Seattle and Chicago are among the top 20 largest cities in the US. So both of these cities fit a ton of exciting attractions to keep the tourists coming.
These two offer a well-rounded trip, thanks to their diverse mix of draws. Foodies, art lovers, outdoorsmen, and everyone else have tons of things to see and do in both cities.
This is where their similarities end though. Seattle and Chicago have draws that they’ve truly made their own, influenced by their history and even their landscape.
Even with their differences, it’s hard to choose which one to tick off your travel bucket list first. But below, you’ll find out which of the two fits you best!
In so many ways, Chicago is a city that only gets better the longer you stay. Be it the amazing food, the stunning architecture, the miles and miles of waterways and green space, it’s a city that has it all. But Chicago has tons of other hidden gems, and uncovering them all is an exciting quest that hooked so many travelers.
What Makes Chicago Unique?
An Inspiring, Living Art Exhibit
Art lover or not, experiencing Chicago’s vibrant art scene is inescapable. Chicago is home to countless incredible art museums and galleries. But art lives in its streets too, giving the city color, and offering you tons of masterpieces to marvel at.
Arguably the focal point of the city’s art scene, the Art Institute of Chicago is among the greatest museums in the world. There are many reasons to visit this award-winning museum as art fills its every wall. It’s home to over hundreds of thousands of artworks that span 5000 years of culture from around the world.
But the highlight of this museum is its wealth of world-famous artworks. Here, you’ll find Vincent van Gogh’s The Bedroom, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, and more!
If you’d rather dive into the city’s exciting independent art gallery scene, you’ll get spoiled for choices.
Head to the city’s South Side neighborhoods for its diverse mix of art galleries. This includes the neighborhoods of Bridgeport, Pilsen, and Hyde Park. Find artist-run galleries, featuring new talents and showcasing various mediums of art.
To make things more exciting, visit Bucktown and Wicker Park. These neighborhoods have some of the most cutting-edge art scenes in Chicago. A magnet for outlier artists, you’ll find galleries that focus on mixed-media art, experimental art, and more.
Experiencing Chicago’s art scene doesn’t have to be indoors. Sprinkled across the city are countless public art, ranging from sculptures to murals.
At Daley Plaza, you’ll find a famous sculpture that Picasso made specifically for the city. At Wabash Arts Corridor, you can marvel at some large-scale urban murals. And Chase Plaza is home to the famous Four Seasons mosaic.
Chicago’s parks also feature fascinating artworks. Stroll around Millennium Park and you’ll find the world-famous Cloud Gate sculpture, more known as “The Bean”.
Immerse Yourself in Its Legendary Entertainment Scene
With creativity so intertwined in its culture, visual art isn’t the only way Chicago showcases its artistic prowess. Chicago has long been a renowned music and theater city, and it attracts tourists for these alone. Experience its vibrant entertainment scene yourself, as Chicago has tons of options for you to do so.
Chicago has an illustrious musical history, making it one of the most exciting music cities in the US. The city is the birthplace of several influential music styles, such as modern gospel, house, and Chicago-style blues. In particular, it’s the city’s blues scene that truly captured the attention of many.
Known as a mecca for the blues, this musical genre is as much a part of the city’s culture as its Chicago-style pizza. There’s always a live music show near you in Chicago, and all you have to do is pick a venue for some late-night jams. Some of the best neighborhoods for this are the culturally diverse Uptown, the artist haven of Wicker Park, and the hipster Logan Square.
If you’re more of a theater lover, you’ve come to the right city. Chicago is home to one of the most exciting theater scenes in the country. With over 250 theaters, five of which are Tony Award-winning, and a diverse theater scene, you’re never too far from a show here!
Head to The Loop in downtown Chicago, where you’ll find the Chicago Theater District. This district is the home of world-class productions.
At the heart of the district’s theater scene are three Broadway theaters. But it’s the Tony Award-winning Goodman Theatre that captures the attention of many.
Dive a bit deeper into Chicago’s Theater scene and check out its independent theaters. The city’s neighborhoods boast a diverse collection of theaters.
There’s Steppenwolf Theater in Lincoln Park, one of the best places to showcase new works in the US. Enjoy a moving performance of Shakespeare’s classics at Navy Pier’s Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Or watch some classic shows with a modern take at the Court Theater of the University of Chicago.
There’s an Architectural Masterpiece at Every Turn
Like its other allures, Chicago’s boundless innovation is evident in its beautiful buildings. Chicago is the birthplace of skyscrapers, a feat that made a lasting impression in the world of architecture. So it’s no surprise that Chicago’s buildings themselves attract tourists from around the world.
After the Great Chicago Fire, Chicago did an impressive job of rebuilding itself. Not only has it preserved historic buildings, such as Art Deco masterpieces. But its skyline is ever-evolving with shiny glass-and-steel monoliths too.
