Walk 1.5 miles along Lake Michigan to Millennium Park and enjoy some of the many free activities at the urban park. In the summer, enjoy free concerts and the innovative work of contemporary architect Frank Gehry at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Check out your reflection in artist Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture known as "The Bean." On a hot day, Millennium Park's Crown Fountain (two, 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool) becomes a whimsical urban water park.
The city is blessed to have some of the country's best museums, and several of them are conveniently located near one another in an area called the Museum Campus. The Shedd Aquarium (1200 S. Lake Shore Drive; 312-939-2438), Adler Planetarium (1300 S. Lake Shore Drive; 312-922-7827) and the Field Museum of Natural History (1400 S. Lake Shore Drive; 312-922-9410) are connected by green space along the lakefront, a two-mile walk from Navy Pier, or just take the water taxi from Navy Pier to the museums.
Buckingham Fountain is a majestic lakefront landmark (301 S. Columbus Drive) and serves as one of the largest fountains in the world. During the warmer months, the fountain shoots off a 20-minute water display, every hour on the hour.
Michigan Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile, or Mag Mile, is the Fifth Avenue of the Midwest. It's home to high-end shops, including Gucci and Tiffany's. But you'll also find a bustling Apple Store and the flagship American Girl. Not only can you buy dolls, but there are aisles of clothing (including matching outfits for children and their dolls), a doll hair salon, even a doll hospital. Or you can try a romantic carriage ride around the surrounding Gold Coast neighborhood.
In the mood for a laugh? Chicago is renowned for its comedy clubs. The most famous, Second City (1616 N. Wells Street; 312-337-3992), acts as a training ground and has produced generations of Saturday Night Live cast members. It's a quick three-mile ($12 to $15) cab ride from Navy Pier and offers nightly shows.
The ivy-laced landmark Wrigley Field (1060 W. Addison Street; 773-404-2827) celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014, and unlike other sports stadiums in Chicago, Wrigley Field is planted right in a bustling neighborhood of bars and restaurants, known affectionately as Wrigleyville. Make sure to stay for the seventh-inning stretch tradition of singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
Chicago is considered the capital of the blues. A first-rate venue for hearing this soul-stirring music is Buddy Guy's Legends (700 S. Wabash Avenue; 312-427-1190). The club was opened by legendary guitarist and singer Buddy Guy in 1989, and the blues musician still performs there regularly.
One of the most respected art museums in the U.S., the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Avenue; 312-443-3600) holds one of the world's best collections of impressionist art. The Chagall stained glass window is not to be missed.
The city is known as the birthplace of modern architecture. A variety of groups offer architectural tours, walking and by boat along the Chicago River, but the most respected tours are run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 S. Michigan Avenue; 312-922-3432). Certified docents provide more than 80 tours, from the landmarks of downtown to tours of the hidden gems in the city's many neighborhoods. The most popular is the Architectural River Cruise, a 90-minute tour that leaves from the nearby riverfront.
Venture outside Chicago's bustling downtown Loop to Hyde Park, about seven miles south. It's home to the University of Chicago as well President Barack Obama's house -- on South Greenwood Avenue between 50th and 51st streets. The Obama house isn't open for tours. However, the Frederick C. Robie House (5757 South Woodlawn Avenue; 800-514-3849), one of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces and a U.S. National Historic Landmark, is open to the public. Serenity-seekers should stroll through nearby Osaka Garden, a Japanese garden nestled on the north end of the Wooded Island in historic Jackson Park.
Chicago also hits a high note with its jazz scene. One of the best music venues in the city, Andy's Jazz Club (11. E. Hubbard Street; 312-642-6805) is just over a mile from Navy Pier.
Chicago prides itself on being a city of neighborhoods, many reflecting the ethnic heritage of the immigrants who planted new roots. One of the most vibrant immigrant neighborhoods is Chinatown, one of the largest in the U.S. Hop on the downtown water taxi at the Chicago River and take it directly to Chinatown.
You can chart your own course between the towering skyscrapers that line the Chicago River in a kayak. Urban Kayak rents them for $30 an hour. They also offer guided tours. (260 E. Riverwalk South; 312-965-0035)
Families will love touring the Museum of Science & Industry (5700 S. Lake Shore Drive; 773-684-1414) on Chicago's South Side. Originally built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, visitors enjoy descending into the coal mine exhibit and stepping aboard the Zephyr Train and the U-505, the only German submarine on display in the U.S.
Didn't know Chicago had beaches? Many people make the scenic 1.5-mile walk north from Navy Pier to Oak Street Beach. On a hot day, you might mistake it for Miami Beach, with its sunbathers, rollerbladers and volleyball games in the sand. Along the way you'll pass the area known as "the playpen," where boaters tie up together for a massive party in the lake.