arts & culture · music & nightlife · outdoor activities ·
Published January 2, 2024
25+ Fun Activities in Chicago That Don't Involve Alcohol or Food
You’ve done a million happy hours—now it’s time to try something new!
by Chicago Bucket List
When planning a hangout with friends, the first things that come to mind are grabbing drinks or meeting up at a restaurant. And as much as we love brunch and happy hours, Chicago has so many amazing attractions that don’t center around eating or drinking. We asked our followers to share their favorite non-drinking activities in Chicago, and they delivered.
Whether you’re participating in dry January, looking to cut back, or just need some fresh inspiration, we've got you covered. Check out our curated list of fun activities from local Chicagoans that will keep you out of the bar!
Creative Things to Do in Chicago that Aren't Just Going Out to Eat
Create a Custom Piece of Art
Shot of Art is a unique art class experience that uses acrylic paints, silicone, and a gas burner to create abstract paintings that can be proudly hung in your apartment or given to friends. The art room experience is a great chance to use your imagination and use the opportunity to draw on doors, walls, ceilings, chairs, and more in a great atmosphere!
Where: 1700 West Hubbard St, Chicago, IL
Go Rock Climbing at Brooklyn Boulders
Looking to switch up your fitness routine, meet new people, or try something different? Indoor rock climbing combines all three. Brooklyn Boulders offers private strength training, group fitness classes, community events, and more. Whether you're going with the crew or flying solo, you're guaranteed a challenging, fun, and memorable time.
Where: 100 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL
Watch a Classic Film at the Music Box Theatre
If you’re a movie buff, there’s no better place to spend an evening than the Music Box Theatre. They show a variety of independent, foreign, cult, and classic films, some of which can be seen outside in their garden during the summers.
Where: 3733 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL
Take a Candle-Making Class
Who doesn’t love to learn a new skill? In this class, you’ll learn two! Bring your own glass bottle to upcycle into a chic candle by first practicing glass cutting and then learning to pour wax. Fun and sustainable — it’s a win-win!
Where: Chicago Candle Co.: 1100 W Cermak Rd #419, Chicago, IL
Go to the Aquarium
There’s no need to put on a wetsuit to get up close and personal with some incredible deep sea creatures. Stop by the Shedd Aquarium to see some underwater wonders and learn all about their secret world.
Where: 1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore DriveChicago, IL
Try Your Hand at Axe Throwing
Rough week at work? Get out some frustration by chucking axes at a wall! If you’ve never done it, they have instructors ready to help you perfect your technique. You might be surprised by how therapeutic it can be.
Where: 165 N Loomis St, Chicago, IL
Explore Verse Immersive
Check out Verse, an immersive augmented experience that puts you at the center of an engaging story. You'll walk around wearing fully transparent headsets while you see and interact with an unbelievable story. Visitors are encouraged to look everywhere and touch everything! It's definitely a one-of-a-kind experience and a welcome escape from the cold!
Where: Verse Chicago: 108 North State Street, Suite 150, Chicago, IL
Visit the Chicago Poetry Foundation
With a 30,000-volume poetry library, rotating exhibitions, and an impressive performance space, there's plenty to explore at the Poetry Foundation in Near North. Attend free public events, participate in book clubs and discussions, and be inspired by the words of the greats.
Where: 61 West Superior Street, Chicago, IL
Go Antiquing in Andersonville
Andersonville is home to some of the funkiest, fun, and best antique shops and thrift stores in the city. Spend an afternoon browsing stores like Andersonville Antiques, Woolly Mammoth Antiques & Oddities, and Mercantile M for one-of-a-kind treasures and unique finds.
Where: Various locations
If you’ve never played WhirlyBall, it’s high time you tried it. This unique game combines lacrosse, basketball, and hockey. Oh, and did we mention you play it in bumper cars? The unusual activity pretty much guarantees a memorable night out.
Where: 1825 W. Webster Ave, Chicago, IL
See a Chicago Bulls or Blackhawks Game
Chicago is a sports town, and few things are more exhilarating than cheering on one of the city's teams surrounded by other fans. Watch the Chicago Bulls take the court, or spend an evening watching the Blackhawks carve up the ice.
P.S. Going to a game makes for a great date night, too.
