Chicago After Dark: Places To Visit in Chicago at Night

Chicago doesn’t have the pleasure of being known as a city that never sleeps, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit. If you’ve ever been downtown after nightfall and seen the city lights come to life, you know Chicago is just as beautiful under the moon as she is under the sun. From the sparkling marquees of the downtown theater district to beckoning classic lounges, Chicago’s offerings don’t disappear after 7 p.m. 

There is so much to do beyond just the Loop or River North neighborhoods in the city center. You can’t vibe at Al Capone’s Green Mill lounge if you don’t wander a bit out of the middle of the city. So do some exploring to see a different side of the Windy City after the sun sets – you’ll be glad you did. 

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Things to do/Places to visit at Night

Many tourist activities, such as touring Wrigley Field or going to the viewing deck or Skydeck at Willis Tower, are typical day activities. However, other things, like hanging out at Navy Pier (the views from the Millennium Wheel at night are top-notch) or walking the Riverwalk, are easily made better under the moonlight. 

Museum buffs will appreciate the after-hours events at our many incredible museums. From chilling with the dinosaurs at the Field Museum to sleepin’ with the fishes at Shedd Aquarium, there are options for the whole family. Parents can jam at events like Jazzin’ at the Shedd, while everyone can enjoy Adler at Night at the Adler Planetarium. 

For anyone coming to Chicago for its world-famous performing arts scene, you’re in luck. Although you can see matinees at many of the theaters around the city, many of them indeed come to life at night. Comedy clubs can be found in several pockets of Chicago, though the most famous one is Second City – named as such for one of Chicago’s many nicknames.  

There are also beloved theaters performing world premieres or familiar favorites, musicals, and sometimes even pre-Broadway runs of shows. You never know what you can experience here. You might even see the next big star or a personal favorite as major players frequent roles at spots like the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Millennium Park, Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean is one of the parks major attractions from 6am - 11pm daily.

Dining and Nightlife

When you’re in downtown Chicago, one of the best things you can do at night is see the glittering architecture surrounding you. This is easily done at one of the many rooftop bars or rooftop dining experiences. Several, like Cerise Rooftop or LH Rooftop, are open late, so they’re perfect for a pre or post-activity rendezvous. 

There is also no shortage of clubs throughout the city, especially in River North, Logan Square, and Wicker Park, which visitors frequent. Chicago is a musical city, having made waves in genres like urban blues, modern jazz, and house music, to name a few. House music was born from an underground music scene in Chicago in the 1980s. It is believed to have been popularized at a now historic spot called The Warehouse. 

A few of the best clubs in the area include Tao Chicago, Smart Bar, and Sound Bar. These are great spots if you’re looking to dance the night away. Whereas spots like The Green Mill, Andy’s Jazz Club, and The Jazz Showcase are perfect for simply enjoying music and perhaps a cocktail or two. Jazz Showcase is actually the oldest jazz club in the city, dating back to 1947. Some of the greats who played there through the years include Frank Morgan, Roy Hargrove, and James Carter. 

Sunset Aerial view of Chicago Skylines building at Chicago downtown in Chicago City Illinois USA. Looking to the south of Chicago.

Late-Night Eats

If you’re a deep-dish fan like me (or just pizza in general), you’re in luck. There are a lot of Chicago pizzerias, particularly downtown, that are open late. When those tomatoey and cheesy cravings hit, you’ve got options. From the originator of the deep-dish pizza Pizzeria Uno to a more economic spot like Rosati’s and even my favorite chain, Giordano’s, all of these are open well into bar time. 

Perhaps thanks to Chicago’s nightlife culture, we’ve got a lot of taverns that will keep the kitchens open longer than a typical bar. If you’re hanging out downtown or in River North, a few of the better late-night eats spots include Siena Tavern, State and Lake Chicago Tavern, and Elephant & Castle.

E&C is a British-style pub and a favorite of mine for late-night comfort food when I’m downtown. I absolutely adore their poutine, chicken club, and (of course) Bailey’s cheesecake. 

Homemade Skillet Deep Dish Chicago Pizza with Mozzarella

Safety Tips for Night Explorers

Any place, regardless of its size, can have crime. When you’re in a big city, there are extra precautions you should take to prevent it. When you’re a tourist who isn’t necessarily sure where you are at all times, you’re a particular target for things like petty theft. Take it from a Chicagoan and use these tips to keep yourself safe while exploring the city at night. 

  • Never board an empty train car – there is usually a reason it is empty. 
  • Keep your wallet, keys, phone, etc., in your front pockets, not the back. 
  • If your gut says a situation isn’t safe, trust it. 
  • Hold your purse or bag close to your body. If you have a backpack or other large bag, consider carrying it in front rather than in the back, especially on public transportation.
  • Should you find yourself confronted by a stranger and feel unsafe, get loud. This will often make people uncomfortable and leave you alone. 
CHICAGO, IL : inside of John Hancock Center's observatory. The John Hancock Center is a supertall skyscraper at 875 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago.


No matter the time of year, Chicago is always a place that comes alive at night. Warmer months like July invite exciting activities, such as fireworks over Lake Michigan or Art on the Mart with projections on Merchandise Mart. It’s cliche, but this is truly a place where there is something for everyone. Club rats to fine dining aficionados can enjoy one night or many in the welcoming arms of the Windy City. 

Even in the wintertime, if you don’t mind the cold, little huts pop up around the city for sort-of outdoor dining or drinks. Holiday lights add pops of color around the shops and parks, and our Christmas tree in Millennium Park becomes a beacon for visitors, glistening off of The Bean nearby. 

However you do Chicago, the fun doesn’t have to end just because the sun goes down. Now you know just a handful of ways this city keeps the party going long into the night. So grab some deep-dish and make it a party. 

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  • Amanda Finn

    Amanda, a Chicago-based travel journalist, has explored 20 countries and 27 states since childhood. Featured in publications like Huffington Post and Ms. Magazine, they specialize in LGBTQIA+ travel, theme parks, itineraries, traveling with pets, and purposeful travel.

    View all posts https://www.tiktok.com/@finnwrites

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