Things to Do in Chicago

Chicago offers a wealth of wheelchair accessible things to do. These include museums, sightseeing opportunities, sporting events, public parks, entertainment and theater performances and of course deep dish pizza! As a former part-time resident of Chicago and a tourist want times over, I’ve visited all that Chicago has to offer, and selected the best (and most accessible) of these to share with you here. I’ve also provided information on the nearest accessible elevated train station, for your benefit.

Many of Chicago’s museums and art galleries are paid attractions, but you can save money with the Chicago CityPASS. Highly encourage you to consider purchasing one, as it will save you 50% or more off the cost of admission.

Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower (Sears Tower)

The Willis Tower was built in 1973 and is a 108-story, 1,451-foot skyscraper in downtown Chicago. Known by most as the Sears Tower, it reigned as the world’s tallest building for 25 years, until it was overtaken by the Petronas Twin Towers in 1998. It is currently the second tallest building in the United States, behind One World Trade Center.

PHOTO: Wheelchair in The Ledge glass box at Skydeck Chicago Willis Tower.Tourists can visit the top of the tower at Skydeck Chicago, an observation deck on the 103rd floor. The Skydeck is wheelchair accessible. Added in 2009, “The Ledge” is the most talked about feature of the Skydeck. Three glass boxes extend four feet from the side of the building, allowing visitors to capture some incredible photos while standing (or sitting) on glass over Wacker Drive.

Although you may be apprehensive about taking a heavy wheelchair into a glass box 1,353 feet above the street below, it is safe! The glass floor can support approximately 5 tons of weight and no one has fallen through yet. It was a pretty neat experience, and I would do it again.

There is more the Skydeck than The Ledge, though. 360 degree views of the Chicago skyline await, and they are exceptional on a clear day. If you’re a fan of heights, read my article, Visiting the World’s Tallest Buildings & Towers in a Wheelchair.
Subway Metro Icon Nearest L station:  0.3 miles from Brown/Orange/Pink/Purple lines at Washington-Wells and 0.3 miles from Blue/Red lines at Jackson


Art Institute of Chicago

In 2014, TripAdvisor ranked the Art Institute of Chicago as the #1 museum in the world. While I wouldn’t go that far, it is certainly a top 25 museum – if you are a lover of art. The museum was founded in 1879, and has inhabited its current building since 1893 – making it one of the oldest in the United States.

The Art Institute’s permanent collection of more than 300,000 works encompasses all time periods and mediums. The largest and most celebrated collections include African and Indian Art of the Americas; American Art; Ancient and Byzantine; European Painting and Sculpture; Photography; and Textiles.

PHOTO: Wheelchair user John viewing Grant Wood's painting 'American Gothic' at the Art Institute of Chicago.

One of the most popular paintings on display is Grant Wood’s American Gothic. This was my first time seeing it, and I was surprised that the work was produced on such a small canvas. I had expected it to be substantially bigger. Other notable works include Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Van Gogh’s The Bedroom and Paul Gauguin’s Day of the God. There are also beautiful pieces by Henry Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Rembrandt, among many others.

General admission to the museum is priced at $25, and a fast pass is $35. The Chicago CityPASS includes fast pass admission, which will allow you to skip all of the lines!
Subway Metro Icon Nearest L station:  0.6 miles from Blue/Brown/Green/Orange/Pink/Purple lines at Clark-Lake

The Chicago Theatre

Opened in 1921, the Chicago Theatre is a Chicago landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The venue became a major movie theatre from its opening to the mid-1940s. Since its renovation in 1986, the theatre has been sold numerous times and is now owned by Madison Square Garden, Inc.

The Chicago Theatre on State Street.

