When you think of nightlife in Chicago, the possibilities are endless. From dinner and tours to live music and comedy, there are unlimited things to do in Chicago at night. Whether you’re looking for an unforgettable date night or a night out with friends or family, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the nightlife in Chicago.
We've created a list of 15 categories of things to do in Chicago at night with 49 ideas that you don't want to miss.
Read the sections to get all our local tips!
Things to do in Chicago Categories
1. Eat your way through Chicago's vibrant food scene
2. Take in a show at one of Chicago's world-famous theaters
3. Do a Night at a Museum After Hours
4. Enjoy Chicago's Cool Bars and Clubs
5. Chicago Nightlife: Enjoy Live Music
6. Catch the Sunset or Nighttime Views
7. Take a Night Architectural Tour
8. Catch a Comedy Show
9. Shop at Night for Bargains and Unique Finds
10. Devour a Sweet Treat, Late Night
11. Make It a Game Night in Chicago
12. Get on a Nighttime Ride
13. Stroll the Nighttime Parks and Walkways
14. Catch a Nighttime Sporting Event
15. Use the Chicago Passes at Night
1) Eat your way through Chicago's vibrant food scene
Chicago nightlife is known for its vibrant food scene, so make sure to add food to your list of fun things to do while you are in Chicago! From fine dining to casual eats, the city has something for everyone. This culinary scene doesn't just end with dinner either (check out late-night sweet treats in this post).
Some of the best things to do at night in Chicago revolve around the city's cultural flavors from the city's fascinating neighborhoods. Explore the vibrant boroughs by day and get a taste of Chicago culture through food at night.
Consider a summer food festival or tour with kid-friendly options for family things to do in Chicago at night. Many food tours & festivals cater to families with pizza and ice cream.
Some of our favorite dining options include:
The Frontera Grill in River North for some delicious Mexican cuisine.
Check out Moody Tongue Brewery in Bronzeville for craft beer and upscale pub food.
Parson's Chicken and Fish in Logan Square is a family favorite with its casual outdoor seating and delicious fried chicken.
And for a taste of Puerto Rican food, La Bruquena in Humboldt Park serves up Caribbean classics in a small family-owned cafe.
With so many options, Chicago's food scene is perfect for an evening out with people with all kinds of different tastes. If you're looking for something for your group with varying tastes, check out one of the city's many food festivals throughout the year. From Taste of Chicago to the Chicago Hot Dog Fest, there is always something tasty happening in the city day and night.
2) Take in a show at one of Chicago's world-famous theaters
Chicago's theater scene is truly something to behold, and it's not just limited to the popular theater district in the downtown Loop. While the area does house some of the most impressive and well-known theaters in the city like the iconic Chicago Theater, there are plenty of other venues to choose from if you're looking for something a bit more off the beaten path.
One such venue is the Chicago Magic Lounge located in the Andersonville neighborhood, which offers up a unique blend of speakeasy, magic show, and theatrical production that you won't find anywhere else. It's an unassuming place because you enter through a laundromat to be transported into a mysterious location!
Another spot worth checking out is the Logan Theater, located in the heart of the Logan Square neighborhood. This historic movie palace has been fully renovated and restored to its 1915 glory and now serves as a venue for indie films, cult classics, and special events.
For a more traditional theater experience, the Chicago Loop is the place to be. Here you'll find iconic venues like the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and the 80+-year-old Goodman Theatre, all of which offer up top-notch productions of Broadway shows, plays, and musicals.
We think a theater show is one of the best things to do in Chicago at night because whether you're looking for a classic experience or something a bit more unconventional, you will be entertained! So why not make a night of it while you're in the Windy City?
3) Do a Night at a Museum - After Hours
Chicago's museums offer an amazing experience, and when they stay open late, it's even better! If you're looking for an out-of-the-box activity for a night out in Chicago, look no further than these museum after-hours events.
Adler Planetarium is a top pick for a nighttime museum experience. Visit at night on Wednesdays till 10 pm. or inquire about their occasional After Dark evenings with special exhibits.
The zoo isn't just for day trips! The Lincoln Park Zoo has a regular events calendar of unique events at night including exclusive after hours time at the zoo for families with memberships. For adults, check out the event calendar of evening mixers including Craft Brewery Nights, Sangria Fest, and more.
