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Learning from the Architecture of Historic Downtown Chicago

Chicago is one of those destinations that I wanted to visit forever. I finally had the chance last year- not once, but twice and I hope you read about my experience. Before I went to Chicago, this guest post convinced me that it was definitely a destination that should be on my list. 

Looking for things to do in Chicago? How about an architecture tour of downtown? You'll be amazed at what you learn.

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As we travel with our families, any moment can become an educational opportunity. While museums can be wonderful places for our children to learn and explore, there are countless other ways for kids to discover something new each day. A stroll down any given street offers hundreds of opportunities to teach our kids about the environment, the community, and the people who were here before us.

Chicago is home to some of the most interesting architecture in the country. Without even stepping foot in a museum, a visit to Chicago can be as exciting and fun as it is educational. Here are three things to do in Chicago which will help you learn about the fascinating history of the city through its magnificent architecture.

Go behind the scenes at Open House Chicago


Photo Credit: Creative Commons licensed for reuse

Mark your calendars now: the spectacular Open House Chicago festival is hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation on October 14 – 15, 2017, and it offers an unparalleled opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Chicago’s most impressive spaces. over 150 buildings will be open to the public, and the whole thing is completely free! It’s a self-guided experience, so you can pick and choose the buildings with the most educational (and exciting) histories and design a route that’s perfect for your family. There are also some participatory programs, especially for kids!

Take a walking tour: for free!

vietnam-war-memorial in Chicago

Photo Credit: Creative Commons licensed for reuse

Chicago was the birthplace of the modern skyscraper: the steel-skeleton Home Insurance Building, constructed in 1884, was the first of its type in the world. It’s long gone, but the central business district of Chicago, known as “The Loop” still holds many architectural treasures. If you’re wondering what to see in Chicago, you can take yourself on an architecture-inspired walking tour. The Reliance Building, built just a decade after the Home Insurance Building, was another step on the evolutionary road to the modern steel-and-glass skyscrapers. The Vietnam War Memorial is a solemn monument to a difficult period of American history. There are 16 stops on the tour, and each one offers a rich opportunity for conversation and learning: you’ll be talking about it for weeks to come.

Get the bird’s eye view

Willis_Tower_night in Chicago

Photo Credit: Creative Commons licensed for reuse

The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, was the tallest building in the world until 1998. It’s over a quarter of a mile tall, and it remains breathtakingly impressive. It’s the perfect way to finish off your walking tour of the Windy City. Interactive exhibits bring the history of the building alive, and you can take a thrilling high-speed elevator ride up to the very top, where a visit to the Skydeck will reward you with amazing views that span four states. You can have a lot of fun trying to point out the buildings you saw on your walk. Can you find them from so high above?

Chicago has so much to offer its visitors: it’s just bursting at the seams with incredible things to see and do, with chances to learn around every street corner. With a tiny bit of research and planning, any visit to the city can be a wonderful excuse for an educational field trip, without ever setting foot inside a museum, gallery, or library.

Have you been to the Windy City? What things did you find to do in Chicago?

This post was written by Dan Patterson, Director of Internet Marketing for CityPASS.

More Things to do in Chicago:

How to take a Great Picture of the Chicago Bean
Agora: Headless Sculptures in Chicago
Why the Hyatt Regency is the Best Place to Stay in Chicago

Liz Mays

Monday 10th of March 2014

Chicago is my favorite city, but I can't believe I've never taken the walking tour to look at architecture. I will now!


Saturday 8th of March 2014

My son lives in Chicago. He took me to The Bean at Millenium Park. I LOVED IT! So cool and interesting! We also love taking the Architechture Tour by boat. BEAUTIFUL and the guide is very knowledgable.


Sunday 9th of March 2014

I want to see the Bean! And the architecture tour would be a great way to explore.

Jennifer @ My Sweet Sanity

Monday 3rd of March 2014

I live in the Chicago suburbs so I regularly get to head into the city. I was there today in fact. I love the buildings. The mix of old and new. In fact, I was married in one of the prettiest buildings there, the Chicago Cultural Center.

Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom

Sunday 2nd of March 2014

That looks like such a beautiful city!


Sunday 2nd of March 2014

I have only been once, and we visited the Chicago Institute of Art Protection Status
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