Chicago, Illinois Tourism: Best of Chicago
What to do
Where to stay
Where to eat
Trip ideas from our community
A high-low eating tour of Chitown
- Cellar Door Provisions21High: Cellar Door is clicking again post-pandemic with dinner-only hours and a no-reservations policy. While I miss their exquisite morning pastries (it used to open for breakfast, too), it’s good to be back in this stripped down Logan Square spot. My go to's: the Med-inspired treasures like flat-iron marsala, a white-out of burrata and blanc asparagus, and brown butter-rosemary gelato for dessert. A tip: Get there before they open at five, it gets crowded.
- Pequods Pizza1,088Low: There are plenty of options in town for deep-dish diehards, and this Lincoln Park outpost of Pequod’s is mine. Order a beer or two as you wait (a while) for the ferociously hot pan pizza to land on your table—its ring of caramelized cheese around the rim is gold.
- Sun Wah BBQ205High: The Cheng family is Chicago royalty, and Sun Wah is their kingdom. This sprawling institution is iconic and the menu is massive, but the thing to order is not on it: the Beijing duck dinner, a grand multi-course feast (go with a group) starring a roasted duck whose skin is as bronzed and crackled as the top of a crème brûlée. While you can order it once you arrive table, I recommend putting in the request when making a reservation.
- Dove's Luncheonette100Low: This is the Tex-Mex fantasy diner of my dreams. Crispy hash, brisket tacos on house-made flour tortillas, chicken-fried-chicken, and horchata pie coexist with communal tables, penny-tiled floors, and friendly service. love Dove’s for lunch/brunch, but it’s also a terrific late-night pop-in for al pastor fries and a $5 mezcal shot.
- Virtue Restaurant & Bar69High: There are a hundred details that make Chef Erick Williams’s Hyde Park restaurant a pillar of Southern cooking in Chicago. Among them: the smoked turkey perfuming the collards, the turnip chow-chow on the salmon, the Carolina grits with the shrimp and crawfish etouffee. If you can’t get a reservation, hang at the bar, which has a stacked wine list, as well as a handful of inventive non-alcoholic cocktails.
- Johnnie's Beef234Low: You didn’t think you were getting out of this list without an Italian beef recommendation, did you? Everyone in Chicago has a favorite held close to their heart, but it’s hard to do better than Johnnie’s. Their beef is shaved so thin you can almost see through it, and their giardiniera pops like the Bangsnaps you used to throw at the sidewalk as a kid.It's cash only and a little out of the way in Elmwood Park but so worth it. I like to go on my way to/from O’Hare airport.
- Mi Tocaya Antojeria51High: “Nuestro cocina, nuestro amor” (our cooking, our love) is the motto at Mi Tocaya. If you ask me, Diana Dávila is maybe the most talented Mexican chef in a city jam packed with terrific Mexican restaurants. Her colorful, casual dining room in Logan Square is the ideal spot for dishes like braised pork shank in a secret mole sauce and chiles en nogada (made here with Brussels sprouts). Bonus: the drink list is as comfortable around natural wine as it is margaritas.
Explore Chicago by interest
Autumn in Chicago
Baseball’s greatest hits
For the kids—and kids at heart
The city is a stage
Chicago on a dime
A slice of nature in the city
Celebrating Black art
If you're feeling fancy-ish
Think outside "The Bean"
Buildings with a backstory
Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Chicago
In the words of those who've been there before ...
What is the best way to get there?
O'Hare International Airport, 17 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, is a hub for United Airlines. Ten miles southwest of downtown, Midway International Airport is primarily served by low-cost carriers and a few Delta flights. The CTA Blue Line train runs between the Loop and O'Hare every 5-15 minutes, 24 hours a day. The CTA Orange Line train runs between the Loop and Midway from before dawn to after midnight.
Chicago is one of the most convenient U.S. cities to visit by train. Amtrak services from all around the country use Union Station (Canal Street and Jackson Boulevard).
Greyhound, Megabus, and others offer low-cost bus services to Chicago from around the Midwest and beyond.
Drivers usually approach Chicago off the I-90 or I-94. Be prepared for tolls.
Do I need a visa?
If you’re visiting Chicago from overseas, use the State Department’s Visa Wizard to see if you need a visa.
When is the best time to visit?
Spring and fall: The best times to visit Chicago are from April through May and September to October. These seasons bring warm temperatures — a contrast to the sweltering heat of summer and bitter cold of winter. Spring temperatures typically range from the mid-50s°F (12.7°C) in April to around 70°F (21°C) in May. Fall temperatures average around 70°F (21°C) in September, drop into the low 60s°F (15.5°C) in October.
Downtown Chicago is very walkable. In the winter months, the Chicago Pedway System leads walkers through a system of passages that connect buildings and let them avoid the cold.
The L (a system of elevated and subway trains) is fast, frequent and will get you to most top attractions. Purchase a Ventra Ticket at station vending machines or a Ventra Card, which you can recharge and save money with.
Metra commuter trains run on 12 routes serving the suburbs from four terminals ringing the Loop. Buy tickets from agents and machines at major stations.
City buses are useful for getting to certain locations including Hyde Park and Lincoln Park’s. You can use a Ventra Card or pay the driver with exact change. Buses are particularly useful for reaching the Museum Campus, Hyde Park, and Lincoln Park Zoo.
Taxis are plentiful, inexpensive, and can be hailed on the street almost anywhere.
Divvy is Chicago’s bike-sharing program. Its blue bikes can be found at 580 stations around Chicago and the neighboring suburbs. A day pass allows unlimited rides in a 24-hour period, up to three hours each, or you can buy a single-ride pass that is good for 30 minutes.
Driving in downtown Chicago should be avoided if possible: Traffic is almost always heavy, parking is expensive, and drivers tend to be aggressive.
Are there local customs I should know?
Find more information about local customs and etiquette in the United States generally here.