9 Fun Things to Do in Chicago with Kids
Sometimes it feels limiting to travel with kids—but not in the Windy City. In fact, almost all of the top things to do in Chicago are very much family-friendly, from investigating dinosaur bones at the Field Museum to sailing pirate ships at Navy Pier. To see what's out there, check out this list of top Chicago activities for kids and their parents.
1. Museum Campus
The most obvious place to kickstart your kid's cultural development is the Museum Campus. Three of the city's top museums—Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, and Adler Planetarium—are located there (sorry, Art Institute). These storied institutions open up the worlds of astronomy, life sciences, and anthropology with some of the most enriching Chicago kids' activities, including petting stingrays and digging for dinosaur bones.
2. Chicago Children's Museum
The Chicago Children's Museum connects play and learning through hands-on exhibits. Kids Town brings the city to kids' tiny fingertips with a real CTA bus, small-scale grocery store, and miniature cityscape, while the Waterway exhibit demonstrates how water moves through a system of pulleys, pumps, and pipes.
3. Lincoln Park Zoo
It's easy to forget that you can see the skyline from Lincoln Park Zoo. That's because it's set within a lush park and—more importantly—has designed its outdoor habitats to be as natural and stimulating to the zoo's inhabitants as possible. The results? Kids get to see giraffes, Amur leopards, and red pandas frolicking in the sunshine for free.
4. Legoland Discovery Center Chicago
Legoland Discovery Center Chicago offers a bird's eye view of Chicago landmarks in miniature, as well as a life-size jungle exhibition and factory tour to see how LEGO bricks are made. After strapping on their helmets, kids can watch plastic particles fuse into single bricks and get packed into playsets.
5. Chicago Botanic Garden
At the Chicago Botanic Garden, "indoor kids" can get a much needed dose of sunshine and fresh air, with the bonus of a few sneaky learning opportunities. The Butterflies & Blooms exhibit walks visitors through the insect's life cycle—and surrounds them with hundreds of fluttering specimens—and the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden demonstrates how their food is grown. These exhibits and other kids activities and events help even the youngest visitors connect with the great outdoors.
6. Play Garden at Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park's play garden takes a leaf out of the books Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. An animal-themed watering hole, an enchanted forest filled with upside-down trees, and a crater covered in twisting slides invite kids to explore three acres of landscaped garden.
7. Tall Ship Cruises
Aboard a tall ship such as the Tall Ship Windy and the Red Witch—both of which regularly set sail from Navy Pier—exploring the waters of Lake Michigan is easy. But if the vast expanse of an inland sea isn't enough to maintain your kid's attention, storytellers on pirate-themed cruises bring to life true stories of epic battles and treasure hunts on the Great Lakes.
8. The Palm Court at the Drake Hotel Chicago
The Little Prince and Princess Tea at the Drake Hotel Chicago presents the perfect opportunity for proper young children to practice first-class dining etiquette to a soundtrack of live harp music. Of course, if your kid doesn't give a fig for formalities, he or she can still go to town on finger sandwiches, English scones, and petit fours (while Mom and Dad enjoy a much-deserved Bellini).
9. Wrigley Field
It's an American tradition: hot dogs, baseball caps, and a kid's first game. Historic Wrigley Field takes families back in time as the Cubs duke it out for a National League victory. Speaking of dreams, nothing comes close to the joy in a child's eyes as she reaches for a foul ball. But don't worry: if either of these hopes are crushed, you and your youngster can find solace (ice cream? milkshakes? more beer?) at one of the many nearby restaurants.
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