Here is your Muslim-Friendly Guide to Chicago. If like me you always wanted to add Chicago to your places to visit in the US after watching so many movies you are in for a treat. It is known for its stunning architecture, deep-dish pizza, and beautiful lakefront.v
This vibrant city became one of my favourite places in the US after I visited as a solo Muslim woman this year. I absolutely loved the vibe and relaxing atmosphere of downtown Chicago and I can see why it is a favourite destination for millions of travellers every year.
In this article, I will provide a comprehensive guide to Muslim-friendly Chicago. We will cover everything from halal restaurants and mosques to Muslim-friendly neighborhoods and tourist attractions. Whether you are traveling alone or with family, this guide will help you make the most of your trip to Chicago.
Brief History of Chicago
Chicago is a city located in the state of Illinois in the United States. It is one of the most populous cities in the country, with a population of over 2.7 million people with around 500,000 of those being Muslims. The city is known for its rich history, diverse culture, and iconic architecture.
Many movies were also shot there and it is one of the reasons why I wanted to visit. We also stumbled on a movie shooting while in the city, which was very fun.
Chicago was founded in 1833 and quickly grew into a major transportation hub due to its location on Lake Michigan. The city’s economy boomed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fueled by industries such as meatpacking, steel production, and manufacturing.
Throughout its history, Chicago has been home to a significant Muslim population. The first mosque in the city, the Mosque Foundation, was established in 1954. Since then, the Muslim population in Chicago has grown significantly, with nearly 70 mosques in the six-county region as of 2023.
In recent years, the city has also become a popular destination for Muslim tourists. Many of the city’s attractions, such as the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park, are easily accessible and Muslim-friendly.
Overall, Chicago is a beautiful diverse city that makes it an attractive destination for Muslim travelers looking to explore iconic landmarks, museums, and vibrant neighborhoods. There are also so many halal restaurants in Chicago that you simply cannot miss some of the delicious dishes available.
Best Time to Visit Chicago
It is called Windy City for a reason and you will quickly discover why. I visited in May and although I needed a jacket it was sunny but also windy.
The best time to visit Chicago is during the summer months, from June to August. This is when the city comes alive with festivals, outdoor activities, and pleasant weather. The temperatures in Chicago during this time are mild, with average highs in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit (20s and 30s Celsius).
One of the highlights of the summer in Chicago is the Taste of Chicago food festival, where you can sample a wide variety of delicious dishes from the city’s renowned restaurants. Another popular event is the Chicago Air and Water Show, featuring thrilling aviation feats and water stunts along the lakefront.
If you prefer to avoid the crowds and don’t mind cooler temperatures, spring (April and May) and early fall (September and October) can be good times to visit. You will most likely have wind and rain but also cheaper accommodation options.
Which is exactly what I did. It rained half the day when I explored the museum and after with sunshine the buzzing streets of Chicago.
Best Things to Do In Chicago as a Muslim Tourist
Chicago is definitely one of the most halal-friendly cities I have visited and there are so many options for Muslim travelers where you don’t need to encounter excessive alcohol or nudity.
From shopping to museums to parks, there is something for everyone. Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago.
1 Stroll at Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile presents a feast for the senses. As one of Chicago’s top shopping destinations, it brims with numerous luxury boutiques and popular retailers. But it isn’t just about spending money here; you can revel in the vibrant mix of architectural styles that grace this impressive stretch.
Soak up the city’s energy as you pass by historic buildings interspersed with modern skyscrapers. Some travelers find joy in just relaxing at a café and people-watching amid this bustling scene.
Make sure you have a coffee at the Ralph Lauren cafe and also at the Starbucks Reserve, a place I had never been before.
2 Go Up Skydeck & Ledge Chicago at Willis Tower
Chicago’s Willis Tower offers an unforgettable experience for visitors looking to take in breathtaking views of the city. By going up to the Skydeck and Ledge, you can witness the stunning panoramic view from 1,353 feet above ground level.
With its glass-bottomed ledges extending out from the 103rd floor, this iconic attraction allows you to have a thrilling and unique perspective of Chicago’s skyline. As a Muslim traveler exploring Chicago, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Skydeck & Ledge at Willis Tower and capture memorable moments while enjoying the beauty of this magnificent city.
3 Navy Pier
Navy Pier is a popular tourist destination that offers a variety of attractions. Visitors can take a ride on the Ferris wheel, see a show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, or take a boat tour of Lake Michigan. There are also many restaurants and shops on the pier.
It is a beautiful place to stroll and enjoy and it is full of people in the summer.
