Team Building Chicago: 18+ Kickass Ideas to Kickstart Your Next Corporate Event
Let’s face it: Most Chicago team building events and activities kind of suck.
Between boring seminars by a “thought leader” or mind-numbing brainstorming exercises, team building events are about as exciting as 4:00pm meetings on a Friday. Instead of feeling recharged and united, you leave wondering if it’s time to update your resume. After all, you understand the importance of creating a strong bond with your workplace, classmates, or business partner. You just don’t know how to make that happen.
Here’s the thing:
It doesn’t have to be boring! Chicago has an amazing number of activities that will bring any team together in a way that’s fun, exciting, and—dare we say it? —even educational. With our trusty guide, you can find a team-building function that will have everyone smiling, from the CEO to Tina from accounting.
Read on for 17+ kickass ideas to kickstart your next Chicago event — so you can all kick ass together.
#1 Stop Eating Lunch at Your Desk — Try a Chicago Food Tour
Photo Source: Chicago Food & City Tours
It’s called a lunch break for a reason: You and your team need a break!
And there’s no better way to take a long lunch than by going on Chicago Food & City Tours food tour with your co-workers. Not only will you trade your sad salad for a flavorful feast, but you’ll be able to do something you rarely do with your team: relax and break bread together.
With Chicago Food Planet’s Gateway to the West Loop Food Tour, you can escape downtown and hit the city’s trendiest restaurants like TimeOut Market and Bonci Pizza. We promise a cupcake from Molly’s Cupcakes is guaranteed to delight everyone.
The best part?
You can choose when to start the tour, its length, and whether to add drink pairings or not. Our experiences are carefully planned out with your Chicago Food & City Tours event manager and limited to your group only. You can have more opportunities to chat with your team and we’ll do all the heavy lifting to prepare for your day out on the town!
#2 Go Rogue with Museum Hack
Photo Source: Museum Hack
Museums can feel as stuffy as a boardroom, but Museum Hack does everything it can to disrupt that experience. They like to give what they call “renegade tours” of the Art Institute: unique experiences where the guide focuses on the quirky, weird, and hilarious stories behind works of art.
The tours can be customized to match your company’s industry and they also offer icebreakers and activities to help each member of your team see each other for the true geniuses they are.
#3 Learn the Ropes at Loyola University’s Challenge Course
Photo Source: Loyola University
Loyola University’s Retreat and Ecology Campus gives groups the chance to go back to college, but better. Instead of sitting within the walls of a classroom, you get to climb, swing and slide your way through an obstacle course made entirely of cables and ropes.
Facilitators help each member get through the course, which becomes increasingly complex at each station. The hope is that by pushing yourself and each other, you can learn new skills and set new goals when you head back to the office.
#4 Drive the Agenda at Whirly Ball
Photo Source: @whirlyball
If lacrosse and bumper cars had a baby, you’d get Whirly Ball. This cult favorite appeals to both the sporty and the athletically challenged and has all the fixings to make your group even tighter. Two teams of five play the game but, if you happen to have more people on staff, don’t worry. The massive Bucktown facility also offers laser tag, bowling, and enough food and drink to fuel several rounds.
#5 Travel to Mexico without Leaving the City
Source: Chicago Food & City Tours
If tamales, tacos, and tequila sound like a recipe for a good time, then you’re going to want to take your crew to Pilsen. Discover authentic Mexican eats while you take in the vibrant street art in this bohemian cultural Chicago hub.
Not sure where to hit up first?
Sign for Chicago Food & City Tour’s Street Foods of Pilsen tour that gives you an insider access to some of the coolest spots in this diverse neighborhood. Learn how to make tamales, talk to celebrated chefs, hang with your coworkers on the best patio in the city, and more! The best part? There’s even an alcohol package so you can get happy hour started early!
Customize this tour to fit your group’s needs and spend an afternoon south of the border without a passport!
#6 Think on Your Feet with Improv
Photo Source: @thesecondcity
There’s more to improv than cracking jokes and acting silly (although, that is a lot of fun!). Successful improv requires a lot of collaboration. It teaches you how to listen to others, build upon ideas, and take risks.
Second City hosts team building events around Chicago that are fast-paced, interactive, and will help your team understand how you’re all part of a bigger whole. At the very least, the number of corny jokes at every staff meeting will decrease.
#7 Turn It into a Real Happy Hour by Brewing Your Own Beer
Photo Source: Brew & Grow
Instead of grabbing some beers after quittin’ time with your team, why not brew your own Chicago beer together?
Brew & Grow offers classes that will teach your team about the history of your favorite pint, the basics of brewing, and the fundamentals of beer tasting. Your group will also get a chance to participate in every step of the brewing process and even taste your own homemade batch. Cheers!
#8 Escape the Doldrums with an Escape Room
Source: The Escape Game Chicago
Who here hasn’t felt trapped on a boring client call or under a pile of work? The Escape Game Chicago gives you and your team a chance to live out your fleeing fantasies without getting fired. Your team can choose from scenarios like “The Heist” or “Mission: Mars” for a truly out-of-this-world experience.
Your goal: to escape. How do you do it? By relying on each other, communicating, and using your brilliant problem-solving skills.
#9 Roll with It on a Chicago Segway Tour
Photo Source: Bike and Roll Chicago
Glide with your team along beautiful Chicago for an event that will have everyone looking at office buildings in a whole new way. Bike and Roll Chicago offers group tours and private events for teams that want to hit the streets. You’ll learn about Chicago, its skyline and who in your team can balance best.
The best part?
