Chicago is filled all the wonderful museums and area attractions you would expect being the 3rd largest US city. With all the city has to offer it can be overwhelming if you have limited time. So here are the top 10 things to do when you visit us in the Land of Lincoln.
For a big city, Chicago is surprisingly friendly and easy to explore. In a relatively short time you can go from skyscrapers to cozy neighborhood eatery, with some stops thrown in for sweets and a kid-friendly concert. In addition to the bustling downtown area, be sure to check out some of the urban neighborhoods, each with their distinct style.
10+ Things to Do with Kids in Chicago, IL
1. Museum of Science and Industry – The Museum of Science & Industry is on of the top 10 Science Museums in the country! Get ready to be blown away by the original U505 Submarine, Farm Tech, a tour of a Coal Mine which takes you on a ride, a Pioneer Zephr train, and more!
2. Field Museum – Our family loves going to the Field Museum to visit world famous Sue – the most complete Tyranasourus Rex ever found. Besides dinosaurs, you will find a large stuffed animal collection including Zebras, whales and more that will amaze your kids. Plus you can explore an ant colony, explore ancient civilizations, and so much more.
3. Morton Arboretum – Do your kids love to run and explore? The Morton Arboretum has 1700 acres of beautiful gardens, woodlands, and restored prairie. Our family loves visiting in the fall when the leaves are just stunning or in the spring when the trees are blooming and the daffodile fields go as far as the eye can see. Don’t miss their amazing Children’s Garden with lots of hands on fun for kidsl
4. Take a tour of Chicago – A great way to explore the city of Chicago is to take a tour. Several years back we were able to take a tour of the city by boat and discovered it was such a unique and fun way to see the city. Plus what kid doesn’t love boats?!
5. Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield Zoo is one of the largest in the country. You can easily spend an entire day visiting the amazing Monkey house, Great Bear Wilderness exhibit with 2 underwater locations to watch them swim, lots of Kangaroos, the Swamp, Penguins, and so much more. This is one of our favorite zoos of all the many we’ve seen around the country.
6. Shedd Aquarium – The Shedd Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world. Your kids will be impressed by the large variety of both fresh water and salt water fish, the interactive kids exhibits, and the don’t miss shows featuring a beluga whale.
We highly recommend a visit to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and not just to see the fish! The building itself is fantastic, but you may not notice the architectural details if you’re completely focused on trying to scope out the Australian Lungfish. Look up and around with your kids- you’ll notice lots of aquatic motifs all throughout the building.
7. Chicago Children’s Museum – If your kids are tired of visiting muesem, pop over to the Chicago Children’s Musem to let the kids play! Your kids will enjoy digging for dinosaur bones, taking a “ride’ on a CTA bus, play in a firehouse, and more.
8. Art Institute of Chicago – If you are an art lover you may want to save some time for the 2nd largest art museum in the United States – The Art Institute of Chicago. Among the 300,000 works of art you’ll find famous pieces from Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, George Seurat, Mary Cassatt, and Vincent Van Gogh.
9. Illinois Railroad Museum – The Illinois Railroad Museum is about an hour drive out of the city, but it has to be. This museum is the largest railroad museum in the United States. Your little train enthusiast will be impressed by the sheer number of trains, the train rides (included in admission), the really old trains, plus you get to go in lots of train. My kids loved pretending they were riding in the sleeper car of an old Zephr train.
10. Wrigley Field – Take me out to the ball game…… at Wrigley field! Wrigley field is the 2nd oldest major baseball field. This immaculately maintained venue is known for ivy covered brick outfield wall hand and hand turned scoreboard among other things. Who wants some >hot dogs< ….. >nachos<?
11. Explore the Bean – The ‘Bean’ is really Cloud Gate, the large, shiny bean-shaped sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park. The secret is to come early on a weekend morning when it’s hot outside, and before the crowds come. Take funny distorted family pictures of your reflections in Cloud Gate, then head over and splash around in the Crown Fountain.
12. Eat dim sum in Chinatown – Search the Yelp reviews, or discover your own restaurant- there are many to choose from that serve dim sum, and it’s fun for kids to choose from all the tasty bite-sized offerings.
13. Be completely entertained by a Redmoon Theatre show – It’s impossible to explain the wonder and excitement and pure joy that you will experience by seeing one of these shows live. For 23 years, this group has brought their special brand of performance art to spaces all over Chicago.
14. Explore the Mexican Fine Arts Museum – Check out the extensive permanent exhibit of folk art, including awesome Day of the Dead pieces. Afterwards, buy a sugar skull from the gift shop!
15. Drop in on an Art Class – Many art studios around Chicago offer drop-in art classes for kids. Drop your kids off for a couple of hours while you explore a new neighborhood and suck down a latte.
16. Eat Comfort Food – Kids go nuts over the mac ‘n cheese with bacon at the Silver Cloud Restaurant. There’s plenty of yummy stuff on the menu for adults, too, and you’ll experience the ambiance and style of a typical Chicago eatery.
17. Take in A Concert For Kids – This treasured Chicago music school and concert venue has an awesome lineup of kids’ shows the whole family will enjoy.
18. Spend some time at Uncle Fun – You’ll likely have never stepped foot in such a quirky, nostalgic, kitschy toy store, and it’s completely fun to see what kids gravitate to in this shop. Don’t you want to give your kids whoopie cushions for the rest of the trip?
19. Candyality – Thousands of different kinds of candy in bulk. Need I say more?
With so much to see and do around Chicago you are going to want to make it a weekend trip. I highly recommend the Chicago Museum Pass – it easily pays for itself when visiting most of these major attractions. Make sure you plan to order a stuffed Chicago style Pizza and an authentic Chicago hot dog (no ketchup for those 17 and older!) And don’t forget to bring a jacket for your visit, they don’t call it the windy city for nothing!
I’ve tried to offer up a sampling of ethnic ideas (Chicago is known for its wonderful ethnic neighborhoods), creative jaunts and Chicago-centric gems. There’s no end to what you can explore in Chicago as a family, and you may be surprised at what your kids end up enjoying the most. (Besides the whoopie cushions.)
Big thanks to Jeanette Nyberg who added some great ideas to our list. You can find her at her art & design for kids, Artchoo!