Finding fun things to do in Chicago with kids doesn’t take a lot of effort. Various venues and parks host events that include activities for children. Understandably, some parents and caregivers don’t want to wait for those so they look for things they can do in the meantime.
Many attractions in Chicago appeal to children and have parts that adults can enjoy right along with them.
The Shedd Aquarium is home to thousands of water-dwelling species. During the warmer months of the year, you can pet stingrays in a large touch pool outside. You can feel sturgeon throughout the year in the Great Lakes exhibit. There is an IMAX theater that offers several videos on a rotating basis daily. You can also enjoy the Land and Sea show, which includes performances by many of the aquarium’s animal residents. Children can play on a mock submarine, touch starfish, and enjoy many hands-on activities throughout the building.
Chicago has two zoos – Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo. Both zoos have a vast array of animals and exhibits, but the Brookfield Zoo is a bit bigger. Some families prefer to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo since it offers free entry, but there are some exhibits in the zoo, such as the Splash Pad, that you will have to pay to see. Keep in mind you will need to pay parking fees at either zoo if you opt to drive. You should plan for a full day at either zoo, but eateries and refreshment stands make it easy to grab a meal or snack while you explore.
Navy Pier is home to many different activities that children enjoy. It is best known for the Centennial Wheel, which is a large Ferris wheel. The pods on the wheel are enclosed so you can enjoy riding all year long, but it does close when the winds in the Windy City get too strong. Navy Pier is also home to the Shakespeare Theater, which offers truncated performances that last 75-minutes or less. This is an excellent chance to introduce children to the performing arts. There are many other featuers at the pier that make spending a day here easy, including eateries and shops.
The Chicago Children’s Museum has a variety of attractions that are ideal for children ages 10 and under, but older children might enjoy some of the stations. Some of the permanent exhibits include the art studio where they can paint or sketch, a dinosaur expedition where they can dig for bones, and a DIY maker space where they can use real tools. Traveling and temporary exhibits also provide enrichment for visitors.
The season will determine what is available at Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park. During the summer months, you will find people walking and cycling. Winter months come with a skating ribbon. There is a 3-acre play garden for children, a climbing park, picnic spots, and tennis courts. Children will enjoy the slides, a wave lawn, and an enchanted forest. The children’s play structures are only open to children 12 and under, so remember this if you are planning a visit with older children.
An abandoned railway was converted into a bicycle and pedestrian path with a public park space known as the 606 Trail. There are temporary and permanent artworks along the path. You can also find many physical events in the park. Some days, you might be treated to musical offerings. Others might include yoga classes.
You never know exactly what you will find at the Chicago Riverwalk. The final phase of the pedestrian walkway is completed, so you can walk 1.5 miles between Lake Michigan and the western end of the Loop. There are pop-up PlayCubes that are hosted by the Design Museum Foundation, educational programs, and refreshment stands. While it is open year-round, most people find the harsh Chicago winters too cold to enjoy this attraction.
Housed in the former Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Cultural Center is a mecca for children’s activities. The excitement for adults usually starts outside of the center thanks to the amazing domed architecture. Inside, children can enjoy theater performances, concerts, and exhibitions that help them to learn about various cultures. Hands-on activities keep kids enthralled in the learning experience.
Located on 385 acres, the Chicago Botanic Garden has a total of 27 gardens. There is a learning center that spans 26,700 square feet. Children can run on a grassy esplanade, climb on roly-poly hills at the Nature Play Garden, or explore the Japanese Garden’s arched bridges. You can expect to spend the majority of a day here if you are going to take in everything.
You can visit a tropic paradise all year long when you head to the Garfield Park Conservatory. There are two exhibition halls and six greenhouses here. While you might not think that children will enjoy the conservatory, there are family-friendly programs that offer kids a chance to participate in hands-on activities. There are also story times hosted here so children can enjoy nature’s beauty and hear a wonderful story.