While there are endless opportunities for summer activities in Chicago, there are a few stand-outs that can’t be missed. From the Chicago Riverwalk to the Buckingham Fountain to the zoo, you’ll find endless options. Below we’ve outlined the best things to do in Chicago in summer, so you don’t have to do all the research yourself! Explore away!

Willis Tower Skydeck Chicago

Of all the favorite things to do in Chicago this summer, the 103rd floor of Willis Tower is the most impressive by far. Once you’ve experienced some of the best kid-friendly activities in Chicago, snap a selfie from the highest point in the entire city from The Ledge. Or simply take in the full beauty of the bustling metro while you point out the favorite landmarks you’ve already known from below. Willis Tower consistently ranks as one of the best things to do in Chicago in the summer, but you don’t have to take our word for it

Shoreline Sightseeing

To see the most unique version of the Chicago skyscrapers and their inspiring history, the Shoreline Sightseeing Architectural Tour is one of the essential summer activities in Chicago. Start at the Navy Pier dock or Michigan Avenue dock, then prepare yourself for truly breath-taking sights in the perfection that is Chicago summer weather. Highlights include Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, and Marina City. Consider their water taxi options as well, with five different dock possibilities located right outside Willis Tower and other favorite landmarks. 

Lakefront Trail

No warm season should pass without at least a few visits to the stunning Lakefront Trail. While the trail itself is a perfect biking stretch of 22 miles from the Indiana border up to Evanston, passing directly along some of Chicago’s skyscrapers, much of its real attraction is the numerous parks and beaches that line Lake Michigan. The sprawling Montrose Beach/Lincoln Park is one of our favorite spots for great things to do in Chicago this summer, thanks to its prime location for bird watching, where almost 350 kinds of birds make their way through. Of course, there’s no comparison to setting up with a grill and soaking up the sun in the cool grass on a hot summer day. 

Lincoln Park Zoo

One of the last free-admission zoos in the country, this 35-acre wonderland is known for its incredible Great Ape House, with one of the largest assemblages of gorillas and chimpanzees in the world. Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo for any number of solo expeditions and planned experiences, or pop in for a family exploration of all the newest arrivals, from snowy owls to giraffes, and much more! Undoubtedly, one of the best things to do in Chicago in the summer is to waddle around first-hand with the African penguins in the Pritzker Penguin Cove, and you can do it without leaving the Lincoln Park neighborhood!

Navy Pier

No list of great things to do in Chicago is complete without a trip to historic and raucous Navy Pier. See the whole city when you take a ride on the famous Centennial Wheel, carousel, or endurance-testing climbing walls! Or simply enjoy some of the best restaurants this side of Lake Michigan with a Navy Pier food tour. Great shopping, theatres, astounding pieces of public art, and regular fireworks shows make this an evergreen favorite of summer activities in Chicago, and it’s only a short distance away from Chicago’s museum campus in the River North neighborhood!

Explore Chicago with the Skydeck Guides

Interested in the best things to do in Chicago in the summer? Explore Chicago’s famous parks, or if the heat is too much for you, take a virtual tour of the sights from The Ledge from the comfort of your home!