35 Best Family Friendly Things to Do in Chicago With Kids
Traveling with the kids can be hectic if you don’t know where to take them for trips that will keep them occupied and having fun. But fortunately, not in Chicago. The city is one of the largest in America and a perfect destination for people of all ages. From toddlers to teens to adults, if you’re looking for a place to wind away and have fun, then Chicago got you. Here, we prepared a list of 35 things you can do and have fun with the kids in Chicago, such as museum visits, theatre experiences, boat rides, and splendid architecture:
- Chicago Botanic Garden
It is a cluster of gardens, 27 of them breathtakingly beautiful and spreading across 385 acres. They are located just a driving distance downside Glencoe and are a worthwhile place for you and your kids.
Adults can enjoy lazy strolls in the garden. At the same time, kids can have a wholesome experience from the gardens’ regularly scheduled nature walks, classes offered for pre and middle-schoolers, and elements like Nature Play Garden to just running around on the grass on the vast Esplanade.
- Kohl’s Children’s Museum
Get a feel of the 17 permanent exhibits that will get your child’s imagination firing. The exhibits will be excellent in striking your children’s thoughts on various things while simultaneously giving them enjoyable times.
It is home to a famous pet vet center, a waterworks station, and a lifelike simulated Whole Foods Market, all must-visit places for a great time with the kids.
- Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
This is a beautiful destination for lovers of history, especially those interested in the second World War or Jewish history and school-aged children who are just learning about it.
Here, you will find in-depth educational resources, an impressive art collection, and memorable exhibits that spell some harsh truths about the Second World War and imparts some important lessons that kids should be familiar with in a friendly way.
Don’t miss the Harvey L. Miller Family Youth Exhibition – geared toward 8- to 12-year-olds – where kids use hands-on activities to foster leadership skills, empathy, and self-esteem.
Despite the weight of the museum’s material, it is one of the greatest places you can take your children in Chicago, and I bet you they will enjoy it.
- Gallagher Way
It is one of the top tourist attractions for kids in Chicago. Located just around the corner from the Wrigley Field marquee, Gallagher way has become a place where families can ball and have fun.
Its various activities, such as ice-skating rink, holiday movie screenings, and wreath-making workshops, will keep you and your family occupied and feeling on top of the world.
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
This is a Lincoln Park institution dedicated to connecting city dwellers with nature and environmental sciences. If you’re planning on visiting Chicago, I recommend you make a day for this museum.
It is home to a handful of educational, family-friendly exhibits, like Conservation Quest, where littles learn about where energy comes from and how we use it, allowing you to take in some fresh air without leaving the city.
Be sure to get to Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, a 2,700-square-foot greenhouse and museum highlight, and have over 1000 beautiful winged creatures land on you.
- The 606 Trail
The 606 trail is a place to go cycling or stroll on a pleasant Chicago evening as you admire innovation and appreciate how the city made something beautiful out of an abandoned site.
- Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier
There are many other attractions at the Navy Pier, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this Ferris wheel. At 200 feet high, the Centennial Wheel offers a 360-degree stunning view of Lake Michigan and the exciting pier in safely enclosed gondolas, making it a child favorite no matter the season.
- Chicago Shakespeare Theater
At first glance, it may not sound so appealing to have the words ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘theatre’ associated with kids. But relax and hear me out. This theatre actually has more than you can imagine kid-friendly performances, including shorter 75-minute abridged productions geared toward families and students.
And if you’re young parents, less than 35 years, your whole family will have the advantage of $20 ticket pricing.
- Chicago Children’s Museum
With simple tools in a DIY maker space and paint or sketch in an art studio, this Navy Pier outpost will spark imaginations as kids dig for bones on a dinosaur expedition while having a lot of fun.
If your little one is inclined toward science and history, this is a great museum for them. Let them learn more about dinosaurs while digging up bones.
Forget kids; I have to say even adults like me find this exciting!
- Chicago Riverwalk
The Chicago Riverwalk is a pedestrian path that stretches nearly one and a half miles from the western end of the Loop to Lake Michigan and Lake Street on the other end.
It features playful art installations, fishing piers, and amazing food and beverage offerings.
- Chicago Architecture Center
Chicago hosts several architectural marvels – you can learn about them here while tagging your family.
It is home at the base of Mies van der Rohe’s 1970 Illinois Center office complex and offers an array of children’s and family programming that explores the built environment. The highlight is the interactive 3D map of Chicago’s cityscape and stories of history and culture that visitors can control and learn much about this historic city.
- Garfield Park Conservatory
Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest conservatories in the nation.
Take your family for a fun-filled picnic in this conservatory that hosts thousands of displays of plant species in a tropical paradise with six greenhouses and two exhibition halls.
You will enjoy a hands-on experience checking out the plant life or attending family-friendly weekly programs that let you dig in the soil, get your hands dirty and learn something new about the environment.
