There are many reasons why visitors rely on a Chicago CityPASS when visiting one of America’s best cities. For one thing, you can see many of the best attractions with either a Chicago CityPASS or a Chicago C3. In addition, you will save money off the price of attractions by choosing either one of these options. Above all, most, if not all of your attractions will be paid for, making your trip planning that much easier. In any case, you’ll quickly understand why Chicago has been named the Best City in America for five consecutive years by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Coupled with a CityPASS, you might have the best vacation ever.

About Chicago CityPASS

The Chicago CityPASS allows you to visit five major attractions for a single price. Of those five attractions, three are already included in the price. In this case, these attractions are the Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago and the Field Museum. In addition, you will receive admission to two additional attractions that you choose from four options. These options are the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, 360 Chicago and Adler Planetarium. Ticket prices are $114 for those ages 12 and over and $93 for children ages 3-11. Either one of these passes will save you 48% off the price of regular admission to these attractions.

About Chicago C3

If you only want to see a few of Chicago’s best attractions, Chicago C3 is an outstanding option. Chicago C3 is similar to the Chicago CityPASS in that you choose which attractions to visit. In this case, you receive admission to three attractions out of seven that are currently available. Like Chicago CityPASS, the Chicago C3 offers Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, the Art Institute and more. However, Chicago C3 has two very popular options that aren’t available with Chicago CityPASS. To be clear, among those seven available attractions are the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier and Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tour. For past visitors to Chicago, many say that the Architecture River Tour is an absolute must-see. C3 is $88 for those ages 12 and over and $64 for children ages 3-11. These prices represent a savings of up to 31% if you purchased tickets to these attractions separately.

How To Use The Chicago CityPASS or Chicago C3

After the purchase of either pass, you will receive an email with the pass and information on how to use it. With this email, you can have your pass scanned whenever you visit an attraction. If you use an iPhone, you can also upload the pass to your Apple Wallet. This email will also contain the Travel Guide, which allows you to make reservations if necessary. Indeed, some attractions like the Art Institute do not require a reservation in advance. Instead, upon arrival, present your pass and then receive admission for the next available time. The pass is valid for nine consecutive days beginning from the first day you use it. In addition, CityPASS will follow up with another email prior to your visit, to offer you tips on safety, schedules offers and upgrades and more.

People holding onto grab bars on the TILT thrill attraction at 360 Chicago
TILT at 360 Chicago (credit: Randy Yagi)

360 Chicago

875 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL  60611
(888) 875-8439
www.360chicago.com

With a Chicago CityPASS, you’ll have the chance to visit not one, but two very tall observation decks. While the observation deck at 360 Chicago isn’t nearly as high as Skydeck, don’t underestimate it. After all, you’ll be 1000 feet above ground level on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building, In other words, you will have outstanding views of Chicago attractions like Navy Pier and Lincoln Park. What’s more, you’ll have a 360-degree, providing you picture perfect views of Lake Michigan and the skyline. With your CityPASS you also get expedited entry, which means you’ll get through the line that much faster. However, if you want the ultimate experience at 360 Chicago, try the TILT thrill ride.

TILT at 360 Chicago

The highest thrill ride in Chicago, TILT does exactly how it sounds, tilting you downwards 30 degrees. Although TILT is not included with your Chicago CityPASS, you can upgrade when you check in. By the way, you receive a $1 discount off the TILT upgrade with your pass.

Adler Planetarium

1300 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL  60605
(312) 922-7827
www.adlerplanetarium.org

With the Chicago CityPASS, you have the option of visiting America’s first planetarium. That’s right, the Adler is the very first planetarium to open in the U.S. in 1930. In fact, it was the first modern planetarium to open in the entire Western Hemisphere. One of three important museums on Chicago’s Museum Campus, the Adler is the least popular Chicago CityPASS attraction. However, it’s well worth a visit, especially if you’re traveling with kids who love science and astronomy. The most distinctive building is of course, the familiar Art Deco Grunsfeld building, with its iconic dome. Inside this historic building you will be able to see all of the exhibitions, including the famous Gemini 12 spacecraft. In addition, your Chicago CityPASS allows you to see two skyshows inside the domed theater. While at the Adler, don’t forget to take in the view of the Chicago skyline from the Planetarium’s pier. As a matter of fact, the Planetarium offers the best city views, according to the American institute of Architects.

Related: Attractions You Can See With A Seattle CityPASS

Art Institute of Chicago

111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL  60603
(312) 443-3600
www.artic.edu

For art lovers, the most important attraction you can see with a Chicago CityPASS is the Art Institute of Chicago. Among the world’s oldest and most visited art museums, the Art Institute is renowned for the scope of its enormous collection. In detail, the museum holds 300,000 works, including its impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. What’s more, those Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works of art represent the world’s largest outside of the Louvre. For example, among the highlights are Van gogh’s Bedroom in Arles, Serrat’s Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte and Monet’s Waterlilies. In addition, you can see Renoir’s Two Sisters, Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day and a Van gogh Self-Portrait. On the other hand, the museum is further noted for its modern and contemporary art. Indeed, you can see Picasso’s “ The Old Guitarist”, Chagall’s American Windows and Warhol’s Liz #3. Of course, the most famous American paintings in the museum are Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”. Lastly, don’t forget to admire the bronze lions, recently brought back to their rightful spots at the entrance.

