Looking for lesser-known things to do in Chicago? Whether you’re new in town or have been a local for a long time, it’s easy to see what sells Chicago. It’s got world-class museums, parks, and architectural marvels like the Willis Tower skyscraper. Or the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, Robie House. Then there’s the deep-dish pizza and the jazz club scene unique to the city.

Maybe there are still some things you don’t yet know about the Windy City. To help you out, we’ve selected some hidden gems to discover off Chicago’s beaten path.

 

The Pedway

The Pedway is a buried treasure. Even long-term locals and pedestrians that walk right above the Pedway have no idea it exists. It’s a series of underground tunnels and bridges linking 40 blocks in the central business district. The walkways are filled with stores, art, and even a swimming pool.

Interior look at the Chicago Pedway rock climbing wall
One of the great places it connects to is the architectural wonder, the Cultural Center. On arrival, you can marvel at the world’s largest Tiffany dome. The mosaics and stained glass are absolutely beautiful.

 

Music Box Theatre

If Hollywood blockbusters aren’t your thing, you’ll be right at home at the Music Box. It’s Chicago’s go-to venue for independent, foreign, cult, and classic films. Blueground offers fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments in some of the world's most sought after cities. The two-screen cinema also hosts director Q&A’s and weekly midnight screenings. Also, their lounge and garden area serves specialty cocktails and a range of local and craft beers. It is a great spot to discuss films or have for a drink. Plus, the popcorn comes with real butter.

 

Garfield Park Conservatory

Who wouldn’t want to visit a place known as ‘landscape art under glass’? Head over to the Garfield Park Conservatory, a peaceful spot away from the city. It’s also one of the largest conservatories in the nation. It houses eight indoor display gardens.

the fern room at Garfield Park Conservatory

Aside from the lush flora, what’s really interesting are the donation-based activities and events they offer. For instance, yoga surrounded by the conservatory’s greenery Or Sweet Saturdays, where you can discover new tropical treats and taste your way through the fruits and vines on-site.

 

Brown Elephant

If you love thrifting, Brown Elephant is a must. There is a huge selection of thrifty finds here ranging from LP’s, clothing, home decor and much more. It offers great value for a great cause. Donated and purchased items are used to raise money for the Harold Brown Health Center, an LGBTQ organization based in Chicago.

If you’re looking for homeware for your apartment, this is a great spot for bargain hunting. Sometimes it’s a hassle to find exactly the right furnishing to match your space. So, in order to avoid dealing with the hassle of setting up a new home, consider renting furnished. For instance, Blueground rents out fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments for a month, a year or even longer.

The high-quality apartments have been thoughtfully designed so every guest can make the most of their stay. All you have to do is show up and start living. Skip the stress and get straight to exploring the city and having fun!

 

Thorne Miniature rooms

See something out of the ordinary at the Thorne Miniature Rooms, located downtown by Millennium Park. Rediscover your child-like curiosity by peering into a collection of 68 dollhouses. They boast miniature re-creations of English, French and American household interiors ranging from the 13th to the 19th century.

a close up look at one of the Thorne Miniature rooms with lots of small furniture and decorative elements

These tiny windows into a larger world were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago. They were modeled between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen, according to her specifications. The miniature rooms are located in the (often overlooked) basement area of the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Game Room

For an old-world atmosphere, check out the Game Room. It’s a lesser-known spot hidden in the Chicago Athletic Club hotel building. Here you can find a retro cocktail lounge with a range of games, chess tables, foosball and more. You can even play on a full-sized bocce court, with a beverage in one hand and a ball in the other. Plus, snack on street food like fish tacos and fried chicken sandwiches. It’s a fun spot for a group activity or a relaxing afternoon with friends.

 

Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

You don’t have to be a hardcore bird enthusiast to enjoy the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. It often flies under the radar. Despite being located within the city’s reach, it offers a rural feeling. Visitors concur that the stunning views of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan are worth the visit alone.

a view of the city from Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. There are many tall buildings in the faded skyline while in the foreground, there is tall grass and flowers and a wooden fence

There are also calm walking paths to stroll along. You can enjoy the simple pleasure of being up close and personal with over 300 species of birds. It’s a nature lovers dream. The best time of day to visit is definitely in the morning – ideal for early birds.

 

Original Rainbow

Ice cream, anyone? The Rainbow Cone is a rite of passage on any culinary tour of the city. This ice cream shop has been serving its original rainbow cone to those in the know since 1926. Still the same today, their star attraction ice cream cone contains five flavors poured by exact order. From bottom to top: Chocolate, Strawberry, Palmer House (New York Vanilla with cherries and walnuts), Pistachio and Orange Sherbet. That fact it’s tucked away in one of the South Side’s most architecturally arresting neighborhoods (the historic Beverly) just heightens the nostalgic experience.

 

Maxwell Street Market

For something different to do on a Sunday, stop by Maxwell Street Market where no two Sundays are the same. On-site they have authentic Latino street food and a sprawling flea market.

woman shopping at an outdoor market in chicago

It was started in 1847 by the area’s immigrant communities, which is still evident today in the diverse range of market vendors. If you love rummaging around to find an unexpected treasure, this is the place for you. You’ll find antiques, furniture and everything in between.

 

Smart Bar

The Smart Bar, located in lively Wrigleyville, is a mecca for underground dance music. The venue mixes musically diverse local talent with a range of internationally famous guests.

Other than hearing the most cutting edge DJs from around the globe, it’s also a spot for seeing up-and-coming acts who have evolved into household names, like The Black Madonna, an artist who cut her teeth behind the Smart Bar’s decks. If you like electronic music, make sure not to miss this iconic club.

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