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Original photo by Julia Canellis

What to do When You Visit Chicago this Summer

I love going to college at Mizzou, but Chicago will always be home. Some of my earliest memories are of my sister and I shopping around the American Girl Doll store on Michigan Avenue and then going on boat rides around Navy Pier. Once I got older, I took advantage of the train station behind my house and would travel downtown with my friends to visit museums, eat lunch by the Chicago River or spend the day at the North Avenue Beach. After all this time, I can comfortably say I know all of the fun activities downtown. Here is a list of all of the things to do when you visit Chicago this summer:

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Check out Museums

From animals, to weather, to history, to photography, there is a museum in Chicago that will interest anyone. Now, make sure to purchase tickets in advance for these museums because of safety precautions. 

Hit the Beach

Chicago has such a diverse landscape because not only is it a metropolis city, but it also has the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan. Over the summer, heading to the beach is the perfect way to cool off. Here are the most popular beaches to visit:

  • North Avenue Beach - More than 50 volleyball courts, jet ski rentals, kayaking and special events like the Chicago Air and Water Show.

  • Oak Street Beach - Close to Michigan Avenue, so there are great views of the city and it's near the Lakefront Trail and Magnificent Mile.

  • Loyola Beach - A relaxing, tranquil atmosphere with shallow waters and playgrounds make it great for families.


When you're finally worn out from all the walking you’ll inevitably do in this big city, take a break to grab a bite to eat. Obviously, deep dish pizza is a must when you get to Chicago. In the summer, outdoor dining is the best option. There are tons of restaurants along the river or on rooftops overlooking the city.

Pizza places:

  • Pizzeria Portofino - This restaurant gives you a taste of Italy right along the Chicago River. Eat pasta, salad or pizza while you watch boats dock along the river (317 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654).

  • Giordano's - This is a personal favorite of mine. I think Giordano’s does deep dish pizza the best. Because there are so many locations downtown, you can grab a slice almost anywhere you are. 

  • Lou malnati's - This pizza restaurant  rivals Giordano’s, so grab a slice from both and decide which team you are on (also has tons of locations downtown). 


  • Beat Kitchen on the Riverwalk - You can find something for everyone here. Their menu ranges from sandwiches, to burgers, to pizza. They also serve brunch (91-95 E Riverwalk, Chicago, IL 60601).

  • Tiny Tapp & Café - This is the perfect place to stop for some refreshing drinks. You can also grab some light food like a salad or the classic Chicago-style hotdog (55 W. Riverwalk South, Chicago, IL 60601).

  • O’Briens Riverwalk Café - O’Briens is also a great place to stop for a quick bite to eat or some drinks. They have the essential menu items like burgers and sandwiches that will definitely help you recharge during your day downtown (45 E Riverwalk S, Chicago, IL 60601).

Dessert Places: 

  • Sweet Home Gelato - This is a delicious gelato place, but they also sell pastries, shakes and sorbet. Sweet Home Gelato donates a percentage of all sales to Almost Home Kids, a foundation that connects hospitals to homes for children with medical complexities by educating and empowering families (151 W Riverwalk South, Chicago, IL 60601).

  • Firecakes doughnuts - These gourmet doughnuts are famous in Chicago. The menu ranges from classic donuts, to birthday cakes made out of doughnuts, to doughnuts filled with ice cream (68 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654 or 2453 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614).

  • JoJo’s Shake Bar - Stop by for an outrageous shake that is absolutely Instagram worthy. These shakes are crazy big and topped with all kinds of desserts (23 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654).

Stroll through the Parks 

There are many scenic parks that you can walk through, take pictures at, or sit by a river or pond. Here are some of the most popular parks to visit:

  • Millennium Park - Visit the Lurie Garden, Jay Pritzker Pavilion and The Great Lawn, Cloud Gate (“The Bean”) or Crown Fountain, all located within the park.

  • Lincoln Park - It has many beautiful gardens, ponds and the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free to visit (as long as you make a reservation beforehand). 

  • Maggie Daley Park - Check out the mini golf, rock climbing and roller skating ribbon that is free with your own equipment.

Get on the Water

If swimming in the lake isn’t for you, Chicago offers other options to experience Lake Michigan and the Chicago River up close. Here are some options to get on the water without getting in it:

  • Take an architecture tour on the river with Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise.

  • Go on a speedboat and learn about the history of Chicago onboard the Seadog Cruise.

  • Sit on a relaxed boat with a beachy atmosphere on the Island Party Hut.

  • Have a refined, classy dining experience onboard the Odyssey.

  • Rent a kayak, jet ski or paddleboard and ride along the Chicago River or in Lake Michigan to see the amazing views and have a blast.​

Visit Navy Pier

At Navy Pier you can do almost everything already found on this list! Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most popular attractions because there is so much to do, in a beautiful location, that is literally right on the lake. 

So, there you have it. There are enough restaurants, activities, and landmarks to keep you occupied for at least an entire weekend. Chicago is not only my favorite place because there is so much to do, it’s because of the atmosphere you feel when you enter the city. There is so much history and tradition in this town, that I haven’t been able to match the feeling I get in Chicago anywhere else. The only way you can fully understand what I’m talking about is if you come check it out for yourself. 

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My name is Julia Canellis. I am a journalism major at the University of Missouri with hopes of attending law school. I am from Chicago, Illinois and I love playing tennis and listening to podcasts in my free time. Email: Juliacanellis10@gmail.com
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