyscrapers such as the iconic John Hancock Center, sleek, 1,451-ft. Willis Tower and neo-Gothic Tribune Tower.

The city of Chicago is also renowned for its museums, including the Art Institute and its expansive collections, including noted Impressionist works.

Travelers new to the city by Lake Michigan will soon realize there is more to Chicago that meets the eye. The city is sometimes referred to as ‘The Windy City.’

In fact Chicago is home to amazing parks, museums, shopping, hotels and sports stadiums. Explore fascinating buildings, skyscrapers and art galleries to name but a view unique visitor ideas.

Chicago in Illinois has featured in many motion picture films such as ‘Risky Business’ starring Tom Cruise and in the popular television drama series ‘Chicago Fire.’  Here are 10 unique things to do in Chicago.

10 Unique Things to Do in Chicago

Explore these unique sites and attractions in the city of Chicago that I have discovered while living here in the city.

Oz Park in Chicago

Oz Park is 13-acre park located on North Burling Street in Lincoln Park and is owned by the Chicago Park District.

Oz Park Chicago - Things to do in Chicago

Visitors from all over can step into the Land of Oz to admire larger than life statues of their favorite “Wizard of OZ” characters such as Dorothy and Toto, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion.

Each statue in Oz Park has been donated to the park by benefactors since 1995. Besides gazing at the statues, visitors can enjoy the ‘Emerald City Garden’ full of pretty flowers taken care of by OZ volunteers, a children’s playground called ‘Dorothy’s Playlot,’ and a winding ‘Yellow Brick Road.’  

The park also offers tennis courts, baseball fields, basketball courts, soccer/football fields, movies in the park during the summer, and a pumpkin patch in October. For any fans of the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ this city park is a must a see.

International Museum of Surgical Science

This is certainly a strange museum and is definitely not for the faint of heart. Being a science major, this museum is quite interesting and much deserving of its place on the 10 unique things to do in Chicago.

International Museum of Surgical Science - Things to do in Chicago

The museum has over 10,000 square feet of galleries to shed light on the history of surgery, surgical artifacts, sculptures, paintings, pre-modern healing practices, broken bones, Anatomy, medicine, and stem cells just to name a few. There is also a research lab on the 4th floor.

The museum is housed in a beautiful 1917 mansion on Lakeshore Drive, originally from the Countiss family. The house was later bought in the 1950’s when Dr. Max Thorek wanted to use the house to give the public an understanding of surgical knowledge and a place for the International College of Surgeons. 

Did you know this is one of the few remaining lakefront mansions? An upcoming exhibit in May 2016 is to feature whether or not the house is truly a “Haunted House.”

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge and Jazz Club

Calling all history buffs and jazz lovers, this place is for you when looking at things to do in Chicago. Step in time of the 1920’s at this old fashioned club, which is located on Broadway in Uptown.

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge Chicago - things to do in Chicago

Although the feel of the Green Mill club is from the twenties, the club has actually been around since 1907 and originally had a beer garden.

Movie stars would hang out at the Green Mill club after filming at the Essanay Studios nearby. Did you know this club was partially owned by Jack McGurn, one of Al Capone’s associates, back in the day? Famous gangster Al Capone has also been seen at the club at his favorite booth, which can still be seen today.

He has also been known to use the secret tunnels that run under the Green Mill club to the movie theater across the street. Today, the club features daily jazz bands, Bebop, Contemporary, and poetry readings all through the night until 1am. There is a slight cover charge depending on when you arrive and they only sell drinks here.

Room Escape Adventures

Calling all Nancy Drews and Clue lovers, this game is for you! Room Escape Adventures is located on South Michigan Ave and it’s an attraction for people who looking for a thrill, a way to think outside the box, and a chance to use their knowledge.

Room Escape Adventures

Think Clue meets Survivor in this team building exercise. The object of the game is to participate as a team in order to search the room for clues, solve puzzles, find the key to the sage, and use their knowledge to figure out a way to escape the locked room and avoid the hungry zombie chained to the wall.

However, the zombie is released from the wall every five minutes and if the zombie touches anyone, the team member must sit out. All clues must be solved in sixty minutes.  Anyone eight and up can participate in the game and up to twelve people can play to try and escape from the room.

Frank Nitti’s Vault

Chicago is famous for the ever popular Harry Caray’s Steakhouse and Bar. The restaurant’s first doors opened in the late 1980’s on West Kinzie Street. This should be a point of call when choosing things to do in Chicago.

Harry Caray's Steakhouse - things to do in Chicago

Very few people know that Frank Nitti’s vault is located in the basement of Harry Caray’s Steakhouse

The site was originally an apartment building dating back to 1895 and owned by Henry Ives Cobb, which features Dutch Renaissance Architecture.

Al Capone eventually bought the place for his cheese company. In the late 1930’s, Frank Nitti occupied a room on the fourth floor. He chose to live here because the building was extremely close to the courthouse and was connected to the underground tunnels and secret rooms. His apartment room still exists and can still be seen.

However, very few people know that Frank Nitti’s vault is located in the basement of Harry Caray’s Steakhouse, which was a three-door vault that contains photographs, an address book, and newspaper articles about the local gangsters such as Frank. 