For those who love science and history, Museum of Science and Industry events offer exclusive access to the museum at night, including special exhibits, live performances, and interactive activities. These events aren't running every week, so check the museum's website for upcoming events.
Going to a museum after dark is a great way to explore some of the city's most interesting exhibits without the crowds with a pleasurable nighttime ambiance.
4) Cool Things to Do in Chicago: The Bars and Clubs
Without a doubt, the bar and club scene is one of the best things to do in Chicago at night. From the historic dive bars to the swanky rooftop lounges, Chicago has something for everyone when it comes to nightlife.
Here are a few of our top picks:
For a classic Chicago experience, head to the Old Town Ale House. This iconic dive bar has been serving up drinks since the 1950s and is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. You never know who you might run into here - the walls are adorned with paintings of famous comedians, politicians, and celebrities.
For a more upscale vibe, head to the Violet Hour in the Wicker Park neighborhood. This award-winning cocktail bar is known for its inventive drinks and sophisticated ambiance. The dimly lit space is perfect for a romantic date night or a catch-up session with friends.
If you want something a little more kitschy, check out the Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club. This fun-loving spot in Lakeview has a Hollywood-meets-Miami vibe known for its drag shows and a menu of fun and fabulous cocktails.
Head to the bar in the sky for a truly unique experience, CloudBar at 360 CHICAGO. This lounge 94 floors up offers panoramic views of the city and Lake Michigan in a contemporary setting that's perfect for a date or night out with friends. Check out their elevated cocktails, specialty coffees, mocktails, and snacks menu.
No matter what kind of vibe you're in the mood for, Chicago has a bar or club that's sure to satisfy. So grab a few friends and explore the city's nightlife scene - you never know what kind of adventure you'll find.
5) Chicago Nightlife: Enjoy Live Music
Chicago has a long history of being a musical hub and there is no better way to experience this than by catching a live show at one of the city's many music venues. Whether you're into blues, jazz, rock, or indie, this city has options for you.
One of the most iconic venues here is Kingston Mines, a legendary blues club in Lincoln Park that's been around since 1968. It's a great example of a dive bar with an uber-cool vibe. Grab some drinks and food and enjoy the show!
For those looking for something a bit more out of the ordinary, The Hideout has been a great choice for independent music and performances since 1934. They feature a diverse range of music, from country to punk, and host events like poetry readings and open mic nights. It's also been known to host some big names in the music industry, so keep an eye out for surprise performances.
If jazz is your jam, The Green Mill is the place to be. This iconic 100+-year-old venue has been around since 1907 and was a favorite spot of Frank Sinatra and Al Capone back in the day. Today, you can catch local and national jazz acts every night of the week in a setting that's both nostalgic and sophisticated.
No matter what kind of music you're into, there's no shortage of great live venues in Chicago. Let the music take you away.
6) Catch the Sunset or Nighttime Views of the City
Watching the sunset is one of the most romantic things to do in Chicago at night. Chicago is famous for its skyline and sunset views.
Here are some of the best places to watch the sunset in Chicago:
At the top of the list is the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck. For unobstructed sunset views head to the former John Hancock building—one of Chicago's most famous landmarks. This observation deck is a great place to get a 360-degree view of the city, including Lake Michigan. The observation deck stays open till 11 pm, giving you plenty of time to catch the sunset and the city lights in all their glory. Book a ticket here.
The UP room at the Robey Hotel is another great place for sunset views. It is located on the 13th floor of the hotel and provides a panoramic view of the city. You can enjoy a drink or a meal while taking in the view of the city.
The Bloomington Trail 606 is another excellent option. This elevated trail was built on top of old railway tracks and provides outstanding views of the city. The Trail stays open till 11 pm, making it the perfect place to admire the colorful skies and city lights while taking a relaxing walk.
Can't get enough of that Chicago skyline? Here are more ways to get the best city views from across the city.
7) Take a Nighttime Architectural Tour
Chicago is known worldwide for its impressive buildings and landmarks. Take a tour of the city's architectural wonders but do it at night for a whole different perspective.
One popular tour is the Lake Michigan and Chicago River Tour with Wendella Boats Tours. The 6 pm tour allows visitors to take in the sights of Chicago's downtown skyline as it glimmers under the night sky. For those who want to see the sunset over Chicago's skyline, the Wendella Sunset Cruise Tour is a perfect choice. Another option is the Wendella Fireworks Tour which combines the beautiful cityscape with a spectacular fireworks display over Navy Pier. No matter which tour you choose, taking a tour of Chicago's architecture at night is an unforgettable experience.
