Unknown Attractions in Chicago: Hidden Gems for the Visitor

The Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium and the Skydeck Chicago are among the most popular tourist attractions in the Windy City, but its lesser-known sights and events are equally entertaining – people just haven’t heard about them!

If you’re looking for some Chicago events or activities that are off the beaten path, consider adding the following unknown attractions in Chicago to your travel itinerary.

Architectural tour

Chicago has one of the best skylines in the country, and an architectural tour gives you the chance to get close to that skyline and learn a little more about what makes Chicago's architectural so iconic. Check out the First United Methodist Church of Chicago, which seats 500 people and has a Gothic-style spire 400 feet tall. The church offers tours, as does the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

For a bird’s eye view of the city, see the Chicago Model City, a miniaturized to-scale replica of the city, designed, installed and maintained by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Or better still, climb to the patio roof top of the Trump Hotel for an amazing view!

The Wright stuff

Frank Lloyd Wright played a significant role in the development of the city, yet the Wright Stuff is one of the unknown attractions in Chicago. The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust tours show you some of his monumental contributions.

Tours typically include his home and studio in Oak Park and the Frederick C. Robie House, both of which the legendary architect created. Along the way you will learn fascinating tidbits about the city, such as the fact the Hills-DeCaro House on Forest Avenue, which Wright redesigned, contains an original ticket booth from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. This one is for sure one of the most unknown attractions in Chicago

Experience Chicago’s Jewish heritage

The “Shalom Chicago” exhibit opened at the Chicago History Museum in 2012 and continues through September 2013. More than 300 artifacts, along with personal stories from real Chicagoans, help explain the history of Chicago’s thriving Jewish population, from the 1840s onward.

A cardboard playground

Through May 5, 2013, the Chicago Children's Museum is celebrating the love affair between kids and cardboard with the exhibit, “Unboxed: Adventures in Cardboard.” It’s one of many hands-on experiences at the museum. Kids can climb in, through and around boxes – and you can leave knowing your child will sleep well that night.

While you’re there, check out the “Dinosaur Expedition” exhibit, which allows kids to act like paleontologists in a recreation of a Saharan archaeological dig site.

The inspiration for a comedy sketch

In 1978, “Saturday Night Live” featured a skit spoofing the Chicago restaurant Billy Goat Tavern. And allegedly, the late owner of this eatery – William “Billy Goat” Sianis – cursed the Chicago Cubs when he proclaimed the team would never win again; the team hasn't won the World Series since the early 1900s. Take a moment to pop in this interesting restaurant and grab a cheeseburger.

A different take on art

You may already know about the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago may not be on your radar. The museum houses European, Asian and contemporary art, along with modern art and design. Through June 9 this year, the museum hosts “The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989.” Admission is always free.

Let these less obvious tours and attractions show you something you never knew about the Windy City.