If you’re looking for the best things to do in Chicago at night, then you’ve come to the right place!
Chicago is one of the best cities to explore for a few days in Illinois.
Planning your trip to Chicago last minute?
Make sure to book ahead. Hotels and tours often sell out the closer you get to your trip. Here are our top pics for Chicago!
Top Experiences And Tours In Chicago:
- Chicago River Architecture Cruise (Skip the Ticket Office!)
- Willis TowerSkydeck & The Ledge Ticket (Elevator express entry!)
- Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Ticket (Panoramic views of Chicago!)
- Big Bus Hop on Hop Off Sightseeing Tours (24, 48, or 72-hour options available.)
Hop Hotels In Chicago:
When the sun goes down, the fun doesn’t stop in Chicago. In fact, Chicago nights are just as lively as Chicago days!
Chicago at night offers rooftop bars, museum experiences after dark, and so much more.
Whether you’re exploring things to do in Chicago at night with family, your significant other, or a group of friends, I guarantee there’s something on this list for you!
There are not just Chicago date night activities on this list, but also great family-friendly Chicago night activities for you to explore!
On this list, I’ve made sure to include something for everyone looking for night events in Chicago.
So, let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in Chicago at night!
15 Best Things To Do In Chicago At Night
Take A Chicago Big Bus Open-Top Panoramic Night Tour
One of the best ways to see Chicago at night is by riding on the Big Bus Open-Top Panoramic Night Tour.
You’ll start this tour at the Magnificent Mile and ride around for about an hour and a half exploring the city.
As you make your way to Michigan Avenue, where your tour ends, you’ll pass plenty of Chicago’s top sites.
From the Big Bus, you’ll see the Chicago Theater, and Buckingham Fountain, and stop to see the current Art on the Mart show.
While you’re on the Big Bus, you’ll also hear an audio commentary that gives you some information about the history of Chicago as you ride.
It’s a great way to explore Chicago at night and an experience you won’t forget!
Book Your Tour Here: Getyourguide.com
Seeing A Live Performance Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Chicago At Night
Chicago is a city that is full of live music venues and there are easily over 30 different venues.
So, it’s really easy to see a live performance when you’re looking for night events in Chicago.
If you want to listen to live Jazz performances, consider stopping by one of the many Jazz clubs in the Blue River entertainment district.
The Chicago Cultural Center typically has a pretty full schedule of unique live performances throughout the year that you can take part in.
Or, see a live performance at one of the larger music venues in the city like the Thalia Hall, The House of Blues, or the iconic Chicago Theater.
Chicago is a city that never really sleeps, so you’ll be able to find any number of music venues putting on a live performance when you’re visiting.
Chicago is so full of fun things to do and see like enjoying the Chicago fall foliage.
See The City All Lit Up At Night From The SkyDeck
You’ll find the SkyDeck at the Willis Tower, in the heart of Chicago, if you are wondering where to stay in Chicago when you are visiting.
The SkyDeck is up 103 floors and also has the Ledge attached to it.
The Ledge is a glass box that has 360 views and you can see straight down to the ground below.
If you’re afraid of heights, you may want to skip out on this attraction in Chicago at night.
However, it’s a beautiful way to see the city all lit up at night if you don’t mind being up that high.
It’s a very popular attraction, so you may want to book tickets in advance.
There are also ticket packages that include a nighttime cruise on the river. It’s a great date night in Chicago activity, especially if you purchase the bundled ticket package!
Book Your Ticket Here: Getyourguide.com
Stay After Hours At A Museum In Chicago
Many of the museums in Chicago offer after-hours events that are super fun.
How often do you get to stay in a museum and explore it without the crowds?
The Field Museum of Natural History offers a great activity that is a great family thing to do in Chicago at night.
Your family can take part in their ‘Dozin with the Dinos’, where you’ll be able to camp out in the museum and sleep with the exhibits.
Kids will get to do fun hands-on activities, stay up late and learn from the museum scientists, and of course, explore the many cool exhibits.
If you’re looking for something for the adults, head to the Museum of Science and Industry.
They offer an adults-only evening where you’ll sip cocktails, explore the exhibits without the crowds, and talk with the museum’s scientists.
Exploring one of Chicago’s museums after dark is a really unique and fun night event in Chicago.
If you plan to sleep in late, there are plenty of options for brunch in Chicago.
Book Your Tour Here: Getyourguide.com
Go On A River Or Lake Cruise And See Chicago’s Skyline At Night
If you want to see beautiful views of Chicago’s skyline at night, then I suggest going on a lake or river cruise.