While you can take an incredible view of the city, taking its beauty in at once, it’s best to explore the city on foot. This way, you can get a closer look at the artistry that made the buildings below such an icon in Chicago’s cityscape.
One of the most recognizable buildings in the city is the Wrigley Building. Its architectural style is unique in that it’s designed with two influences in mind.
The building’s bell tower takes after the Giralda Tower of Seville in Spain. This, combined with French Renaissance details, makes the building a sight like no other. Covered in glazed white terracotta, the Wrigley gleams when sunlight hits it, a luminous sight on the Chicago Riverwalk.
An architectural gem that resembles a waterfall is the Aqua Tower. This is an award-winning monolith famous for its wave-like balconies that wrap around a modern boxy structure.
The Tribune Tower is another unmissable landmark in Chicago. What makes it so special is that it features some of the most famous architectural styles in the world. This power office, covered in Indiana limestone, has vertical piers and horizontal spandrels from Art Deco. Its crown, is reminiscent of a Medieval European tower, emulating the Butter Tower of France.
Its facade borrows some other features of historic buildings from around the world. This includes the Great Pyramid in Giza, the Parthenon in Athens, and the Winter Palace in Beijing.
Get a Taste of Its Delicious and Iconic Food
One of the best-loved foodie cities in the US, Chicago’s food scene alone leaves tourists coming back for more. For a low price tag, you’ll have a wide spectrum of food choices that offer the flavors of the world. Whether you’re craving Italian, Turkish, or Korean, Chicago knows how to tickle your taste buds.
But when in this food-loving city, a plate of their invented or perfected dishes is a must. Chicago is home to some iconic dishes that you won’t find elsewhere!
No trip to Chicago is complete without the city’s most iconic food, the deep-dish pizza. A deep-dish pizza is more of a pie, with a buttery crust lining the pan, holding the ingredients. This dish doesn’t skimp on toppings too, you’ll get a mountain of mozzarella, a layer of meat such as sausage, veggies of all kinds, and more!
Unlike other pizzas, you’ll need more than your hands when eating a Chicago deep-dish pizza. Grab a knife and fork, and help yourself to a giant slice of gooey goodness.
Another must-try is the Chicago-style hot dog. And yes, the city has somehow made this all-American classic its own. So, what makes this iconic eat so different?
A Chicago-style hot dog uses an all-beef frankfurter, stuffed in a steamed poppy-seed bun. Unlike a typical dog, you won’t find ketchup on a Chicago hot dog, but mustard is sometimes used. The staple toppings include sweet pickles, wedged tomatoes, chopped onions, and peppers.
Get a taste of Chicago’s cultural diversity in one bite with a Jibarito Sandwich. It’s believed that this delicious sandwich was born in the city. Juan “Pete” Figueroa first introduced this dish in 1996, and since then, this sandwich took the city by storm!
So what makes this Puerto Rican–flavored dish so addicting? This sandwich uses two pieces of fried plantain instead of bread. Inside, you’ll find garlic-flavored mayo, lettuce, onions, cheese, and fresh tomatoes!
The Great Outdoors Are Within Your Reach
“Urbs in horto” is the city’s motto, a Latin phrase that translates to “City in a Garden”. Chicago lives up to its motto, as 8300 acres (3359 hectares) of its land is a lush, green space. And these green pockets aren’t only a space to soak up the sun, as they offer tons of fun things to do too.
Dubbed “The City’s Front Yard”, Grant Park is Chicago’s best-loved and most famous park. At 139 acres (129 hectares) big, this park is home to tons of famous sights and offers a ton of outdoor recreation.
Grant Park features Millennium Park, home of the iconic landmark called the Cloud Gate or “The Bean”. Grant Park is also home to Buckingham Fountain, which has been a backdrop of films. And in the park is the Museum Campus, where you can find museums like the Art Museum and Field Museum.
More than its attractions, Grant Park is also the home base for many fun summer festivals. This includes concerts like Lollapalooza and a free festival, the Grand Park Music Festival. This is also the base of the Taste of Chicago, a large and free outdoor foodfest.
If you’d rather spend an active day and take in the city’s beauty, rent a bike and cycle the Lakefront Trail. This 18-mile (29 km) long path connects all four of Chicago’s lakefront parks.
You’ll get a stunning view of Lake Michigan’s shoreline on one side and verdant green spaces on the other. Other than that, you’ll get views of natural sanctuaries, busy boardwalks, boat harbors, and more.
Perhaps you’d rather hang out at the lakefront. Chicago has an incredible collection of over 20 beaches across its 28 miles (45 km) of freshwater shoreline. Soak up the sun, play volleyball, try some water sports, or just unwind!
