Have Fun In The Windy City: 20 Things To Do With Kids In Chicago

Have Fun In The Windy City: 20 Things To Do With Kids In Chicago
Kirthana
Kirthana 
Contributing Writer
Updated
| 10 min read

Chicago is a place where there’s something for everyone, especially kids. It is a city that is so vibrant and alive with cool buildings, great parks, and awesome food. There are so many things to do and see that staying for at least a few days is the best way to experience the city. You can book a room in a hotel or stay in one of the top luxury Airbnb vacation rentals in Chicago. Ready for an action-packed adventure with the whole family? Complete the whole getaway experience by checking every single thing on this must-do list when visiting with your children!

1. Navy Pier

20030103 06 Navy Pier
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user David Wilson used under CC BY 2.0

Navy Pier is a burst of colour in the heart of the city, and it is a kid’s dream come true. From the towering Ferris Wheel, seasonal celebrations, and special events to festivals, fireworks, entertainment and public shows in the exhibition hall space, there is always something happening here, winter, spring, summer and fall. Be sure to check out their Children’s Museum and the IMAX theatre in particular; these are the top two highlights of Navy Pier that will make your trip even more memorable for kids.

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2. Enjoy the view of the city from 1,450 feet (442 metres) up

Chicago SkyDeck - glass box bottom
Source: Photo by user UCFFool used under CC BY 2.0

The Willis Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world and the former tallest building in America. It is impossible to miss when appreciating the skyline. Visitors can enter the tower and hop on an elevator ride that they won’t forget. After reaching the top of the tower, the Skydeck is THE best place to gawk at the Chicago city skyline. The Skydeck has glass boxes that protrude out and you can stand in them, look down 108 floors below you, and feel that adrenaline rush. It’s an amazing place for photos, so be sure to bring your camera! It is very Instagram-worthy indeed!

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3. Dive into the sea world in Shedd Aquarium

Male whale shark at Georgia Aquarium
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Zac Wolf used under CC BY-SA 2.5

Shedd Aquarium combines a 20th-century-style aquarium with 21st-century modernity in the interpretation and the care it provides for the animals. The aquarium boasts a diverse range of animals and sea creatures from different parts of the world, and they are split according to climate, from Amazon Rising to Polar Play Zone. It’s a place filled with wonder and excitement, and is sure to ignite the curiosity of children.

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4. Be seen at the Bean

The Bean
Source: Photo by Flickr user Franck Michel used under CC BY 2.0

The Chicago Bean is truly the centrepiece of Millennium Park, and it’s a must-see when in Chicago. The architect was inspired by liquid mercury, and the sculpture’s surface reflects and distorts the city’s skyline. This creates a very fun experience for you and your kids. Go wild and take a bunch of silly selfies and have fun at the Chicago Bean.

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5. Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo -entrance-10May2005
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user chascarper used under CC BY 2.0

Lincoln Park Zoo is a world teeming with wildlife in the midst of a concrete jungle. Free and open every day of the year, Lincoln Park Zoo has something for everyone. Your children can meet animals from all around the world. Located within a verdant park, just minutes north of Chicago, the zoo has been a natural, free oasis for generations of animal-lovers who visit the zoo to hear a lion’s roar echo off nearby apartment buildings, see gorillas climbing trees as the Willis Tower looms in the distance, or forget where they are as they immerse themselves in tropical rainforests, dry-thorn forests or spacious savannas.

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6. Get traditional in Chinatown

China Town main plaza
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sgerbic used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Sample some exotic foods, affordable gifts and goods, freshly-made teas, and, of course, traditional fun. Chinatown in Chicago has a number of art exhibitions and museums throughout the area for you to visit. The streets also have several sculptures, and entrance gates that tell stories that can fascinate you and your kids.

On top of the scenic and artistic routes to take throughout Chinatown, you can look into getting some of the best food that is offered. This is because they have only the finest Chinese dishes. Each of their restaurants uses only the best ingredients, and also aims to please each and every person that walks in. Try a bite of tradition by splurging on some of the best dim sum, tiny dumplings, and roasted pork, both of which are readily available throughout Chinatown. The streets of Chinatown are all lined with amazing restaurants, so just take your pick and have a good time.

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7. Get starry-eyed at the Adler Planetarium

Adler planetarium
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Baseball636 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Adler Planetarium aims to inspire exploration and understanding of our universe. The planetarium boasts a ton of interactive exhibitions all circled around different science topics. The planetarium also has a lot of high-tech sky shows happening all throughout each day, to entertain avid stargazers and, essentially, captivate everyone who comes to visit this place. The lakefront views are an added bonus, which allow for a lot of picturesque and scenic views and photographs, especially when the sun is setting.

