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Most Common Chicago Tourist Traps and How To Avoid Them

April 3, 2024 By CityPASS

Chicago, often referred to as the Windy City, is a magnet for tourists from around the globe. This bustling metropolis, steeped in rich history and culture, offers a myriad of attractions. However, amidst its popular tourist attractions, some spots have gained infamy as Chicago tourist traps. These areas, while appealing, can sometimes detract from the authentic charm of the city due to huge crowds, overpricing, and commercialization.

In this guide, we'll identify three of the most common tourist traps in Chicago and provide savvy tips to help you sidestep their pitfalls. This way, you can enjoy the best of what Chicago has to offer without falling prey to the less desirable aspects that often accompany popular tourist areas.

Top 3 Most Common Chicago Tourist Traps and How To Avoid Them

Exploring Chicago's tourist spots can be an exhilarating experience, but it's wise to navigate them with a bit of insider knowledge.

1. Cloud Gate or "The Bean" at Millennium Park

Why It's a Trap: Cloud Gate, affectionately nicknamed "The Bean," is a public sculpture that has become a symbol of Chicago. Located in Millennium Park, it attracts lots of tourists eager to capture its reflective surface in their photos. The downside is that this popularity often results in overcrowding, making it challenging to enjoy the sculpture or get that perfect, uncrowded photo.

How to Avoid the Trap: The key to enjoying Cloud Gate is timing. Visit early in the morning or later in the evening when the crowds are thinner. These times not only offer a more serene experience but also present the sculpture in different lightings – dawn's soft light or the city's night glow, adding a unique perspective to your photos.

2. Chicago's Deep-Dish Pizzas

Why It's a Trap: Deep-dish pizza is a city tradition and a must-try in Chicago. However, some of the most famous pizzerias have become victims of their own success, often characterized by long waits and touristy vibes that might detract from the authentic culinary experience.

How to Avoid the Trap: To savor the real taste of Chicago's deep-dish pizza without the usual hassle, consider going to lesser-known but equally delicious pizzerias. Local recommendations or online reviews can be great resources for finding these hidden gems. Additionally, visiting during off-peak hours or opting for a weekday meal can significantly reduce wait times.

3. The Magnificent Mile

Why It's a Trap: The Magnificent Mile, a prestigious section of Michigan Avenue, is renowned for its shopping and architecture. However, this area can sometimes feel overwhelming with its commercialization and the sheer number of people, especially during holidays or weekends.

How to Avoid the Trap: To truly appreciate the Magnificent Mile without the hustle and bustle, try visiting on weekday mornings. This timing allows you to stroll leisurely, admire the architecture, and shop without the pressure of navigating through a huge crowd. Additionally, exploring the side streets and nearby neighborhoods can reveal more unique and less crowded shopping and dining options, offering a more authentic Chicago experience.

What Are the Chicago Tourist Attractions You Can't Miss?

While it's essential to be wary of tourist traps, Chicago is also home to a wealth of incredible attractions that offer genuine and enriching experiences. These destinations, far from being overrated, provide unique insights into the city's culture, history, and scientific achievements. Here's a list of must-visit attractions in Chicago that promise to be highlights of your trip.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium is a window into the aquatic world, showcasing a diverse array of marine life. From exotic fish to beluga whales, the exhibits here are both educational and mesmerizing. To make the most of your visit, consider planning your trip on a weekday or during off-peak hours to avoid the larger crowds typically present on weekends.

Skydeck Chicago

Skydeck Chicago offers some of the most breathtaking views of the city. Located in the iconic Willis Tower, it's a thrilling experience to step onto the glass balconies extending out from the building's 103rd floor. To bypass the long queues, try purchasing tickets in advance and visiting during early morning or later in the evening.

Field Museum

The Field Museum is a treasure trove of natural history, housing millions of specimens ranging from ancient fossils to cultural artifacts. To truly appreciate its vast collections, consider joining a guided tour or planning your visit around specific exhibitions that interest you.

Art Institute of Chicago

Renowned for its impressive collection of artworks, the Art Institute of Chicago is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. From classical masterpieces to contemporary art, the museum's diverse exhibits cater to all tastes. Visiting during weekday mornings can offer a quieter and more intimate experience with the art.

Adler Planetarium

As the United States' first planetarium, the Adler Planetarium offers a fascinating journey through the cosmos. Its interactive exhibits and sky shows are both educational and entertaining for all ages. Visiting during the week or in the late afternoon can help you avoid the busiest times.

Explore the Best That Chicago Has To Offer With CityPASS® Tickets

Discovering the wonders of Chicago becomes a seamless and more affordable experience with Chicago CityPASS® tickets. This convenient option allows you to access a variety of Chicago's best attractions at a significantly reduced cost. CityPASS® tickets are not only budget-friendly but also offer the added benefit of skipping many ticket lines, enhancing your exploration of the city.

Whether it's your first visit to the Windy City or you're a seasoned explorer of its urban landscape, CityPASS® tickets streamline your sightseeing experience. They enable you to dive into the rich tapestry of Chicago's cultural, historical, and scientific attractions without the usual hassle of managing multiple tickets and admissions.

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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