Planning Guide

Chicago with Kids

  • Charles Darwin the Origin of Species
  • Dna Discovery Center at Field Museum
  • Famous Sue at Field Museum
  • Field Museum for Children and Adults
  • Field Museum for Kids
  • Field Museum in Chicago
  • Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago
  • Field Museum the Sue Store
  • Most Complete Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • Museum for Kids Who Love Dinosaurs

With so many places to play and things to do, Chicago offers a real bounty of kids-friendly entertainment that will turn a visit to this remarkable city into an adventure you and your children will never forget. As if designed with kids in mind, Chicago features a wide array of events and attractions for the whole family to enjoy, from visiting award-winning museums or spending a night at the theatre to building sand castles at one of the lakefront's many beaches or playing 18-hole mini golf at Navy Pier in summer. The opportunities to have fun in Chicago are endless and here are some kid-friendly itinerary suggestions that will help keep both kids and parents entertained all day long.

Museums Galore

In fact, there are more than 40 museums in Chicago to engage and enlighten the whole family. With such a profusion of various museums you are sure to find something that appeals right to you. There are several area museums designed exclusively for kids. One of them is the Chicago Children's Museum (700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier) featuring three floors full of interesting exhibits and world-class fun. Here your children can climb a schooner, walk the gangplank and slide down to the lower level, and then make a splash with a water playground, featuring a scaled-down river and a waterwheel. Chicago Children’s Museum offers plenty of exciting things to discover and explore, including hiding in a tree house, constructing a building, inventing a flying machine, and so much more.

On Chicago’s Museum Campus you can walk from the bottom of the sea looking at sharks and dolphins at the John G. Shedd Aquarium up to the moon at the Adler Planetarium. If your kids are interested in seeing dinosaurs, take them to the Field Museum where they can see some of the world’s best dinosaur exhibits including the famous Sue—the world's largest, most complete, and best-preserved T. rex. To get a glimpse into the diverse world of nature visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum with its open-air butterfly haven and the animal habitat exhibit featuring the climbable tree house.

The Museum of Science and Industry will wow your little scientists with its replica coal mine and hands-on Idea Factory. It’s the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. The art aficionados will be truly impressed by the largest collection of Impressionist works outside of the Louvre at the renowned Art Institute of Chicago.

Parks, Zoos, and Outside Activities

No summer is complete without kids jumping at the playgrounds and Chicago's neighborhoods offer plenty of options for kids to play to their heart content. If you visit Chicago during winter months there are several ice-skating rinks to choose from. On a hot summer day, visit the 63rd Street Beach House, at 63rd Street and Lake Shore Drive in Woodlawn. Here the interactive spiral fountain in the courtyard is always densely packed with kids giggling and jumping. The kid-oriented North Park Village Nature Center on the far northwest side (on Pulaski Road north of Bryn Mawr Avenue) offers a number of hands-on activities and entertaining educational programs. With 46 acres of trails, this wilderness oasis is known for deer sightings.

And be sure to visit Millennium Park (55 N. Michigan Ave.), another year-round favorite featuring a 16,000-square-foot ice-skating rink that offers spectacular view of downtown. On a scorching summer day kids can splash around here as well.

Animal lovers will enjoy a visit to a free zoo in Chicago - Lincoln Park Zoo. There is also suburban Brookfield Zoo featuring such impressive exhibits as a wall of pulsing jellyfish. Both zoos are open year-round and have spectacular lights shows over the holidays. Two more options for an all-seasons outing in the natural environment are the Lincoln Park Conservatory and Garfield Park Conservatory.

Navy Pier

Iconic Navy Pier is an absolute must-see attraction. Here you will find a 150-foot Ferris wheel, Viennese swings that go around in a circle like a merry-go-round, as well as restaurants, summer fireworks, sightseeing cruises and Segway tours. In summer kids with parents flock the Pier Park’s18-hole mini golf course, musical carousel, and remote-control boats.

Cool Views

While staying in Chicago don’t miss a chance to enjoy some of the most incredible views of the city. Feel yourself soaring in the air at the Ledge at Skydeck Chicago in the Willis Tower where glass boxes extend into the sky more than 1,000 feet above ground. Or you may get to John Hancock Observatory to inhale a panoramic 360-degree view of four states.

Another option to enjoy breathtaking scenery is to have a Chicago boat cruise. To enjoy incredible views of 50 most remarkable Chicago buildings and learn about the history of the city take Chicago's First Lady Cruises, the official ship for the Chicago Architecture Foundation's famous Chicago River Cruise. There are also Shoreline Sightseeing Cruises, Chicago Line Cruises, and Wendella Sightseeing Boats offering a wide range of fun boat tours including fireworks cruises, nighttime tours, and dinner cruises.

If you like biking or walking you can have a bike or bus excursion to explore the scenic outdoors of Chicago. Expert guides will show you the best of the city—from the lakefront parks to the vibrant downtown Riverwalk and picturesque neighborhoods.

Play Time

Chicago is famous all over the world for its world-class theater scene which will make aspiring dancers feel in awe of the breathtaking beauty of the Joffrey Ballet or the energetic contemporary productions from the Hubbard Street Dance company.

If you adore musicals, check out the dazzling performances on Broadway In Chicago stages. Theatre lovers will be inspired by mind-blowing theatrics at the Lookingglass Theatre. Introduce the family to old good classics taking them to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “Short Shakespeare!” productions.

Doll Mecca

Make a real present to your little daughter by taking her to visit American Girl Place, which is the first store of its sort in the U.S. You can reserve a table in the café, which serves brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.

Pizza Paradise

Discover your favorite deep-dish pizza joint in Chicago. The city boasts plenty of pizza places, the most popular spots include Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, Giordano’s Pizza and The Original Gino’s East of Chicago.

Year-Round Chicago Events

Chicago events are never short of fun. It is hard to find a city in America where people have more fun celebrating different holidays. No matter whether it is the Air & Water Show or the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Taste of Chicago or Christkindlmarket, Chicagoween or the Mag Mile Lights Festival— they do take fun seriously in Chicago.