Chicago is a great city for kids of all ages! There are so many centrally located kid-friendly museums, activities and tours that you will need little help finding your way around. Explore like a local with our 10 Best Things to do in Chicago with Kids!
#1. Play & Learn at Chicago Children’s Museum
Your kids will love this place and you just might have some fun yourself! Situated in Chicago’s Navy Pier district, the Chicago Children’s Museum is packed full of engaging exhibits to connect learning and playing in a child-centred environment! Three floors cover literature, math, science and creative activities but your kids will hardly notice as they;
- Dig up dinosaur bones.
- Pump water 50 ft. in the air.
- Operate a replica fire truck.
- Explore a ‘backyard’ with giant flowers and insects!
There’s even a special infant and toddler programme, and crawl areas, for the little ones under 5!
#2. Visit Outer Space at Adler Planetarium
Take the kids on a journey through the stars at the Adler Planetarium, America’s first planetarium. They’ll feel like they’re really travelling through space at the Grainger Sky Theatre and they can have fun investigating the ‘Big Bang.’ Kids can become modern space adventurers in Planet Explorers, which lets you experience what it’s like to climb, crawl and fly through space! Nice café here also with stunning Chicago city views.
#3. Free Activities at Millennium Park
There’s lots of fun activities in the heart of Chicago at Millennium Park. The kids will love capturing their reflection in The Bean, a giant, bean-shaped silver sculpture in the middle of the park and you will often find live music and dance performances to enjoy. Watch out for the Family Fun Festival that runs from June to August and includes art activities, story time and other great free events.
#4. Little Beans
Little Beans is a café and indoor play space with a difference, located between Lincoln Park and Bucktown. Little Beans Village is a town built for kids with a service station, grocery store, fire station, playhouse and school. Suitable for 0-6 year olds, they also have areas where the kids can play with Lego, trains, puzzles and ride on-cars! Regular classes are held here for parents and kids in subjects such as Music, Baby Sign Language and Kids Yoga.
#5. Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and More
No trip to Chicago would be complete without a visit to Navy Pier, with its stunning 150-foot Ferris wheel and numerous attractions and rides. Take a ride on the flying swings, play a round of mini-golf, or have a go on the remote control boats. Other indoor and outdoor activities include;
- The Maze, a virtual maze filled with surprising twists and turns.
- Rickshaw bike rentals (with free locks, riding maps and safety gear) so you can all pedal around together.
- Landscaped area with gardens, a fountain and carousel.
- Crystal Gardens, a six-story glass atrium and botanical park.
- Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows.
- Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
The Chicago Children’s Museum, mentioned earlier, is located here and there are lots of shops, restaurants and bars. Admission is free but you pay for the attractions and venues that you visit.
#6. Explore Life at The Field Museum
The Field Museum is situated at South Lake Shore Drive in the heart of Chicago’s Museum Campus and is easily accessible by public transport. Tons to see and do here and an interesting day out! It is a massive natural history museum with more than 30 permanent exhibitions that tell the story of life on earth, including;
- Gigantic dinosaurs.
- Ancient artefacts from royal Egyptian tombs.
- The Halls of Gems and Jade.
- Dino Camps.
- Meet a Scientist Workshops.
For more family ideas in Chicago, see 10 FREE Fun Things to do in Chicago.
#7. Chicago Beaches
You might be in a big busy city but Chicago has some great city beaches that are well worth a visit with the kids! From Howard Beach to 63rd Street Beach, there’s plenty to do in Chicago for a fun sandy adventure. Play volleyball on Montrose Beach or sit in the shade and enjoy the free Wi-Fi. Most Chicago beaches offer great family amenities including;
- Kayak rentals.
- Superb playgrounds.
- Water sports rentals
- Toilet and change rooms.
- Life guards and first aid stations.
#8. Interactive Science Adventure
This Museum of Science and Industry is just awesome, especially for younger kids! You can easily spend the whole day here and the focus is broad so everyone is sure to find an exhibit that interests them. All tickets can be bought online in advance and this is highly recommended, especially for the tours. The Mirror Maze, the Coal Mine Tour, the U-505 Submarine Tour and the WOW Tour (which takes you behind the scenes of the museum) are all fantastic!
#9. Touch a Stingray at the Shedd Aquarium
If your kids love penguins, dolphins and learning about sea-life take them along to the Shedd Aquarium. Here they can touch stingrays and starfish, see beluga whales and exotic fish and watch daily aquatic shows. Bring a lunch to the lower floor and be surrounded by marine life while you eat. Watch out for divers in the main tank and don’t miss the dolphin show!
#10. Stunning Chicago Views
Get a full 360 birds-eye view of Chicago at the John Hancock Observatory. On a clear day, it is claimed that you can see the 4 neighbouring states and the elevators that get you up there are the fastest in North America. The interesting audio tour is narrated by Friends actor, David Schwimmer.
Have you enjoyed any of these fun things to do in Chicago? We’d love to hear your recommendations, so please let us know below.
If you’re visiting other US cities, you’ll find more great family ideas:
- Free Things to do with Kids in Atlanta
- Free Things to do with Kids in New York City
- Free Things to do with Kids in Boston
- Free Things to do with Kids in Orlando.