The vault and secret rooms are free to the public during regular restaurant hours . Frank Nitti’s Vault is much deserving of its place on the 10 unique things to do in Chicago.

Driehaus Museum

The Driehaus Museum is a beautiful 19th century mansion turned museum that shows visitors what is was like to live in the Gilded Age, which was originally owned by Samuel Mayo Nickerson. This perhaps one of the more remarkable things to do in Chicago.

The Driehaus Museum

Richard H. Driehaus founded the museum in 2003 in order to preserve the past and restore the mansion to its original state.

Located on East Erie Street, the museum contains both European and American fine art dating between 1880 and 1920. Other exhibits include jewelry from the Victorian era and World War One. But also the Tiffany stained glass pieces such as jewelry, glass, ceramics, lamps, and paintings.

This exhibit is the most stunning, as well as the Tiffany dome in the building. Currently, there is a Downton Abbey exhibit featuring costume pieces and props from the hit TV show. For a little extra, there is even a Downtown Abbey tea.

Besides seeing the exhibits, visitors to the Driehaus Museum can take part in guided tours, concerts, author visits, performances, special events, and lectures.

Public Art and Chicago Statue Tour

This tour gives visitors the chance to explore all of Chicago by visiting all the public art and statues. The tour is a self-led tour that is family and dog friendly. 

For the Statue Tour: Visitors just need to download the app on the website. The site shows you a map of the city and information on all statues.

Visitors can find statues such as Benjamin Franklin, Bob Newhart, the Tin Man, the Art Institute Lions, and Bronze Cow. There is also a place to scan the statue to read the story and hear a ‘call’ from the over 30 statues. The tour is funded by the Richard H. Driehaus foundation.

For the Art Tour: Visitors can see ten famous art pieces between the loop and Grant Park. By downloading the app on the website, visitors get a map and audio narrative about the tour. Visitors can visit art pieces by Picasso, the Art Institute Lions, and by Alexander Calder.

Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch Museum

The 8,000 square foot museum is located on the seventh floor of the Water Tower Place mall in the Harry Caray’s Restaurant. 

Sports fans can view sport memorabilia from all the Chicago Sports such as basketballs, signed basketball shoes, various sport jerseys, photos etc. Also see Harry Caray’s glasses, newspaper articles, the 2003 Cubs foul ball, the Hover board from the movie Back to the Future II, Sammy Sosa’s corked bat, Andrew Shaw’s stiches from the 2013 Stanley Cup final games, Blackhawk Stanley Cup rings, and view inside baseballs.

What makes this museum interesting and fun to the public are the interactive exhibits such as shooting free throw hoops like Scottie Pippen or hitting baseballs out of the stadium like the White Sox.

Diners can visit the museum for free or pay six dollars for adults (three dollars for kids) not dining in. This museum is a must for all Chicago sports fan lovers.

Weird Chicago Tours

This tour company offers a wide array of tours for any ghost, pub crawl, Roaring 20’s, Booze History, Red Light District, ‘Devil & the White City’ book, Crime, Zombie pub crawl, and Resurrection Mary ghost enthusiast. The haunted ghost tour is a pretty good tour that talks about ghosts at the various theaters and Hull House.

The tour guides meet outside the McDonald’s on Clark Street to ride the Weird Chicago bus. Traveling all over Chicago the tour shows visitors the hot spots of the tour. Most tours range from three hours in length and are only available on Fridays and Saturdays.  Most tours are for adults age 18+, but children age 10 and over can join a few tours.

The company can also be rented for private tour groups, which can mix and match to enjoy different tours. This is perfect for visitors looking for an adventure outside the ordinary Windy City tour.

The Chicago Untouchable Tour

This is my absolute favorite tour among things to do in Chicago and is a must for all history lovers and people who think gangsters are fascinating. Visitors also meet outside the McDonald’s on North Clark Street to board the infamous black ‘Untouchable’ bus.

Untouchable Gangster Tour

No need to bring your tickets, the tour guide calls everyone’s name on the bus from an iPad and gives everyone a brochure about the tour.

There are a few games on the Untouchable tour bus to win prizes. All tour guides and bus drivers dress and talk as though they are from the Prohibition period.

They are very funny and entertaining as they describe the events in history. The tour lasts about two hours and takes visitors all over Chicago such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre site, Holy Name Cathedral to see the bullet hole in the church wall, the history of Lakeshore Drive,  and a few of Al Capone’s hot spots.

Final Thought

Chicago is home to some great places to stay and the choices of holiday accommodation are exhaustive.

10 Unique Things to Do in Chicago

In order to experience many of the attraction ideas and exhibits mentioned in this feature article a central hotel in the city is recommended for proximity to tours, restaurants and exhibits but this is not essential.

One thing is for sure, visitors to the city will never be short of exciting things to do in Chicago or have trouble filling their time.

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Alexandra Hazen

Currently living in Chicago with my coon hound, Dixie. I enjoy exploring the city, seeing shows/ theater productions, trying new food and craft beer, and always looking for an adventure in the city. I also love to travel. Recently lived in Chester, England for a year while I completed courses for my Masters degree.

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