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Exploring the Best Photo Spots in Chicago

January 1, 2024 By CityPASS

From the glimmering skyline to the expansive shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is a photographer's playground, boasting a plethora of stunning locales for shutterbugs to explore. Whether you're capturing the city's sweeping urban landscapes or its intimate, charming corners, there's a photo op around every street corner. We'll guide you through the seven best photo spots in Chicago that locals and visitors love, so you can come away from your adventure in the Windy City with beautiful memories (and the photos to prove it).

What Makes Chicago One of the Most Instagrammable Cities?

Chicago's photogenic appeal lies in its diverse mix of the old and the new, the natural and the man-made. Its skyline — a patchwork of architectural marvels — tells the story of a city that has grown under the hands of visionaries. Add to this the city's reflective surfaces, like Cloud Gate, and the shimmering waters of Lake Michigan, and you have endless opportunities for that perfect shot. When golden hour sweeps over the city, every angle glistens, and every shadow tells a tale, making it an idyllic moment for photographers to capture the city in its best light. Seasonal changes also add a dynamic edge to Chicago's beauty, from the lush greenery of spring to the fiery leaves of fall, each adding a unique filter to this already magnificent cityscape.

Top 7 Best Photo Spots in Chicago

Discover the heart and soul of Chicago through its most photogenic locales. These top seven spots, which feature iconic landmarks and hidden gems, are a shutterbug's dream. Perfect for professional shoots or casual snaps, these popular locations promise unforgettable images that truly capture the spirit of the Windy City.

1. The Promontory Overlooking Lake Michigan

This scenic point is an excellent spot for capturing the sunrise over Lake Michigan. The natural light creates a magical effect, especially in the early morning. It's a favorite spot for locals and tourists, offering panoramic views of the water against the city skyline. In addition to the Promontory itself, the surrounding area is ripe for photography. Lincoln Park is just a short distance away, adorned with luscious landscapes and tranquil ponds that can add variety and a touch of nature to your urban photography adventure.

2. The Aquatic Animal World of Shedd Aquarium

Not only is Shedd Aquarium home to a diverse range of aquatic life, but it also provides unique photo opportunities with its beautiful marine backgrounds. Photograph the vibrant sea creatures or capture the stunning architecture of the building itself. Venturing outside, the adjacent Lakefront Trail offers a splendid view of Chicago's city center skyline, allowing for a dramatic juxtaposition of nature and skyscrapers in your frame, which can be perfect for adding an extra element of interest to your aquatic-themed photography.

3. The Bean Sculpture at Millennium Park

Arguably Chicago's most iconic photo spot, "The Bean" (officially known as Cloud Gate), offers reflective surfaces that create interesting and surreal images. Millennium Park is not just home to The Bean; it's a hub of visual treats, from the impressive outdoor art to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an architectural marvel in itself. Beyond these, the park's numerous gardens and ice rink in the winter provide additional layers of charm, ensuring that photographers can capture the vibrancy of Chicago in any season.

4. The City Lights From 360 Chicago Observation Deck

Perched on the 94th floor, the 360 Chicago Observation Deck presents unparalleled city lights and skyline views. It's a perfect location for a twilight or night photography session, capturing the essence of Chicago's city life from above. As you compose your shots, the deck's tilt attraction offers a unique angle for dynamic photos, ensuring that your images of the city's sprawling lights will stand out with an artistic twist.

5. The Impressive Collections at the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is not just for art enthusiasts but also for photographers seeking the elegance of classical architecture and the grandeur of its halls. It's an excellent spot for an indoor photo session, especially if you are looking for a setting with opulent backgrounds and soft natural light filtering through the expansive windows. With each gallery offering a distinct ambiance and intricate exterior details, your photographs can convey stories of historic grandiosity intertwined with contemporary artistic expression.

6. The Breathtaking View From the Centennial Ferris Wheel

Located at Navy Pier, the Centennial Ferris Wheel offers a unique perspective of Chicago. Capture the panoramic views of the city and the lake, especially stunning during sunset. As you ride the Ferris Wheel, the alternating heights provide varying vantage points, allowing for a series of shots that collectively showcase a comprehensive aerial story of Chicago's natural and urban landscape.

7. The Jaw-Dropping 50-Mile Views From Skydeck Chicago

Step onto the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower, and you'll be greeted with jaw-dropping views that stretch up to 50 miles on a clear day. It's a spectacular photo spot that allows you to take shots that feel like you're floating above the city. The Ledge's glass boxes provide a thrilling experience and a clean, unobstructed view that is a rarity among cityscapes, enabling a full immersion into skyline photography that captivates professionals and amateurs alike.

Access All the Most Beautiful Spots for Photos With CityPASS® Tickets

Ready to capture the best photo spots in Chicago? Make it an unforgettable experience with Chicago CityPASS® tickets. Gain access to some of Chicago's best things to do without the hassle of long lines or hefty prices. With CityPASS® tickets, you can visit attractions like Skydeck Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, and 360 Chicago, among others. Take advantage of this golden opportunity to create a stunning visual diary of your Chicago adventures.

Pack your camera, charge your batteries, and get ready to explore the best photo spots in Chicago with the convenience and value of CityPASS®. Happy shooting!

Chicago Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in Chicago, we recommend finding lodging near Chicago's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

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