Explore the Museums
No matter your interests, Chicago has a museum for you. Spend a rainy day exploring the expansive Field Museum of Natural History, see some unique memorabilia at the Chicago Sports Museum, or get a fresh perspective at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Regardless of which incredible museum you choose, you’re sure to have a fun day — and maybe even learn something!
Where: Various locations
See a Show
Chicago is an American entertainment hub. From touring Broadway shows to stops from major comedians to magic and music, there’s a show to be seen any given night. Check out our guide to the best places to catch a show in Chicago to start planning.
Where: Various locations
Play Board Games
Kibbitznest is a community-focused bookstore…and much more. Yes, there are shelves of books to peruse and comfy chairs and couches to lounge in, but they also have an impressive variety of classic games to play for some good old-fashioned fun. Choose from tried-and-true favorites like Scrabble, Rummikub, Guess Who? and more. And if they don’t have what you’re looking for, feel free to bring your own or make a suggestion to the staff!
Bonus: Kibbitznest also hosts poetry open mic nights, comedy shows, live music performances, and book clubs!
Where: 2212 N. Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL
Take a Tour of Wrigley Field
If you’re a fan of the Chicago Cubs — or even just Chicago history — you can’t beat a tour of the iconic Wrigley Field. The tour is just 90 minutes, and going on a non-game day will give you an exclusive glimpse at special areas like the press box, outfield ivy, and the Cubs’ dugout.
Where: Wrigley Field: 1060 W Addison St, Chicago, IL
Stroll Through the Gardens
From the Botanic Gardens to the Garfield Park Conservatory to the Garden of the Phoenix, Chicago has plenty of lush green spaces to explore. Get some fresh air and see some beautiful, rare, and unique flowers and greenery. The Chicago Botanic Garden even offers horticulture classes and craft fairs!
Where: Various locations
Bike the Lakefront
The Lakefront Trail offers 18 miles of gorgeous lakeside paths to leisurely ride along on a sunny day. If you have your own bike, you can simply pick a section and get to peddling; if you don’t have a bicycle, don't worry! You can rent one in Waveland Park in Lakeville for just $10-$20 per hour.
Visit the Brookfield Zoo
Meet mammals, reptiles, and birds from all over the world at the Brookfield Zoo! Whether you want to feed a giraffe, ride a carousel, watch dolphins splash around, or step into a whirlwind of butterflies, you’re sure to make incredible memories at the zoo.
Where: 8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street), Brookfield, IL
Get Spooky with a Crime Tour
Get to know the dark side of Chicago with a crime tour. See where iconic crimes took place and hear stories about the most notorious villains the city has ever seen, including gangster Al Capone, The Untouchables, The Chicago Mob, John Dillinger, Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Cap George Streeter, and more.
Where: Bus Pickup outside 163 E. Pearson St.
Stroll the 606 Trail
There’s nothing quite like the 606 trail! This unique public work is an abandoned rail line turned multi-use recreation trail and park. The trail is 2.7 miles long and perfect for taking a walk, bike ride, or jog.
Watch Art on theMART
Did you know Chicago is home to the largest permanent digital art projection in the world? From April through December, riverwalk visitors can see massive displays from local and international artists projected on theMART each night. The projections change every few months, so stop by often to see them all!
Where: Projections are best viewed on The Chicago Riverwalk Jetty between Wells and Franklin Street.
Take a Chicago Architecture Tour
Chicago was incorporated in 1837, and the city's rich history is apparent through its many decades of interesting and significant architecture—and there's no better place to admire Chicago's stunning architecture than from the water. Take a cruise and get up close and personal with some of the world's greatest buildings on an award-winning cruise.
Where: 401 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL
Diversey Driving Range or Mini Golf
Whether you’re a golf pro or a putt-putt newbie, Diversey Driving Range has something for everyone. Soak up some sunshine while practicing your long game at the driving range, or have some family fun putting around the mini golf course. Either way, it’s sure to be a good time.
Where: 141 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago, IL
Enjoy the Activities at Maggie Daley Park
There’s no shortage of family fun at Maggie Daley Park. In the summer, you can go mini golfing, rock climbing, rollerblading, play tennis, or try the bungee jump. You can also check out the interactive public art installation “Out of Sight” or stroll through the gardens. In the winter, you can ice skate on the ribbon!
Where: 337 E Randolph St · Chicago, IL
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