Chicago is known as the Windy City for a reason, so if the weather makes a turn for the worse during your trip, head inside to check out the best 22 indoor activities Chicago has to offer.
As one of the largest cities in the US, Chicago is full of iconic architecture, delicious restaurants, and impressive museums, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Pssst, heading to Chicago? Don’t miss these travel guides to help you plan your trip!
If you’re planning a trip to Chicago, I recommend saving this list of the best indoor activities in case you need a backup plan to escape hot, rainy, or windy weather.
While I love exploring Chicago’s parks and outdoor areas, I think some of the city’s best sights can be found inside, so let’s get started with this list of 22 fun indoor activities in Chicago.
Book the best Chicago activities through GetYourGuide below
Best Indoor Activities Chicago Has to Offer
360 Chicago Observation Deck (formerly known as John Hancock Center Observatory) is a Chicago must if you want to catch 360-degree views of Lake Michigan and the downtown city skyline.
Situated on the 94th floor of the famed John Hancock Building, you’ll be instantly amazed by the sweeping views that the 360 Chicago Observation Deck provides.
I recommend visiting the observation deck on a day with clear weather that might be too windy or chilly to enjoy from street level.
For a cocktail experience like no other, stop by the CloudBar during your visit to enjoy some tasty mixed drinks and small bites while taking in unobstructed views of Chicago.
To make your 360 Chicago Observation Deck experience more thrilling, you can reserve a spot on TILT, a thrilling ride where you’ll lean against a glass window and be slowly tilted to overlook the streets below.
You can purchase a Skip-the-Line ticket for this indoor activity through GetYourGuide so you can head straight to the observation deck without having to wait in the ticket line.
Chicago is home to some of the best museums in the country, and the Art Institute of Chicago is a can’t-miss indoor activity.
This museum is renowned for its globally-sourced art pieces that reflect a wide array of artists and span decades.
The Art Institute’s seasonal exhibits feature famous artists like Salvador Dali and Van Gogh, meaning there’s always something new to see.
This is another Chicago indoor activity I recommend purchasing a Skip-the-Line ticket for through GetYourGuide.
The Chicago Field Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s best natural history museums thanks to its massive collection of 40 million specimens and relics on display.
The Field Museum has been a staple attraction of Chicago since it first opened over 100 years ago.
A visit to the Field Museum of Natural History provides a great opportunity to learn more about the natural world in a fun and engaging way.
To get the most out of your trip to the Field Museum, I’d suggest booking GetYourGuide’s VIP tour option.
When the Chicago weather turns sour, head inside to explore the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center.
This historic building features gorgeous architectural details like imported marble materials and stained-glass domes.
There are always fun events being hosted at the Cultural Center that are free to visit, so make sure to check the calendar of upcoming events before your visit.
One of the best ways to explore the Chicago Cultural Center is through a Treasures of the Golden Age Walking Tour that highlights some of the city’s most dazzling historic landmarks.
The Willis Tower Skydeck is one of the most thrilling and immersive ways to experience Chicago from above.
From an interactive exhibit on Willis Tower, the tallest building in Chicago, to the Ledge experience, the Skydeck is a fun indoor activity that the whole family will love.
One of the highlights of Willis Tower Skydeck is the Ledge, a glass box that extends several feet out, giving you a surreal view of Chicago from 103 floors up.
You can purchase a Skydeck ticket that includes the Ledge experience through GetYourGuide.
Learn more about the stars, galaxies, and nebulae by paying a visit to Chicago’s Adler Planetarium.
Adler Planetarium holds the distinction of being the first planetarium in the country, having been founded in 1930.
This unique attraction features interactive exhibits, galleries, mesmerizing shows, and seasonal events.
Adler Planetarium is a great place to learn about interesting topics like space exploration and astronomy, making it a perfect outing for the whole family.
Step back in time to experience the vibrant and luxurious Gilded Age era with a visit to the Driehaus Museum.
This museum is filled with furniture, art, and other artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Situated inside the historic Samuel Mayo Nickerson Mansion which was built in 1883, the Driehaus Museum is one of the best ways to learn about local Chicago history.
One of my favorite indoor attractions in Chicago that offers fun for the whole family is the Shedd Aquarium.
The aquarium houses over 32,500 sea creatures from all over the world, from stingrays and sea turtles to sharks, whales, and everything in between.
For a more immersive and memorable experience, you can participate in hands-on encounters with otters and beluga whales, or immerse yourself in an underwater virtual reality world.
While you’re there, check out this post if you’re curious about why fish lay at the bottom of the tank!
If you’re a fan of art and works by renowned artist Van Gogh, Chicago’s immersive Van Gogh Exhibit is a must-see.
This vibrant exhibition brings Van Gogh’s iconic art pieces to life with moving images and music that make you feel as though you’ve stepped inside one of the artist’s colorful paintings.
Visitors can also purchase tickets to paint and sip or yoga classes for an extra special treat.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is one of the largest science museums in the world, giving you plenty of exhibits to tour.
