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25 Exciting Things to Do in Chicago at Night

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on
April 17, 2022

Though it’s pretty easy to find activities to do in Chicago during the day, perhaps you’re wondering about the things to do in Chicago at night?

Known as one of the United States’ most fun and exciting entertainment hubs, there is plenty to keep you occupied well into the night in Chicago.

After a day at the Field Museum, seeing Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, or spending time on the shores of Lake Michigan, here’s our list of evening activities to complete your fun-filled day.

From amazing restaurants, bars, theaters, and activities, find out how to embrace all that the city has to offer – no matter the time of day.

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Read here for our list of the best things to do in Chicago at night!

Things to Do in Chicago at Night

Located on the shore of Lake Michigan in the United States, Chicago, Illinois is a glorious city with a population of 3 million people.

Perfectly blending the hustle and bustle of city life with a degree of friendliness that you’d expect from a small town, this diverse area is a must-visit metropolitan wonder.

With so many things to do here, luckily you have plenty of hours in a day!

After all, Chicago is a city that stays alive even as the daytime descends.

As one of our absolute favorite family vacation spots (Read our complete 3-day Chicago itinerary here!), check out the activities and energy of Chicago that lasts deep into the night…

Navy Pier Chicago at night

1. Stroll Navy Pier

Navy Pier is home to a large outdoor green space, called Polk Bros Park, as well as a 3,300-foot pier that stretches out from Chicago’s shoreline into Lake Michigan.

The pier is located at 600 E. Grand Avenue and is easily accessible via walking paths, car, or public transportation.

Attractions at Navy Pier include restaurants, shopping, outdoor carnival rides, a Ferris wheel, Navy Pier events, scenic boat tours, and even its own hotel.

Navy Pier is, by far, one of the best things to do in Chicago during both the day and at night, as guests are free to visit until 9:00 PM on weeknights and 10:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

Take note, however, that Navy Pier guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays after 5 PM.

The Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier

2. Ride the Centennial Wheel

While visiting Navy Pier at night, take a ride on Chicago’s iconic Centennial Wheel.

The gigantic Centennial Wheel Ferris wheel stretches over 200 feet up into the Chicago skyline and provides riders with a 360 degrees view of Chicago and Lake Michigan.

You’ll love the safe feeling of the completely enclosed 8-passenger gondolas that reach high into the sky.

Centennial Wheel rides are available until 8 PM from Sunday through Thursday, and until 10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

3. Visit the Alder Planetarium

The Alder Planetarium is a museum located in Chicago’s Museum Campus that is dedicated to astronomy and space.

Though the museum typically closes at 4 PM, if you’re lucky enough to be in town on a Wednesday night, check out Alder at Night!

Alder Planetarium is open until 10 PM on Wednesdays, as well as is free to Illinois residents on Wednesdays too!

Buy your tickets online before heading over for an evening under the stars for date night, after-work fun, or to let loose after a long day.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the best things to do in Chicago at night!

4. Experience the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Experience one of the greatest orchestras in the world and catch an evening with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, located in Orchestra Hall, is home to dozens of various world premieres and musical masterpieces.

Though some shows begin in the afternoon, most of the classical performances begin at 7:30 or 8:00 PM.

They do over 150 concerts every year, so you always have a good chance of scoring last-minute tickets to one of their events.

Wrigley Field

5. Cheer on the Chicago Cubs

Stop by Wrigley Field and cheer on the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team at their home stadium!

The Chicago Cub’s season runs from the end of April to the beginning of October with most evening home games starting between 6:40 and 7:05 PM.

The stadium itself is worth visiting, even without seeing a game.

Take a picture under the red marquee entrance and enjoy one of the oldest ballparks in the National League.

6. Stroll the Chicago Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk is a 1.25-mile paved path and waterfront park space found along the south bank of the Chicago River.

The Riverwalk is located in the heart of Downtown Chicago and extends from Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan to Lake Street.

It is home to bars, restaurants, lookout points, boat rentals, tours, and theater-style seating for outdoor performances. 

Once the sun goes down, the Chicago Riverwalk becomes one of the best places in the city for an outdoor stroll.

Catch some live music or enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the view of the glistening river.

Watch the Buckingham Fountain light show in Chicago at night!

7. Visit Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

Grant Park is a large urban green space located along Lake Michigan in Downtown Chicago.

Grant Park is home to Millenium Park, Maggie Daley Park, Chicago’s Museum Campus, and Buckingham Fountain.

As one of the largest fountains in the world, the Buckingham Fountain runs from early May to mid-October (when temperatures are above freezing).

Every twenty minutes until 11:00 PM, the fountain performs an amazing water display that is free of charge to watch.

At dusk, lights and music accompany the 150 feet water jets, making it a warm evening must-do.

8. Check out a Chicago Bears Game

If baseball isn’t your thing, try seeing a Chicago Bears football game at the Soldier Field.

In addition to hosting NFL games, Solider Field is also the home of the Chicago Fire (Major Soccer League).

You’re sure to find a fun evening of entertainment at either game.

9. Eat at Magnificent Mile

Located on Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile shopping district is one of the best places to grab a bite to eat in the evening.