- Chicago Cultural Center
Culture is an infused part of our lives. And a day out learning about it in the Chicago Cultural Center will be so much fun.
Housed at the former Chicago Public Library building and located in the Loop neighborhood, this is one of the most iconic buildings in the city.
The center boasts top-notch domed architecture that will have adults snapping nonstop photos. Kids will love the free exhibitions, concerts, and theater performances, which makes it a great place for both age groups.
- Millennium Park
Wander through the 25 acres of Chicago’s most epic park, the Millennium Park in the Loop. You’ll find a three-story steel sculpture entitled Cloud Gate – though locals affectionally call it “The Bean”—that will wow kids with its reflection of the Chicago skyline.
- Maggie Daley Park
You’ll never go wrong with this on your bucket list of places to visit in Chicago.
The Park is located in the heart of the Loop.
It is home to the city’s only outdoor climbing park. It has spots to picnic with the family, a tennis court to enjoy a game, a play garden with exciting wave lawns, an enchanted forest, and exciting slides that the kids will love. The kids can also put their skills to the test on the Climbing Wall, with supervision from the park staff.
And the most amazing thing is that the fun in Maggie Daley Park doesn’t stop when winter rolls around; return for a lap or two around the famous Skating Ribbon when the snow starts to fall.
It is a very fun-filled place for family and friends.
- Chicago Children’s Theatre
As you can guess from the name, this is a place your kids will love.
- The Art Institute of Chicago
A trip to Chicago isn’t complete if you haven’t visited this art institute. And especially if you or your child are an art appreciator. It is filled with all the fun and wonders you can’t afford to miss.
Being one of Chicago’s premier art museums, it houses thousands of works from ancient Egypt to contemporary Chicago-based artists. Take your time strolling the stalls of the worldwide celebrated leading museum for high-quality art.
- Willis Tower Skydeck
Designed by architects Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan, this is a truly iconic skyscraper, which has also become a recognizable symbol of Chicago. It was the world’s tallest building for nearly 30 years.
A tour here provides a brief history of Chicago and the building’s architecture.
- Harold Washington Library
This is Chicago’s central library, named after the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington.
It is the main branch of the Chicago Public Library. It is home to a staggering 1.2 million books, but that’s not all. The second floor is purely dedicated to kids’ books, artwork, and several hands-on activities for the younger lot. Also, the ninth floor has an incredible winter garden.
Be sure to observe the beautiful glass ceiling from there.
- Shedd Aquarium
Why visit Shedd Aquarium?
It is one of the largest indoor aquariums and home to thousands of scaled, finned, and feathered animals.
Whether you’re alone or with your little bundles of joy, this place can never disappoint.
Get a chance to get up close and personal with marine life, such as schools of colorful fish, playful otters, beautiful stingrays, not-so-scary sharks, and hard-shelled turtles. Adults can also get lost in the splendor of the Beaux-Arts building, while the kids will have an amazing time at the Amazon River tanks, which just hit differently with the young ones.
And not just that, your visit will be spiced up by things like 4-D shows, Animal Chats with Shedd experts and Animal Encounters, and other experiences such as the 13 exhibits you can explore.
- Adler Planetarium
Adler Planetarium is a must-go-to-place. T
It is fun-filled for you and your kids. Let your children become space voyagers at “Planet Explorers,” the museum’s most immersive, hands-on exhibition.
Also, check out “Planet Nine,” their most exciting sky show, which follows the quest for a ninth planet.
- The Field Museum
A deep dive into history doesn’t hurt.
The field museum is hands down among the most beloved natural history museums in America.
It doesn’t matter what decade we were born in; we will always be interested in the history of dinosaurs and mummies. This is why you shouldn’t miss a trip to this museum, as it allows you and your family to get a closer look at towering dinosaur skeletons and marvel at rare jewels in the Grainger Hall of Gems.
You’ll also be interested to know that The Field Museum is home to “Sue,” one of the world’s largest and most-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex specimens.
It is truly a real treat for the family.
- National Museum of Mexican Art
It is an ideal place for toddlers and preteens.
It is located in the Pilsen neighborhood and offers a 10,000-piece permanent collection that showcases the richness and vibrancy of Mexican history, art, and culture. The highlights include bilingual camps, art classes, and family-centric gallery tours that keep everyone enjoying.
- DuSable Museum of African American History
The DuSable Museum’s 19th-century structure is now one of the South Side’s most prominent cultural institutions. It is not only a site that houses valuable artifacts of African-American history, but the building itself is a structure of historical importance.
- Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Chicago is one of the largest science museums in the world.
