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Things To Do With Kids in Chicago

Chi-Town: the birthplace of deep dish pizza, Route 66, and every year on St. Patrick’s Day, home to the green-for-a-day Chicago River. Perfect for a family-friendly trip, this spirited city is packed with unforgettable activities for sports fans, history buffs, and hipsters of all ages. Here are things for kids to do in the Windy City that will have you well on your way to a memorable family trip.

Chicago is known for its frigid winters, balmy summers, and gorgeous fall seasons. But whether the temperatures rest in the breezy 80’s or the chilling -20’s, this city is packed with family-friendly deals to enjoy. Here are some of Chicago’s most popular attractions:

  • Spend a day at The Field Museum checking out the Antarctic Dinosaurs Exhibit
  • Amaze the kids and test the limits of your perception inside the Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze
  • Relax and soak up the sunshine at Family Aquatic Centers
  • Rent a kayak and zip across the rolling waves of Lake Michigan
  • Drop the kids off at FunFlatables for hours of endless bounce house excitement

Make memories while eating Chicago-style hot dogs, dancing to jazz tunes, or exploring the area’s many museums and ballparks. Parents will have just as much fun as the kids will with these family-friendly things to do:

  • Take a family sailing class on Lake Michigan at Chicago Sailboat Charters
  • Watch a master illusionist, Ivan Amodei, hoodwink the audience at Secrets and Illusions
  • Sip wine and create a group painting with the kids at VIP Painting
  • Bring the whole clan to Shedd Aquarium
  • See an interactive spectacle of acrobatic stunts, dance, and comedy when you attend a UniverSoul Circus performance

Free and fun are never mutually exclusive in the Windy City. With more free activities than we’re able to fit in this list, exploring Chicago on a budget has never been easier. Try the following activities to feel thrifty and thriving:

  • Monkey around at the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is always free to enjoy
  • Visit the National Museum of Mexican Art during the weekend for Family Open Studios
  • Spot constellations through the 18.5-inch telescope Northwestern University’s Dearborn Observatory every Friday night
  • At the Poetry Foundation Library, bring the kids on Wednesdays at 10am for poetry and interactive crafts
  • Brave the tourists at the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, which is free every Thursday night between 5 and 8pm
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Fill up on famous Chicago popcorn before making friends with the reptiles at the zoo. Or, explore amongst the stars at the observatory. Treat the kids to a day that’s all about them with these kid-friendly activities:

  • Attend a Tuesday board game night at Cat & Mouse Games in Bucktown
  • Take a sweet day trip to Pleasant Prairie for a free tour of the Jelly Belly Warehouse
  • Pretend to be a firefighter during a tour of Engine 18, where Chicago Fire is filmed
  • If in Chicago on St. Patty’s Day, head to the epic river dyeing and parade festivities
  • Build sandcastles on the beach at one of the city’s 26 free beaches

Scavenger hunt across the city with everyone you know because Chicago is made for large group outings. Take a picture at one of its treasured landmarks before grubbing up on vendor food at a street fest. Try these things to do in Chicago with groups:

  • At Garfield Park Conservatory on the first and third Saturday each month, see live music, singers, and dancers perform
  • Wander amongst the art installations, Crystal Gardens, and the fountain at Polk Bros. Park when visiting Navy Pier
  • Take a group picture in front of the famous Bean at Millennium Park
  • Head to a street festival, like Mayfest, Do Division, or West Fest
  • Watch aerial pilots perform tricks in their jets during the Chicago Air & Water Show

When you’re looking for things to do that are both enriching and exciting, look no further than one of Chicago’s museums or learning centers. Here are the best educational activities to try with kids:

  • Nerd out on science at the Fermilab’s Ask-A-Scientist Tours
  • Show kids where their veggies come from at Green City Market farmers market
  • Meet up with a free Chicago Greeter, who will take you on a professional tour of the city
  • Visit the Ryan Learning Center inside the Art Institute of Chicago to participate in artwork-themed workshops
  • Learn about money during an offbeat tour of monetary artifacts and games at the Chicago Fed’s Money Museum

Music, painting, and dance classes for kids are around every corner, thanks to Chicago’s reputation for its theater and performing scenes. Try these creative classes for kids today:

  • Explore the Smart Museum of Art for hands-on art making and fun tours of the collections
  • Get creative at the Harold Washington Library Center, where kids can be puppeteers or photographers
  • Travelling exhibits, playgroups, and music sessions are always happening at Arlington Heights Memorial Library
  • Head to the Hyde Park Arts Center every second Sunday of the month for a free family art-making adventure
  • Experiment with sound and vocals at Old Town School of Folk Music during their Saturday Jams sessions

When the snow is coming down sideways, head to these warm, indoor activities to renew your outlook. Kids will love the sunny conservatory. Try the following indoor activities:

  • Get your green fix even on rainy days at the indoor Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Marvel at a miniature model of Chicago at The Chicago Architecture Foundation
  • Stroll the famously strange American Science & Surplus for science kits, hobby tools, and lab glass
  • Check out a book and listen to one at the Book Cellar during musical story time
  • Get your shopping fix at the Chicago Pedway, which offers shopping, restaurants, and interesting architecture inside temperature controlled passages