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Roscoe Village Burger Fest
Roscoe Village Burger Fest

The best summer activities for kids in Chicago

Chicago has no shortage of summer activities for kids, from street festivals to long days at the beach

By Samantha Lande and Laura Rote

Summer activities for kids abound in Chicago, so your little ones have no excuse for saying "I'm bored." But when you're just not sure what to do with the family next, check out our list for ideas that go above and beyond playgroundsfree museum days and weekend getaways (though we love all those, too). 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in the summer in Chicago

The best summer activities for kids

1. Spend the day at Montrose Beach

Things to do Uptown

Not only can kids hang on the beach, they can also trek around a wooded bird sanctuary and say hi to the dogs visiting the fenced-off dog beach. With plenty of concessions, including The Dock at Montrose Beach, you also won't go hungry.

Families flock to the riverfront Ping Tom Park in Chinatown for screenings under the stars.
Photograph: Courtesy of Chicago Park District

2. Catch an outdoor movie


You can always cool off at the multiplex taking in this year’s best summer movies, but outdoor movies—including classics, recent hits and family favorites—are right at the top of the best things to do in the summer in Chicago. Your options range from spreading a blanket for free screenings in neighborhood parks to the somewhat fancier environs of the brand new Rooftop Cinema Club.

Rainbow Cone
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

3. Indulge at Original Rainbow Cone

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Beverly

For 90 years, the awning-covered picnic tables of this Far South Side ice-cream shop have been packed with locals indulging their sweet tooth. The signature five-flavor Rainbow Cone features scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet stacked one on top of the other for an unbeatable classic.

Photograph: Ron Vesely

4. Watch a Sox game

Sports and fitness Stadiums Armour Square

You can't beat the special kids days at the Cell this summer. From an American Girl Doll T-shirt day to Southpaw the mascot's birthday, you can have tons of fun this season on Family Sundays. Make sure to check out the Xfinity Fundamentals area, featuring an awesome practice area for kids with everything from a wiffle ball diamond to batting cages.

Crown Fountain
Photograph: russavia/Wikicommons

5. Splash around at Crown Fountain

Attractions Parks and gardens Millennium Park
Spanish artist Jaume Plensa didn’t design Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain to be a kids’ waterpark, but it certainly turned out that way. Two 50-foot-tall glass block structures feature mega-size images of Chicagoans that spew water from their mouths every five minutes in the summer. Kids have been known to run into the spray fully clothed, unable to stop themselves.
Photograph: J.Geil

6. Run the bases at Wrigley Field

Sports and fitness Baseball & softball Wrigleyville

Sunday afternoon Cubs home games are perfect for families who want to experience the ballpark. Through Sept 25, the first 1,000 kids 13 and under at the gates get a wristband that allows them to run the bases on the field after the game, and the first 5,000 kids get a special giveaway.


12. Go green at the Edible Garden

Kids Lincoln Park

Located right in the Farm-at-the-Zoo area of the Lincoln Park Zoo, this is a hands-on way for kids to experience where their food comes from. Kids can flex their green thumb on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, May through September, from 930am–1230pm.


13. Cool off at a neighborhood splash park


If only Chicago backyards were big enough for sprinklers. But who needs to soak their (nonexistent) lawns when so many of the playgrounds and parks across town have awesome water features for the little ones to test out? These are our favorites.


15. Track the Park District's Craftmobile

Arts and crafts are always a favorite among little ones, but they're even more fun at the park. Each summer the Chicago Park District brings easy-to-do crafts, geared toward kids ages 4–10, to parks around the city. The truck provides the supplies for crafts like sidewalk murals and stained-glass windows. Check the Chicago Park District website as dates are always added, usually on Wednesdays and Thursdays, throughout the summer.


18. Get brain freeze at Miko's Italian Ice

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Bucktown

You’d think a seasonal Italian-ice shop run out of the basement window of a two-story house would be easy to miss, but thanks to the legions of fans who fill the sidewalk with their strollers and leashed-up dogs, there’s little chance of sidestepping it. It’s futile to resist anyway—fresh fruits get pulverized then frozen (seeds and all!) into a consistency somewhere between Hawaiian shave ice and sorbet. 

Goliath, the newest roller coaster at Six Flags Great America, opens to the public on June 19.
Photograph: Martha Williams

19. Get some thrills at Six Flags Great America

Things to do Suburbs

This suburban theme park has been making kids smile (and scream) for more than 40 years. Original kiddie rides include the Tots Livery Surrey Carriage, Red Baron Airplanes and Lady Bugs. Plus, you can't miss the Carousel Plaza and nostalgic Hometown Square.


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