The Windy City has its fair share of rainy days so when you plan to visit make sure you have a contingency plan in place should the rain chase you indoors. Chicago, IL is home to some pretty unique and interesting attractions including many parks and outdoor activities, but what can you do indoors when the rain makes it a little too soggy to be outside?
Grab your umbrella and make a plan for indoor activities such as visiting museums. Consider the Field Museum, art galleries and the Art Institute of Chicago, the planetarium, and even Legoland. Chicago on a rainy day shouldn’t be a wash, there are plenty of things to see and do that will keep you nice and dry.
Pick up a Go Chicago pass so many of the activities and attractions listed are free or discounted. Stop into science museums, family friendly attractions, shopping malls, and restaurants for a bite to eat and to rest your feet. Drop your bags at a luggage storage service for safekeeping so you aren't dragging your bags along as you dodge raindrops on the Chicago streets.
The 1893 World’s Fair brought with it an interesting array of collections that actually remained in Chicago after the fair ended. Thus, the Field Museum was born and has grown into an elaborate and comprehensive natural history museum in the United States. Artifacts on display cover over 4.6 billion years of history. Plan on spending anywhere from an hour to eight hours exploring this massive museum.
Don’t miss your chance to meet Sue in person. Sue is the biggest complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the entire world. View the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit where you can see actual mummies, 23 in all, along with jewelry, pottery, tools, and so much more. Take in one of the biggest collections of gemstones in the Grainger Hall of Gems.
Visit the Underground Adventure where the soil has been magnified and makes you feel as if you have been shrunk to 1/100th of your actual size. The Dinosaur Hall is home to giant woolly mammoths, sloths, and of course, dinosaurs. Kick back and enjoy a 3D movie all about dinosaurs. Use your Go Chicago pass, tickets to the Field Museum are included.
There really is no better place to be on a Chicago rainy day than the Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium is home to a large collection of aquatic animals and plants that will leave you in awe. With over 32,000 marine animals at the Shedd Aquarium, plan on spending a few hours exploring the different areas and learning about the different species.
Some of the more popular exhibits and attractions include Caribbean Reef, Waters of the World, Underwater Beauty, and the Abbott Oceanarium. If you have kids in tow, check out Polar Play Zone and watch your kids dress up in penguin suits and waddle around. It is great family fun when you visit the Shedd Aquarium.
Reach into some of the touch pools and feel the differences between certain aquatic animals. It is interesting to be able to interact with some of the animals. Watch many of them swimming through their habitat which surrounds you as you make your way through the aquarium. The Go Chicago pass has Shedd Aquarium tickets included for a great value.
Art Institute of Chicago
For the art lover in us all, a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago on a rainy day is simply fantastic. This is one of the most comprehensive art museums in not just the United States but the entire world. Check out the classic collections that are on display including stained glass windows by Chagall, Matisse’s “Bathers by a River”, Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawk”, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Black Cross, New Mexico”.
Located in Grant Park, there are several special exhibits by both established artists and up-and-coming artists. There really is something for everyone at the Art Institute of Chicago. Check out works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Georges Seurat just to name a few.
Stroll through the European Decorative Art gallery or the African, American, Asian, or Indian Art galleries. You will see modern and contemporary art pieces, textiles, drawings, print, and even photography. Admission to special exhibitions is not included in the general admission price, each special exhibition has a separate ticket.
Observation Decks of Chicago
While you may not think the Chicago skyline is breathtaking during a rainstorm, one of the best things to do on a rainy day is to check out the two fantastic observation decks in Chicago. Experience Skydeck Chicago in the Willis Tower on the 103rd floor; you have unparalleled views from Soldiers Field to Navy Pier. The Ledge is an all-glass box that extends from the side of Willis Tower for amazing views.
360 Chicago is in the John Hancock Observatory on the 94th floor. The views from 360 Chicago include the entire Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan, and parts of Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Bring your camera for terrific photos and even some great selfie opportunities with a breathtaking backdrop. The Go Chicago pass has tickets for both SkyDeck Chicago and 360 Chicago.
Escape Game Chicago
Escape games are a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in Chicago. Head to Escape Game Chicago for themed games such as The Heist, an espionage-themed game, or Mission: Mars, a space-themed game, or Prison Break, filled with so much daring and intrigue. It is always best to play an escape game with a group of good friends.
While most escape games are not meant for families with younger children, Escape Game Chicago does allow younger children to participate in certain themed games as long as they are with a parent or guardian. If you have a Go Chicago pass, Escape Game Chicago tickets are included.
Chicago History Museum
While visiting the city, you will probably want to learn a little more about its history, that is where a visit to the Chicago History Museum will give you all the information you need. Stroll through the museum at your own pace and discover the rich history that has made Chicago what it is today. It is one of the best natural history museums in the midwest.
