13 Things to Do with Your Family in Chicago

Chicago’s Best Family-Friendly Places

    Chicago has plenty of things you can do with your family. Starting at the Chicago Loop, you can enjoy the magnificent urban spaces within Millenium Park. Hotspots for family fun include Adler Planetarium. This is where juniors can dress up as astronauts and explore the solar system while mum and dad enjoy the Skyline Walk outside for Chicago’s beautiful skyscraper panorama.

    To enjoy the sky-scraping heights, head up to one of the few observatory spots at the top of some of its tallest buildings. The dizzying views are added to with glass floors and even tilting ledges for added thrills. Here we show you some of Chicago’s best family-friendly places, ranging from wonderful urban spaces and great beaches to animal attractions and museums.

    1

    Millenium Park

    Home of the iconic Chicago landmark, “The Bean”

    Chicago’s Millenium Park is home to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. No family trip to the Windy City is complete without taking a snap at Cloud Gate. This giant sculpture in the park has a smoothly polished, mirror-like stainless steel surface, which reflects the skyscraper scene around it. It’s fondly nicknamed “The Bean” for its shape. The little ones can have fun splashing at Crown Fountain. In the summer, the fountain’s wall depicts faces with water shooting out from their mouths.

    Location: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602, USA

    Open: Daily from 6am to 11pm

    Phone: +1 312-742-1168

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    2

    Shedd Aquarium

    Huge collection of aquatic life on Chicago’s Northerly Island

    This aquarium just off Chicago’s lakefront trail is fun, educational, and toddler-friendly, with good accessibility for strollers. From the massive Caribbean Reef exhibits where the little ones will be wowed by sharks and giant sea turtles, to the flooded rainforests of South America. At certain times of the day, a diver goes down to feed the fish. The Abbot Oceanarium has beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, and sea otters on show. Tickets are around $39.95 for adults and $29.95 for kids under 12.

    Location: 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

    Open: Daily from 9am to 6pm

    Phone: +1 312-939-2438

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    3

    Lincoln Park Zoo

    Educating families about the animal kingdom since 1868

    As one of America’s oldest zoos, Lincoln Park Zoo is a great animal attraction for families in Chicago. Moreover, it’s free to visit! You’ll find a great collection of animals, which are kept in enclosures that are designed to closely mimic their natural habitats. These include gorillas at the Regenstein Center for African Apes, as well as polar bears, snow leopards, and penguins that are kept in climate-controlled enclosures. You can watch some of Chicago’s trained harbor seals perform at the popular Kovler Seal Pool.

    Location: 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, USA

    Open: Monday – Friday from 10am to 5pm, Saturday – Sunday from 10am to 6.30pm

    Phone: +1 312-742-2000

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    4

    Adler Planetarium

    Kid-friendly space exhibits and activities

    The next generation of space explorers can get inspired at this monumental science facility on the north-eastern tip of Northerly Island. Adler Planetarium’s main highlight is the Grainger Sky Theater with its digital projection inside the great dome. Young kids can enjoy the dedicated kids’ section with space shuttle-themed playgrounds. They can play for hours and even dress up as astronauts. You can enjoy scenic offerings outside on 12th Street Beach, with the Skyline Walk providing the best skylines of Chicago.

    Location: 1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

    Open: Daily from 9.30am to 6pm

    Phone: +1 312-922-7827

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    5

    Museum of Science and Industry

    Get hands-on with fun scientific exhibits

    Both entertaining and educational, the exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago can keep families with kids busy for some good long hours. Most of the exhibits promote a hands-on approach to learning, with some popular themes to satisfy your curiosities. One among the many is the Science Behind Pixar interactive exhibition, where you can see how ideas, math and computer science merge to bring memorable titles such as Toy Story to life on the big screen.

    Location: 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

    Open: Daily from 9.30am to 5.30pm

    Phone: +1 773-684-1414

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    6

    North Avenue Beach

    Basking or bathing with Chicago’s panoramic skyline in view

    Chicago may be part of a landlocked state, but you can still enjoy great family times on the beach here. Its share of Michigan’s lakeside is home to the beautiful and sandy stretch of North Avenue Beach, which you can reach down the North Lake Shore Drive. Open and serene, the wide beach is ideal for families, where you can let the kids play freely and safely along the waterfront. It’s great for basking under the summer sun, on the soft warm sand.

