Whether you’re visiting over Memorial Day or Veterans Day holiday weekends, or just have an interest in the armed forces, Chicago has a number of sites honoring U.S. veterans and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving. Celebrate the country’s military past with these Chicago attractions, museums, and memorials.
Pritzker Military Museum & Library
The Pritzker Military Museum & Library houses more than 35,000 books, posters, photographs, videos, and artifacts ranging from military medals to swords. The collections and exhibits tell the revealing story of American history through the eyes of the citizen soldier. You can take a docent-guided tour or explore on your own. Wander the collections of training comics from WWII and Korea, medical research files on early ambulances and Civil War nurses, or learn about the millions of soldiers who have received the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in combat.
104 S. Michigan Ave.
Known as the home of the Chicago Bears, Soldier Field is also a monument in honor of the men and women who died in World War I. Built in 1924, the stadium has become an icon for both sports and military history. You can take a guided tour of the structure, which will take you through the South Courtyard where panels of falling leaves pay homage to soldiers who lost their lives in battle. You will also see the Doughboy statue, famous Colonnades, and the field itself. Want to explore on your own? Check out the Memorial Waterfall, a 280-foot long wall with eight medallions honoring the different branches of the armed forces, located near the north entrance. Or head over to the Veteran’s Memorial on the north end of the stadium, which features a John F. Kennedy inscription.
Tour hours: Tours are approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Dates and times are updated at the end of each month and reservations are required at least two weeks in advance.
1410 S. Museum Campus Drive
Filled with restaurants, museums, rides, and shopping, Navy Pier is the one of the most visited attraction in Chicago. It also has a strong military history. The pier, which opened in 1916 as Municipal Pier, was renamed in 1927 to honor Navy veterans of World War I and served as a training center for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Today, you can experience the nautical influence with a cruise on one of many vessels parked along the pier, including Windy, Chicago’s very own Tall Ship. If you’d rather stay on dry land, grab a quick photo at the eight-ton anchor on display from the USS Chicago, the third warship to be named after the city. The anchor is dedicated as a memorial to each ship named “Chicago” and to the men and women who served their nation.
600 E. Grand Ave.
National Veterans Art Museum
Opened in 1981, the National Veterans Art Museum collects, preserves, and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans. You can see one of the rotating exhibitions or browse the permanent collection of artwork totaling over 2,500 pieces. The museum also has many educational opportunities to let visitors connect with the collections.
4041 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago Cultural Center — Grand Army of the Republic Rotunda
Enter the Chicago Cultural Center from Randolph Street and you will see the 45-foot by 50-foot Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Rotunda, located at the top of the curving marble staircase. The ceiling is embossed with carvings of swords, shields, helmets, and flags, reminding visitors of the losses that come with war. The G.A.R. Memorial Hall is beyond the rotunda and was once used as a meeting place for members of the G.A.R. and displayed a collection of Civil War artifacts (now preserved at the Harold Washington Library Center). The room is a decorated memorial to Civil War soldiers and the walls bear the names of 30 battles.
78 E. Washington St.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza
Located along the Chicago River, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza commemorates the events of the war and the servicemen from Chicago and Illinois who fought and died there. Built in 2005, it consists of a terraced lawn, a waterfall, and a reflection pool. Dozens of military plaques and emblems can be found throughout the memorial, honoring the branches of the military that served in Vietnam.
Wacker Drive at Wabash Street
Elks National Veterans Memorial
Built in 1926, the Elks National Veterans Memorial honors the bravery, loyalty, and dedication of the thousands of Americans who fought and died for the U.S. It is said to be a symbol of peace and patriotism of the members of the Elks fraternity.
2750 N. Lakeview Ave.
Rosehill Cemetery and Civil War Museum
Rosehill Cemetary, located on the city’s Northwest side, contains graves of fourteen Union generals, six drummer boys and hundreds of Civil War soldiers. A portion of the administration building is a dedicated Civil War museum featuring exhibits on the war, highlighting those buried there and Chicago’s role in the war. A detailed, two-hour tour of the cemetery can be taken with the Chicago Architecture Center, or you can explore the cemetery on your own.
5800 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Battle of Midway Memorial
The Battle of Midway Memorial exhibit, on display at Midway International Airport, features photographs, narratives and interactive video kiosks with accounts of an SBD Dauntless aircraft that hangs from the ceiling. The plane was recovered from Lake Michigan in 1991, 47 years after it crashed during training exercises, and it now hangs as part of the exhibit, providing an educational experience about the contributions of the pilots, engineers, and City of Chicago during World War II.
5700 S. Cicero Ave.
Eternal Flame in Daley Plaza
Downtown’s Daley Plaza, situated next to Richard J. Daley Civic Center and City Hall, is home to the Eternal Flame memorial honoring American casualties from the early 20th century battles through the Vietnam War. This is the site of the wreathing ceremony during the annual Memorial Day Parade.
Washington Street between Clark Street and Dearborn Street
Manuel Perez Memorial Plaza
The Manuel Perez Memorial Plaza is a small park in the Little Village neighborhood with murals, mosaics, and a granite column honoring Manuel Perez Jr., who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Luzon in the Philippine Islands in 1945 during World War II.
26th Street and Kolin Avenue
The Leonard Crunelle-designed Victory Monument was created to honor the achievements of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard, an African American unit that served in France during World War I. The monument in Bronzeville was dedicated in 1928 and is one of nine structures in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville Historic District.
35th Street and King Drive
Chinese American Veterans Memorial
Cermak Road and Archer Avenue
John Alexander Logan Monument
Located in Grant Park, the bronze John Alexander Logan Monument is a tribute to the Illinois-born military leader. He served in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, working his way up to General. He became head of the Grand Army of the Republic and is credited with the creation of Memorial Day. A wreath laying ceremony is often held at the monument on Memorial Day prior to the city’s annual parade.
East of South Michigan Avenue at East 9th Street