Even if you live near Chicago, you’ll never see everything this city has to offer. Anyone who saw “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” knows that there is no way Ferris could have accomplished the entirety of his Chicago trip in a day. There is plenty you can squeeze into a weekend, however. Decide in advance what you’re going to accomplish on your weekend away, but be flexible as there is far too much to be distracted by. Chicago offers all of this and so much more, so feel free to make a day of a Chicago Fire Game or explore some of Chicago’s Most Haunted Places after you’ve exhausted these fun options.

Getting There

Getting to Chicago is simple via Amtrak’s Michigan services. Otherwise, take 96 to 94 to 90 into Illinois. Be sure to budget extra money for parking and find a centrally located lot to park in, or choose a hotel with parking. In town, the Metra trains run frequently from all surrounding suburbs and tickets may usually be purchased in advance if desired or on the train itself once you’re on your way. Click here for information on which train is closest to you. Once inside the city, the Chicago Transit Authority elevated rail and bus system will get you anywhere you need to be. Click here for all information on CTA transit as well as a handy trip planner, which will give you specific directions from your place of origin to your destination.

Photo Credit: ThinkStock

Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-7437

Price: free

It’s easy to spend an entire day on Navy Pier alone with its restaurants, shows and rides. Even if you don’t plan on spending an extended amount of time on the pier, it is worth a visit as a historical location. Families may enjoy the rides together on Pier Park, including the 150-foot-high ferris wheel, carousel and miniature golf. The Pier is also host to several boats and cruises, restaurants such as Harry Caray’s Tavern, an array of shops and an IMAX theatre.

Photo Credit: ThinkStock

Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 742-1168

Price: free

Enjoy culture in the outdoors at Millennium Park, which regularly hosts concerts or art installations on the grounds. Take a free tour of the Lurie Gardens, or just wander through on your own. Picnicking on the grounds is also allowed if you’d like to pack a lunch or dinner, or visit the park’s concessions or the Park Grill Restaurant. It’s almost criminal to pass through Chicago without getting a picture with the Cloud Gate sculpture, locally known as The Bean or splashing through the Crown Fountains in warm weather.

Photo Credit: ThinkStock

John Hancock Center
875 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 751-3680

Price: free

Although the Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower, is taller and possibly more famous, the waterfront views from the John Hancock Center are unparalleled. Although the observatory itself is worth a visit, spectacular views may be enjoyed in a more leisurely fashion over a drink and a sandwich in the Signature Lounge — where even the restrooms have amazing views — or a full meal in the Signature Restaurant. The building also hosts a souvenir shop as well as other stores to visit. Right on Michigan Avenue, the John Hancock is close to Magnificent Mile shopping, so you don’t have to miss a beat when you swing by for a meal.

Photo Credit: lpzoo.org/Facebook

Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2000

Price: free

One of the oldest zoos in the United States, the Lincoln Park Zoo is open year round and is always free. Although the animals are obviously the main attraction, the zoo also features events such as fun runs, yoga in the zoo and safari tours. Click here to see a list of events on the day of your visit for both children or adults. The zoo also hosts educational programs such as camp outings for families and gardening classes.

Photo Credit: explorechicago.org/

Museum Campus
Lakeshore Drive between Roosevelt and 18th streets
Chicago, IL 60605

Price: free campus/museums vary

Three of the most famous museums in the nation are located within walking distance of each other in an area known as Chicago’s Museum Campus. The Field Museum of Natural History, home to Sue the dinosaur, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium are all situated along the picturesque lakefront on Chicago’s south side. Obviously a visit to any of the museums that suit your fancy will be well worth your time, but the campus itself is ideal for picnicking, fishing or just a long walk or run along the lake. The campus also houses the Chicago Bears’ home stadium, Soldier Field, the nation’s oldest active football stadium.

Photo Credit: Hotel Blake/Facebook

Hotel Blake
500 South Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 986-1234

Click here for prices and availability

Expect the Chicago-style fusion of modern decor and historic architecture at a hotel that boasts a 19-th century Morton Salt building façade as its front end. Get the glam feel with low, dark tables and sleek furniture. Choose from 162 guest rooms with gorgeous windows, which offer the best views from corner rooms. Be sure to stop by the Custom House restaurant and bar for savory dinner options including mouth-watering short ribs and artisan spirits perfect for a nightcap.

Meredith Lyons is an actor, competitive fighter and fitness instructor in Chicago who also owns an amazing cat named Jake. Meredith has been writing on Examiner as the Chicago Martial Arts Examiner since 2008. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.