    Location: 1600 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60613, USA

    Phone: +1 773-363-2225

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    7

    360 Chicago

    View Chicago from skyscraper heights

    This observatory on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center building overlooks Chicago’s skyline from high above. It can be a fun way for families to experience the city, with different daily agendas set throughout the week. To name a few, there’s Tripod Mondays for photographers, Sky Yoga, and 360 Sky Art when you can bring easels and canvases. The main highlight of the observatory is its Tilt observation deck, which tilts outward at over 1,000 feet above The Magnificent Mile.

    Location: 94th Floor, John Hancock Center, 875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

    Open: Monday – Thursday from 9am to 11pm, Friday – Sunday from 8am to 11pm

    Phone: +1 888-875-8439

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    8

    Field Museum

    Take the kids to meet Sue, the world’s most complete T-Rex skeleton

    Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil in the world, is housed in the Field Museum. You can also visit Maximo, the largest dinosaur that ever lived, in this museum that’s right next door to Shedd Aquarium. Here, your family can learn about the animal kingdom, geology, and palaeontology. The Field Museum of Natural History features a range of permanent exhibitions that showcase subjects like the evolution of life, biodiversity across all of Earth’s continents, and the human history of hunters and gatherers in the Ancient Americas.

    Location: 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

    Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm

    Phone: +1 312-922-9410

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    9

    Navy Pier

    Ride the iconic Centennial Wheel

    Chicago’s Navy Pier is a great spot for family recreation as it’s filled with gardens, shopping arcades, various restaurants and bars, and the iconic Centennial Wheel. The Centennial Wheel features air-conditioned gondolas that take you on a 200-feet-high ride that offers panoramic views over the Chicago skyline and Michigan lakefront. The Navy Pier Park also features carousels and a pool with remote-controlled boats. Come in the summer and you can expect fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday. Access to the pier is free.

    Location: Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA

    Open: Daily from 10am to 8pm

    Phone: +1 800-595-7437

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    10

    SkyDeck Ledge Chicago

    Dizzying, thrilling sensations from up high

    Head to SkyDeck Ledge at the Willis Tower on South Wacker Drive to experience Chicago from one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. From the ground floor, the lift takes you up in just 60 seconds. The observation deck lets you stand on the 103rd-floor edge of the skyscraper, towering at over 1,300 feet high and with the Chicago cityscape in view. Step into either of the 2 glass boxes, which extend out, with your feet seemingly hovering over the dizzying heights below.

    Location: 233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606, USA

    Open: Daily from 9am to 10pm

    Phone: +1 312-875-9696

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    11

    Maggie Daley Park

    Play gardens that the kids will love

    As one of Chicago’s great urban spaces, Maggie Daley Park has plenty of fun in store for kids. The park has picnic groves, mini golf courses, skating ribbons and climbing walls, as well as the expansive Play Garden that’s filled with slides, swings, and kids’ obstacles. The Play Garden is suitable for kids under 12. Kids between 2 and 5 can enjoy some splashing fun at The Watering Hole – a 1,200-sq ft animal-themed play space filled with water spouts and sprays.

    Location: 337 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, USA

    Open: Daily from 6am to 11pm

    Phone: +1 312-552-3000

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    photo by Alanscottwalker (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    12

    Chicago Botanic Garden

    A favorite green oasis for families

    Chicago has a rich collection of beautiful green oases. In Glencoe, a half-hour’s drive north from The Loop, you can take the family to the Chicago Botanic Garden, with its feature-filled grounds measuring over 380 acres. Among its display gardens are a bonsai gallery, the zen-like Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden, and the Model Railroad Garden that can be a soothing visual feast which the kids will find amusing. There’s even the beloved Thomas the Tank Engine on his model Island of Sodor.

    Location: 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA

    Open: Daily from 7am to 9pm

    Phone: +1 847-835-5440

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    13

    Kohl Children’s Museum

    A hands-on learning lab for pre-schoolers

    Toddlers and kids up to 8 year olds can enjoy a hands-on learning experience at Kohl Children’s Museum. The museum is in Glenview, Illinois, which is around half an hour’s drive north from The Loop. The facility features various exhibits that are designed to make learning fun and interesting. Favorites include a DIY arts corner, a waterworks exhibit where they can experiment with fluidity and the imaginative uses of water, and there’s an outside garden where kids can learn about plants and insects.

    Location: 2100 Patriot Blvd, Glenview, IL 60026, USA

    Open: Monday – Saturday from 9.30am to 5pm, Sundays from 12pm to 5pm

    Phone: +1 847-832-6600

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    photo by Smart Destinations (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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