Chicago is a bustling, exciting, busy city. But I was also surprised to find it brighter, cleaner, culturally rich, and more diverse than I expected.
And more than all those things I was surprised to find a city that loved children. There are so many ! It’s easy to see why visitors fall in love.
Having visited Chicago on multiple occasions I have to admit the top things I wanted to know were:
1. Is there in December?
Because let’s face it Chicago feels like winter many months of the year. And while our first visit was in summery August, our next visit was in chilly December so give me all the indoor Chicago attractions.
And 2. Are there free ?
Lucky for you I answer these questions and many more in the best 15 .
Is Chicago Child Friendly?
With a beautiful lakeside location and a plethora of activities to check out, Chicago is one of the best cities in the US to explore with kids like the or the free zoo.
So is Chicago a family-friendly vacation? Yes! Even the most notable Chicago attractions are kid-friendly.
Is Chicago toddler friendly?
I took my kids when they were quite small and we did not run out of things to do from M to running along the or visiting a .
Is Illinois family-friendly?
Americans love Chicago as the home state of Abraham Lincoln. We loved Chicago for its excitement, adventure, and, yes, the history. We visited a few times with the kids as Illinois is very family-friendly.
Is good for families?
is as family-friendly as the rest of Chicago. There are tons of amazing restaurants, and plenty of playgrounds, and the streets feel safe.
A Lonely Planet book may be a good start for things to do in Chicago, but if you want a personal review then read on for my kid’s 15 favorite things to do in Chicago on your next visit.
1. Visit the FREE
Not many cities have a free inner city zoo. But Chicago does! And free are always a plus.
We had a little trouble finding the via public transport, but when we did make it, it was well worth it with 35 acres of parklands and animal exhibits including lions, polar bears, and gorillas.
Founded in 1868, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States with about 1,100 animals and some 200 species.
My recommendation is to skip the kiddy train, which only does a small, uninspiring loop. Instead, use the ride coupons on the carousel.
The is beautifully nestled along . We found it a little difficult to reach by public transport so opted for an Uber.
This Chicago landmark opened in 1930 and at one time was the largest aquarium in the world. It’s still huge.
The has over 32,000 animals and we needed at least 3 hours to see all the marine life.
The kid’s favorite feature was the Oceanarium, a vast, bright hall with views of the lake outside. And of course the SpongeBob 4D movie.
My favorite was the Wild Reef. It was the first time I’d seen a natural-style wave motion replicated in a man-made aquarium.
This Chicago history museum is as well-known as the national museum in London or New York and on the same grand scale.
The is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world and was loved by every one of our family, including the kids.
It’s located not far from in the Loop community area of Chicago.
The highlight of this museum is Sue, the most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil in the world. She is in the entrance standing at 13 feet high and 42 feet long and believed to be around 67 million years old.
My favorite exhibit was also the Lions of Tsavo in the Mammals of Africa section.
While the kids squealed and giggled their way through the Underground Adventure. The exhibit convinced them they had shrunk down smaller than the size of an ant and they got to explore life under the ground.
There is so much to do at the so examine a map and plan out your day. You may find a day is not enough.
4. Enjoy thefrom Navy Pier
Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier above and is one of the most visited attractions in the entire Midwest USA. Also, it’s Chicago’s number one tourist attraction.
And it’s easy to see why. The giant Ferris wheel, multiple other fun rides, and delicious street food. Or just watch birds scouring for fish in . has a
5. Inside play at the Children’s Museum
While you are at Navy Pier you might find yourself what can I do inside during the chilly parts of the day. Chicago Children’s Museum is located at Navy Pier.
Three floors of excitement for any child. My two children dug for dinosaur bones, climbed a three-story schooner, pumped water, made real wood art with hammers and nails, dressed as fire-fighters, painted, fished, and shopped at a grocery store. They were convinced it was better than .
Honestly, it was hard to drag them away.
Check the museum’s website for up-to-date admission pricing and hours.
6. Hop On Hop Off Chicago
One of my favorite things to do in any city is the hop-on-hop-off tour. It’s the perfect introduction to any city. And the Chicago Trolley was no different.
This time we tried something different and took a trolley in addition to a double-decker bus. It was just as scenic and since we caught the first loop of the day, we had it mostly to ourselves.