You can choose from three different tours: Amazing Lakefront Segway Tour, which rides from Millennium to Grant Park; the Skyscraper Tour, which goes along the Riverwalk; and the Fireworks Segway Tour, which finishes with Navy Pier’s fireworks display.
Insider Tip: Navy Pier’s 50 acres offers a ton of team-building activities like rock climbing, ice skating, and food tours. For more ideas on what to do in Navy Pier, whether with your work buddies or your other friends, check out our guide 25+ Top Chicago Navy Pier Things to Do & to Eat.
#10 Broaden Your Horizons in Chinatown
Source: Chicago Food & City Tours
A company retreat on the other side of the world may not be possible, but you can experience a different culture right in our backyard.
Discover together the rich history of one of Chicago’s most interesting neighborhoods by taking Chicago Food & City Tours’ Chinatown Adventure Food Tour.
The best part?
Your team will get to sample authentic Canton, Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine from some of Chinatown’s best eateries in a 5-course meal at restaurants around the area. It will give you all a taste of unexpected adventure on what could have been a regular workday.
#11 Seek Answers in a Scavenger Hunt
Photo Source: Watson Adventures
Nothing boosts moral like being right and a scavenger hunt will allow your team to do just that. Let Watson Adventures create an experience that will transform Chicago into your own playground. By using clever questions, you can test your wits and bring out the hidden talents of each member of the group. This already sounds amazing, right?
It gets better:
Scavenger hunts can take place in the Loop, city museums, and even Brookfield Zoo. You can even ask them to plan a hunt in the location of your choice, including your very own office.
Insider Tip: Scavenger hunts are the perfect warm-weather activity, but you can also find more ideas of what to do in the summer months, check out 18+ Awesome Things to do in Chicago [Summer Guide].
#12 Elevate the Break Room with a Chicago Cooking Class
Photo Source: The Chopping Block
Say goodbye to the vending machine and that moldy cheese someone forgot in the fridge. By taking a Chicago cooking class at The Chopping Block, your team will come together by being chefs for a day.
In addition to learning how to chop, fry, and sauté, cooking teaches you how to communicate, delegate, and collaborate in service of one goal. Plus, Tina from Accounting may finally understand that stirring the pot can be used for good, instead of evil.
#13 Soar to New Heights in Trapeze School
Source: Get a Grip Trapeze
Your team always wants to take it to the next level. Well, here’s your chance! Get a Grip Trapeze can help create the kind of team spirit that leaves you feeling sky-high.
Their instructors will guide your group through a safety lesson before showing you how to use the trapeze and taking you through a series of different challenges.
Face your fears, play to your strengths, and find the encouragement and support you need from you peers.
#14 Forget Grinding an Axe, Just Throw It with Bad Axe
Photo Source: @badaxethrowing
If your team needs to blow off some steam, may we suggest Chicago axe throwing?
Bad Axe believes Chicago team-building events should have a little edge and that’s exactly what they deliver. Instructors will show your group the best way to throw axes and leave you some time to practice your new skills. Cheer yourself and your team members on when you compete against each other in a friendly, low-stakes tournament.
So come in with your Casual Friday best and find a way to battle stress, step outside of your comfort zone, and share an unforgettable experience together.
#15 Find Your Muse with a Paint and Sip Event
Photo Source: @pinotspalette
If your team has been relying on their left-brained skills too much, it might be time to get their right-brained talents going.
Enter Pinot’s Palette, which hosts a variety of team-building events surrounding the world of art. Groups are invited to paint, sip some wine, and socialize in a relaxed and creative setting.
What’s the catch?
Actually, there is none. No previous experience with brushes is required and there will be no critics to tear apart your masterpiece. Guests can also choose from three different Chicago experiences: the classic paint and sip, where an artist will guide your team into creating a selected painting; the jigsaw painting, where team members create a mural together; and a mystery, where participants follow the artist’s directions without knowing what it is they’re actually painting.
#16 Climb to the Top with Brooklyn Boulders
Photo Source: Chicago Tribune
Scaling a wall the size of your paperwork may be daunting, but a rock climbing class can leave your team feeling inspired and invigorated.
Forget climbing the corporate ladder!
The staff at Brooklyn Boulders is here to help your group get physically and mentally prepared for tackling one of the many walls in their 25,000-foot square complex.
Brooklyn Boulders can also focus each event on a group’s particular goal like problem solving, communication, or competitiveness. Put on that helmet and get ready to feel empowered.
#17 Find Your New Bestie with a Wild Goose Chase
Photo Source: Outback Team Building and Training
Do your team members feel like they’re running around like chickens with their heads cut off? Then refocus that energy into Outback Team Building and Training’s Wild Goose Chase. Outback focuses on unexpected and out-of-the-box team-building events.
Define out-of-the-box, you say?
Your group will be divided into teams and asked to complete a series of wacky challenges captured via photo or video.
Not only will you get some fresh air, but you will get some fresh perspectives on your teammates.
#18 Master Chicago’s Food Scene
Photo Credit: Chicago Food Planet
Level up on your Chicago food game. With Chicago Food Planet’s Iconic Foods of Chicago tour, our knowledgeable and dedicated sales and event management team will take care of organizing the day so you can focus on having fun. Think you know city favorites like Lou Malnati’s, Garrett Popcorn, and Al’s Beef?
Think again. On this tour you’ll get a chance to learn new things about Chicago, and about your colleagues too.
Insider Tip: For other Chicago tours that can be of interest inside or outside of office hours, be sure to check out this great article 25+ Best Chicago Tours, Activities and Attractions.