The kids will love the “Sensing Chicago” exhibits where they will get to see, hear, and smell Chicago through a series of interactive displays. Learn about the World’s Columbian Exhibition and the Great Chicago Fire, as well as the movement behind the contemporary architecture seen throughout the city. Use your Go Chicago pass to get complimentary tickets to the Chicago History Museum.
Museum of Science and Industry
You do not have to be a kid to appreciate a fun rainy day at the Museum of Science and Industry. This engaging museum is always a favorite with the locals but tourists that visit also find it delightful and educational.
With 14 acres filled with interesting and unbelievable exhibits, you will want to plan several hours to see all this museum has to offer. This is the largest science museum not just in Chicago, but in the United States.
Be sure to check out the real WWII German submarine and the recreated coal mine like those found crisscrossing Illinois. There is a frustrating and rather fascinating mirror maze that will keep you guessing at every turn. Science comes alive when you take the time fully explore the museum. The 727-jet hanging from the ceiling is so cool, and you can even go on board to check it out.
The 40-foot water vapor tornado is mind-boggling but the tsunami generator is truly amazing. You can start an avalanche simply by rotating an avalanche disk. Watch lightning bolts flash high over your head, and check out the 13-foot interactive 3-D heart where you can transmit your pulse to it and watch it beat. Stretch your legs and race on the human-sized hamster wheel. The Go Chicago pass has your tickets.
This family-friendly attraction is a wonderful place for families to go on a space adventure without ever leaving Chicago. The possibilities are endless when you spend an afternoon at the Adler Planetarium. Kids will love the “Planet Explorers” and “Mission Moon” where they can rocket to different planets and then trace the different Apollo missions.
Drop into their theater to catch the film “Planet Nine” where you will hear arguments about which planet will be replacing the former planet, Pluto. You will also discover more about the universe and the secrets that are slowly being unfolded. The Go Chicago pass has Adler Planetarium tickets included.
Catch a Live Show
The entertainment district in Chicago is on fire and when the rain is pouring outside, there is no better way to stay dry than enjoying a live show. There are several performing arts venues in the city where you can find everything from stand-up comedy to the newest Broadway show. There are even several family friendly shows such as the Blue Man Group so you and the kids can enjoy a fun, musical show.
You can usually pre-order your tickets online to skip the ticket lines. Check with the following venues to see what they have going on when you are in Chicago: Auditorium Theater, Cadillac Palace Theater, Goodman Theater, Lincoln Hall, Oriental Theater, Second City Chicago, and Thalia Hall.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Robie House Tours
One of the most famous architects is best known for the designs of many renowned Chicago buildings. He also designed private homes for specific clients, including the ornate Robie House. You will get to learn more about the cultural and design history of the city when you sign up for a guided tour through Wright’s home.
The tour will take you into his private home and studio so you can see where this iconic architect worked on some of the best-known designs for the Unity Temple and the Larkin Building. You can also take a separate tour of the Robie House, one of the private homes that Wright designed. Tickets for both tours are included if you have a Go Chicago pass.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a rainy day at LEGOLAND, but you do have to have at least one child with you to get in the door. LEGOLAND is not in Chicago but is a short car ride away in Schaumburg. With over 12 rides and attractions to explore, kids will want to spend the entire day here. The Kingdom Quest Laser Ride is great fun and there are several building stations throughout.
MINILAND is a popular attraction, a LEGO replica of downtown Chicago that was made using almost two million LEGOs. The LEGO jungle expedition where you get to ride in a dragon car is a favorite with kids. The LEGO Studios 4D Cinema plays a short movie when you need a break from all the fun. Tickets for the LEGOLAND Discover Center are included when you purchase a Go Chicago pass.
Chicago Children’s Museum
Finding indoor activities for a rainy day can sometimes be challenging if you have children in tow. The Chicago Children’s Museum is the perfect place to go and turn the kids loose for an afternoon packed with learning, adventure, and lots of fun.
The Go Chicago pass includes tickets to the children’s museums and the Chicago Children’s Museum is home to several hands-on and interactive exhibits and programs, as well as free art classes that are held daily. The museum is located on Navy Pier so if the rain stops, you can enjoy classic fair rides and bike rides along the pier after the museum visit.
Chicago cultural center and more
When rain is in the forecast, you will want to find indoor attractions in Chicago. You can purchase tickets online to ensure you have a spot or you can take your chances in the ticket line. Plan to explore Chicago's top museums such as the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Make a stop at the Chicago Cultural Center, one of the city's intriguing architectural buildings. There are plenty of fun things for younger and older kids as well as adults, so when a rainy day makes an appearance, get ready for a wonderful day.
Looking for even more things to do in Chicago on a rainy day? Check out these other guides: