Rich in culture and full of vibrant neighborhoods, Chicago is a city worth exploring. With its magnificent skyline, lakeside location, and endless number of family-friendly activities, it offers something to do or see around every corner.
We’ve got you covered with our list of 18 things to do with kids in Chicago, along with kid-approved places to eat, shop, and stay!
- You have two airports to choose from when flying to Chicago. Midway and Chicago O’Hare are about the same distance from the city. Travel to your hotel via taxi, rideshare, or airport transfer, which are better options for managing small children as well as your luggage and gear.
- Like any other big city, it’s smart to always be aware of your surroundings, especially when traveling with kids. Stick to downtown and the popular tourist spots to play it safe.
- If you plan to rent a car, be aware that parking in the city is quite expensive. Chicago is easy to explore via public transportation, on foot, or via bicycle when the weather permits.
What to Pack
- To prepare for the weather, you need to consider the season. You’ll get the best weather April to May and September to October. June to August means hot and extremely humid conditions, as well as sudden downpours. November to March is all about freezing temperatures and biting winds.
- Spring travel requires water-repellent shoes or boots and light outerwear. Summer packing means breathable clothing, raingear, and lots of sunscreen. Fall is all about the light layers of clothing. Winter requires thermal layers, thick knitwear, and heavy coats.
- Be sure to pack an umbrella stroller or baby carrier to keep things hassle free when traveling with little ones.
- It’s not called the Windy City for nothing! That’s why you want to pack an umbrella that is windproof as well as rainproof no matter what time of the year you’re visiting.
- Daypacks are essential when exploring a city with kids. You’ll be worry-free knowing you have everything you need on hand.
- You’ll be walking – a lot! So, stay hydrated with a travel reusable water bottle for every member of your family.
3 Family-Friendly Hotels in Chicago
- The Guesthouse Hotel – Originally planned to be condos, this hotel offers rooms with high ceilings and plenty of space. Every suite has a gourmet kitchen which makes meal prep easy, as well as a washer and dryer. Hotel staff are happy to provide whatever you may need including baby gear, games, and even coloring supplies!
- Loews Hotel – Your kids will be thrilled when they walk in your room to discover a play tent and campfire set up overlooking a view of the city. Kids will also receive their own package of toys for their stay. Talk about kid-friendly! The downtown location is close to everything, and parents will appreciate amenities just for babies like cribs and bath kits.
- Best Western River North – This hotel is affordable and offers nice big rooms. The onsite restaurant has plenty of kid-friendly options and little ones will love the complementary Push-Ups and ice cream sandwiches!
7 Kid-Approved Places to Shop & Eat in Chicago
- Best in Chow Food Tour – This tour is all about classic Chicago food – think Chicago-style hot dogs, deep dish pizza, and hot beef sandwiches. You’ll also get a dose of history as you learn just how these foods became Chicago classics.
- Original Rainbow Cone – This tasty ice cream shop is perfect on a hot day. There are tons of flavors and treats to choose from with cones, shakes, cake rolls, and more.
- Urban Belly – If your family loves Asian-inspired cuisine, you need to check out Urban Belly. They have fantastic kid menu options that will please even the pickiest of eaters. You may decide to visit this spot more than once!
- Andersonville – This exciting neighborhood is located just North of downtown. It has a Swedish influence and a small-town feel. Kids will love exploring the toy shops, bookstores, and candy shops.
- SafeHouse – This is a great spot to eat and play! From the moment you walk in it’s all about fun. Kids will love the in-restaurant scavenger hunt and the magician doing card tricks. Food comes in easy-to-order packages that include an appetizer, entree, and drink.
- Doughnut Vault – This popular sweet spot almost always has a line, so plan ahead. Their doughnuts are decadent, and they have a great selection of coffees.
- Giordano’s Pizza/Gino’s East Pizza – Chicago is known for their deep-dish pizzas. But how do you know which one is best? You need to try as many as possible! Visit Giordano’s and Gino’s for their distinct deep dishes and choose your favorite.
