One Day in Chicago Itinerary – Experience Chicago in a Day for Under $100

Traveling to Chicago with only one day to explore? It can be hard to decide what to do with such limited time in your schedule.

Fortunately, we’ve put together a one day in Chicago itinerary to help you make the most of your time during your trip.

This one day itinerary includes:

  • Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sightseeing Tour
  • Millennium Park (free!)
  • Navy Pier Centennial Wheel
  • The Field Museum
  • Shedd Aquarium

Spending more time in Chicago? Then take a peek at one of our sample weekend in Chicago or popular 3 day itineraries.

Save on Attraction Admission

Visit these top attractions and save up to 55% off vs. paying at the gate with a Go Chicago® Card.

Remember, this one day itinerary is just one of many ways to experience Chicago.

The Go Chicago Card gives you the flexibility to create your own itinerary, so you can choose from dozens of top attractions and create a vacation tailored to your interests.

Stop #1: Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sightseeing Tour

CHI Big Bus photo with people 2016

The hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour is one of the best ways to start your one day in Chicago–it’s the perfect introduction to the city layout and you’ll get an overview of all the top monuments, museums, and historic sites.You’ll be able to hop on and off at any of the stops along the way, including your next stop.

Best part? You’ll be able to hop on and off at any of the stops along the way (including your next stop). Popular stops along the route include:

  • Skydeck
  • Art Institute
  • Adler Planetarium
  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Navy Pier
  • John Hancock Center & 360 Chicago
  • And more

Getting In: Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Chicago tour tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Stop #2: Millennium Park

One of the country’s most beautiful urban parks, Millennium Park is the heart of downtown Chicago. Filled with gardens, fountains, musical venues, and more, it’s a must-see for any Chicago visitor.

Don’t forget to explore the art and architecture within the park itself, including the fun Crown Fountain and the classic Cloud Gate (aka, the Bean). Snap some photos while you’re at it!

Getting In: Entry to Millennium Park is free. You may wish to purchase souvenirs or food from some of the vendors. Leave at least an hour to visit the park.

Deep Dish Pizza for Lunch

Ask any three local Chicagoans where the best deep dish pizza is and you’ll get three different answers–just make sure you try at least one before you leave the city!

The popular Giordano’s is located right near Millennium Park, making it easy to head there after snapping some photos with ‘the bean,’ and Lou Malnati’s is not a far walk, either and another great place to get an authentic taste of Chicago’s classic pizza and to eat like a local.

Other popular deep dish destinations include Pequod’s, Pizzeria Uno, Pizzeria Due, and Pizano’s, among others.

Stop #3: Explore Navy Pier


Head down to this entertainment mecca and marvel at all the wonders of Chicago’s historic pier.

There are tons of museums, performing arts venues, an IMAX theater, and other attractions, but your kids will most likely enjoy the newly opened Navy Pier Centennial Wheel.

Depending on what you want to do on Navy Pier, we recommend saving an hour or two to explore. If you’re only interested in the Centennial Wheel and other rides, you’ll probably need about an hour.

Getting In: Navy Pier Centennial Wheel tickets and rides are included on the Go Chicago Card.

Stop #4 Option 1 (indoor): The Field Museum


Where else in the world can you find 4.6 billion years of history under one roof? The Field Museum’s legendary collection of fossils, artifacts, gemstones, and other objects of natural and historic importance is practically unparalleled.

Their most famous exhibits span the gamut from dinosaurs to tombs to pottery, with highlights like SUE, the world’s largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton, and the Ancient Egyptian tomb and exhibits that hold over 20 real mummies!

Another popular exhibit with the kids is the Underground Adventure area, where you get the chance to experience life at a bug-sized scale.

This is one of the top attractions in the entire city, and should definitely be on your must-see for one day in Chicago. 

Getting In: Field Museum tickets are included with the Go Chicago Card.

Stop #4 Option 2 (outdoor): Architecture River Cruise


Departing from right near Navy Pier, this classic Architecture River Cruise is a longtime favorite with Chicago visitors.

The tour It provides information and important facts about all of Chicago’s must-see architecture on an informative, 75 minute cruise.

Arrive at least 15 minutes in advance of your desired sail time; no reservations necessary.

Getting In: Chicago Architecture Boat Tour tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card.

Stop #5: Shedd Aquarium


Head on down to Chicago’s famous Museum Campus and step inside one of their most popular attractions – the fascinating Shedd Aquarium.

Filled with maritime creatures great and small, Shedd has something to appeal to the entire family. It’s both educational and fun, making it the ideal kid-friendly attraction.

Please go to the will-call window line and present your pass for admission. We recommend leaving at least 3 hours explore Shedd – perhaps more if you’ve got a big animal-lover in the family.

Getting In: Shedd Aquarium tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card.

Dinner at the Eleven City Diner

This casual, family-friendly destination combines the best of a Jewish deli with a typical American diner. They even have an old-fashioned soda fountain! You’ll find something to please everyone with their varied menu.

What a Day!

The Go Chicago® Card is the best choice for maximum savings and flexibility during your vacation.

You can also save even more on your one day in Chicago if you take advantage of any of the included extras that come with your Go Chicago® Card.

Go Chicago Card

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