Having visitors in town gives us Chicagoans a chance to see our beloved city with new eyes. When was the last time you marveled at the Sears – ahem – Willis Tower? When did you last catch some live Chicago Blues? Show off the best of Chicago and have a blast seeing things from a visitor’s perspective. Here are seven must-do activities with out-of-town guests:

(credit: Caf.architecture.org)

Hop on a Boat and See the City from the River and the Lake

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise
224 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60604
Cost: $35 
See Website for Cruise Times

Take in the urban landscape as you glide across the river and onto the lake on a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. While you float past the unique and awe-inspiring buildings and skyscrapers that make up our skyline, guides will give you in depth historical detail about Chi-town’s most famous buildings and sites. Even the most die-hard Chicagoans will leave this cruise having learned a thing or two from CAF’s experts. The dock is just three blocks from Millennium Park and close to most downtown hotels.

(credit: Hotdougs.com)

Grab a Chicago Dog

Hot Doug’s
3324 North California
Chicago, IL 60618
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., closed on Sundays

A visit to Chicago wouldn’t be perfect without a pit stop for a hot dog or two. Hot Doug’s is a bit off the well-worn tourist track, but it promises an unforgettable wiener experience. This self-named “Encased Meat Emporium” offers not only the renown Chicago Dog (Vienna Beef Dog, poppy-seeded steamed bun, yellow mustard, diced onions, neon green relish, sport peppers, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear and of course, celery salt) but also The Elvis (featuring smoked, savory Polish sausage), the Bridgitte Bardot (featuring hot andouille sausage), and more. Don’t forget to order a side of fries – they’re delectably fried in duck fat on Fridays and Saturdays.


Snap a Photo of Yourselves in the Bean

Millennium Park
201 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL

It’s Chicago’s newest park, a gem front and center in the Loop. Millennium Park wows visitors and residents with its lovely gardens, live music and entertainment offerings, and original public art installations. Take off your shoes and cool off your feet in the Crown Fountain – be careful not to get “spit” upon by the digital faces! Take a photo of yourselves and the city skyline reflected in the beloved “Bean” – Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture. Cross over into the Art Institute’s Modern Wing via the Nichol’s Bridgeway.

(credit: Thinkstock)

A World Class Art Museum

Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603
Hours: Monday – Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cost: $18; Students, seniors and youths, $12

Our city’s art museum is always a treat to see – no matter if it’s your first or 50th visit. Its notable collections, including significant works by Impressionist and American masters, are beautifully displayed in this second largest art museum in the United States. Don’t miss such iconic paintings as Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

(credit: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Stroll the Mag Mile

Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Oak Street

Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. the Mag Mile, is Chicago’s premier shopping district. Start at the Chicago River and work your way down, shop by shop, to Oak Street. Make a pit stop midway at Garret’s Popcorn Shop (625 North Michigan Avenue) for a bag of warm, salty-sweet caramel corn.

(credit: Thinkstock)

Second City Forever

The Second City
1616 North Wells Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 337.3992
Check Website for Show times and Ticket Prices

Second City, Chicago’s renowned comedy club/theatre/school of improvisation has churned out some of American’s most brilliant comedic actors, including John Belushi and Tina Fey. Catch the latest stars about to be born, in action, at a live, late night show.

(credit: SignatureRoom.com)

Nightcap with a Bird’s Eye View

The Signature Room
875 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL

Soar 95 stories up to the tip top of the John Hancock Building for a bird’s eye view of the windy city. The dazzling views of the Signature Room make it the perfect place to sip a smooth cocktail and reflect on an amazing Chicago-style vacation.

And, of course, they’ll want to visit Millennium Park and the Navy Pier – here is our handy guide to both!

Amy Bocchetta is a writer, a teacher and a mom to two kids. She lives in the city and blogs at TiramisuMom.com.