From a 40-foot tornado to a World War II-era submarine, this is the perfect museum to let your imagination run wild.
Exploring the Museum of Science and Industry’s interactive exhibits, films, and demonstrations is fun and educational—the best of both worlds!
What better way to relax and unwind during your trip to Chicago than with a visit to AIRE Ancient Baths?
Enjoy a peaceful moment of tranquility as you soak in the thermal baths which range from cool to warm.
The baths are located in a restored 1902 factory with gorgeous touches like exposed brick and wooden beams.
The AIRE Ancient Baths also offer special treatments like massages that will give you the complete spa experience.
12. Escape Room
Escape rooms are a fun and interactive activity perfect for outings with friends, family, or coworkers.
The premise is simple—you’re locked in a themed room and have to put your heads together to figure out puzzles, crack codes, and decipher clues to find your way out before the time runs out.
Featuring an array of plants from around the globe, the renowned Garfield Park Conservatory is among America’s largest and most beautiful botanical conservatories.
The conservatory is home to eight spectacular indoor garden exhibits and ten acres of outdoor gardens.
Garfield Park Conservatory is a true urban oasis among the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago—as a bonus, entry is free!
If you’re in the mood to do some shopping, Water Tower Place is the perfect rainy-day destination with over 80 international brands and local stores.
There are over 750,000 square feet of shopping space to explore at Water Tower Place, you’re sure to find a store that will pique your interest.
Water Tower Place is also home to a theater if you want to catch a movie, and its convenient location along Michigan Avenue (aka the Magnificent Mile) makes it easy to explore other well-known landmarks in the same visit.
Anyone with kiddos knows it can be a challenge to find indoor activities that will keep young ones engaged and occupied, but thankfully the Chicago Children’s Museum offers plenty of fun for the whole family.
Situated at the iconic Navy Pier, the Children’s Museum has a variety of exhibits and activities for babies, toddlers, and kids ages 9 and older.
Bring the whole family for some indoor fun at the Chicago Children’s Museum and you’re guaranteed to have a great time.
16. WNDR Museum
The WNDR Museum in Chicago is a unique art and technology installation that will engage your senses in a fully immersive experience.
Artists of all backgrounds and styles have joined forces to create an innovative museum that combines creativity and technology.
With several exhibits that feature unique textures, sights, and sounds, WNDR is an art museum like no other.
Lincoln Park Conservatory offers a peaceful escape from hot and balmy or cold and windy weather that makes outdoor activities less than ideal.
The highlight of the conservatory is the Victorian-era glass house that houses four unique display areas—The Palm House, Orchid House, Fern Room, and Show House.
The exotic plants will transport you to a lush and colorful world that will make you forget you’re in downtown Chicago!
The Spray Paint N Sip workshop hosted at Studio W.I.P. is one of the most fun and creative indoor things to do in Chicago.
This urban art workshop will allow you to try the art of spray paint while listening to fun music and sipping an alcoholic beverage of your choice.
This is the perfect option for anyone who wants to get in touch with their creative side—even if you aren’t very artistic, the instructors will guide you through every step of the process.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a delightful museum that focuses on the unique environment of the local region.
This nature museum not only provides educational programs and exhibits for kids and adults but also features unique experiences like a live butterfly house and a science lab where you can watch animals being studied and cared for.
You could spend hours exploring everything there is to see and do at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
For a fun and tasty indoor activity that will satisfy your sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Museum of Ice Cream.
This interactive museum will take you on a journey full of delicious treats and Instagram-worthy exhibits.
From bubblegum pink rooms where you can dive into pools of sprinkles to unlimited ice cream tastings, every inch of the Museum of Ice Cream is a whimsical wonderland that will awaken your inner child!
Skip the line by purchasing an entry ticket in advance from GetYourGuide.
Chicago’s Museum of Illusions is an exciting and mind-bending destination for visitors of all ages.
With more than 60 interactive exhibits that are both entertaining and educational, the Museum of Illusions is a must-visit Chicago spot.
You’ll experience everything from immersive themed rooms to optical illusions that will trick your mind in the most fun way possible!
Take the stress out of planning your visit by booking a timed entry ticket through GetYourGuide.
Wrapping up this list of the best indoor activities in Chicago is the Harold Washington Library Center, the main branch of the Chicago public library system.
Housed in a gorgeous building that combines historic and modern architecture, this library is the perfect spot to explore on a cold, windy day.
Explore the library’s nine floors of exhibits and collections and cozy up in a reading nook that overlooks downtown Chicago.
Those are all my picks for the top 22 indoor activities Chicago has to offer when you want to enjoy the city without worrying about the elements.
If you visit any of these spots on your next trip to Chicago I’d love to see which you pick, so make sure to tag me on Insta (@wtfab).
Check out all my Chicago content here for recommendations, reviews, and guides!
Yes, Chicago has a ton of things to see and do so it’s the perfect place to take a vacation.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.