11 Interesting Ways to Explore Chicago's History
Heading to Chicago? The Windy City is full of history and fun attractions. Consider these interesting ways to explore the city's history.
With so many fun attractions involving art, history, and sports, it's no wonder The Windy City is a treasure trove of historical sites. Boasting some of the most culture-filled attractions and educational museums, Chicago invites visitors to experience all that makes the city so special. Nearly every popular tourist attraction in the city has a story reaching back to more than sixty years ago. To make the most of your trip, be sure to stop by some of these places to learn more about this beautiful and historic city.
Watch Fireworks at Navy Pier
Summer Fireworks at Navy Pier
During summer months, Navy Pier puts on fireworks shows twice per week. It is also home to many shops and dining venues. Located on Lake Michigan's shore, the pier now contains many attractions including unique restaurants, a food court, and various lush gardens for sitting and enjoying the ambiance.
Lauded as Chicago's number one tourist attraction, Navy Pier was built in 1916 to be used primarily as a cargo facility. Now, it is used for all sorts of fun activities the whole family will enjoy. During the holiday season, Navy Pier hosts the magical PNC Bank Winter Wonderfest and invites guests to enjoy a skating rink along with other amusements such as the IMAX theatre and the Children’s Museum, all conveniently located on the pier!
Peek into Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute
Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago offers a peek into the country's history through its display of sixty-eight Thorne Miniature Rooms, which show interiors of European and American homes throughout the centuries. Showing visitors how the average living space was arranged at different stages of the past, the artistically-crafted rooms are monuments to the historic culture of the United States as well as its country of origin. Mrs. James Ward Thorne came up with the idea, and the miniatures were completed between 1932 and 1940. The Art Institute was originally an art school and gallery founded in 1866. It wasn't until 1882 that the Art Institute was established as the museum we know today. It has been curating works of art for the enjoyment of its visitors ever since.
Watch a Game at Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field, Home of the Chicago Cubs
Built in 1914 as Weeghman Park, Wrigley Field was given its current name in 1927. Now the home of the Chicago Cubs, the sports venue is a treasure to Cubs fans. If you're in Chicago during the off-season, the field offers ballpark tours to give visitors an inside look at the stadium. Whether you’re a Cubs fan or you’re just looking for an interesting and fun outing, Wrigley Field is a chief sports and entertainment venue that provides a slice of history along with its offerings of current popular culture. Enjoy a hotdog or a piece of pizza and let your mind be blown as you think about how you're watching a game in the same field as fans from the early 20th century.
Visit Sue the T. Rex at the Field Museum of Natural History
Sue the T. Rex at the Field Museum of Natural History
Sue the T. rex is the Field Museum's resident full-sized Tyrannosaurus rex fossil. Forty-two feet long and thirteen feet tall, Sue is a popular must-see that draws visitors from all over the world. As one of the largest natural history museums in the world, the Field Museum constantly offers an assortment of traveling exhibitions. At the moment, the museum is teaching its visitors about natural biomechanics; that is, the reality of such natural marvels as spider webs stronger than steel and fish that can project their jaws out of their bodies to capture prey. If that sounds like an interesting trip, don’t hesitate to make a visit! The museum, now located on Lakeshore Drive, had its beginnings in 1893 at the World’s Colombian Exposition as a deal between two men: Edward Ayer and Marshal Field. The history of the Field Museum is a long story, but its mission has remained to dedicate itself to natural history by providing educational exhibits and entertainment for the entire family.
Learn about Botany at Garfield Park Conservatory
Interior of Garfield Park Conservatory greenhouse
Constructed in 1906, Garfield Park Conservatory is a gorgeous greenhouse that takes up 4.5 acres of space. With plant exhibits that feature horticulture from all over the world, the conservatory features concerts, brewery events, and family activities. The greenhouse space is available to rent and provides a lovely venue for special events such as weddings and reunions. Offering beekeeping and composting programs, the conservatory strives to make learning about nature fun for children and adults alike.