There are a variety of cruises available, including Chicago River cruises or cruises on the lake.
You can take a romantic dinner cruise, or simply take a cruise where you’ll get to enjoy Chicago’s skyline lit up at night.
If you take the Chicago River Night Cruise, you’ll get to see some of the best views of Chicago.
The cruise is about 90 minutes, which is plenty of time to fully enjoy the view of Chicago at night.
A Chicago river cruise is one of the best ways to view Christmas lights in Chicago!
While you’re on the boat, you’ll see the dramatic skyscrapers all lit up and the light show at the Buckingham Fountain.
As you float along, you’ll also get a lively commentary where you’ll learn all about Chicago’s nighttime history.
Book Your Cruise Here: Getyourguide.com
A Walk Along The River Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Chicago At Night
One of the best free things to do in Chicago at night is to take a walk along the Chicago River.
The Chicago Riverwalk at night is a truly picturesque Chicago nighttime activity, plus, it’s completely free!
However, the city does offer self-guided tours where you’ll learn about the history of the Riverwalk for a small fee.
It’s also a really romantic Chicago date night activity and a perfect way to wind down the evening.
There are several spots along the Riverwalk where you can stop and sit to admire the view.
You’ll also find spots where live musicians are playing and there are riverfront patios where you can enjoy a glass of wine.
Even just walking along the river is a beautiful and romantic Chicago at night activity.
You and your partner will remember this thing to do in Chicago at night for years to come!
Book Your Tour Here: Getyourguide.com
Visit The Green Mill
The Green Mill is a famous cocktail lounge in Chicago that comes alive every night.
You can find everything from big-name musicians to locals jamming late into the night at The Green Mill.
Bands play nightly from 8 pm to midnight, and each night there is a different theme.
On Tuesday and Thursdays, you’ll be able to break out your dancing shoes. Those are the nights that the bands play dancing music!
They also offer poetry slams on the third Sunday of every month, which is a cool Chicago night event.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you visit The Green Mill.
They don’t accept reservations, they don’t make mojitos or drinks with egg whites, and they are strictly cash only.
So, you’ll need to hit the ATM before you arrive.
This is one of the best tours in Chicago because The Green Mill is easily one of the coolest things to do in Chicago at night.
Go On A Walking Gangsters And Ghosts Tour Through The City
Chicago is a city that has a history steeped in the gangster and mob scene in the early 20th century.
It’s a city where bootleggers, mobsters, and all sorts of other criminals made a name for themselves thanks to prohibition.
Today, you can explore that unique history and see if you see any ghosts along the way.
On the Gangsters and Ghosts Walking Tour, you’ll spend about 2 hours exploring the city on foot.
The tour is based on historical facts, so it’s a great way to learn about the dark history of the city.
While you learn about the city’s gangsters, you’ll also hear the notorious ghost stories that Chicago locals love to tell.
You’ll spend most of the tour walking through the Historic Loop District.
When you walk through it during the daytime after this tour, you’ll look at it in a different way!
Book Your Tour Here: Getyourguide.com
Experience A Concert Under The Stars In Chicago At Night
Every summer, the city of Chicago hosts a unique concert series called the “Concerts Under The Stars”.
The Concerts Under The Stars series typically features musical styles like Jazz, Big Band, and Swing, as well as some more contemporary artists.
In the past, they have hosted concerts featuring music by Ella Fitzgerald, Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra, and more.
They also take place in a variety of different venues throughout the city.
You can listen to Sinatra at the rooftop bar of The Loop Hotel Chicago, or Ella Fitzgerald at the Guilded Row Rock Garden.
If you’re visiting Chicago in the summer months, this is easily one of the best night events in Chicago.
In the winter, there are so many festive ways to celebrate Christmas in Chicago.
Explore The Navy Pier In Chicago At Night
The Navy Pier is one of the best things to do when you are spending a few days exploring Chicago.
Many people only think to visit during the day, but I suggest you also visit this attraction in Chicago at night too!
During the week, the Navy Pier is open until 9 pm. On weekends, the Navy Pier is open until 10 pm.
One of the best things about the Navy Pier is that is a completely free thing to do in Chicago at night!
On the Navy Pier, you’ll find tons of things to do that are still open when the sun goes down.
You can get tickets to ride the Centennial Wheel and see the city all lit up, you can grab a bite to eat, or you can even do some shopping.
Just because the sun has gone down, doesn’t mean there aren’t still tons of ways to enjoy exploring this iconic attraction in Chicago at night!
