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 playgrounds, free 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hit the popular elevated trail on bike or on foot and travel across the Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown and neighborhoods.
Every Wednesday at 9:30pm and Saturday at 10:15pm from May 28 to Sept 3, your kids can ooh and aah over a spectacular fireworks display.
Drop off your kids for sports, art, music, science, crafts and more at one of the many area summer camps
This hidden-gem facility allows golfers to practice their swing and also offers miniature golf.
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.
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.
There is always something going on for kids here, from classes like Morning Glories (which includes planting and soil-digging projects) on Mondays from 10am–noon to the Play and Grow Garden.
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.
These water parks outside of the city offer up fun for the whole family with waterslides, lazy rivers, zero-depth pools and water features galore.
Whether it be strawberries, blueberries or raspberries, the family will love getting out of the city to pick their own and explore.
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.
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.