10 Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Chicago

Here's our guide to the best places to see in Chicago on a rainy day.

One of the largest cities in the United States, Chicago has a plethora of must-see attractions and events, from Wrigley Field to Millennium Park. But if it rains during your stay, don't let it get you down. Here is our guide to the Windy City when the weather is less than ideal.


Shedd Aquarium

To watch water play without getting wet, head over to Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium is home to more than 32,000 animals from around the world.  Don’t miss the One World show featuring beluga whales, otters and dolphins. Take a Behinds the Scenes Tour for a little extra fee to get an up-close view of how the animals are cared for. And the Penguin Encounter offers the rare chance to get close enough to pet a penguin.  

Flowers bloom at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

Garfield Park Conservatory

If you’re really feeling cooped up, get a dose of the outdoors under a 2.8-acre dome at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Visit the Palm House for a dose of the tropics, or Desert House to warm up by the cacti and succulents. Don’t forget to visit the Aroid House, and explore its array of houseplants and floating glass lily pads designed by Dale Chihuly.  When the weather does clear up, head outside to tour 12 acres of outdoor gardens. Best of all, general admission is free.

Get inspired at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago contains one of the largest permanent collections of Impressionists paintings in the United States. There are currently more than 300,000 works of art on display, ranging from ancient to modern art. A notable highlight is the Thorne Miniature Rooms, one-inch to one-foot scale rooms featuring interior designs and furnishings from Europe and America from the 13th century to the 1930s.

Watch the rain fall below you at 360 Chicago.

360 Chicago

Travel to the top of the 875 N. Michigan Avenue building to 360 Chicago, an observatory lending 360-degree views of the Chicago skyline. The observatory offers one very unique feature—Tilt. Up to eight guests at a time are tilted outward and 94 stories over North Michigan Avenue, aka The Magnificent Mile. The attraction also features a self-guided multimedia tour, café bar and gift shop.

900 North Michigan offers six levels of indoor shopping.

900 North Michigan

Rainy days are perfect for shopping, and 900 North Michigan is the perfect shopping venue to get lost in. The first six levels of Chicago’s eighth tallest building is brimming with chic stores such as Bloomingdales, Gucci, kate spade new york, and Bulgari.  While you’re waiting out the rain, add in a little pampering at one of the shopping center’s spas.

Pizzeria Uno is the birthplace of the Chicago-style pizza, created in 1943.

Pizzeria Uno

Once upon a time, in a Victorian house in downtown Chicago, some old Italian recipes were combined with meat, cheeses, vegetables and spices, and baked in a deep pizza crust. Voila, the deep dish, Chicago-style pizza was born. The restaurant, Pizzeria Uno, still serves up its famous pie at several locations, and at its sister restaurant, Pizzeria Due.  It’s the most delicious way on our list to wait out a storm.

Visitors explore architecture at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Chicago Architecture Foundation

One way to see the entire city in one afternoon is by visiting the Chicago Architecture Foundation. A model of the Windy City stretches 320 feet and represents 400 city blocks with more than 1,000 buildings. If you care to brave the elements—or an idea to save for a sunnier day—choose one of the many tours led by the foundation to showcase the spectacular architecture found throughout Chicago.

Learn about art and industry at Chicago's museums.

The Field Museum and The Museum of Science and Industry

Exploring museums is a great way to pass a rainy afternoon, and Chicago has plenty to choose from. The Field Museum focuses on natural history with incredible fossils and artifacts, even some dinosaurs and mummies. Meanwhile, The Museum of Science and Industry displays more than 800 interactive exhibits, including a high-tech, hands-on exploration of the mind, body and spirit.

The world's largest stained glass Tiffany dome crowns the Chicago Cultural Center.

Chicago Cultural Center

The building itself is a great reason to visit the Chicago Cultural Center. It features two stained glass domes, including a Tiffany dome with a 38-foot diameter created using than 30,000 pieces of glass. The building was constructed more than 100 years ago of imported marble, polished brass, hardwood, mother of pearl and colored stone. But another draw is a full events calendar of free visual and performance art programs. Free, guided tours are offered three days a week.

The Dreihaus Museum showcases decorative arts in a 24,000-square-foot mansion in downtown Chicago.

Driehaus Museum

The Driehaus Museum is one of Chicago’s grandest homes, a 24,000-square-foot home built in the Gilded Age for Samuel M. Nickerson. Filled with carved and inlaid wood paneling, 17 types of marble and a 25-foot-high stained glass dome, it is now a decorative art museum. The Driehaus contains one of the largest Tiffany collections in the United States.

Lisa Kaylor
About the author