Book Your Tickets Here: Getyourguide.com
Visit The Adler Planetarium After Dark Weekly Event
Every Wednesday, the Adler Planetarium is open late.
The Adler at Night event takes place from 4 pm to 10 pm, and it’s a perfect Chicago date night activity.
During the after dark hours you’ll be able to experience hands-on exhibits, participate in unique activities, and more.
They also host their award-winning sky shows, where you’ll take an up close look at our solar system.
Their state of the art theater shows amazing planetary programs where you’ll be able to learn more about the sky over Chicago and fly through the stars.
If you’re an Illinois resident, entrance to the Wednesday Adler at Night program is completely free. You just have to bring your license for proof of residency.
For non-Illinois residents, the entrance fee is $19. Either way, you’ll need to book your entry tickets in advance, and they sell out fast!
See A Free Summer Fireworks Show At The Navy Pier
Every Wednesday night in Chicago from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Navy Pier puts on a free fireworks show.
It’s a completely free thing to do in Chicago at night, you just have to find a good spot on the Navy Pier.
You’ll be able to see the show from a variety of different locations in the city too.
However, if you view them from the Navy Pier, there are some added benefits.
The first benefit is obviously that you’ll get the best view.
But the second benefit is that when you’re on the Navy Pier, you’ll be able to hear the soundtrack that goes along with the show.
The soundtrack often features popular music, dramatic music, and even special occasion music if it’s a holiday.
So, if you want the full effect of this free fireworks show, view it from the Navy Pier!
Head To Grant Park To See The Buckingham Fountain Water Display
The famous Buckingham Fountain is located in Chicago’s Grant Park.
It was originally installed in 1937 and it is massive.
However, because of the cold climate in Chicago, the fountain only runs from May to Mid October.
During that time, starting at 9 am, the fountain puts on a specatular water show every hour for 20 minutes.
Starting at dusk, the water show adds lights and music to make a specatular show.
The final water show of the evening starts at 10:35 pm, so you’ll have plenty of time to see it through out the night.
It’s a super unique thing to do in Chicago at night!
And if you get hunger you can find some of the best pizza in Chicago!
Visiting A Rooftop Bar Is One Of The Best Things To Do At Night In Chicago
Chicago is a city that never really sleeps.
You can see that in the sheer amount of rooftop bars that are scattered throughout the city.
Grabbing a drink at one of the many rooftop bars is an excellent activity in Chicago at night to enjoy.
Not only will you get to enjoy a delicious beverage, but most of the rooftop bars also feature some stunning views of the city skyline.
Many of the rooftop bars are located at hotels in Chicago, but there are independent businesses as well.
There are also rooftop bars for just about every budget and in every Chicago neighborhood.
So, no matter where you’re staying in Chicago, you probably won’t be far from an excellent rooftop bar.
There are so many great Chicago breweries to explore!
Get Immersed In Art At The WNDR Museum After Dark
The WNDR Museum is an interactive and immersive museum that aims to challenge the way we interact with art.
It’s a really unique museum in Chicago, and they have a great After Dark program.
At least once a month, the museum opens up after hours with a unique immersive exhibit that is frequently changing.
Themes have included ‘Pop Night’, ‘The Monster Bash’, and the ‘Ugly Sweater Party II’.
But the themes aren’t always centered around a holiday.
Sometimes it is just the current exhibit that is open for extended hours for more people to enjoy.
If you’re looking for a truly unique Chicago at night activity, then head to the WNDR Museum after dark!
Packing List When Visiting Chicago At Night
If you are searching, here are some tips on how to pack lightly when packing to experience night in Chicago.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when experiencing Chicago at night..
It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
This configuration comes with enough credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your pouch or wallet.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
It can be used on a variety of phones, not just an iPhone like I have. And wow is it fast!
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking selfies with family and friends during your nights in Chicago.
Hydration is so important when traveling. You want to remain hydrated throughout your travels to support your immune system which in turn will be stronger to fight off any germs you will encounter during your travels.
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for hiking and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
When filled with water, it is not too heavy to carry. And the charcoal filter ensures fresh clean water whenever you fill the Bobble.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car.
Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. then this foldable water-resistant backpack would be great.
There are so many cool and fun things to do in Chicago at night!
Like New York City, Chicago really never sleeps, so there is always something to do and see during the late Chicago nights.
It is such a cool Midwest city!
Whether you’re looking for family-friendly activities, fun rooftop bars, or cool museum experiences, I guarantee there’s a Chicago night event or activity on this list for you!