8) Catch a Comedy Show
Looking for a night of laughs? Look no further than the infamous Chicago comedy clubs. The greatest comedians in America got their start with improv and sketch comedy in Chicago.
Here are our top picks of great comedy clubs:
Zanies Comedy Club has been a staple of Chicago's comedy scene since 1978. With locations in both Old Town and Rosemont, it's easy to catch a show no matter where you are in the city. The club hosts both local and national acts and has seen the likes of Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, and Ellen DeGeneres grace its stage.
The Laugh Factory, located in Lakeview, has been a popular spot for comedy since it opened its doors in 1979. With a lineup that includes both up-and-coming comics and established performers, the club promises a night of laughter and good times.
Second City- perhaps the most infamous of all Chicago's comedy clubs is the training ground for some of the biggest names in comedy. From John Belushi to Tina Fey and Steve Carell, Second City alumni have gone on to make their mark on the world of comedy. The club's mainstage shows are a must-see.
Whether you're looking for a big-name act or just a night of laughs with local comedians, Chicago's comedy scene has you covered. Head to one of these top clubs and prepare to laugh until it hurts.
9) Shop at Night for Bargains and Unique Finds
If you're a shopping fanatic who can't resist a good bargain or exciting new find, Chicago has some great options for night shopping. Not only can you avoid the crowds by shopping after-hours, but you can also take advantage of promotions that are often available only at night.
Two popular downtown shopping destinations, the Water Tower Place (open till 7 pm) and the Shops at Northbridge (open till 8 pm), offer a range of high-end and popular chain retailers, including Bloomingdale's, Macy's, and Zara.
But if you're looking for some serious shopping hours, there are a few malls that are open 24/7 like Bricktown Square, which has many stores that stay open till at least 10 pm, such as Marshalls, Old Navy, and DSW.
Whether you're looking for trendy clothing, accessories, electronics, or home decor, night shopping in Chicago can be fun. So grab your wallet and get ready for some retail therapy in the Windy City.
10) Devour a Sweet Treat, Late Night
If you have a sweet tooth, Chicago has you covered, even late at night!
One place that's perfect for satisfying those sugar cravings is Mario's Italian Lemonade in Little Italy. This iconic spot serves up some of the best Italian ice you'll ever taste, and it's open until 11 pm. There's nothing quite like this refreshing treat on a warm summer night.
For something decadent and also nostalgic with Chicagoans, Margie's Candies, is an Ice cream parlor serves up decadent ice cream sundaes, candies and sandwiches till late into the evening. This establishment has something to satisfy any craving, going strong since 1921 in two locations—Bucktown and North Center
If you're in the mood for something a little more unique, check out BomboBar. This hip spot serves up donuts with sundae-style toppings, as well as gelato and coffee. The decor is trendy, and there are sidewalk seats where you can enjoy your treats while people-watching.
Another great spot for late-night sweets is Black Dog Gelato. This artisanal gelato shop has a rotating menu of one-of-a-kind flavors, like goat cheese cashew caramel, and peanut butter banana. It's open until 10 pm, so you'll have time to get there after dinner.
Next time you're out exploring the city at night, be sure to make a stop at one of these delicious spots. Your taste buds will thank you!
11) Make It a Game Night in Chicago
For a night of fun and games in Chicago, you won't be disappointed.
Start your night with some bowling, arcade games, or billiards at one of Chicago's many alleys like Lucky Strike, which offers a cool, retro vibe. Gather your friends or family and make a team for some friendly competition, with food and drinks readily available.
But if you're looking for something more interactive and wildly fun, Game Night Out is a fully hosted game night experience. There are different types of games to make it the perfect spot for a fun night out with friends.
And for those who love puzzles, check out The Great Escape Room, where you'll have to solve riddles and clues to get out of a locked room within an hour. Each room has a different theme, so you can choose your own adventure. If you're feeling courageous, try the Poker Night at the President's Bunker room, where you and your group must prevent a nuclear Armageddon.
Whether you're looking for a night of bowling, group challenges, or solving puzzles, Chicago has plenty of options to keep you entertained all night long. Make it a game night in Chicago.