Today, the theatre is host to stage plays, magic shows, comedy, speeches and music concerts. The building’s iconic marquee has come to represent Chicago and the theatre almost always makes an appearance in movies and TV shows that are set in the Windy City. The Chicago Theatre is wheelchair accessible and offers ADA wheelchair seating in multiple price levels. For more information on theatre accommodations for the disabled, show times or to purchase tickets, visit
Subway Metro Icon Nearest L station:  2 blocks from Blue/Brown/Green/Orange/Pink/Purple lines at Clark-Lake

Grant Park

Grant Park is a large urban park covering some 319 acres and located in Chicago’s central business district and Loop neighborhood. The park houses numerous attractions and is the site of public activities throughout the year.

Buckingham Fountain, one of the world’s largest fountains, sits as the park’s centerpiece. The park’s pathways are fully accessible to wheelchair users and ramps are located nearby each stairway.  Grant Park is also home to the sub-park of Millennium Park (more details below).
Subway Metro Icon Nearest L station:  2 blocks from Green/Orange/Red at Roosevelt

Millennium Park & the Cloud Gate “bean”

Cloud Gate "Bean" and Millennium ParkMillennium Park was opened in 2004 and comprises nearly 25 acres of Grant Park. The centerpiece of this sub-park is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a bandshell designed by Frank Gehry. The pavilion has 4,000 physical seats and room for some 7,000 more on the lawn. The park is also home to the Crown Fountain, a unique video sculpture which is also a fountain. The Cloud Gate sculpture of “Bean” is perhaps one of the most photographed pieces of art in Chicago, if not the United States. Cloud Gate, designed by Anish Kapoor, is a three-story steel sculpture with a reflective finish. The sculpture is commonly referred to as “The Bean” due to its distinctive shape. Millennium Park has various other art installations as well as an ice skating and roller rink, depending on the season. The park is fully accessible, with ramps nearby to every staircase and well maintained walkways.
Subway Metro Icon Nearest L station:  0.6 miles from Blue/Brown/Green/Orange/Pink/Purple lines at Clark-Lake

Field Museum of Natural History

The Field Museum of Natural History traces its own history to the Columbian Exposition of 1893. The museum’s present structure was built in 1921 and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

PHOTO: Field Museum of Natural History building in Chicago, Illinois.

Although the Classical Revival museum architecture is stunning, the real treasures are inside. The permanent collections are diverse and include Ancient Americas, DNA Discovery Center, Grainger Hall of Gems, Inside Ancient Egypt, Mammals of Africa, Mammals of Asia and Underground Adventure, among others.

The most popular exhibit at the Field Museum is Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex. Sue is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton fossil ever found. Approximately 85% of the skeleton is intact and on display, and they measure 40 feet by 12 feet as currently assembled.

Another spectacular exhibit, though temporary, is China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors, on display through January 8, 2017. The museum received many of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s terra-cotta warriors, dating from the 3rd century B.C., on loan from Chinese museums. It is truly an incredible exhibit that you will not want to miss.

The museum and its exhibits are wheelchair accessible, and different floors can be reached via elevator.

Admission to the Field Museum is $38 for adults. You can save money on this admission fee if you purchase the CityPASS.
Subway Metro Icon Nearest L station:  2 blocks from Green/Orange/Red at Roosevelt


Ready for another observatory? 360 CHICAGO, formerly the John Hancock Observatory, is located on the 98th floor of the John Hancock Building in Downtown Chicago. The John Hancock Center is located o Michigan Avenue, just a few blocks away from Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

The views from 360 CHICAGO are more impressive than those from the Willis Tower, due to the building’s closer proximity to the great lake.

The first (or left) image above depicts the (sort of) open air balcony on the observation level. A window screen allows air to pass through into this portion of the viewing platform. It’s a nice way to take in the city below, if even for a few moments.

The second (or right) image above is a picture of the beautiful Chicago skyline, through one of the glass windows of the deck. The weather was unfortunately rather poor and cloudy when I visited, so make sure to hold out for good weather.