4 Millennium Park
Millennium Park is a large public park in downtown Chicago. It is home to many sculptures and art installations, including the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as “The Bean.” Visitors can also attend concerts and other events at the park’s outdoor pavilion.
If you want to see the bean without the crowds then I highly recommend going very early in the morning.
I went on the first day when I arrived and even though it was raining it was full of tourists.
Then the following day, thanks to jet lag I went early morning since it was 5min from my hotel and It was “almost” empty.
5 Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium is a popular attraction for families with children. It has a large collection of aquatic animals, including dolphins, whales, and sharks. Visitors can watch the animals being fed, or even participate in a behind-the-scenes tour.
6 Take a River Cruise to Admire Chicago Architecture
A river cruise is one of the best ways to admire the architecture in Chicago. The city is known for its incredible skyline, and the Chicago River runs through the heart of it, offering excellent views of the buildings.
Several companies offer river cruises specifically focused on architecture. These cruises are led by knowledgeable guides who provide interesting facts and stories about the different buildings along the river.
We did the architectural cruise and really enjoyed it. Although it was windy it was great to see Chicago from the water and learn more about the history of the buildings.
7 Field Museum of Natural History
The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. It has a vast collection of artifacts and specimens, including Sue, the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever discovered. Visitors can also see mummies, ancient artifacts, and exhibits on different cultures and civilizations.
8 Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. It has a vast collection of artwork from around the world, including pieces by famous artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. Visitors can spend hours wandering through the galleries and taking in the art.
They even have some Islamic art and it is definitely a place I would visit again, especially on a rainy day.
My friend had a Chase card which also gave us free access.
9 Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is a large science museum that is popular with families. It has many interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn about science and technology in a fun and engaging way. There are exhibits on space, transportation, and even a simulated coal mine.
10 National Museum of Mexican Art
The National Museum of Mexican Art is a small museum that showcases Mexican art and culture. It has a collection of over 10,000 pieces, including paintings, sculptures, and textiles. Visitors can learn about the history and traditions of Mexico through the museum’s exhibits.
Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo is a free zoo that is popular with families. It has a large collection of animals, including lions, tigers, and bears. Visitors can also see farm animals, reptiles, and birds. The zoo is located in Lincoln Park, which is a large public park with gardens, beaches, and other attractions.
Chicago is a city with many attractions, and these are just a few of the most popular ones. Visitors can spend days exploring all that the city has to offer.
Visit Devon, a Muslim-majority neighborhood in Chicago
Devon Avenue in Chicago is a vibrant area buzzing with cultural diversity. This Muslim-majority neighborhood is known for its eclectic mix of South Asian, Iraqi, and Lebanese cuisines – making it an absolute must-visit for foodies on the hunt for rich flavors and Halal meat options.
Walking here feels like stepping into another world: colorful saree shops border Arabic calligraphy emblazoned storefronts and family-owned grocery stores selling rare foreign ingredients.
A defining feature of Devon’s community is their inclusive spiritual warmth. Aside from gastronomical delights, the neighborhood houses many mosques where Muslims can partake in religious practices with ease.
The locality proudly displays a rich slice of Muslim culture amid the hustle-bustle of cosmopolitan Chicago, so be ready to immerse yourself in this unique blend!
Where to Stay in Chicago
Chicago offers a variety of accommodation options. From luxury hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses, there is something to suit every preference and budget.
I stayed at Londonhouse Chicago which was right outside everything I wanted to see. I saved over $1000 on my five-day stay using points and I explain how exactly in my DIY Umrah book on hotel hacking.
I loved the location of downtown and I would suggest that if you are visiting for the first time stay there. Only minutes away, there were several halal food options available.
Other areas you can consider are Magnificent Mile, and the Loop also centrally located, offering easy access to major attractions, Halal food options, and mosques.
There are several budget options that you can chose and pretty much everywhere around downtown is easy to find halal food.
Whether you’re looking for a high-end hotel with stunning views or a cozy bed and breakfast in a quiet neighborhood, Chicago has it all.
Halal Restaurants in Chicago
You will not go hungry for halal food in Chicago you can easily find halal restaurants all over the city. Thanks to the large Muslim population there are several options plus food is big in Chicago. As I mentioned there were 3 halal restaurants within a three-minute walk from my hotel including The Halal Guys.
They also offer some halal fine dining options and any cuisines you might desire from Mediterranean, Persian, Middle Eastern, fast food and everything in between.
I really loved the cafe and food scene of the city and it seems that further away from downtown you can find even more options due to the large Muslim community living in the suburbs. We could have driven around but decided to just enjoy what was on offer nearby.