Experience Lincoln Park
Entry to Lincoln Park Zoo
Offering family fun and historical education, Lincoln Park occupies seven miles of land along Lake Michigan. The park was originally a small public cemetery. Chicago's locals demanded that the space be converted into open space in the 1850s. Beginning with several different names, the park was renamed after Abraham Lincoln shortly after his assassination, and Lincoln Park remains today as a beautiful piece of history on Chicago’s shoreline. Lincoln Park occupies 1,208 acres of land and is home to Lincoln Park Zoo, where Zoo Lights, a magnificent Christmas wonderland, comes to life every holiday season. The event features visits with Santa, crafts, and holiday refreshments. Lincoln Park Zoo offers plenty of other events throughout the year, such as ice skating during winter and educational children’s camps for every season. Surrounded by the lovely and historic Lincoln Park, the zoo is a popular family location for education and fun.
Visit the Rookery Building
Interior of the Rookery Building
The Rookery Building, designed by Daniel Burnham and John Root and completed in 1888, is considered Chicago's oldest standing high-rise. With an oriel staircase and a sky-lit lobby, the building boasts beautiful design and stunning architecture. Located downtown, in what's known as the city's financial district, the Rookery building is now a popular location for elegant private events. Remodeled in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright, the lobby is filled with natural light and an elegant ambiance. Tours of the Rookery are offered Mondays and Fridays at noon to provide an inside look at the historic architectural masterpiece.
Visit the Site of the World's First Skyscraper
Chicago's Home Insurance Building, built by William Le Baron Jenney, was heralded as the tallest building in the entire world from 1884 to 1889. Known as the world's first skyscraper, the building once stood where the Bank of America Building now stands. There is a 1932 plaque in the lobby of the new building to commemorate the old structure, its designer, and the building’s significance in history.
Visit the Memorial to Stagg Field at the University of Chicago
The original Stagg Field in 1927
Though the current Stagg Field is located several blocks from the site of the original, the world has been moved by events at Stagg Field, from sports occurrences to achievements in science. Best remembered as the site at which Enrico Fermi built the world's first nuclear reactor during the Manhattan Project in 1942, Stagg Field is a jewel of world history. The 1936 US Olympic Trials for Track and Field were also held at the original Stagg Field in June of 1936.While the original field is no longer standing, a Henry Moore sculpture called Nuclear Energy stands in its place on the university’s campus to remind people of what happened there many years ago.
Skate on the Ribbon at Grant Park
Grant Park's ice skating ribbon is located in a small division of the park, called Maggie Daley Park.
Nicknamed Chicago's "front yard," Grant Park is a historic space that hosts one of the world's largest fountains, the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain, which was built in 1927. The park also offers a ribbon of ice built for ice skating. This unique ice path meanders through the park during winter months, offering a distinctly different experience from what can be found at a traditional skating rink. During summer months, the park's ribbon turns into a path for ideal rollerblading. Named for President and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, Grant Park comprises 319 acres of beautiful land in Chicago's central business district and is the site of three of the world's premiere museums: the Art Institute, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Shedd Aquarium.
See an 86-year-old Lungfish at Shedd Aquarium
Granddad is the oldest fish in any aquarium in the world.
Chicago's Shedd Aquarium is home to the oldest fish in any aquarium in the world. Four-foot-long and 25-pound Granddad is an Australian lungfish that came with his mate to the aquarium from Sydney in 1933, just three years after it opened. Though his mate died in 1980, Granddad is still alive and sitting on the bottom of his tank most of the time. One of 32,000 animals living in Shedd Aquarium, this amazing fish is just one of the many reasons to visit the aquarium. With countless activities for kids to explore, learn, and play, the Shedd Aquarium is a historic landmark with plenty of fun for the entire family.
Home to several of the most famous landmarks and historical sites in the world, Chicago is a wonderful destination for year-round vacationing and site-seeing. For a full does of nature, history, arts, culture, entertainment, and family fun, plan a trip to this iconic city. A wonderfully interesting and unique location, The Windy City is home to all these attractions and many more.
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