Traveling to Chicago with only one day to explore and a tight budget? It can be hard to decide what to do with such limited time in your schedule. Fortunately, we’ve put together a one-day in Chicago itinerary to help you make the most of your time during your trip while keeping spending under control. This one-day itinerary includes:
- Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sightseeing Tour
- Millennium Park (free!)
- Navy Pier Centennial Wheel
- The Field Museum
- Shedd Aquarium
Spending more time in Chicago? Then take a peek at one of our sample weekend in Chicago or popular 3-day itineraries.
Stop #1: Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sightseeing Tour
The hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour is one of the best ways to start your one day in Chicago–it’s the perfect introduction to the city layout and you’ll get an overview of all the top monuments, museums, and historic sites. Best part? You’ll be able to hop on and off at any of the stops along the way to help make your trip as customized as possible. Popular stops along the route include:
- Art Institute
- Adler Planetarium
- Shedd Aquarium
- Navy Pier
- John Hancock Center & 360 Chicago
- And more!
If you want to combine this bus ride with other attractions to maximize your one day in Chicago, keep in mind that it takes about 2.5 hours to ride the entire route.
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Getting In: Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Chicago tour tickets are included on the Go Chicago pass.
Stop #2: Millennium Park
One of the country’s most beautiful urban parks, Millennium Park is the heart of downtown Chicago. Filled with gardens, fountains, musical venues, and more, it’s a must-see for any Chicago visitor. Don’t forget to explore the art and architecture within the park itself, including the fun Crown Fountain and the classic Cloud Gate (aka, the Bean). Snap some photos while you’re at it!
Depending upon what time of year you are visiting, there might be some amazing free or inexpensive events going on in the park. Check the attraction website or download the new Millennium Park app to see what’s on during your visit!
Getting In: Entry to Millennium Park is free. You may wish to purchase souvenirs or food from some of the vendors. Leave at least an hour to visit the park.
Stop #3: Explore Navy Pier
Head down to this premier entertainment destination and marvel at all the wonders of Chicago’s historic pier. There are museums, performing arts venues, an IMAX theater, and other attractions, but your kids will most likely enjoy the newly opened Navy Pier Centennial Wheel.
You’ll probably want a good hour or two to explore everything that Navy Pier has to offer, whether it’s going on the wheel, delighting in some of the rides, or just taking in the view of the city with the lake glimmering behind you.
Getting In: Navy Pier Centennial Wheel tickets and rides are included on the Go Chicago pass.
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Stop #4: The Field Museum
Where else in the world can you find 4.6 billion years of history under one roof? The Field Museum’s legendary collection of fossils, artifacts, gemstones, and other objects of natural and historic importance is practically unparalleled. Their most famous exhibits span the gamut from dinosaurs to tombs to pottery, with highlights like SUE, the world’s largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton, and the Ancient Egyptian tomb and exhibits that hold over 20 real mummies!
Another popular exhibit with the kids is the Underground Adventure area, where you get the chance to experience life at a bug-sized scale. This is one of the top attractions in the entire city, and should definitely be on your must-see for one day in Chicago.
Getting In: Field Museum tickets are included with the Go Chicago pass.
Stop #5: Shedd Aquarium
Since you’ll already be on the amazing Museum Campus after your last attraction, your final stop of the day should be a no-brainer: the fascinating Shedd Aquarium. Filled with maritime creatures great and small, Shedd has something to appeal to the entire family. It’s both educational and fun, making it the ideal kid-friendly attraction.
Given the size of both the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, if you think you’ll want to spend multiple hours at each it might be worth heading down to Museum Campus earlier and skipping another attraction to give yourself more time (here is where only riding the hop-on hop-off bus for a little bit can help you save time).
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Getting In: Shedd Aquarium tickets are included on the Go Chicago pass.
What a Day!
Save on Attraction Admission
Visit these top attractions and save up to 45% off vs. paying at the gate with a Go Chicago® pass. Remember, this one-day itinerary is just one of many ways to experience Chicago. The Go Chicago Card gives you the flexibility to create your own itinerary, so you can choose from dozens of top attractions and create a vacation tailored to your interests.