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8. Get a 360-degree view of Chicago at the John Hancock Center

John Hancock Center
Source: Photo by Flickr user Bernt Rostad used under CC BY 2.0

Apart from the Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center is one of the tallest and most-historic buildings in all of Chicago, and even in the whole of America. When visiting, you are allowed to enter the 94th floor where 360 CHICAGO, the observation deck, is located. This stunning and incredible area offers breathtaking views of the city and Lake Michigan from over 1,000 feet (305 metres) above the Magnificent Mile. You can enjoy a cocktail or coffee at the bar while the kids are awestruck watching the sunset. All around the observation deck are interactive panoramic touchscreens in seven languages, which give you more information about the place and building. And while you’re there, don’t forget to try TILT – an exhilarating one-of-a-kind attraction that literally TILT’s visitors to a 30-degree angle over Michigan Avenue.

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9. Let your child find their inner builder at the Museum of Science and Industry

Interior view - Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) - DSC06500
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Daderot used under CC0

The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, and it has a lot to offer. Among its diverse and expansive exhibits, the museum features a full-size replica coal mine, a German submarine U-505 captured during World War II, a 3,500-square-foot (325-square-meter) model railroad, the first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel passenger train, and, the piece de resistance, the Apollo 8 spacecraft that carried the first humans to orbit the moon!

It’s a great place for kids to ignite their creativity. They even have an Idea Factory designed just for young scientists age 10 and under. They have everything they need in this tiny research facility built just for them, giving them loads of opportunities to test and observe theories of construction, simple machines, light, magnetism, air pressure and more. It’s truly a playground for the mind and for young scientists!

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10. Discover your favourite Chicago pizza joint

have fun in the windy city: 20 things to do with kids in chicago | discover your favourite chicago pizza joint

Everyone loves pizza, especially kids, and especially when this pizza is something special. The pizza in Chicago is a pizza pie. The deep surface packs so much more flavor, filled with large amounts of cheese and topped with a chunky tomato sauce. From its flaky crust to its zingy tomatoes, it’s a perfect bite every time, and it will sure be a treat for kids. It might get a little messy, but that’s just part of the fun. Be sure to try a ‘za from The Art of Pizza, Lou Malnati’s or Pequod’s Pizza.

Tip from Trip101 local expert

John

John
Chicago

With so many pizza places to choose from, it can be hard to decide where exactly to go. Though, if you are looking for traditional deep-dish Chicago-style pizza, you can never go wrong with a Giordano's. I highly recommend that if this is your first time trying deep-dish pizza in Chicago, that you try Giordano's Chicago Classic deep dish! Never fear if the ingredients don't fit your fancy as you can always get a make your own pizza with the ingredients of your choice.

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11. Visit the home of the Cubs at Wrigley Field

Wrigley field 720
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rdikeman used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Just to be sure, actual cubs don’t live here. It’s the Chicago Cubs! Wrigley Field is a baseball park on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois. This field is prominent and famous for its ivy-covered brick wall, and the iconic bright red marquee right at the entrance. Wrigley Field is the last major league park to have lights installed so that they can play after dark, so if you are given this exclusive chance, don’t miss it! It’s a great place to watch a game of baseball and just immerse yourself in the electric sky-high moods of the crowds of supporters.

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12. Have a fern-tastic time at Lincoln Park Conservatory

Lincoln Park Conservatory
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alanscottwalker used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Lincoln Park Conservatory is a place filled with lush and green flora all year round. From tropical palms to ancient ferns, you can experience it all right in the heart of Lincoln Park. Kids play around all the time, so it’s perfectly safe to let your kids explore the area. Lincoln Park Conservatory is must-see when in Lincoln Park.

It offers visitors a wholesome experience with their four different display houses, namely the Palm House, the Fern Room, the Orchid House and the Show House. Each comes with something different, from technicolor flower shows to serene greenery, it’s sure to make you feel transported away. The best part? Admission is free for all!

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13. Go to the Art Institute

Art Institute of Chicago
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tripp used under CC BY 2.0

The Art Institute of Chicago has a wide repertoire of art pieces, and it is one of the top art museums in downtown Chicago. In fact, to date, the Art Institute of Chicago is home to a staggering 87,000 pieces of art. From African to American, from ancient to contemporary, the museum has everything an art enthusiast could want. Even if you’re a layman, there’s something to enjoy. Look out for the free art tours provided by the museum; they are extremely comprehensive and engaging.

