Top 10 Sober Activities in Chicago

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From off-the-beaten-path museums to unique culinary tours, Chicago has endless alcohol-free options!

Chicago is a great city all-year-round, full of energy and activities. But, many people often associate going out in big cities with partying and drinking. The good news is: there are so many fun things to do in Chicago that do not involve bars and drinking. It is easier than you think to find healthy events and activities in the Windy City that do not involve drinking but rather involve exploring, history, dining, carefree fun, group activities, live music, and sports. 

Here are some of our top suggestions from CRC Institute that make continuing the path to sobriety a non-issue while exploring downtown for a weekend, a night out, or any time. You can stay on your healthy path while really taking advantage of the fun atmosphere throughout the city. Do not expect suggestions of quiet hikes and garden strolls … This list aims to show you that there are so many great, fulfilling, challenging, interesting activities in Chicago for the non-drinkers who want to get out and have some fun.

  1. Throw an Axe — Even though many axe throwing venues are located within bars, this sounds like an activity that is way wiser to do without alcohol! For the competitive people who are looking for a new challenge or for a fun group activity, try this sport. There are many venues around the Chicago area that offer axe throwing. A couple of places to check out: Bad Axe Throwing or Kanya Lounge. 
  2. Take a Float — I cannot think of anything more opposite from a night out clubbing and partying than silently floating in a saltwater tank as the only sound is your calm, slow breath. Studies have shown that floatation tanks can improve your mental health, provide relaxation, and aid in detoxification. There are many places that have float tanks throughout the city. After you have spent some time running around the city, try to get lost for an hour at Float Sixty or Freeze and Float Spa. 
  3. Listen to Live Music — Music can transport you, change your mood, and stimulate your mind; and live music, well, that can heal your soul. Chicago is known to have an active, diverse concert scene with nightly events ranging from jazz to rap to classical and everything in between. Be surrounded by friends and others who appreciate music as you support local artists or catch the hottest new artist who is touring through the city. For smaller and more unique venues, check out Kingston Mines, Lincoln Hall, and The Hideout. 
  4. Take a Donut Walking Tour — When you are looking to do something that does not involve drinks or bars but does involve the concept of bar hopping, why not try donut shop hopping? Of course, this activity does involve sampling! If you have a sweet tooth and are looking for a fun way to fill a morning or afternoon in the city, try one of Chicago’s delicious donut tours. Hey, you will be walking on the tour, so you probably will burn most of those donut-filled calories, too!
  5. Explore Chicago Via Kayak — If you are looking for a different way to see Chicago’s architecture and beauty other than a traditional boat tour or walking tour, try hopping in a kayak. There are guided tours that will lead you down the Chicago River as you learn about the city’s history while you paddle. Plus, if you are feeling extra adventurous, there are moonlit ghost kayak tours, too. 
  6. Explore Unique Museums — Chicago is known for many great museums, from the Museum of Science and Industry to the Museum of Contemporary Art. But, there are lesser-known museums that are worth exploring, too. Maybe you want to learn about a favorite author or be in a room full of butterflies. If so, check out the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, or the National Museum of Mexican Art. 
  7. Test Your Fear of Heights — Chicago has some of the world’s tallest buildings. Why not feel like you are standing on top of the city as you look out from one of these buildings where you will stand about 100 floors high? At the Willis Tower’s Skydeck, you can stand in a clear, glass observation deck on the 103rd floor! Or, try the 360 Chicago Observation Deck on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. This is not recommended for those who are afraid of heights!
  8. Turn Off Netflix — Instead of watching movies at home, get out and catch a film at one of Chicago’s unique movie theaters. The Music Box Theater is an old, beautiful spot that is worth a visit. Or, find a drive-in movie theater for a nostalgic night out. Check out ChiTown Movies in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and even get your popcorn and snacks delivered right to your car. 
  9. Step Inside a Comic Book — Chicago is known for so many top restaurants, and you will never run out of options. Yet, why not grab a bite while feeling like you are stepping into a comic book? The concept of these two-dimensional world venues originated in Malaysia and has made its way to the Windy City. Check out 2d Restaurant in the Lakeview area where you can enjoy mochi donuts, and make sure that you have your camera for some fun dining pics from this immersive experience. 
  10. Discover Outdoor Art — Instead of waiting in line and buying a ticket for an indoor museum, try strolling through an outdoor art gallery. View collections of outdoor murals and graffiti art when you head to the 16th Street Murals in the Pilsen neighborhood. The walls of an old two-mile-long railroad embankment comprise this unique place where you can appreciate other forms of art. 

Hopefully, these suggestions put you in an adventurous mood and help you to realize that drugs and alcohol are unnecessary components when it comes to truly exploring the complete and diverse life that breathes throughout Chicago. Whether it is baseball season or ice skating season, our city on Lake Michigan offers endless opportunities for unique and sober fun. 

Reviewed by Dr. Beth Dunlap

Reviewed by Dr. Beth Dunlap

Reviewed by Dr. Beth Dunlap

Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, is the medical director at CRC Institute, where she is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at the Institute. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.

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