Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Student Group Tour magazine will continue to provide ideas for planning educational travel. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.

Chicago, poet Carl Sandburg famously declared, was “proud to be Hog / Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with / Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.” Today, 106 years after Sandberg’s “Chicago” appeared in print, the city on the shore of Lake Michigan proudly welcomes student groups.

Chicago is bursting with world-class, big city culture. But at its heart, it’s a Midwestern city — which means student groups receive a warm welcome and genuine hospitality.

“Student groups when visiting Chicago not only learn how this city has become the best example of urban planning, birthplace of the skyscraper, state-of-the-art museums and deep-dish pizza, but also most attractions have integrated programs related to STEAM and STEM to benefit the young generation with programs that will enhance their visit,” said Arnaldo Altoran, director of global development, the Americas, for Choose Chicago. “Some example of these institutions are 360 Chicago, Skydeck, Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry, to name a few.”

Choose Chicago

American Writers Museum

American Writers Museum Chicago
American Writers Museum
Credit: Barry Brecheisen

American Writers Museum is the first museum solely devoted to celebrating American writers and their works. A new, first-of-its-kind app, Write In: A Teacher-Curated Tour, helps teachers and students engage with the museum’s unique field trip curriculum. The app is meant to serve as a supplement to traditional school trips. Teachers can create lesson plans in advance of their visit. Since the curriculum is not age-specific, it can be tailored for each classroom.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Chicago Shakespeare Theater exterior
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Credit: James Steinkamp

The theater works to bring William Shakespeare to life in the school curriculum. The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier offers a relatively new trend in theater architecture. Nine mobile audience “towers” can be arranged in a wide variety of ways and seat 150 to 850. The Yard joins the theater’s 500-seat Courtyard Theater and the Upstairs Theater. Discounted student matinees are offered throughout the season; reservations should be made several months in advance.

Gallagher Way

Gallagher Way
Gallagher Way, Chicago
Credit: Choose Chicago

Gallagher Way, formerly known as The Park at Wrigley, is an open-air plaza next to Wrigley Field. Join Wrigley Field Tours for a behind-the scenes look at the historic ballpark, which include great photo-ops on the field. Book the Interactive Educational Tour tailored for school groups of 20 or more. After, pick up a souvenir at the Cubs Store and stop at the Trophy Room to see the Cubs’ 2016 World Series trophy.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Edward Hooper Nighthawks
Edward Hopper. Nighthawks, 1942. Friends of the American Art Collection. The Art Institute of Chicago
Credit: Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago

Students encounter works of art, participate in group discussions and apply critical and creative thinking skills when visiting The Art Institute of Chicago. The Ryan Learning Center has been transformed into an activities space. Self-guided tours allow educators to lead their pre-K–12 students through the museum galleries. Docent-led tours are available on a variety of topics, from European art to modern art and from writing and drawing tours to studio tours.


360 chicago
Credit: 360 CHICAGO

Higher learning takes on a new meaning at 360 CHICAGO, located on the 94th floor of John Hancock Center. Sky School educational modules, based on grade level, contain activities to optimize a student visit. A performance space is available for a band or choir. An add-on option is TILT. This enclosed, glass and steel moveable platform holds up to eight visitors per cycle. The platform slowly tilts outward to an adventurous angle, generating downward-facing views of Chicago.