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The Windy City is a domestic travelers’ dream: it’s enough of a journey from the East and West coast population centers to feel like a trip, but still retains that homey, all-American flair. Nestled along Lake Michigan and around both banks of a river that now flows backwards, Chicago combines location, history and character to create a destination like nowhere else. Whether you’re noshing on a Chicago dog, cheering on the curse-breaking Cubbies or spending more money than you should on Michigan Avenue, you won’t regret your time in this Midwestern jewel. All that fun is great for Instagram, too, so the next time you’re in town, check out these gram-worthy places.
1. The Bean at Millennium Park
Officially called “Cloud Gate” but known as “The Bean” by just about everyone else, this gigantic stainless steel sculpture is the centerpiece of Chicago’s Millennium Park. Tourists and Chicagoans can’t help but ogle at the smooth, reflective service, photo gold ever since the sculpture was dedicated in 2006. And with the explosive rise of Instagram, its notoriety has only grown.
2. The Art Institue of Chicago
Right next door to Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago will add some bona-fide culture to your Windy City adventure. The sprawling art museum — America’s second-largest — houses notable paintings from across the world. Tour the works of Impressionist master Claude Monet and Cubism pioneer Pablo Picasso as you walk these famous halls. And don’t forget to strike a pose by American Gothic while you’re there.
3. Buckingham Fountain
Keep walking south in Grant Park and you’ll find Buckingham Fountain, the nearly 100-year-old Chicago city gem that wows its visitors multiple times a day. For 20 minutes every hour, the fountain — one of the world’s largest, by the way — puts on a dazzling water show. The fun (and photos) get even better after dusk when a series of lights make the waterworks absolutely glimmer. Don’t miss out on this classic Chicago attraction.
4. The Field Museum
The Field Museum is full of great natural history photo-ops. Check out the museum’s Cretaceous Period-era mascot, Sue, the most complete T-Rex fossil in the world today. The museum also houses one of the best dinosaur fossil collections worldwide and its Jurassic World exhibit shouldn’t be missed.
5. Wrigley Field
They might not be the lovable losers of baseball anymore, but the Chicago Cubs are still worth spending a sunny summer afternoon with. Stop by historic Wrigley Field to see the Cubbies defend their home turf, or come while they’re out of town for a stadium tour. No matter how or when you pass through Wrigleyville, you’ll be glad you came.
6. The Chicago Riverwalk
With stellar views of the city’s architecture, river-crossing drawbridges and waterfront traffic, the recently completed Riverwalk is another excellent photo stop in the Windy City. This walkable park guides visitors past nine blocks of the Chicago River, all while exposing you to a number of attractions and striking art installments. Whether you’re looking to spruce up your mid-day walk, searching for that perfect photo-op or just want a peaceful place to sit and read a good book, chances are you’ll find it along the Riverwalk.
7. Navy Pier and Its Centennial Wheel
It’s often hard to find an all-in-one attraction that will make the whole family happy. Stop by Chicago’s Navy Pier, the lakeside destination that has a little something for everyone. Kids, adults, locals, tourists and everyone in between will find joy on the Centennial Wheel, which is open year-round and known for its excellent skyline views and vistas of Lake Michigan. Save some time after the ride to snap foodie-centric shots at one of Navy Pier’s many restaurants.
8. O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
ORD is not without its flight delays, but if you get stuck at the gate, fret not. Take a walk through the airport with your camera phone in tow as you spot some of this bustling hub’s standout attractions. Hidden around the various terminals, you’ll find a hall of flags from around the world, a seemingly endless moving walkway with dazzling lights and a full-size dinosaur replica.
9. Skydeck Chicago
If seeing the Chicago skyline from afar isn’t enough, ride the elevator at Willis Tower to floor 103 and visit the Skydeck, an observation deck 1,353 feet up. It’s a great place to stare at all the ant-like people bustling about below and an irresistible photo-op as well. For those up for a scare — and a jaw-dropping, jealousy inducing insta-pic — the glass boxes sticking out of the tower’s façade are a must.
10. North Avenue Beach
The Midwestern US might not seem like an obvious choice for your next beach vacation, but Chicago’s North Avenue Beach stands out nonetheless. This popular lakefront beach draws massive crowds, with promises of summertime fun in the sand, water and nearby restaurants as well. Chill out with a drink as your day winds to a close — and snap a pic for all your friends back home.
Are there any other Chicago spots you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments, below.
Featured image by Education Images/Getty.
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