An Essential List Of The Best Photo Op Locations In Chicago

Elliot McGowan Elliot McGowan

An Essential List Of The Best Photo Op Locations In Chicago

Keeping up your ‘Gram game can be tough, we’ve got you covered.

You may have seen that Chicago was recently ranked in the top 10 most Instagrammable places on Earth. Now… we all know that, like all big cities, Chicago has its ugly side too. It’s, unfortunately, part of being such a huge metropolis. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that tourism is flourishing thanks to so many marvelous attractions around the city.

With all that Chicago has to offer the caliber of photo opportunities in the Windy City is finally being recognized. Some of us regulate our ‘Gram loudly and proudly, others keep a low profile, but we all know that a good unique Instagram opportunity is appreciated all around.

Whether you’re looking for an iconic Chicago shot or an awesome backdrop, Chicago’s variety of landmarks, murals, bars, bridges, and rooftops provide ample options more than worthy of the ‘Gram. We’ve cherry-picked the very best Instagram spots, both age-old timeless classics and some new 2021 artsy additions so you can stay one step ahead of the crowd.

1. The Bean AKA Cloud Gate

Yes, predictable as it is we have to start off with the Bean for obvious reasons. The huge shiny bean-like sculpture by Anish Kapoor is the result of 168 separate stainless steel plates welded together to imitate a drop of liquid mercury. After opening in 2004 it is now one of the most photographed spots in Chicago and has become synonymous with our great city.

In every season the light bouncing off the curved mirror surfaces and the reflections of the surrounding cityscape provides a unique photo opportunity. For locals, now is probably one of the best times you’re going to get to photograph it with a reduced number of tourists in Chicago.

Location: Millenium Park, 201 E. Randolph Street, Chicago

2. The “Greetings From Chicago” Mural

The Greetings from Chicago mural is without a doubt one of the most recognizable pieces of street art in Illinois. Situated in Logan Square, it was the first official on-the-road ‘postcard mural’ by NYC graffiti artist Victor Ving and Ohio-born photographer Lisa Beggs who traveled across 20 states unveiling different postcard murals along the way.

If you’re trying to show off your hometown pride, this is the place to do it. Finding a prismatic mural in Chicago is not difficult, but this is by far the most iconic piece with awesome artistic representations of the city painted inside each letter. More of Chicago’s legendary murals can be seen in our Chicago’s Best Murals article.

Location: 2226 N Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago

3. Crown Fountain

Another spot you simply can’t leave out is Crown Fountain. Despite some controversy when it was first unveiled, Crown Fountain is now one of Chicago’s most beloved landmarks and a surefire Instagram success. For over 16 years now locals and tourists alike have enjoyed Jaume Plensa’s stunning interactive public art feature.

The two 50-foot towers of LED screens feature the faces of 1,000 Chicagoans and a usual visit outside of winter you’d see water pouring out of the projected mouths onto squealing kids below. As both a poser’s paradise and an urban escape for frolicking children, Crown Fountain provides ample opportunity for some Instagrammable content day and night, and in any season. You can find some inspiration in our 20 Wonderful Photos Of Crown Fountain roundup.

Location: Millenium Park, 201 E. Randolph Street, Chicago

4. Chicago Theatre

Old-school neon signs are all the rage these days and nobody can deny the beauty of the iconic Chicago sign on the Chicago Theatre. Dubbed “the Wonder Theater of the World” when it was opened it has hosted the very best of theatre, comedy, and music for almost 100 years. In fact, in October later this year, it will mark its 100 year anniversary so those captions should come to you easily enough.

Location: 175 N State Street, Chicago

5. Michigan Avenue Bridge Viewpoint

Michigan Avenue Bridge, now known as the Du Sable Bridge, offers one of the city’s most famous viewpoints situated over the main stem of the Chicago River. Created to link Chicago’s north and south sides, the urban jungle that has developed around the Chicago River provides an iconic backdrop for those Instagram snaps. Sculptures, historic plaques, and 28 flagpoles make the bridge itself nearly as impressive as the view but it’s the remarkable sight of the Windy City skyline that will get those likes!

Location: North Michigan Avenue & East Wacker Drive, Chicago

6. Garfield Park Conservatory

Amidst the concrete jungle in Chicago’s prestigious Garfield Park is one of the largest and most stunning conservatories in the world. We’ve included the Garfield Park Conservatory in general because within you’ll find an abundance of photo opportunities that make it an  Instagrammer’s paradise. Plants from around the world under a crystal glass-roofed greenhouse are already ideal Instagram material but with the beautiful tiled Moroccan Zellij Fountain, the Jurassic-like Fern Room, and the tropical Desert House there are some terrific subjects for your Instagram success.

Location: 300 North Central Park Avenue, Chicago

7. The Sears Tower Ledge

Up the Sears Tower, (more formally known as the Willis Tower), our world-famous skyline can be seen from the tallest tower in Chicago, and the third tallest in the United States. A 60-second ride up to the cloud-piercing height of the 103rd floor lies the Skydeck where you can enjoy unparalleled 360-degree views over Chicago. It’s The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago, a glass viewing platform 4ft outside the building’s dimensions and 1,353 ft above ground level, that offers your Instagram something truly unique.

Location: 103rd Floor of The Willis Tower, 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago

8. The Atmospheric Wave Wall

Back down at the bottom of The Willis Tower, there’s a new 30-foot by 60-foot ‘Atmospheric wave wall that has only just gone up and we’re predicting big things.

The expansive installation by artist Olafur Eliasson was unveiled in January 2021. The Danish-Icelandic artist revealed that the 1,963 powder-coated stainless steel tiles are made to represent the surfaces of nearby Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. It’s both a soon-to-be Chicago landmark and an astounding Instagram backdrop that, given its youth, is yet to be exploited for its photo potential.