360 CHICAGO is wheelchair accessible, and the elevator ride to the top is quick. CityPASS holders receive express entry and are able to skip the occasionally long lines to purchase tickets and access the elevator. Without the CityPASS, admission costs $20 for adults.
Subway Metro Icon Nearest L station:  0.4 miles from Red line at Chicago

Built in 1916, Navy Pier was purposed as a mix-used dock for commercial freighters and warehousing, public pleasure cruises and public gatherings.  The pier extends 3,300 feet out into Lake Michigan from the Chicago shoreline.  Today, Navy Pier is the most visited tourist attraction in all of Chicago.  Sightseeing tour boats and dinner cruises are available from the pier.  Numerous fairs, exhibitions and festivals are held at the pier throughout the year.  The pier is home to the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Smith Museum of Stained Glass, an IMAX theater and Pier Park.  Pier Park is an outdoor area on the pier’s upper level which features a miniature golf course, a musical carousel, the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and several other amusements.  Numerous restaurants and shops are situated along and throughout the pier, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Harry Caray’s Tavern, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Riva Crab House and more.  The pier is wheelchair accessible, though not all of its attractions are.  Among the accessible attractions are the museums, restaurants, ferris wheel and sightseeing/dinner cruises.  For more information on Navy Pier, its attractions and accessibility, visit

Shedd Aquarium

The John G. Shedd Aquarium is a Chicago landmark, founded in 1930 and located on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. It is located on Museum Campus Chicago, within walking distance of other CityPASS attractions like the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium and the Art Institute of Chicago.

PHOTO: Shedd Aquarium logo.

A special wheelchair accessible entrance in located on the side of the building. Signs on the museum campus will direct you to that entrance. On the day of my visit, the ticket booth downstairs was extremely busy, so we were directed upstairs to check-in with our CityPASS.

We exchanged the ticket in our passbooks for the actual museum ticket, and selected a 4-D movie showing time. Every ticket includes a pass to view one of the 4-D films being shown in the aquarium’s theater – we chose Coastal Predators. This was a great film of about 15 minutes – I highly recommend it! Wheelchair accessible seats and parking spaces are located at the rear of the theater.

The Shedd Aquarium is one of the largest in the country. The total volume of its tanks is approximately 5 million gallons of water. These tanks hold 32,000 animals, comprised of 1,200 species of marine life. The animals are diverse, and make up exhibits including “Amazon Rising,” “Caribbean Reef,” “Polar Play Zone,” “Waters of the World” and “Wild Reef,” among others.

Experience Chicago Deep Dish style pizza

Chicago's Deep Dish-style pizza at Geno's East.Chcago is well-known for creating the deep dish style pizza. What was created and is still served in Chicago is not the deep dish pizza you’ll find at a Pizza Hut or Little Caesar’s. True Chicago deep dish pizza is actually “deep” or thick and filled with toppings which are assembled upside down, with sauce on top. The tomato sauce used is both chunky and rich in flavor. It is often reported that the Chicago-style pizza was created at Pizzeria Uno in 1943. Pizzeria Uno is still in business in Chicago and is franchised across the country. Still, there are numerous restaurants where visitors can order traditional Chicago-style pizza. Everyone will have a different preference. My personal preference is the deep dish style offered at Geno’s East (see the photo to the right). Other popular pizzerias include Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s. For information on the nearest pizzeria to your hotel, contact your hotel concierge. Geno’s East, Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s and Pizzeria Uno all operate locations that are wheelchair accessible.

Jane Addams Hull House & Museum

Founded in 1889, the Hull House brought together social reformers from around the country and world. Residents of the Hull House helped pass legislation and shifted public policy on education, health, free speech, immigration, fair labor and countless other social issues. Jane Addams, who founded the house, was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Hull House has been preserved and is currently open to the public as a museum. Maintained by the University of Illinois-Chicago, a $5 donation is recommended for admission, though it is not required. The Hull House Museum’s lower floors are wheelchair accessible, but the second floor can be accessed via staircase only. For more information on Jane Addams, the Hull House or the museum, visit
Subway Metro Icon Nearest L station:  0.4 miles from Blue line at UIC-Halsted