4 Things To Do In Chicago If You Only Have Half A Day

Chicago is a bustling business town where people often visit with very little spare time in their schedules.

Whether this is due to conferences, a layover, or a brief visit with a friend, not everyone who visits for a short period of time will want to stay in their hotel room.

If you’re someone who likes to explore the local area of wherever you are, no matter how brief, this article is the one for you.

From extraordinary views of the city to tours that will allow you to take in as much of the city as possible in half a day, this list will leave you with plenty of places to choose from.
You may even be surprised by what you can fit in!

Related: What You Should Know Before Moving to Chicago

Navy Pier

Navy Pier

600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Navy Pier is an infamous Chicago location that should definitely be at the top of your itinerary if you only have half a day to explore.

Hosting over 9 million visitors every year, the pier itself stretches out 3300 feet from the Lake Michigan Shoreline, providing you with ample opportunities to sit back and take in the true Chicago spirit.

For those who want something more entertaining during their visit, the pier itself also features a number of family-friendly establishments to take advantage of.

This includes the Chicago’s Children’s Museum, the Centennial Wheel, and the Crystal Garden to name but a few.

In fact, there’s so much to explore that there’s no way to do it all in half a day, so you’ll need to think ahead and learn about the attraction in advance.

To do this, check out CoolThingsChicago’s ultimate guide to the Navy Pier here, and be sure to ask guest services for their recommendations once you arrive.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park

201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602

Millennium Park is the place to visit if you want to drink in as much of the Chicago culture as possible before you leave the city.

The park itself is known for a few different areas, but if you’re looking for culture, exploring its state-of-the-art architecture, landscape design and art offerings is the best place to find it.

One of the best pieces in the entire park is ‘Cloud Gate’, which has become so popular many believe it to be one of the best pieces of public art in history.

With its central location, the park itself is never quiet, and you’ll often see both locals and tourists alike enjoying the best of what the city has to offer.

If you want to view more of Chicago’s infamous music scene, this park also offers free concerts in their outdoor music venue, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

These events are more common during the summer, where they put on more than 80 free events throughout the season, but you may be lucky enough to stumble upon one during other parts of the year, too.

Big Bus Tours

Big Bus Tours

98 East Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601

If you’re looking to view as much of Chicago as possible in the small amount of time available to you, this open-top sightseeing bus tour is the best way to do so.

The tours themselves begin at the infamous Navy Pier, meaning if you arrive earlier you can enjoy everything that location has to offer.

After that, you can get on the bus and enjoy a wondrous hop-on-hop-off experience that allows you to further explore locations of your choosing.

With 14 stops conveniently located near some of Chicago’s biggest attractions like the Magnificent Mile and Millennium Park, you may even choose to hop-off at them all.

For those on a time crunch, however, these bus tours do have on-hand live tour guides who will provide you with all the latest information about local attractions.

This can help you prioritize the places you most want to explore, cutting down on time wasting and allowing you to experience as much of the city as possible.

The only downside to this event is that the tour itself may last longer than the time you have available to you, but it’s still worth the cost!

If this is the case, be sure to book your tickets online, as doing so could save you around 10%.



875 N Michigan Ave 94th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611

Looking at Chicago from ground level is always a great experience, but if you want something a little more unique, 360 Chicago is the place to go.

Essentially, it’s a premier observation deck in the former John Hancock Center that provides views of Chicago, Illinois and three other states from its 360 view.

It’s located along the infamous Magnificent Mile, with the building itself providing you with unique views of the area including the Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan and the many luxurious shops on offer.

Having recently undergone a complete redesign, this interactive exhibit now offers enlightening learning experiences on your way to the top.

Once you get there, there’s also the opportunity to explore their new attraction, aptly titled Tilt, which is the first of its kind in the world.

The attraction itself is made of completely see-through glass which tilts out, giving you a unique downwards view of The Magnificent Mile and Chicago’s wonderous streets 1,030 feet below.

Regardless of whether you want the adrenaline rushing experience or want a more conventional view of the city, however, this is a place you definitely don’t want to miss off your list.


It’s clear to see that Chicago has created a great city for brief visits as well as longer stays, with many of the options on our list encompassing the history of the city.

From outdoor concerts during the summer months to key establishments at the Navy Pier during the colder months, there are many different options you’ve been presented with.

The great thing about this is that the city is literally offering something new for everyone, meaning you’re bound to have found something in this list you can’t wait to enjoy!

Read Also: Great Fall Day Trips and Events in Colorado


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