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As a top US destination, Chicago welcomes more than 50 million visitors each year. That said, you can still enjoy a tranquil visit to the Windy City. From exploring by boat to discovering Chicago’s local restaurants and neighborhoods, here’s how to beat the crowds.
Instead of fighting the crowds of Magnificent Mile, take to the Chicago River or Lake Michigan, from which you can admire the Windy City’s skyscrapers and skyline without the crowds on an open-top boat tour; head out at sunset for the best views.
The Loop—Chicago’s downtown business district—is home to top attractions such as Millennium Park, the Willis Tower, and the Art Institute, meaning that it’s reliably packed with visitors. Go beyond the Loop’s radius to see how locals live on a neighborhood tour, which tend to cover the heritage architecture of the Prairie District, street art in Pilsen, and the mansions of Wicker Park.
There’s more to Chicago’s food scene than deep-dish pizza. Enjoy shorter wait times and more diverse cuisine when you venture off-the-beaten-track. Food- and drink-themed neighborhood walks offer a first-hand introduction to many of the city’s less-trafficked culinary haunts, including the coffee shops of Logan Square, Chinatown, and the eateries of River North.
As well as soaring temperatures, summer in Chicago brings peak crowds. For a quieter experience of the city, visit during the shoulder season. Alongside the crisp breezes and golden leaves of fall, you’ll encounter quieter museums and sidewalks. And if you don’t mind a winter-wonderland experience, the Windy City’s snowfall provides a magical backdrop to your exploration.
One of Chicago’s most surprising attractions is the subterranean Pedway. Located beneath the Loop’s famed skyscrapers, the network lets you slip past crowds and discover a whole new side of the city. Book a guided tour to navigate the underground labyrinth with ease.
Private and small-group tours allow you to the explore the city in a more intimate setting. Soar over Chicago's iconic skyscrapers in a helicopter tour, or cruise along the lakefront on a private minibus tour customized for your group.