Chicago with kids: 16 top family activities!
A city break to Chicago with kids is fun! This large city in the United States has enough entertainment to keep you perfectly entertained for a few days. The Windy City (it can still be windy at times) is located on the large lake Lake Michigan, ensuring that this city can also be an attractive destination for families with kids in the summer. We list the best activities to do in Chicago with kids below.
Table of contents
Chicago with kids: Family-friendly museums.
You can go to several family-friendly museums in Chicago with kids. We briefly list some of the city’s most fun museums for kids below.
#1 Chicago Childrens museum: this museum is suitable for young kids and play really does take center stage here. So it’s not a real museum, where kids can just look at things, but here kids can do all kinds of things themselves. For example, there are all kinds of professions that kids can reenact such as working as a fireman, car mechanic, bus driver or cashier in a store. There are also areas where kids can climb, build and play and explore with water. You can easily spend half a day at this museum in Chicago with kids.
#2 Museum of Science and Industry: you can also go to a science museum in Chicago with kids. This huge museum is geared toward kids who can do lots of different experiments here. The museum is also very interactive. The museum has several departments.
For example, there is a science department where kids can make their own tornado and experience, for example, what it is like to stand in one. Kids can experience how a tsunami works and why the earth spins. There is also a transportation department with several real transportation vehicles in the museum such as a World War II submarine that kids are also allowed in and a Boeing 727 that kids are allowed to look inside.
There are also departments related to the human body and robots. In short, there is enough to keep you entertained for at least half a day at this museum.
#3 Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: located in Lincoln Park, this museum is dedicated to nature. The museum has an entire butterfly garden, with many different species of butterflies. You also have turtles and exotic birds in the museum. There are several floors in the museum and the museum has interactive exhibits about nature. The museum also has a water area where kids can play. Especially when visiting the city of Chicago with kids in winter, the warm tropical garden can be a pleasant place.
#4 Field Museum: This museum is located in a beautiful building and has a nice collection of stuffed animals. We always do enjoy seeing many of these beautiful animals so close up. There are also several skeletons of different dinosaurs on display. The museum is mainly known for having the most complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The museum also has a collection of mummies.
Chicago with kids: To the zoo
You can admire animals in Chicago with kids at several places. We list the best places below.
#5 Lincoln Park Zoo: this zoo is located in Lincoln Park and is free to visit! So especially for families with kids, this is really a budget activity, where you can have some great hours of entertainment. In fact, the zoo has plenty of cool animals, including some of Africa’s well-known large animals such as the lion, zebra, rhinoceros, giraffe, crocodile and different types of monkeys. Even if you are not specifically into animals, it is already nice to just walk through the zoo. The zoo is open 365 days a year and is definitely fun to put on your list of activities to do in Chicago with kids.
#6 Brookfiels Zoo: You have a second zoo to visit in Chicago with kids. This zoo is also located fairly in the center of the city and it too has quite a few large animals that you can admire such as the lion, giraffe, brown bear, polar bear and camel. Still, the choice of zoo is quickly made if you have to pay admission at one zoo and not another.
#7 Shedd Aquarium: if you and your kids are interested in the different animals that live in the sea then this aquarium is a fun option. Also this aquarium is located in the center of the city and besides the different tropical fish, it has other animals you can admire such as the penguin, the turtle the sea lion and several other reptiles. You can also watch a show with dolphins here.
Chicago with kids: day at the beach
Of course, if you are visiting Chicago with kids in the summer, a day at the beach is always a nice option to cool off. Chicago is located on the large lake Lake Michigan and therefore has several beaches you can visit. We list the most important beaches.
#8 North Avenue Beach: this is one of the city’s most famous beaches and is also near Lincoln Park. So this is a place where you can combine multiple activities (museum, zoo and beach), which means you can do a lot in one day with the family in the city. From this beach you also have a great view of the city skyline. In addition, all facilities are available for a nice day at the beach. There are several beach bars, you can rent a beach bed plus umbrella, and kids can go to the restroom at the beach.