12) Get on a Nighttime Ride!
For those looking for a thrill, Chicago has plenty of options for nighttime rides that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping.
Check out TILT at 360 CHICAGO. Located on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building, TILT is a one-of-a-kind attraction that offers breathtaking views of the city while giving riders a heart-stopping tilt out over the edge of the building. For a unique and unforgettable experience, TILT might just be for you. Book a ticket directly here.
Another great option is the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier with urban views of the Chicago skyline that are particularly spectacular at night.
For a truly thrilling experience, consider taking a nighttime helicopter tour. Fly Heli's City Tour Sunset & Night Lights is one of the best options available, offering a stunning birds-eye view of the city lights. This is the perfect activity for adventurous couples or groups of friends looking to make unforgettable memories together.
We think this is a fun thing to do at night in Chicago because you'll get a unique thrill like no other. You won't be disappointed!
13) Stroll the Safe Nighttime Parks and Walkways
One of the best ways to take in the sights and sounds of the city at night is to stroll through some of Chicago's safe, well-lit, and heavily populated parks and walkways.
Here are some must-see spots:
Millennium Park is a great place to visit any time of day, but it's particularly enchanting at night. The park is open until 11 pm every day and offers beautiful views of the city skyline. Don't miss the iconic Bean, which reflects the city's stunning architecture and provides an excellent photo op.
Another top attraction to visit at night is the Chicago Riverwalk. Stroll along the river and see the city in a whole new light. There are plenty of spots to sit down, relax, and enjoy the views of the city skyline. Stop at one of the bars and restaurants along the walkway for a bite and a refreshing drink.
The Lakefront Trail Walk is a beautiful walk along Lake Michigan that provides gorgeous glimpses of the colorful sunset skies and the city skyline lights at night. It's open 24 hours a day, and the path stretches 18.5 miles along Lake Michigan.
14) Catch a Nighttime Sporting Event
Chicago is a city that is home to many professional sports teams. Whether it's basketball, baseball, football, or hockey, a game is always happening in the Windy City. For sports enthusiasts, catching a nighttime sporting event in Chicago is epic!
Catch a game in the iconic Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs. The atmosphere around the stadium is electric, and Cubs fans are some of the most passionate in the country. Many games are held in the evening, allowing visitors to experience the magic of a nighttime game.
The United Center is the home of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks. The arena hosts a wide range of events beyond basketball games and hockey games. It also serves as a large concert venue.
If you can't score tickets to a live game, don't worry - Chicago is home to a vast selection of sports bars that screen all the big games. From neighborhood bars to rooftop lounges, there is a bar to suit every taste.
One of the best places to catch a game is at Timothy O'Toole's. The bar features more than 70 TVs and a wide range of beers on tap. Visitors can enjoy classic pub food while cheering on their favorite teams.
15) Use the Chicago Passes at Night
If you're planning to explore Chicago and make the most out of your visit, you should definitely consider purchasing a Chicago Pass such as CityPASS or Go CityⓇ not only do they grant you discounted access to multiple attractions, but some of them are open at night too so you can maximize your time in the city!
Here are some attractions you can enjoy after hours with your
- 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck - soak stunning views of the night skies, and enjoy a TILT ride or drink at CloudBar until 11 pm.
- The Field Museum - Stay after hours and participate in the exclusive after-hours experience, The Field Museum Underground.
- Adler Planetarium - Discover the wonders of space and astronomy during Night Sky Live, which includes live demonstrations and telescope viewing of the night sky.
- Shedd Aquarium - enjoy an exclusive 90-minute guided tour, after hours, of the aquarium.
- Chicago Architecture Foundation - book an evening river cruise to see the city's stunning architecture from a unique perspective.
Using the Chicago CityPASS or Go CityⓇ Passes at night time extends the number of attractions you will be able to see each day. Be sure to check which attractions are open at night, plan accordingly, and have a great time exploring Chicago's cultural scene after hours. Book at Chicago CityPASS directly here or Go City PassⓇ.
Now you're ready to hit Chicago at night! You've got many options and 49 places to discover this incredible city after dark. For more tips and ideas for your time in Chicago, check out our Summer Events Guide or dive deep to discover all the local finds in the Chicago Neighborhoods.
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