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Best things to do in Chicago with kids

This city offers oodles of fun things to do in Chicago with kids. Enjoy plenty of family fun thanks to our guide!
Photograph: Chris Strong

Looking for the best things to do in Chicago with kids? Whether you call our city home or you're visiting for the weekend, know this: Chicago may be built on world-class restaurants and craft breweries, but it's also brimming with family-friendly activities. We have the inside scoop on can't-miss children's museums, kid-friendly tours, the best things to do with kids around the 606, playground-equipped parks and Chicago mainstays that welcome little ones with open arms. As an added bonus, we have it on good authority that every destination on the list is fun for parents, too. What are you waiting for? Let the little ones in on the action with our guide to the best things to do in Chicago with kids.

Best things to do in Chicago with kids

Shedd Aquarium
Photograph: Brenna Hernandez
Attractions, Zoo and aquariums

Shedd Aquarium

icon-location-pin Museum Campus

What is it? One of the world's largest indoor aquariums.

Why go? Get up close and personal with frogs, turtles, sharks, penguins, sea lions and more at this immersive institution. 

Photograph: Braden Nesin
Museums, Childhood

Chicago Children's Museum

icon-location-pin Streeterville

What is it? A cultural institution built for tikes.

Why go? Connect learning and playing through the engaging exhibits at this Navy Pier museum.

The ice ribbon at Maggie Daley Park.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Maggie Daley Park

icon-location-pin Millennium Park

What is it? A 20-acre public park in the Loop.

Why go? Take a lap around the winding skating ribbon, ascend the 40-foot climbing wall or run around the city's most whimsical playgrounds.

Photograph: Chris Strong
Museums, Natural history

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park

What is it? A Lincoln Park institution dedicated to nature and environmental science.

Why go? Hands-on displays on marsh and river ecosystems engage kids, while the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven appeals to all ages.


Things to do

Lincoln Park Zoo

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park

What is it? One of the country's last free zoos.

Why go? The 35-acre attraction connects visitors with animals from all over the world, and a variety of seasonal events and special programming keep families coming back again and again.

Museums, Science and technology

Adler Planetarium

icon-location-pin Museum Campus

What is it? A museum devoted to astronomy and astrophysics.

Why go? Astronauts in training can peer into the unknown through a series of permanent exhibits and hands-on activities.

Chicago Botanic Garden
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Sandeep Pawar
Things to do, Literary events

Chicago Botanic Garden

icon-location-pin Suburbs

What is it? Twenty-seven breathtaking gardens spread across 385 acres.

Why go? Youngsters will get a kick out of the "Butterflies & Blooms" exhibition, a habitat that's filled with hundreds of live butterflies native to Asia, South America, North America and Africa.

Things to do, Literary events

DuSable Museum of African American History

icon-location-pin Washington Park

What is it? One of the oldest African-American–focused museums in the country.

Why go? To check out documents and artifacts from the lives of overlooked or unjustly marginalized movers and shakers, plus a collection of vibrant African-American art.

Richard Juarez and Christine Bunuan in Leo Lionni's Frederick at Chicago Children's Theatre
Photograph: Charles Osgood
Theater, Children's

Chicago Children's Theatre

icon-location-pin West Loop

What is it? A West Loop theater with a kid-focused lineup.

Why go? To see plays with educational undertones and positive messages that the whole family will enjoy.

Field Museum
Photograph: Courtesy the Field Museum
Museums, Science and technology

The Field Museum

icon-location-pin Museum Campus

What is it? A museum devoted to natural history—and one of Chicago's most beloved institutions.

Why go? Archaeologists in training can check out ancient mummies, get a closer look at towering dinosaur skeletons and marvel at rare jewels in the Grainger Hall of Gems.

<p>Water Tower Place: Big retailers, such as Macy's, have shops located within the Water Tower Place.</p>
Shopping, Shopping centers

Water Tower Place

icon-location-pin Streeterville

What is it? A massive mall in the heart of downtown Chicago.

Why go? Kiddos will love shopping at the American Girl Place, Candyality and the LEGO store.

Legoland Discovery Center

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

icon-location-pin Suburbs

What is it? A sprawling 30,000 square feet of space dedicated to the iconic plastic building toy.

Why visit? With the a Kingdom Quest interactive laser ride, 4-D movie theater, daily building workshops and the ever-popular Miniland featuring Chicago landmarks, you can easily spend half a day here.

Photograph: Mark Wright
Museums, Art and design

National Museum of Mexican Art

icon-location-pin Lower West Side

What is it? One of the largest Latino cultural organizations in the U.S.