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14. Take a cruise along the Chicago River

Chicago River, Chicago, IL
Source: Photo by user Doug Sun Beams used under CC BY 2.0

The city of Chicago has some great architecture, and the best way to truly appreciate the buildings is via the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. This cruise is a must for tourists and Chicagoans alike. The tour guides onboard interpret more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River. You’ll find out how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world’s largest cities in less than 100 years. In 90 minutes, get the real story on Chicago’s architecture and its history.

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15. Bike, run or stroll by the Chicago Lakefront Trail

Chicago LFT GC
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alanscottwalker used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Chicago Lakefront Trail is an 18.5-mile (29.7-kilometer) linear park along Lake Michigan. It includes beaches, volleyball courts, playgrounds, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and soccer fields. This diverse trail unites a variety of some of the best and safest neighborhoods, including South Shore, Hyde Park, Lincoln Park, and Lake View.

The Chicago Lakefront Trail also provides direct access to a number of amenities popular with locals and tourists alike, and thus is often crowded on warm days. Some of the notable cultural landmarks along the way include: the Museum of Science and Industry; the Field Museum of Natural History; Shedd Aquarium; Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum; the Chicago Children’s Museum; the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum; and the South Shore Cultural Center.

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16. Show your kids the beauty of the Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago cultural center
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Velvet used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The stunning architecture of the Chicago Cultural Center is enough to attract people. This place of wonder was crafted by the world’s top architects using the finest materials; rare imported marble for the steps, polished brass and fine hardwoods, and all topped off with the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome. There is always something happening at the center, be it musicians playing live music, dance and theater events, rare art films, lecturers, and of course, art exhibitions. Every year, the Chicago Cultural Center presents hundreds of free international, national, regional and local artists, musicians and performers, giving them a platform to showcase their talents in a place where the public can enjoy and learn about the arts.

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17. Oz Park

Children's Garden
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user rockcitytim used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Oz Park is exactly what it sounds like: a park that celebrates the Wizard of Oz theme. Oz Park is a great place for parents to bring their children. The “Dorothy’s Playlot” playground is filled with play equipment for little ones to climb, swing, and run. In the “Emerald Garden”, families can enjoy a leisurely afternoon among the beautiful flowers. Throughout the park, there are statues of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and everyone’s favorite, Dorothy & Toto. It’s a great place for kids, and for parents who want to relive this magical part of their own childhood.

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18. Grant Park

Grant Park Chicago Garden
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alanscottwalker used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This park has been mimicked as Chicago’s front yard, and for good reason. Grant Park is literally Chicago city’s centerpiece, home to some of the most notable features of Chicago, including Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum Campus. Something is always happening at the park, from musical performances and garden shows to art fairs and even sporting events. It also hosts public gatherings and several large annual events. The park is rich in history, with many political events using it as a venue. For example, the centerpiece of Grant Park is the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain, built in 1927 to provide a monumental focal point while protecting the park’s breathtaking lakefront views. The park also contains baseball diamonds and tennis courts, and it plays host to some the city’s largest food and music festivals. A visit to Grant Park is certain to leave you and your kid happy.

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19. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

ChicagoNature (6)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alanscottwalker used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum focuses on the natural history of Chicago, and aims to teach adults and children in a fun way. The exhibitions are very carefully selected and structured, and not to mention extremely eye catching. The colorful set-ups include the Butterfly Haven, the City Science House, Water Lab, and Wilderness Walk habitat exhibits. One of the biggest highlights is obviously the Butterfly Haven, considering that it features more than 200 species of native and exotic butterflies. The museum also offers an array of educational programs (over 100 in fact) about natural sciences, making learning fun for both adults and children.

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20. Treat your child to something sweet

Nougat
Source: Pixabay

Whimsical Candy is Chicago’s very own fun, original candy store. This candy store sells some of the most innovative and delicious artisanal candies, from nougats to the good ol’ chocolate bar. However, their most unique and famous offerings are the Lah Dee Dahs, a roll of handmade nougat wrapped around a decadent handmade sea salt caramel, and covered with a little chocolate on top. They even have “instructions” of the different ways you can enjoy this delectable dessert, which surely makes for a fun eating experience.

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Chicago is fun for everyone

Chicago events and attractions are never short on fun. And it’s truly fun for the whole family. There really are endless options to keep the family entertained with plenty of kid-friendly itinerary suggestions.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Kirthana is currently studying at the National University of Singapore, pursuing a degree in Political Science. In her free time, she enjoys writing for leisure and loves to travel whenever the...Read more

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