There are plenty of places to hop off in Chicago, so make sure you keep your map handy for the enjoyment of the , , , and so much more not listed here., ,
We did use a Check discount pricing here. to get into most attractions because I found once you visited three you more than made your money back.
While on the hop-on-hop-off above I noticed the beautiful domed roof of the positioned at the end of South Lakeshore, surrounded on 3 sides by water, and one of the best views of the Chicago skyline.
is America’s first planetarium, founded in 1930. It holds extensive space science exhibitions, 3 full-sized theatres, and a significant collection of antique scientific instruments.
During our visit, we checked out quite a few of the shows, but the “Destination Solar System” inside the Grainger Sky Theatre was the favorite.
Make sure you allocate enough time for the planetarium as it’s spread over multiple levels. Kids won’t be bored with all the hands-on kid’s sections and endless exhibits.
If the planetarium is not up your alley then you can use your CityPASS to visit the instead.
8. Take in a baseball game
If you haven’t heard of , then I don’t know where you’ve been. And while I didn’t visit that one I did head straight to the US Cellular Field to take the kids to their very first baseball game.
Chicago is famous for two great baseball teams – the Cubs and White Sox. And we were lucky enough to watch the Chicago White Sox take on the Boston Red Sox
It was electric.
The night we attended was superhero-themed and characters roamed around the entire evening. My kids particularly loved the dedicated play area where they could play their own baseball and enjoy other interactive games. Remember to bring sneakers – no shoes, no play.
9. Have breakfast on The Ledge at
103 floors above Chicago’s streets you get to enter , The Ledge. A glass box located on the 99th floor of .
is a 1450-foot skyscraper in Chicago. The tower has 108 stories and was the tallest building in the world for 25 years.
We enjoyed a must-do experience and got to have breakfast all by ourselves at sunrise high above in .
My kids and I spent lots of time out on the Ledge, let me know if you could do it. It’s not for the faint-hearted as it is the highest observation deck in the United States.
10. Take a visit to all the parks
Take your pick. Visit and the gorgeous Cloud Gate, or more fondly the silver bean. Don’t forget here too.
Take a walk past the to for a 3-acre Play Garden featuring an Alice in Wonderland, Charlie, and the Chocolate Factory vibe.
Then head past the to to teach the kids some history.
11. Make friends with the locals
We made friends online with a lovely lady who had an Airbnb apartment that we stayed at during one of our visits. And she was also kind enough to show us around her favorite parts of Chicago.
We ate at an authentic Mexican restaurant, strolled through fabulous playgrounds, wandered around , and ended the evening with warm summer Puerto Rican dancing.
12. Eat pizza, lots of pizza
Speaking of food in Chicago, you can not visit Chicago without trying one of the very many famous pizza restaurants. Because pizza is different in Chicago.
We took a Viator tour of the best pizza spots in Chicago to make the best use of our time. Now I may never eat pizza again, but my kids are still asking if they can have more Chicago deep-dish pizza.
13. Take the kids to the Chicago children’s theatre
With a theatre show named “Chicago”, you know this city will have its fair share of productions. You’ll find , , and even the kids have their own Broadway Playhouse at .
We took our kids to see Fancy Nancy The Musical by and it was brilliant. The kids were enthralled the entire time and came out singing, dancing, and twirling around in feather boas.
14. Find the kids a sitter
Okay so I may have cheated, but kids love sitters, as much as adults love a night out on the town. My sister and I got to head to a comedy show at Theatre where all the big-time actors honed their improv talent before they were famous.
I have never laughed so hard as I did when watching Panic on Cloud 9 at theatre. The sticky tables and fried food added to the charm of the small theatre and my first time watching live comedy was a complete success.
15. Stay in a family-friendly hotel
If you are looking for the perfect kid-friendly Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown. I would recommend
Most Embassy Suites properties have an atrium-style layout complete with a waterfall, bridges, a large dining area, and panoramic elevators. And despite being located steps from the in , this hotel was no different with its 11-story atrium and blooming foliage.
But what really makes it family-friendly is that all guest rooms feature a separate living area and sleeping area.
This list isn’t exhaustive, because there are hundreds of Share your comments below. . What would you add?
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