This trip was for me to relax and enjoy being a solo Muslim woman on holiday without wearing the mummy hat.
The Halal Guys
I visited the Tha Halal Guys branch in Downtown Chicago as it was just next to my hotel. The setting is that of a fast food, restaurant known for its flavorful Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine and the food was good. Overall it is what I expect from the Halal Guys. If you are after something fast and healthier it is the place for you.
I visited this branch but they have several in the city Address: 172 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60601
Mosques in Chicago Area
With such a large Muslim community in Chicago, there are also several mosques you can find to pray. Most of the mosques are located outside the immediate tourist areas but a short drive away by Uber / Lyft.
In downtown Chicago prayer option is the Downtown Islamic Center in the Loop – 231 S State St Chicago, IL 60604 The Loop and Masjid al-Rabia in close proximity 637 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60605.
Some other mosques further out.
Islamic Cultural Center of Greater Chicago: Situated in Northbrook 1800 Pfingsten Rd, Northbrook, IL 60062
Is Chicago a safe city for Muslims?
Chicago is very safe for Muslims and other tourists. Keeping normal precautions is required but like anywhere in the world. Over 500,000 Muslims live in Chicago and even as a Muslim woman alone, I felt safe during the night as well.
Getting Around Chicago
To get around Chicago, you can choose to walk, rent a bike, take the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), grab a taxi, hop on a water taxi, or join one of the city tours.
We mostly walked and took Uber as we didn’t venture too far out of downtown and also I didn’t want to have to rent a car. Uber and Lyft work well and they are not that expensive.
Walking is a great way to explore Chicago and take in the city’s sights and sounds. With its pedestrian-friendly streets and beautiful architecture, walking allows you to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
You can casually stroll along the famous Magnificent Mile, a bustling stretch of shops, restaurants, and attractions. Exploring neighborhoods like Devon Avenue, known for its Muslim community, is also best done on foot as you can discover various Halal food options along the way.
As you walk along the Chicago Riverwalk or through downtown streets, you’ll be treated to stunning views of iconic buildings such as Willis Tower and picturesque scenes along the riverfront.
Renting a bike
Biking was very prominent and I did consider it for a minute while in the city. If the weather is better I love renting a bike as I can see it will be an enjoyable way to explore Chicago. With its extensive network of bike lanes and paths, the city is cyclist-friendly, offering easy access to popular attractions and neighborhoods.
Make use of the Divvy Bike Share program, which provides affordable bike rentals at stations located all over Chicago.
Whether you want to pedal along the lakefront, explore parks like Millennium Park or Grant Park, or simply enjoy the scenic streets of downtown Chicago, renting a bike allows you to soak in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city while getting some exercise at the same time.
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) — ‘L’ train and buses
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) provides an excellent transportation system for getting around the city. The ‘L’ train and buses are efficient, affordable, and convenient options for Muslim travelers exploring Chicago.
I did take the train from the airport halfway down to Chicago when I arrived however they were doing railworks and we had to move into a bus. Since I was with luggage I decided to take a Lyft the rest of the way.
However there is a very good network of elevated trains traversing the city, you can easily access popular attractions like The Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and various museums. Additionally, buses run throughout the city, offering another mode of transportation to reach your desired destinations.
Definitely a more affordable option and convenient if you are staying downtown like myself.
We walked a lot during this trip which I absolutely love and I don’t mind, when we headed to some of the restaurants we wanted to check out we took taxis. I have to say it was fast and cheap to get from one side to the other. We also felt safe as solo Muslim women travelling even during nighttime.
The water taxi is a convenient and scenic way to get around Chicago. With the city’s location along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, taking a water taxi allows you to enjoy breathtaking views of the skyline while avoiding traffic congestion.
By Tours & Guides
There are several tours you can take around Chicago and I definitely recommend taking the Architecture cruise as well as a free /paid walking tour. It is my favourite way of acclimatising myself to a new city and great to learn snippets and the best places to eat from locals.
You can buy the ChicagoPass which gives you discounted access to several attractions for the duration of your stay.
We had access to several of those as I mentioned from my friend’s card but we did have to pay for the Architecture cruise we booked via Viator and would definitely recommend it.
Overall Chicago is one of the most Muslim-friendly cities in the US. It is very easy finding halal restaurants in Chicago. There are so many Muslims in the city and I felt very safe throughout my stay. I would happily return to Chicago and explore the surrounding areas and would take my daughter as well next time.
I do have a post about safety when travelling solo so you can find it below.