#9 Oak Street Beach: this is a somewhat smaller beach that is also right in the center of town. You can easily walk to this beach from the city center. Food and drinks are available at the beachfront Oak Street Beach Cafe. At the beach there are also plenty of amenities such as lifeguards, chair and umbrella rentals and you can also rent a bike here.
#10 Montrose Avenue Beach: this beach is still a bit further north than the previous two beaches and thus is also a bit further from downtown. If you drive by car along the lake you will be there in 15 minutes. You can also find great parking here. This is the largest public beach you can visit in Chicago with kids
#11 Ohio Street Beach: this beach is the closest to downtown and is near the Children Museum. It is a very small beach and you have one eatery sitting by the beach, but within walking distance of this beach there are plenty of catering establishments to get something to eat and drink. There is also a bike rental company near this beach and you can, of course, take a tour of the various beaches we discussed above by bike. This bike rental company also has children’s bikes, child seats and carts for behind the bike for rent.
Chicago with kids: Viewpoints
Chicago is a beautiful city and it is also possible to view the city from a great height with the family. We list several vantage points below.
#12 Willis Tower: this is perhaps the most famous viewing tower in the city and you have a sky deck here on the 103rd floor of this tower at a height of more than four hundred meters. You go up by elevator at a fast pace and there you have a great view of the city of Chicago. On this skydeck, they also have glass cages, where you can see the city beneath your feet. If you visit this tower, a tip is to visit this tower just before it gets dark. Then you have pictures of the city by light and of the city when it is dark and you see all the lights of the city.
#13 John Hancock Centre: this skyscraper is more than three hundred meters high and is among the tallest buildings in the United States. You can take the elevator in this building to the 94th floor, where you can get a 360-degree view of the city. This tower also has a sort of attraction called Tilt, where you lie down in a sort of window and the window tilts, basically dangling you above the precipice, so to speak. A height restriction does apply here, which means kids must be at least 130 cm to enter this attraction.
Chicago with kids: other activities
You have several other activities to do with kids in Chicago. We list the best activities below.
#14 Millennium Park: this is the city’s most famous city park and there is plenty to do here for kids. This city park is also home to Chicago’s most famous art work the silver big bean, where you can take very special photos (see photo below). There is also a very cool fountain in the park that is especially fun to visit with kids during the summer months. Faces are depicted on a kind of projection screen, and from the mouths of those faces water sprays. This looks very funny.
#15 Navy Pier: one of the most famous attractions in Chicago is this pier and on this pier there is plenty to do for families with kids. For example, on this pier you have a large Ferris wheel, a carousel and an attraction where you take a free fall. If you are looking for a place to take a cruise on Lake Michigan, you can book it at this pier. There is also a botanical garden and you can go miniature golfing with kids. In short, there is plenty to do here to keep you entertained for a few hours at this Chicago pier with kids.
#16 Legoland Discovery Centre: if your kids are absolutely crazy about the toy Lego, this could be a good option in Chicago. However, it is a bit further out from the city center and you are easily an hour away by car or public transportation. If you don’t have that many days in town, we would skip this activity, as you have a similar establishment in Scheveningen sitting in the Netherlands with roughly the same setup. There is a kind of mini island with all kinds of buildings recreated with Lego, you have a 4d cinema and you also have some kind of attraction in the shape of Lego.
Where to stay in Chicago with kids?
You can stay in Chicago with kids just fine. Chicago is pretty big and ideally you and your family will want to stay in the center of the city. We have listed the best hotel sitting in the middle of downtown in each price range. With that said, you should know that if you go for the budget option that it does have a lot lower ratings than the other two hotels. Of course, it is always a trade-off that you have to make as a family. Always click on the blue link for more information about the particular accommodation.
Budget hotel: Travelodge by Wyndham Downtown Chicago
Mid-range hotel: Hotel Saint Clair – Magnificent Mile
Luxury hotel: Hotel Blake, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member