Location: Near the corner of Jackson Boulevard and Wacker Drive, Chicago

9. The Art Institute Of Chicago

Founded in 1879, The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. If there’s a major event going on in Chicago it’s likely the lion statues guarding the museum’s Michigan Avenue entrance will be dressed accordingly. Chicago’s sports teams have all dressed the iconic lions in the past and they’re some of the first in Chicago to dress up during special holidays. As a must-do activity, the museum makes for great Instagram content, particularly if the lion statues are wearing something seasonal.

Location: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago

10. Adler Planetarium

Another public museum to make this list, Adler Planetarium is found on the northeast tip of Northerly Island overlooking Lake Michigan. Though the first planetarium in the United States is itself a sight to behold and won awards from the American Institute of Architects in the past, it is the exceptional views that make it such an Instagrammable location. A wide, uninterrupted view of the Chicago skyline can be enjoyed along the water next to the planetarium which makes for a particularly good snap on a sunny day.

Location: 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

11. Beatnik West Town

There are few cafes in Chicago as stylish as Beatnik. The exotic escape boasts an opulent old-world design and an awesome terrace that offers Instagrammers plenty of opportunities for colorful, leafy content. The West Town restaurant was inspired by writers and artists of the 1950s and 60s Beat Generation. The decor inside consequently draws inspiration from around the world with bright colors, hundreds of plants, and a bohemian vibe. River seating offers an iconic setting and an open-air courtyard with a fully retractable roof is usually swamped in natural light that creates an incomparable backdrop.

Location: 180 North Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 606061300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

12. The Hampton Social

Instagrammers of Chicago are likely well acquainted with the Hampton Social and its famous pink neon “Rose All Day” sign. The coastal-inspired restaurant boasts modern minimalist décor and some sublime brunches. It’s an extremely Instagrammable restaurant that is quite rightly quite hard to get a seat at the best of times.

Location: 353 West Hubbard Street, Chicago

13. Recess Bar & Patio

Nestled within 30 shipping containers on a West Loop corner, Recess is home to a cozy amalgamation of bars, food stands, and cabana houses within a 14,500 -square-foot space that holds the title of the largest patio in Chicago. The stacked shipping containers give it an awesome reclaimed industrial vibe that you won’t find anywhere else in Chicago.

Location: 838 West Kinzie Street, Chicago

14. Cindy’s Rooftop

There is a good reason Instagrammers flock to Cindy’s, and that’s the sweeping views of Millennium Park that can be enjoyed from the unique rooftop. Self-described as “the jewel in the crown of the Chicago Athletic Association”, the rooftop restaurant and its open-air terrace were once an exclusive club owned by wealthy Chicago businessmen. Back then only special members could enjoy the extreme extravagance and you can see within that the elegance has not faded one bit.

Location: 12 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago

15. The Nature Boardwalk At Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is a renowned 35-acre zoo in Lincoln Park and a hotspot for tourists. It’s the zoo’s pavilion, designed to provide shelter for open-air on-site classes, that offers such a fantastically picturesque snap. With the design drawing inspiration from the appearance of a tortoise’s shell, the stunning curved wooden pavilion elegantly frames the Chicago skyline. Professional photographers and Instagrammers in equal measure flock here to snap the brilliant combination of nature, art, and cityscape.

Location: 2121 North Stockton Drive, Chicago

16. London House Chicago

London House Chicago is another spot that offers terrific panoramic views of Chicago. Though this time the elegant tri-level rooftop bar of the lavish hotel looks out over the Chicago River and the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue. There is often something special going on up on the London House rooftop but at any time the view down the river is astounding.

Location: 22nd Floor of London House Chicago, 85 East Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago

17. Navy Pier

You don’t have to be on Navy Pier to get a great snap. In any case, there is something magical about having the Ferris wheel or the Pepsi Wave Swinger in the backdrop of a photo, even more so in the evening when the pier is fully lit up. As Chicago’s second-biggest tourist attraction it’s not just an iconic landmark but also full of photo opportunities.

Location: 600 East Grand Avenue, Chicago

18. Hero Coffee Bar

Serving high-quality coffee, Hero Coffee Bar stands out for several reasons but its enormous ‘coffee sign situated on a balcony above its entrance is a wonderful view at all times of the day. You’ll find a lot of people come for the sign and stay for the coffee, though some may just stumble across this cute little gem hidden in downtown Chicago by accident. Either way, it is a brilliant place to meet friends, grab a drink, and take some iconic photos.

Location: 22 E Jackson Street, Chicago

 19. Maison Marcel Coffee Window

You’ll find a lesser-known Chicago photo op tucked away in an alley of Lincoln Park neighborhood. The Maison Marcel coffee window is an adorable little spot with a stunning floral mural covering the French bakery’s exterior and bohemian lights hanging over the coffee window. Like Beatnik, the backdrop creates a colorful and sensational setting that you will never get tired of.

Location: 2008 North Halsted, Chicago

20. North Avenue Beach

You’ll have to forgive us for another skyline suggestion but with such a sensational cityscape can you blame us? Lincoln Park’s North Avenue Beach is another place that Chicago’s skyline sits so wonderfully in the backdrop. Inevitably, it’s better to visit during the summer months but the view is extraordinary all year round. Located along the Lakefront Trail, you’ll find people cycling, running, walking, and rollerblading for most parts of the year.

Location: 1600 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

[Featured Image from Unsplash / @cliquestudios]

See more: 20 Must-See Street Art Murals That Prove Chicago’s Art Scene Is Legendary

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