It is a truly mesmerizing go-to place with around 35 000 exciting and interactive exhibits spreading over a vast area of 14 acres. It has many fun activities, and enlightening films, making it an educational haven for kids of all ages. Highlights of the museum include a replicated 40-foot tornado, a real German submarine dating from World War II, a 727 aircraft, a fully-functional eco-friendly home, and much more! The kids will surely love it there.
- Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago
This is a great place to take your older kids and preteens. They will love this dance company that performs authentic and progressive interpretations of contemporary and traditional African and African-American performance arts, such as dance, music, folklore, and great recitals.
I doubt if you’d like to have your toddler there, though:
- The Escape Game Chicago
This is an entertainment spot featuring five themed escape rooms with 60-minute challenges that can also host large groups. The adventures will bring epic stories to life in a one-of-a-kind hands-on experience. You will have lots of time. And, you might escape!
- Chicago Magic Lounge
Chicago Magic Lounge allows you to relive your childhood alongside your children.
Enjoy a magic show like you may have enjoyed at birthday parties as a child, and let the kids also get to meet the magician and have a generally immersive experience when it ends.
- Lincoln Park Zoo
This is an ideal destination for animal lovers. It is one of the country’s largest zoos, located on Lake Michigan’s shores. Also, it is one of the oldest, dating back to 1868.
The zoo boasts of over 1100 animals representing at least 200 diverse species. The 35-acre attraction connects visitors with animals from around the world – from aardvarks, American black bears, armadillos, gorillas, green tree pythons, harbor seals, chimpanzees, red pandas, snowy owls, African penguins to trumpeter swans and zebra, and so much more.
If you’re looking for a great fun-filled place for family, this is the one. Enjoy various activities such as train rides and interactive experiences with the animals. And, did I mention it? All these are at a small affordable fee. Great, isn’t it?
- Brookfield Zoo
This is another must-visit for animal lovers. It is a spectacular zoo, also known as the Chicago Zoopark.
It has many family-friendly activities that will keep everyone engaged and happy. They are also all year round, meaning you can feed the giraffes and have wild encounters and carousel rides whenever you want to unwind in a beautiful natural destination.
This hotspot boasts at least 216 acres of beautifully landscaped land to explore, housing over 2,300 animals of different species, like pythons, reindeer, sloths, meerkats, naked mole rats, polar bears, bald eagles, black rhinoceros, African lions, snow leopards, bearded dragons, among other magnificent creatures of the wild.
Meaning it can never be a boring time being here.
- American Writers Museum
It has twelve brilliant exhibits for all ages to enjoy while catching up on some reading, reading fascinating stories for your little ones, participating in special programming, and looking through its various interactive exhibits.
It has regularly-scheduled programming and hosts virtual and in-person exhibits that are all fun to participate in. This interactive reading space prominently features a children’s book illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky mural and a reading area packed with family-friendly books.
- Bronzeville Children’s Museum
It is a children’s South Side museum focusing on African American history and innovation.
It is packed with fun activities to bond with your young ones between 3 and 9. Here, they can learn about African American inventors ranging from 18th-century naturalist Benjamin Banneker to Donna Auguste, an engineer at Apple, the latter who helped to create the PDA, and others, such as Lewis Howard Latimer and Garrett Augustus Morgan. As well as explore exhibits on S.T.E.M. and Bronzeville history,
If you want to participate in a guided museum tour, please drop by before 2 pm before they close to schedule.
- 360 Chicago
It will give you a wholesome epic view of various attraction sites in Chicago, such as the Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan, and other major landmarks.
You and your kids will love the TILT. This glass-enclosed platform literally tilts visitors out over Michigan Avenue, giving them the thrill of their lives while leaning against a sturdy, state-of-the-art window and taking in downward-facing views.
It is an experience you will remember forever.
- OZ Park
The Park is as striking as the name.
Enjoy a much-needed say outdoors with your loved ones taking in the fresh air of the 14.4-acre park named after one-time Lincoln Park resident L. Frank Baum (who famously penned The Wizard of Oz).
It is tucked behind Lincoln Park High School.
The park’s verdant grounds are also dotted with statues of famous characters from Baum’s book, such as Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion l, aside from a wooden playground cheekily titled “Dorothy’s Playlot” – perfect for a scavenger hunt on a long, leisurely walk.
There are also a whole other bunch of activities that you can do with your little ones, including bike riding, attending a festival, and playing fun sports games such as volleyball, basketball, and tennis.
It is also a great place for the Halloween season, as you and your family can have fun choosing and decorating pumpkins in the family-friendly Pumpkin Patch event.
- Original Rainbow Cone
It is always great for kids if it involves a lot of sugar and ice cream.
Why the Original Rainbow Cone is a must for your kid’s take to places.
It is an iconic South Side ice cream shop that’s been scooping cones, milkshakes, and banana splits since 1926 in the community areas of Beverly.
Cool off as you try delectable treats and signature five-flavor Rainbow Cone, with scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbet.