This summer or any time of year actually, traveling to Chicago with kids can be an amazing, unforgettable experience. The largest city in Illinois, Chicago can be one of the most entertaining, exciting and even educational travel destinations in the Midwestern states. From museums to ballparks to city attractions like Buckingham Fountain, there is something for everyone and every budget.
Having spent the first 20 years of my life minutes from downtown Chicago, I grew up enjoying the sites and sounds of the city. There were countless visits to Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago Historical Society and the Shedd Aquarium, where both my mom and dad held weekend jobs working in the gift shop. As a teen, I spent hours soaking up the sun along the beaches of Lake Michigan as well as in the stands at Wrigley Field.
Today, my family and I enjoy try to get back to the city as often as possible for Chicago Fire soccer games, the annual Auto Show at McCormick Place and visits to the Art Institute and Science and Industry Museum.
So what are the some of the best things to do in Chicago when traveling there with kids? I could literally write pages on this topic but I think today, I will focus on sharing some of our family favorites as well as few recommended by friends.
The museums in Chicago are top-notch and are a great place to visit for families because they have something to offer for all age groups. The Museum of Science and Industry is free on Thursdays and is home to the Idea Factory, a special area designed just for kids 10 and under. It has multiple interactive exhibits including the amazing U-505 submarine and Colleen Moore’s magical Fairy Castle, one of the world’s largest and most famous dollhouses.
The Field Museum of Natural History’s free day is Wednesday. This museum is home to Sue, the world’s largest and most complete T-rex. The kids will love to have their picture taken in front of Sue, she is truly a sight! In addition, the mummy exhibit is great as is the Crown Family PlayLab, a place just for younger kids to play scientist.
As a kid, I always liked going to the Chicago Historical Society and walking through the exhibit about the Great Chicago Fire. The Chicago History Museum in on north Clark Street and features that exhibit as well as several others. Its free day is Monday. When my son was in second grade, we took a school field trip to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. This is a smaller museum but one not to be overlooked. There are several hands-on exhibits for kids to enjoy as well as a walk-through butterfly exhibit. Its free day is Thursday.
In addition to the museums, there is the Shedd Aquarium, which is the world’s largest indoor aquarium. Located on Lake Shore Drive, the Shedd will delight the entire family with its awesome dolphin show and other aquatic exhibits including the Animal Encounter. The Shedd’s free day is Monday.
So what else can you do in Chicago with kids? How about visiting the American Girl store on Michigan Avenue or eating at Uno’s Pizzeria? An entire day (or two) can be spent visiting Navy Pier. There is a children’s museum, several unique shops, and the very fun Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze. This attraction at the Pier offers 4,000 square feet of mazes and fun for kids tot to teen (mom and dad will enjoy it too!) We have experienced several times and it never gets old.
Don’t forget in Chicago you can take the kids to the top of the Sears Tower, visit Millennium Park, stroll along the shore of Lake Michigan and get up close with the polar bears at Lincoln Park Zoo.
About a year ago, I wrote an article for Helium.com about fun places to take your kids to in Chicago. This article is way more comprehensive then this post and it includes links to several of the attractions as well as addresses. This is the link to the article if you’d like more details. LINK
Please remember that I am not affiliated with any of these attractions or places mentioned in this post, I’m just offering my opinion on places that have pleased and amused my family and me. Please check the attraction/business’s website for operating hours, free day verification other important details.
Chicago is a great place to take the family. Yes, it is a large city and the traffic can be intimidating to anyone not used to congestion and craziness, but it is so worth the visit. It is culturally diverse, has a gorgeous skyline and the people can be exceptionally friendly to visitors. Many Chicagoans are more than happy to point a tourist in the right direction and offer a suggestion for a good local place to eat. Just remember, as in any larger city there are areas that are not recommended for tourists so be sure to travel smart and always be aware of your surroundings.
Oh and in summer, don’t forget not one but TWO major league ballparks to take in a baseball game! And just south of the city in Bridgeview is Toyota Park, home to the MLS Chicago Fire soccer team. Toyota Park is one of the most family friendly stadiums and tickets for Fire games are very reasonable.