18 Things To Do with Kids in Chicago
- Chicago Riverwalk – Located on the South Bank of the Chicago River, Riverwalk offers gourmet foods and local treats, public art, green spaces, and boat tours. Take in views of the city skyline while you walk the 1-mile-long pedestrian path along the river.
- Skydeck – This spot is situated high above the city on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower. The views are incredible, and you can see four different states from the platform. There are always lines, so be prepared by getting there early.
- Alder Planetarium – If you have space lovers in your family, you won’t want to miss this lakefront planetarium. Kids will love exploring the exhibits and the full-scale models. Check out their website for current shows and events.
- Museum of Science & Industry – One of the largest science museums in the world, it spans 14 acres with more than 35,000 different artifacts. Be sure to carve out plenty of time to visit as many exhibits as possible, including the Giant Dome Theater, live tornadoes, a diesel train, and a German submarine!
- Centennial Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier – This Chicago landmark should be on your must-do list. This Ferris Wheel has enclosed gondolas that take you 200 feet high and offer amazing 360-degree views of the city and Lake Michigan. While you’re on the Navy Pier, you can also explore cool restaurants and shops.
- Wrigley Field – Opened in 1914, it’s home to the Chicago Cubs major league baseball team. Be sure to sign up for a guided tour that allows you to explore the amazing architecture and learn all about its exciting history.
- Gallagher Way – This attraction is a fantastic place for kids. Located next to Wrigley Field, this open space offers concerts and markets in the warmer months and in the winter months you can enjoy holiday movies and ice skating. There’s also plenty of great spots to grab a bite to eat.
- Chicago Children’s Museum – Located on the Navy Pier, this museum is full of opportunities for hands-on play and exploration. With a big focus on science and history, kids 10 and under will have fun digging up dinosaur bones, climbing the Cloud Buster, and painting in the art studio.
- Maggie Daley Park – This 20-acre public park features an outdoor climbing park and the famous Skating Ribbon in the Winter months. Kids will love the play garden with slides, the wave lawn, and an enchanted forest.
- Art Institute of Chicago – You can spend a whole day at this art museum which is one of the oldest and largest in the world. The whole family can take a mini tour or visit the Vitale Family Room for puzzles, games, and books. Best of all, children under 14 are free!
- Shedd Aquarium – This aquarium houses more than 32,000 different creatures in over 5 million gallons of water. Kids will have a blast visiting beluga whales, sharks, jellyfish, and penguins. Don’t miss the reef exhibits and Amazon River tanks.
- Field Museum of Natural History – Nature lovers both big and small will have a blast visiting a T-Rex named “Sue”, a real mummy, and a variety of traveling exhibitions. You can grab a bite to eat at the Field Bistro or pick up a souvenir at the museum store.
- The Bean/Millenium Park – This 25-acre greenspace is home to concerts in the summer and ice skating in the winter. A massive three-story steel sculpture known as The Bean is a popular photo spot for tourists.
- Lincoln Park Zoo – This zoo dates all the way back to 1868. Everyone gets in free and you can visit more than 1,100 different animals. Ride the train, get up close during animal encounters, and take a spin on the carousel. Visit their website for current events and seasonal activities.
- Chicago Botanic Garden – With over 385 acres and 27 beautiful gardens to explore, this is the perfect place for nature lovers. Kids will love the arched bridges in the Japanese Garden, the Learning Play Center, and the Nature Play Garden.
- The Escape Game Chicago – This is a great spot to “escape” to when the weather outside is less than agreeable. You may not think escape rooms are kid-friendly, but this one is perfect for everyone in the family. You’ll have 60 minutes to figure out the clues and find your way out.
- Brookfield Zoo – There are more than 450 different species to visit at this Chicago zoo. Animal lovers in your family can encounter wild animals, ride the carousel, enjoy a dolphin show, or feed the giraffes.
- 360 Chicago – Located on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building, is an observation deck with incredible views of the city below. You can take in the surrounding areas from every direction 1,000 feet in the sky. Those who love a thrill can experience one of the highest rides in the country, the Tilt ride.
Your family will be blown away with a trip to the Windy City. We hope this list of 18 things to do with kids in Chicago will make your planning and decision making that much easier.
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