The Windy City pulls together fun and education for student tours through its great architecture, fantastic museums, interesting sites and parks, and fabulous lakefront.
Student tours around Chicago
Try Wendella’s 90-minute Combined Lake and River Tour. See Lake Michigan and the Chicago River accompanied by a narration including architecture and history.
Student trips can include the two-hour, narrated Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Hop-On/ Hop Off Tour through 13 miles of downtown. The route stops include the Willis Tower, Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.
For educational student travel, tour the Pilsen/Little Village or Greek Town/Chinatown/Little Italy neighborhoods through Chicago Neighborhood Tours.
Popular Student Attractions in Chicago
Student tours can visit the Skydeck at the 110-story Willis Tower, the nation’s tallest building, formerly the Sears Tower. Students can look at the amazing view of Chicago and on a clear day see the states of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. On the 103rd floor, there’s the unique experience of the Skydeck Ledge. At 1,353 feet high, four glass boxes extend out of the Skydeck area by 4.3 feet. School trips will have a surreal experience of being suspended high in the air while seeing the city below.
Student travel groups can stop at the 94th-floor John Hancock Observatory and feel the Windy City on the open-air skywalk. They can learn about Chicago attractions through talking telescopes and see the history wall with over 80 feet of murals. Students can take bold, staged photos either as a high-rise window washer or a construction worker on a steel beam hundreds of feet in the air.
For educational student travel, check out Chicago’s museums. The Museum of Science and Industry has over 35,000 artifacts, a five-story domed, Omnimax theater and such permanent exhibits as U505 Submarine, Science Storms, Genetics and the Baby Chick Hatchery, Fast Forward . . . Inventing the Future, and Earth Revealed.
A school trip can stop at the Field Museum, where students will learn about exhibits including Lions of Tsavo, Bird Habitats, Inside Ancient Egypt and the Anicent Americas. At the Evolving Planet exhibit, student tours will go through four billion years of living, from single-celled organisms to dinosaurs and evolution. In the Grainger Hall of Gems, students learn how gemstones are found in nature and how they are cut by jewelers.
At the Art Institute of Chicago, artwork includes African, Ancient, Contemporary, European Decorative Arts and European Painting and Sculpture, Indian Art of the Americas and Thorne Miniature Rooms. School trips can view art from 1945 to the present at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Take an opportunity to learn about undersea creatures at the Shedd Aquarium. One of the exhibits is the Caribbean Reef, where parrotfish, sharks, green sea turtles, moray eels and rays make their home. At the Oceanarium, see the Beluga whales, sea otters, sea lions and Pacific white-sided dolphins.
School trips will see the universe’s wonders at Adler Planetarium, where there are three theaters and a collection of antique astronomical instruments. Permanent exhibits include Our Solar System, Bringing the Heavens to Earth and the Space Visualization Laboratory.
Student travel groups can stop at Navy Pier, where rides, restaurants, exhibitions, entertainment, shopping and cruises are available.
Student groups can take pictures of the metal sculpture Cloud Gate, “The Bean,” at Millennium Park while enjoying the park’s art, landscape design, architecture and music. Stop at adjacent Grant Park and see sites such as the Buckingham Fountain, the Lincoln Statue and the Cancer Survivors Garden. Across from Millennium Park, student tours can visit the Chicago Cultural Center, where over 800 free cultural programs are available every year. Try a self-guided tour at Garfield Park Conservatory, where your student group will explore lush, green plants under glass.
Annual festivals include: Celtic Fest Chicago, Chicago Gospel Music Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, Taste of Chicago, Chicago Air & Water Show, Viva Chicago Latin Music Festival and Chicago Jazz Festival.
Chicago Student Performance Venues
Student tour groups can give a performance at the Field Museum, Navy Pier and at the public spaces like the lobby area of the Willis Tower. Or schedule your student group to perform at noon at Under the Picasso at the Daley Plaza.
Attend the Magnificent Mile Lights festival, held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and take your marching band to participate in their parade. Chicago annual parades also include the Thanksgiving Parade and Memorial Day Parade.
Eating in Chicago
On your school trip, try Bubba Gump’s at Navy Pier, the Rainforest Café, Hard Rock Café, ESPN Zone or pizza at Giordano’s or Gino’s East. Other Chicago pizza places include Home Run Inn and Leona’s.
Take a school trip through Chicago Pizza Tours, where a bus takes passengers to four different pizzerias.
For Chicago hot dogs, try Superdawg, Hot Doug’s or Gold Coast Dogs.
Chicago is home to several burger places including Epic Burger, Grant’s Wonderburger Grill, Patty Burger and That’s-A-Burger. For lunch spots try Cafecito (Cuban sandwiches) and Perry’s (deli).
Chicago Hotel Locations for Student Groups
Some downtown Chicago hotels for budget-minded student group travel include the Fairfield Inn, Hampton Inn, Chicago Hilton and Towers and Comfort Suites. For other downtown hotels for your student travel group, check www.explorechicago.org.
Also try Hostelling International Chicago for lower rates. Student travel groups pay per bed and there are six, eight or 10 beds in a room.
“Chicago is a really great destination for travelers of all ages. It’s a vibrant, fun city where there’s always something to see and do. Best of all, many of the top activities, attractions and events are free! The website www.explorechicago.org is a great resource with lots of information for potential visitors,” said Karen Vaughan of the Chicago Office of Tourism.