Kids who call Gurnee, IL their hometown have really struck the jackpot. This suburb of Chicago is home to some of the state’s best amusement parks, waterparks, malls, and other attractions that draw visitors from all over the country, and it’s all located in their own backyard. When you factor in the other great destinations located just a short drive away, it’s hard to imagine ever getting bored in Gurnee. Of course, if you’re new to the area or just passing through, you might not know about all the amazing things to do in Gurnee, IL with kids. If so, just follow along with our list and save up your energy: you’re going to need it!
Six Flags Great America may be Gurnee’s most well-known attraction and is one of the most popular amusement parks in the country! Situated a drivable distance from both Chicago and Milwaukee, a summer visit to Six Flags was a rite of passage for most kids and teens who spent their formative years in either of those cities. And while it’s perhaps best known for its rollercoasters, it has tons of all-ages attractions so that everyone in the family can get in on the fun. Here are a few of Six Flags Great America’s kid-friendly highlights:
Columbia Carousel. You can’t miss this double-decker carousel rises 100 feet into the air, right behind the main entrance pool. Built in 1976, it’s the second tallest carousel in the world.
Whizzer. For many kids in the Chicagoland area, the whizzer was the first real roller coaster they were ever brave enough (or tall enough) to try! Tame (by Six Flags coaster standards), the Whizzer doesn’t go upside down, but does reach speeds of up to 42 mph, so even the most seasoned park goer will love it. And, riders can sit back-to-back in pairs, so parents can ride with younger children who may be nervous.
Little Dipper. Local parents may recognize this award-winning junior coaster from its former home at Kiddie Land Amusement Park in Melrose Park, IL. Today it’s thrilling little ones again in the Yukon Territory section of the Great America park.
Kidzopolis. This kids-only section of the park features rides appropriate for the littlest riders, such as spinning tea cups, a splash zone, and a bounce house.
Goliath. For big, adventurous kids only, this wood-and-steel coaster features a heart-stopping 180-foot drop and reaches speeds of up to 72 mph. It also earned a spot on our list of the Best Roller Coasters of 2017.
New in 2018, the Great Wolf Lodge Gurnee indoor waterpark makes it possible for kids to enjoy a day at the pool, even in the dead of winter. The 80,000-square-foot waterpark features more than 6 water slides, 6 different pools, and a lazy river, plus tons of dry fun including an onsite arcade. Admission to the waterpark is free for guests of the resort, which is located just a stone’s throw from Six Flags Great America, Gurnee Mills mall, and the other most popular things to do in Gurnee, IL.
No list of what to do in Gurnee, IL would be complete without a mention of Gurnee Mills mall, and it’s a great option if you have older kids who enjoy shopping and need a break from the amusement park fun. Gurnee Mills is the third largest mall in Illinois and features both full-price and outlet stores in a single location. But in true Gurnee fashion, the fun isn’t limited to just great bargains: the mall also contains an arcade, mini golf course, and an in-house movie theater.
Wondering what to do in Gurnee, IL if big waterparks and amusement parks aren’t in the budget? Look no further than the always-popular Lamb’s Farm. Located in nearby Libertyville, this 70-acre farm and petting zoo allows kids to get up close with goats, sheep, cows, horses, llamas, pot bellied pigs, and even a chicken or two. Between visits with the animals, kids can also climb aboard the train ride or take a turn on the carousel, and the entire family can fill up on homey fare in the Magnolia cafe and bakery.
Did You Know? In addition to being a fun, family-friendly destination, Lambs Farm provides employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, as well as a number of residential and vocational programs designed to help them lead full, productive lives. A trip here can be a great opportunity to teach kids about acceptance and inclusion.
Any parent who’s ever tried to drag their kid past this restaurant in the Gurnee Mills mall knows that it’s a losing battle. But then, why would you ever want to fight it in the first place? Here’s three reasons why we love the Rainforest Cafe:
Jungle-like ambiance. Where else can you eat under a misty canopy of trees, next to a tank of tropical fish, while a tiger roars somewhere in the distance? The mist machines and animatronic animals might be a tad cheesy, but they’re also hyper-convincing if you’re 8 years old (or a kid at heart).
Kid-friendly bites. The regular menu may boast items like an ahi poke tower and honey sriracha salmon, but the kid’s menu keeps it easy and simple with classic fare like grilled cheese, pepperoni pizzas, and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.
Sparkling volcano dessert. It’s a volcano made out of chocolate cake and ice cream and topped with a sparkler. Need we say more?