With over 275 restaurants, you’re sure to find something to eat for every tastebud.

Yes, you can even find some authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza – one of Chicago’s famous foods that you don’t want to miss!

Afterward, stroll among the beautifully lit shops of Mag Mile while admiring the year-round twinkling white lights that decorate the outdoor trees.

In addition, be sure to check out these kid-friendly Chicago restaurants if you’re visiting with kids in tow.

Skydeck Chicago is one of Chicgo's best attractions!

10. Visit Skydeck Chicago

Formerly known as the Sears Tower, Willis Tower is one of the most notable skyscrapers of the Chicago skyline.

For 41 years, it was the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere!

As one of the absolute things to do in Chicago, visitors can enjoy the spectacular views of the city from the 103rd floor of Willis Tower at Chicago’s Skydeck attraction.

A ticket to visit Skydeck includes a 30-60 minute interactive queue area where you can learn all about “the best of” Chicago.

Afterward, you’ll ride the elevator up to the 103rd floor of Willis Tower where the most spectacular views of the city await.

Next, you’ll have an opportunity to stand and take photos on The Ledge, which is a glass balcony that extends four feet outside the walls of the building.

Being suspended over the city in this way is both terrifying and amazing at the same time!

Skydeck is open until 10 PM 7-days a week with the last entry being 30-minutes prior to closing.

Chicago Broadway shows

11. Go to The Chicago Theatre

Chicago has a booming arts scene!

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, The Chicago Theatre, for instance, is one of the country’s most iconic venues and a great place to experience the city’s history.

As one of the first lavish movie palaces in the United States, it became a model for many others.

Now at The Chicago Theatre, you can see everything from musicians to comedians perform in the venue.

Check out The Chicago Theatre’s website for performances, showtimes, and prices.

12. Hit up The Signature Lounge

If you’re feeling like an extra special night out, stop by The Signature Lounge for cocktails and light fare.

Located on the 96th floor of 875 North Michigan Avenue (formerly known as the John Hancock Center), you can watch the sun go down while you enjoy a world-class drink.

What makes this cocktail lounge such a unique Chicago experience is the incredible panoramic views of the city!

Ranked among the best restaurants in Chicago, The Signature Room is an experience you don’t want to miss.

13. Book a Boat Tour

Everyone who visits Chicago needs to see the skyline at night.

One of the best ways to see this is by booking an evening tour on one of the many boat companies that offer themed cruises down the Chicago River.

Glide up the river and along Lake Michigan while you take in the sights and scenes of Chicago while enjoying a beverage or two on a dinner cruise, sightseeing cruise, or more…

Learn about Chicago’s many boat tour options here.

14. Go to The Green Mill

Speakeasies are one of the most infamous aspects of Chicago’s past and remain a major attraction today.

While no longer a hidden bar, The Green Mile was run by a notorious gangster (and known Al Capone associate) ‘Machine Gun’ Jack McGurn.

Today, The Green Mill remains almost identical to what it was back in the prohibition days.

It has live performances of jazz music every night and tasty cocktails.

Hours are: Sunday – Thursday, open until 1 AM; Fridays and Saturdays, open until 2 AM.

Discover the best things to do in Chicago at night from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!

15. Get Tickets for The Second City

Looking to laugh and let off some steam?

Every night at The Second City, you can catch live shows from up-and-coming comedians as well as some of the best names in the comedy biz.

The most famous alumni from The Second City school include Bill Murray, Eugene Levy, Mike Meyers, Steve Carrell, Bill Hader, and many more!

Check out The Second City website for current shows and showtimes.

16. Relax at a Rooftop Bar

Overlook the city, enjoy the fresh air, and sip a cocktail at one of these popular rooftop bars in Chicago!

A popular destination for Chicago locals, Cindy’s atop the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel offers views over Millennium Park and Lake Michigan.

At Raised, you can sit inside or outside on the third floor of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown.

On Friday and Saturday nights, head to Cerise Rooftop on the 26th floor of the Virgin Hotel and listen to a live DJ while you mingle with friends.

17. Master The Escape Game

Escape rooms are one of the great options to do with kids when you’re trying to fill a quiet or rainy evening.

One of the best in the city, The Escape Game, is open until midnight.

It has five different adventures to choose from – take a trip to Mars, escape the prison bars, search for gold, return a lost painting, or uncover the truth as a field agent.

18. See a Broadway Show

If you love live entertainment, don’t miss out on one of the best things to do in the evening in Chicago…catch a Broadway show!

At any time, there are always multiple performances happening in Chicago from some of the most sought-after and Tony award-winning shows.

Grab last-minute tickets or look in advance at all the shows performing while you’re in town.

19. Check for Special Events at Lincoln Park Zoo

Check the event calendar in order to catch an adult’s night at the Lincoln Park Zoo!

Complete with alcoholic beverages, you can enjoy one of these ticketed events right in the heart of the city.

Note that the zoo is normally free except for these special events that include craft brew festivals, adult-night-out summer block parties, and holiday parties.

United Center Arena; Blackhawks game

20. Go to a Chicago Blackhawks Game

Chicago is blessed with so many sports teams.

