Discovering Chicago’s Hidden Gems: Off-the-Beaten-Path Attractions


Chicago is a city known for its iconic landmarks and popular tourist attractions. However, beyond the well-known sites, there are numerous hidden gems waiting to be discovered. These off-the-beaten-path attractions offer a unique glimpse into the city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and diverse neighborhoods. If you’re looking to explore Chicago beyond the ordinary, this guide will take you on a journey to uncover some of the city’s best-kept secrets.

The Garfield Park Conservatory

Tucked away on the city’s West Side, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a lush oasis that offers a peaceful escape from the bustling city streets. With its stunning collection of plants and flowers from around the world, the conservatory is a hidden gem for nature enthusiasts. Visitors can explore its various indoor gardens, including the Palm House, Fern Room, and Desert House, each showcasing distinct ecosystems. Don’t miss the outdoor gardens and the picturesque lily pond, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a moment of tranquility.

The money Museum

Located within the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the money Museum provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the country’s financial system. Discover the history of currency, explore interactive exhibits, and get a chance to hold a real bar of gold. Learn about the intricacies of monetary policy and gain a deeper understanding of how money shapes our lives. Admission to the museum is free, making it an affordable and educational experience for all visitors.

The Oriental Institute Museum

Nestled on the University of Chicago campus, the Oriental Institute Museum houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of ancient Middle Eastern artifacts. From Egyptian mummies to Mesopotamian clay tablets, this hidden gem offers a glimpse into the ancient civilizations that once thrived in the region. Explore the museum’s permanent exhibits and temporary displays, attend lectures and workshops, or simply wander through the halls filled with archaeological wonders. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged to support the museum’s preservation efforts.

Chinatown Square

Chicago’s Chinatown is a vibrant neighborhood that showcases the city’s Chinese heritage. While the main streets are popular among tourists, venture a little further to Chinatown Square, a hidden gem tucked away from the bustling crowds. This serene outdoor plaza features traditional Chinese architecture, beautifully landscaped gardens, and a stunning replica of the Nine Dragon Wall from Beijing. Explore the shops, indulge in authentic cuisine, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural experience that Chinatown Square has to offer.


1. How do I get to these off-the-beaten-path attractions?

Getting to these hidden gems is relatively easy. The Garfield Park Conservatory and Chinatown Square are accessible by public transportation, with several bus and train options available. The Oriental Institute Museum is located near several bus stops, and there are parking facilities nearby for those driving. The money Museum is also easily reachable by public transportation, located near multiple subway stations.

2. Are these attractions suitable for families?

Yes, all of these attractions are family-friendly and suitable for visitors of all ages. The Garfield Park Conservatory offers children’s activities and workshops, while the Oriental Institute Museum often hosts family-oriented events. The money Museum provides an educational experience for kids to learn about money and its importance. Chinatown Square is a great place to explore and enjoy family-friendly cultural experiences.

3. Are these attractions free?

The Garfield Park Conservatory, Oriental Institute Museum, and admission to Chinatown Square are all free of charge. The money Museum is also free, making it an affordable option for visitors on a budget. However, donations are encouraged to support the museums’ conservation and educational efforts.

4. Are there any guided tours available?

While these attractions do not offer regular guided tours, they often have knowledgeable staff members available to answer questions and provide information. Additionally, audio guides or brochures may be available for self-guided tours. Check the respective websites or inquire upon arrival for more details.

5. Can I take photographs in these attractions?

Photography policies may vary for each attraction. In general, photography is allowed, but flash and tripods may be prohibited. It’s always best to check the specific guidelines posted at each location or ask a staff member for clarification.


Chicago’s hidden gems offer a chance to discover a different side of the city and create lasting memories. From the lush greenery of the Garfield Park Conservatory to the ancient artifacts of the Oriental Institute Museum, these off-the-beaten-path attractions provide a unique and enriching experience for visitors. So, step off the tourist path and uncover the hidden treasures that make Chicago truly special.