Seattle may be famous for its rainy weather, but it doesn’t deter millions of tourists from visiting the city year after year. As a green-clad coastal city, Seattle gives you access to its expansive outdoors. Marvel at the mountains that surround it, hang out at the city’s sprawling shorefront, or explore lush, green areas.
But the Emerald City is more than its natural beauty. It also offers the convenience of a big city. With tons of museums, an exciting food scene, and loads of iconic sights, Seattle will keep you busy on your trip.
What Makes Seattle Unique?
A Green-Filled Outdoorsmen’s Playground
Seattle is a city of undeniably breathtaking natural beauty. Marvel at the city from a viewpoint and you’ll soon find out why it’s such a scenic city. There’s a bit of everything here, the sea, the mountains, and the lush green spaces.
Surrounding the city to the east is the Cascade Mountains, and to the west is the Olympic Mountain Range. And looming over the city in the south is the famous Mount Rainier.
Turn to the east again and you’ll find the glistening waters of Lake Washington. To the west is Puget Sound in all its serene beauty.
But Seattle’s natural beauty wouldn’t be complete without its many green pockets. Seattle has the nickname the “Emerald City” as it’s covered with all shades of green no matter the season. And that’s because Seattle is so filled with evergreen flora, making the city such a green paradise year-round.
All these combined, Seattle offers you a wide array of tranquil green oases that always have a majestic mountain range looming over you. Whether you want to hang out by the lakefront or hike into the wilderness, Seattle knows how to please the outdoor lover in you.
The city has over 485 parks for you to choose from, so there’s a green space for everyone here. But among all these parks, here are the prettiest ones—
Stroll around winding paths decorated with lush foliage native to the Northwest at Kubota Garden. This garden is perfect for some quiet contemplation, as it’s rarely crowded.
Want to get views of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound in one frame? Head to Discovery Park, where you can marvel at the beauty of all three in one place. This is a secluded land that features meadowlands, thickets, sand dunes, and more!
Heading out with children? Lincoln Park is one of Seattle’s best family-friendly parks.
Its forested area is well-equipped for outdoor recreation. Featuring a big playground, wading pool, zip line, endless grassy fields, and more, there are tons of ways to have fun here.
An Exciting Gastronomic Adventure
Seattle’s vibrant and exciting food scene makes use of the natural beauty that surrounds the city. With fertile lands and seas teeming with life, Seattle only puts the freshest, high-quality ingredients on your plate. And with thousands of restaurants to choose from, you’re bound to find the perfect host for your feast.
There are many ways for you to get a taste of Seattle’s zinging food scene. But the highlight of any food tour in the city is tasting its many seafood offers.
Seattle is one of the best cities in the country to grab a plate of seafood. In particular, eating salmon here is an experience like no other.
With seafood straight from Puget Sound, you can get the fresh catch of the day directly from the fishermen. But eating at a restaurant is the way to go. This way, Seattle can showcase the culinary talent that it homes.
In the Pike Place Market alone, you’ll find endless rows of seafood restaurants. The market also sells the fresh catch of the day, and these make their way onto your plate, ready to tickle your tastebuds.
Other than the food, Seattle also has a thriving and evolving craft beer scene. It’s home to around 70 breweries, serving locally made brews along with taprooms and tons of speakeasy bars.
Seattle is famous for its freshly hopped brews. This is because the Pacific Northwest grows around 95 percent of the country’s hops.
More than that, one of the best things about the city’s beer scene is that it’s so easy to go on a beer crawl. No matter which taproom you choose, there’s always another one around the corner.
And Seattle’s breweries welcome a diverse array of clientele. Come in with your dog, or play a board game with your kids while drinking some beer!
A Vibrant and Innovative Art City
Seattle has a long, illustrious history as a musical powerhouse, a seafood paradise, and many other allures. But often overshadowed is its reputation as the Pacific Northwest’s thrilling art hub. And the city has already made a name for itself as an innovative and experimental art city.
At the heart of the city’s art scene is the largest art institution in the region, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). It’s made up of a trifecta of museums: the main museum, SAM, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
The Seattle Art Museum is where you can marvel at a diverse collection of artworks that span from ancient works to modern ones. The Seattle Asian Art Museum is where you can gain a deeper appreciation of Asian culture. While the Olympic Park is a sprawling outdoor museum that features award-winning sculptures.
Stray away from this trifecta, and you’ll find a more colorful and exciting way to uncover Seattle’s artistic side.
Check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass. It’s home to one of the largest glasswork collections of the glassblowing master Dale Chihuly.
The Glasshouse itself is a tall, cascading glass structure that allows light to illuminate the glass sculptures. Here you’ll find glass sculptures of all kinds, taking on different forms, hung around the area. These glassworks add a whimsical charm to the garden, making it look ethereal.