If you’re a hockey lover, then you won’t want to miss seeing the Chicago Blackhawks play in their home arena, United Center.

One of the original six NHL teams, you’ll be watching a good game for sure!

21. Head to a Skating Rink

If you’re visiting Chicago in the winter, one of the most fun things to do is enjoy one of Chicago’s many seasonal ice skating rinks.

Typically, most are open mid-November through March, with some hosting evening hours.

You can see all of the ice skating rinks (as well as our cold-weather Chicago itinerary) in my list of things to do in Chicago during the winter!

22. Check out Topgolf Chicago

Swing the club year-round at Topgolf in Schaumburg.

While it’s a little bit out of the way from the city center, it’s well worth the effort for golf fans and has operating hours that last well into the night.

(Topgolf Chicago is open until 11 PM Sunday – Thursday and until 12 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.)

Enjoy Topgolf’s three floors’ worth of entertainment whether it be golfing from one of their over 100 climate-controlled bays or watching sports via the 200 HDTVs.

After golfing, enjoy the rooftop terrace and its fire pits, sit at the sports bar, and/or catch a bite to eat.

Reservations are recommended, but not required.

23. Do a Chicago Crimes Tour

Many know the windy city for its notorious past.

At night, take a bus ride with Chicago Crimes Night Tour to experience life with some of the world’s most famous gangsters.

You’ll see some of the most iconic landmarks as well as crime scenes.

If you’re a true crime junkie, this nighttime Chicago activity is a must-do.

24. Spend the Early Evening at Shedd Aquarium

Open until 6:00 pm, head to the Shedd Aquarium for late afternoon and early evening gazing at creatures found beneath the deep blue waters.

In addition, watch out for newly released Shedd After Hours dates and times!

Shedd After Hours is a time for adults 21+ to relax, take in spectacular skyline views and experience special events such as sought-after DJs or bands, animal encounters, and science stories.

Beers lined up at a brewery

25. Try a New Brew

An experience that can be enjoyed any time during the afternoon and evening, be sure to check out some of Chicago’s many breweries.

After all, Chicago is a favorite hidden-gem beer city by many!

With over 230 breweries in the Chicagoland area, there is truly something for everyone – from traditional European styles, to experimental American styles, and everything in between.

Popular Chicago breweries include:

  • Dovetail Brewery
  • Marz Community Brewing
  • Half Acre Beer Company
  • Corridor Brewery & Provisions
  • And more!

Best Month to Visit Chicago

The best time for a Chicago getaway is during the months of May, June, September, and October.

In other words, plan a trip to Chicago when the weather is mild during the late spring, early summer, and early fall.

In addition, be sure to consider what to wear in Chicago depending on when you visit, as the weather varies drastically.

Though Chicago in summer can be hot and humid, many are drawn to the area during this time in order to take advantage of its lake activities and outdoor events.

Keep in mind, however, that Chicago gets very busy with tourists over the weekends and holidays.

Chicago at night

Where to Stay in Chicago

If you’re planning a vacation in Chicago, IL, there are several options on where to stay in Chicago.

Regardless, be sure to stay downtown so that you can do as little driving around as possible.

Choices downtown include staying within the Magnificent Mile, The Loop, or River North neighborhoods.

The Magnificent Mile is close to the John Hancock Building, Navy Pier, and upscale shopping.

The Loop is close to the Willis Tower and Millennium Park.

On the other hand, River North hotels are still within walking distance to major attractions but provide more budget-friendly options that often include pools and free breakfast.

Here are some of our favorite Chicago hotels for families:

Getting to Chicago

If you’re heading to Chicago, visitors typically travel there via plane, train, bus, or personal vehicle.

Chicago’s central location and the fact that it is accessible by many major interstates and highways make it easy to get there by car.

Be aware that there are several Illinois tollways as you drive into the city, so be sure to have spare dollar bills on hand.

If traveling from a farther distance, however, search for flights into either O’Hare International Airport or Chicago Midway International Airport.

O’Hare (ORD) is a gigantic international airport that services multiple airlines, while Midway (MDW) offers more convenient access to the city but with far fewer choices of flights.

How to Get Around Chicago

Chicago is a walkable city meaning that when staying downtown, the majority of the popular restaurants, sites, and attractions are all within walking distance of one another.

If staying downtown you simply do not need a car to get around once there.

For longer stretches, Uber vehicles are highly prevalent and can typically be found within 2 – 3 minutes of any given address.

In addition, Chicago is well-known for its convenient street system and its fantastic public transit system.

There you have it! What are some of your tips for visiting Chicago, or favorite things to do in Chicago at night? I’d love to hear about it in the comments…

Jen

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Read our list of the best things to do in Chicago at night, from top US family travel blog, Travel With A Plan!
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Hi, I'm Jen - founder of the award-winning travel blog, Travel With A Plan! I help families plan fun & fulfilling family vacations by sharing our exact itineraries and "best things to do" lists to popular US vacation spots. Take the stress out of planning a family vacation by using our detailed destination guides and ultra-convenient packing lists to help you travel better. We'll show you how hassle-free family travel is possible - when you travel with a plan!

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