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5 Under-the-Radar Attractions in Chicago
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May 2, 2019
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Matt Harding
Matt Harding is a magazine writer, photographer and former newspaper reporter who loves to travel.
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Chicago is a gem of the Midwest, and it's a beacon for culture and fun travel attractions. But it’s not all about Navy Pier, world-class museums and the famous “Bean” sculpture, Cloud Gate, located in Millennium Park. It’s also about lesser-known destinations and places that are sometimes overlooked by those who only have a few days to spend in the Windy City. Here are the five most under-the-radar attractions in Chicago.

The Green Mill

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Opened in 1907 as Pop Morse’s Roadhouse, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge in the city’s Uptown neighborhood is steeped in history. Today, it’s known for its jazz and poetry performances, but it once had connections to the mob. Al Capone frequented the establishment, as Jack McGurn of Capone’s Chicago Outfit became part owner. The mob boss’s favorite booth is still in the facility, where there were views of the front and back entrances – just in case.

Robie House

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Located on the University of Chicago campus, the Robie House was built from 1909-1910 and was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s an example of a “Prairie School,” the first architectural style said to be completely an American design. The building, once considered for the wrecking ball, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Garfield Park Conservatory

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The Garfield Park Conservatory is a great place to walk around in Chicago. Located on the city’s west side, it’s one of the largest greenhouse conservatories in the U.S. at 4.5 acres. It contains a number of permanent plant exhibits, including some cycads that are more than 200 years old. The present structure has been in place for 101 years. Admission is free and the building is open to the public 365 days a year.

Lincoln Park Zoo

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Another free attraction is the Lincoln Park Zoo. Also like the Garfield Park Conservatory, it’s open daily. Founded in 1868, it’s one of the oldest zoos in all of North America, too. While there are 200 different species of animals – with more arriving all the time – you can also visit the Lincoln Park Zoo for a great walk and incredible views of the Chicago skyline from the North Side neighborhood.

Shedd Aquarium

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You’ll have to pay for this one, but the Shedd Aquarium is an amazing sorta-under-the-radar attraction. Located near the famous Field Museum, it’s often overlooked in favor of the Field. But it should be seen in conjunction with it, not instead of it (both are well-visited). Opened in 1930, the aquarium contains 32,000 animals and was the largest indoor aquarium in the world with 5 million gallons of water in its tanks. Its Waters of the World gallery features exhibits on oceans, rivers, islands and lakes, and has species like the giant Pacific octopus, blue iguana, seahorses, starfish and so much more.