Related: My Favorite Guided Tours Of Chicago

Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier

600 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL  60611
(312) 595-7437
www.navypier.org

One of the great options available with a Chicago C3 pass is a ride on the gigantic Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. Soaring nearly 200 feet height, the Centennial Wheel opened in 2016 in recognition of Navy Pier’s 100th anniversary. Featuring 42 gondolas, the Ferris wheel offers stunning views of the historic pier and the spectacular Chicago skyline. Although you can ride anytime during regular hours, you may enjoy it best at sunset. That’s not to mention taking a ride when Navy Pier presents its summer fireworks show on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Incidentally, the world’s first Ferris wheel made its debut during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Furthermore, that original Ferris wheel was also known as the Chicago Wheel and even higher than Centennial, at 264 feet tall.

Field Museum

1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL  60605
(312) 922-9410
www.fieldmuseum.org

The Field Museum is the oldest and most visited of the museums on Museum Campus. Moreover, it’s one of the largest natural history museums on the planet, encompassing over 480,000 square feet. For the most part, the highlight of the museum are the dinosaur exhibits, particularly, Sue the T. Rex. Extending nearly 40 long and 13 feet high, Sue is the largest and most complete T. Rex to be discovered. However, there are many other attractions you might like to see during your visit. For instance, you will like the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit and Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet. What’s more, your Chicago CityPASS isn’t just basic admission to the Field, but an All-Access Pass. In detail, you have admission to all permanent and ticketed exhibitions that are regularly priced. In addition, you have a choice to see one digital 3D movie, like Waking the T. Rex 3D: The Story of Sue.

Related: Dining At Chicago Michelin Star Restaurant Temporis

Museum of Science and Industry

5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL  60637
(773) 684-1414
www.msichicago.org

In a lakeshore setting just east of the University of Chicago, this museum is the furthest of any Chicago CityPASS attraction. Nevertheless, don’t let the distance prevent you from visiting the Western Hemisphere’s largest science museum. Attracting a similar number of visitors to other major attractions, MSI occupies the Palace of Fine Arts building from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Furthermore, MIS and the Art Institute are the only buildings still standing from that event also known as the World’s Columbian Exposition. Encompassing 400,000 square feet, you will need more than a day to see MSI. However, among the highlights are a WWII submarine, America’s first diesel-electric passenger train and Science Storms exhibit. Equally important are a full-scale coal mine and the world’s largest LEGO art display. In addition to seeing top exhibits, you can see a short film at the Giant Dome Theater or a go on a motion simulator ride. By the way, the five-story Giant Dome Theater is one of only two of its kind in the world.

Shedd Aquarium

1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL  60605
(312) 939-2438
www.sheddaquarium.org

The last of three attractions you can visit on Museum Campus with a CityPASS is the Shedd Aquarium. Much like other major local attractions, the Shedd is among the world’s largest of its kind. Opened during a period of economic expansion in 1930, Shedd is home to a diverse collection of animals representing over 1,500 species. A crown jewel amongst  Chicago’s attractions, the Shedd offers a variety of things to see and do. Among highlights you should not miss are the Caribbean Reef and Wild Reef exhibits. Likewise, the Abbott Oceanarium, Waters of the World and the aquatics shows. By the same token, you will enjoy the Polar Play Zone, Wild Reef and Amazon Rising. Either the Chicago CityPASS or Chicago C3 allows you to see this very family friendly attraction.

Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tour

401 Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL  60611
(312) 222-9328
www.shorelinesightseeing.com

Only available as an option with Chicago C3 is one of the city’s most popular architecture river tours. However, it’s important to realize that Shoreline Sightseeing offers you more flexibility for your selection. In this case, you can choose between two different boarding locations instead of one. In light of this, you can choose to board on Michigan Avenue or at Navy Pier. However, for the Michigan Avenue location along the Chicago River, you must walk down a flight of stairs. Conversely, the boarding dock at Navy Pier is accessible for people with disabilities. The 75-minute tour with live commentary will take you past over 40 of the city’s most famous architectural landmarks. For example, you see the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, Willis (Sears) Tower and the John Hancock Center.

A man posing inside the glass enclosed Ledge at Skydeck Chicago
Skydeck Ledge (credit: Skydeck)

Skydeck Chicago

233 S. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL  60606
(312) 875-9447
www.theskydeck.com

Last but certainly not the least is an attraction that might be first to do on your list. After all, what could be more exciting than walking onto the glass Ledge at Skydeck Chicago. Soaring 1,353 feet in the air, you will be at the observation deck level of the famed Willis Tower. To put it differently, you will be close to the top of the second tallest building in North America. By the same token, you can walk onto the Ledge, a glass enclosure that extends 4.3 feet from Skydeck. You can stay inside the Ledge for up to 60 seconds, which gives you plenty of time to take selfies and landscape photos. Above all, do you really want to stay on the Ledge more than 60 seconds? Another perk of the CityPASS for Skydeck is expedited entry, which moves you much further up the line than general admission.

Related: Top NY Attractions To See With A New York CityPASS

About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012

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