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Chicago Tourist Traps I Would Avoid + What To Do Insteadby jazminmarie United States, Illinois, Chicago
Planning a trip to Chicago can get expensive. There are a lot of attractions around that cost a pretty penny and offer you a snippet of the city. As a local, I’ve participated in several of these attractions and some more than once, but the truth is they aren’t always worth the money or the hype.
I’ve listed some highly rated attractions that you might have on your upcoming Chicago itinerary as well as some more budget friendly alternatives that are just as fun. The more money you save on these attractions allows you to spend money on food or more travel. Here are a few Chicago tourist attractions and some popular alternatives:
Here Are 4 Tourist Traps I Would Avoid
NOT: Willis Tower (Sears Tower) Skydeck
INSTEAD: Any Highrise Bar
Why: I don’t think the Skydeck experience is worth it, but I will let you decide what to do with your own time and money. Parties of three or less will be allowed 60 seconds for photos and parties of four or more will be allowed 90 seconds for photos. After spending over an hour (sometimes 2+ during peak) in line and $35 a person, 60 seconds doesn’t seem worth it to me anymore.
Finding a high-rise bar will not put you in the third tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, but it will still allow you longer than a minute and a half to enjoy yourself, take photos and get a snack. Does that sound like a good trade?
NOT: Chicago Architecture River Cruise
INSTEAD: Walk the Riverwalk Yourself + Download Walking Audio
INSTEAD: Take a Chicago Water Taxi + Save Like $60
Why: If you’ve never been on a boat before or you don’t mind being cramped with other people, I highly recommend any Chicago Architecture River Cruise. If you would like to save 50 bucks, I recommend just walking the riverfront yourself or taking the Chicago Water Taxi.
Not all guides are created equally. Sometimes you’ll get a recording or someone trying to get through the day (Read the Reviews). If you are super interested in hearing facts about the city of Chicago, I recommend connecting with a local guide yourself and giving them the money instead. Now you can still get a guided tour with an instructor that will actually communicate with you. Chicago, especially the downtown area, is extremely walkable and the river front is made for foot traffic. This isn’t a bad area to walk through.
NOT: Magnificent Mile
INSTEAD: Literally Walk Anywhere Else
Why: The Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s way of dressing brands you already know and charging a little bit more for it. While the years prior offered an exclusive experience for consumers, today there isn’t any exclusivity anymore – you can just find what you want online. It is an nice area to spend time and walk around, but I wouldn’t really recommend it as a place to go.
Magnificent Mile extends a full mile from North Michigan Ave to the Lakefront. It is filled with more than 400 retailers and department stores to meet all your shopping needs. If you’re looking for a Chicago-built business, or products at a way cheaper rate, I recommend walking literally anywhere else.
NOT: Deep Dish Pizza
INSTEAD: Both Deep Dish Pizza & Thin Tavern Crust
Why: Chicago style Deep Dish Pizza isn’t the only type of pizza that Chicagoans eat. If you ask anyone on the street who lives here what type of pizza they ordered last more than likely is a tavern style thin crust pizza from a local pizza shop instead of a deep dish.
We aren’t all pizza snobs though. I would highly recommend trying both styles of pizza so you could see what you like more. For me it depends on if I’m in a cheesier, bread-ier mood or if I want to throw back a couple of slices without feeling too bad about it. You can find all of my posts about Chicago food here.
DISCLAIMER: I completely understand if you still want to participate in these tourist attractions; they’re on a lot of bucket lists and it’s totally understandable. I’ve participated in all of these attractions and some more than once. We all travel differently and prioritize different things on our trips. I’m definitely a budget traveler who splurges on food and if that isn’t your style, that’s totally okay! I was hoping to create some fun and affordable alternatives to highly requested attractions. 🙂 You can find all my other posts about free activities in Chicago here. Enjoy!
Looking for More Fun or Free Activities Near Chicago?
Are you planning a trip to Chicago soon? I’ve written quite a few posts about things to do in Chicago, Illinois that include day itineraries, tips for traveling to Chicago, best (free) tours in Chicago, fun photo walks, tips for women traveling to Chicago & of course amazing Chicago food you must try!
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