A museum for all the senses, the Museum of Pop Culture is one of the top must-visits in the city. This museum houses tons of interactive exhibits covering almost everything about pop culture! Geek out at the science fiction areas, pay homage to Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, pick up a guitar at the sound lab, and more!
Quirky Landmarks That Are Uniquely Seattle
Other than its other draws, Seattle attracts millions of tourists each year for its iconic landmarks. The city is brimming with fascinating landmarks, both famous and lesser-known ones. With this, you’ll have a seemingly endless list of sightseeing opportunities in Seattle.
At the top of the list is the world-famous Seattle icon, the Space Needle. From just about anywhere in the city, you can marvel at its unique architecture. But there are other ways to experience the Space Needle.
Climb up to the top, where you’ll find the saucer-shaped observation deck. Get a 360 view of the city and its beautiful natural surroundings, such as Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. You can even enjoy a meal at its rotating restaurant with stunning views in the backdrop.
A historic and well-loved landmark, the Pike Place Market is more than a feast for your eyes. This is one of the oldest marketplaces in the country that’s still in use today. And you can help yourself to an extensive range of goods to buy here, along with tasty food.
A more tranquil yet entertaining day awaits you at the Ballard Locks. Here, you can get a view of how maritime traffic works around Seattle’s waters. Watch boats transition from the freshwater of Lake Washington to saltwater in Puget Sound.
More than that, you can also go on a kayak ride here along Lake Union. And if you’re visiting Seattle from June to October, you’ll find salmons migrating here. They’ll go from saltwater, where they live, to freshwater to spawn!
Seattle is also home to some unusual yet amusing landmarks.
On an unassuming alleyway of the Pike Place Market, you’ll find the Gum Wall. This wall has been here since the 1990s. And it started when patrons and performers stuck their gum on the wall before heading into Unexpected Productions.
Gum Wall is now several inches thick, covering a massive expanse of brick in the alley. You’re even welcome to add your masterpiece here!
Then there’s the troll that lives under the bridge, the Fremont Troll. Under the Aurora Bridge is a massive troll sculpture that tourists love to visit despite the lack of parking space. The troll even has a real Volkswagen Beetle crushed up in its hand!
What Is Better to Visit – Chicago or Seattle?
The better city to visit between Chicago and Seattle will depend on what your priorities are.
If you’re a foodie, what kind of food do you want to eat? Chicago made some existing dishes their own, such as deep-dish pizza and the Chicago hot dog. More than that, the city is a powerhouse when it comes to Italian and Puerto Rican cuisine.
Meanwhile, Seattle is one of the best cities to eat seafood, especially salmon. Seattle also has a renowned Asian food scene.
If you’re a music lover, what kind of genre are you into? You can find a live music venue in either city that showcases all genres. But Chicago is famous for its jazz and blues music, while Seattle is well-known for its alternative music.
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors, how do you plan to have fun? With all the natural wonders around Seattle, the city is famous for mountain sports, like hiking and skiing. But Chicago, being on Lake Michigan, is better for water sports such as paddleboarding.
When it comes to other allures, Chicago is better. The city is better for shopping, nightlife, and theater. It also has more museums and historical sights for you to explore.
Is Seattle Safer Than Chicago?
According to NeighborhoodScout’s data, Chicago is a safer city than Seattle. Their data shows that Chicago has an annual crime rate of 32.51. Seattle has a higher annual crime rate of 63.50.
This data takes each city’s violent crime rate and property crime rate into account. Reviewing this will give you more insight into each city’s safety.
In Chicago, the violent crime rate is 8.7 per 1000 residents. The national median has a rate of 4.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s property crime rate is around 23.82 per 1000 residents, with the national median being 19.
Seattle has a violent crime rate of 8.02, and a property crime rate of 55.47.
Taking these into account, you have to be careful with your belongings when in Seattle. This isn’t much of an issue in Chicago.
Despite what the data may suggest, both cities are relatively safe. Especially for their big site. Always practice caution, never go into unknown areas, and stick to well-known spots.
Seattle vs. Chicago Weather
While Seattle is quite a rainy city, it doesn’t have extreme temperature changes. Thus, the Emerald City experiences more temperate weather.
Meanwhile, Chicago has more dramatic seasonal changes. The city experiences freezing and snowy winters and hot and humid winters.
The annual temperature in Seattle is around 37 to 79 F (2.8 to 26.1 C). While the annual temperature in Chicago is around 22 to 83 F (-5.6 to 28 C).
Is Seattle Bigger Than Chicago?
Seattle is a smaller city than Chicago. Its land area is around 84 square miles (217 square km). Meanwhile, Chicago’s land area is around 234 square miles (607 square km).