Why go? It's a great excuse to learn about Mexican culture through art. Visit from noon to 2pm on Sundays to take advantage of family tours and craft workshops.

navy pier skyline
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Bert Kaufmann
Things to do, Literary events

Navy Pier

icon-location-pin Streeterville

What is it? A retail-packed pier on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. 

Why go? Take a spin around the Ferris wheel before checking out the pier's lineup of kid-approved restaurants and shops.

Things to do


icon-location-pin Streeterville

What is it? A 94th-floor observatory deck.

Why go? You can see up to 55 miles out and four states—you'll also catch stellar views of the city's fantastic architecture and Lake Michigan.

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Things to do

Chicago beaches

What is it? Sand-covered attractions along Lake Michigan.

Why go? Chicago's many public beaches offer free fun for the entire family. Just don't forget the sunscreen!

Restaurants, Ice cream parlors

Original Rainbow Cone

icon-location-pin Beverly

What is it? A South Side ice-cream shop with history.

Why go? To try the signature five-flavor Rainbow Cone, with scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet.

Museum of Science and Industry
Photograph: J.B. Spector
Museums, Science and technology

Museum of Science and Industry

icon-location-pin Hyde Park

What is it? The largest science institution in the Western Hemisphere.

Why go? Boasting an array of family-friendly programming on everything from tornados to robots, MSI is a must-see Chicago attraction. 

Photograph: Hyde Park Art Center
Art, Arts centers

Hyde Park Art Center

icon-location-pin Kenwood

What is it? A hub of contemporary artwork on the South Side of Chicago.

Why go? For the stimulating youth classes and workshops, which expose kids to ceramics, painting, photograph, drawing and so much more.

Photograph Courtesy Trust for Public Land
Attractions, Parks and gardens

The 606

icon-location-pin Humboldt Park

What is it? A 2.7-mile elevated path that runs through Logan Square, Wicker Park and Humboldt Park.

Why go? Connecting Chicago's hippest 'hoods, this trail is dotted with beautiful parks and art installations, making it a one-stop shop when the sun is shining.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Millennium Park

icon-location-pin Millennium Park

What is it? Chicago's most epic (and perhaps most well-known) public park.

Why go? If for nothing else, to snap a photo of Cloud Gate (a.k.a. "The Bean"). But also to traverse the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, check out massive art installations and take in free programming during the summer months.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Garfield Park Conservatory

icon-location-pin East Garfield Park

What is it? Thousands of plant species under one roof.

Why go? Get your green fix while letting the little ones climb nature-themed playscapes.

Bubbles Academy’s Summer Camp
Photograph: Maggie Rife

Bubbles Academy

icon-location-pin River North

What is it? A childhood arts enrichment center and preschool in Lincoln Park.

Why go? New parents, rejoice! This play palace offers music and movement classes, piano lessons and epic birthday parties. Plus, it's a great opportunity to start socializing your little ones.

Photograph: Ian Spula

Old Town School of Folk Music

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park

What is it? A hub for music, dance, theater and visual arts courses for kiddos (and adults) of all ages.

Why go? To check out 700-plus accredited classes, including Wiggleworms, an early-childhood music program where youngsters can sing, dance and learn finger plays.

Photograph: Jeremy Atherton
Things to do

Chicago Riverwalk

icon-location-pin Loop

What is it? A continuous riverfront walkway with restaurants, bars and urban attractions.

Why go? You don't have to spend a dime to enjoy the Chicago Riverwalk—unless, of course, you're grabbing lunch with the family. Little ones will love exploring the winding path, which offers surprises at every turn.


Chicago Architecture Center

What is it? A non-profit organization dedicated to educating Chicagoans on why design matters. 

Why go? Not only can you explore interactive exhibits, but you can also go on walking, bus/trolley, bicycle and el train tours of the city. 

Photograph: John W. Sisson
Things to do, Literary events

Chicago Cultural Center

icon-location-pin Downtown

What is it? Your go-to destination for culture, both Chicago and American.

Why? Housed in the building that served as the original Chicago Public Library, the CCC offers a smorgasbord of free events, including exhibits, live music and speakers. 

Photograph: Daderot
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Harold Washington Library Center

icon-location-pin Loop

What is it? Chicago's central library named after the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington.

Why go? Chicago's main library is home to a staggering 1.2 million books, but that's just the beginning. It also boasts free music practice rooms, a children's library that has its own floor, artwork and of course, the beautiful Winter Garden on the top floor.

Photograph: Marc Monaghan

Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago

icon-location-pin Greater Grand Crossing

What is it? A local dance company that has brought the best of traditional and contemporary African dance to Chicago for over 40 years.

Why go? Muntu's performances will keep even the squirmiest kid interested and if that's not enough, they also offer weekend classes

More to explore