When visiting Chicago with kids you won’t want to miss the museums (especially the Museum of Science and Industry), Navy Pier, Millennium Park to see the Bean, the Chicago Riverwalk, and do a food tour to try a variety of the delicious food!
There are so many fun things to do in Chicago with kids plus there is a ton of green space, educational opportunities and awesome events and festivals. We have done the research and experienced most of these activities with our 4 kids so all you have to do is click, book and go enjoy your time in Chicago!
Our Top Picks For Things To Do In Chicago
Table of Contents
Getting Around Chicago
Before we jump into that let’s talk about the logistics when you visit. The main downtown part of Chicago is very walkable. But the city is HUGE. So be prepared that you could walk miles between the attractions you want to visit.
Uber is always an easy option, you could look into the bus, or you could rent bikes. We saw a lot of people renting bikes. We personally wouldn’t do bikes with our kids as we felt it was too busy and we wouldn’t feel comfortable with our kids zig zagging in and out on the streets like we saw the other bikers doing.
Chicago is also a great location to take a few day trips from. If you are looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of the big city you can head 45 minutes north to Kenosha or about 90 minutes north to Milwaukee. These are both fun cities with lots to do for kids as well!
Family Friendly Chicago Attractions
Below we share details on our favorite attractions to visit while in Chicago! There is so much to do in this city it is hard to pick what things you will do. Be sure to check out the Go Chicago Explorer Pass or the Chicago CityPass.
The Escape Game Chicago
If you are looking for a unique and fun indoor activity to do with your family be sure to check out The Escape Game! We weren’t sure if it would be kid friendly but it totally was.
You are put in a room and have 60 minutes to figure out how to get out. Don’t worry the game master is there to help you. Book Your Escape Game Tickets Now!
We really enjoyed doing this together as a family and loved how the kids were able to help us out with the clues and were part of solving them. We ended up making it out of the room in time! Check out our post on: The Escape Game for more information and to book your escape game!
We went up to the 103rd floor over 1353 feet high and into a room that was surrounded with windows looking out over Chicago. It was so beautiful!! I loved that you could walk around the whole building so you saw Chicago from all angles (city and lakefront).
Then there is The Ledge. . . An all-glass box or room that extends outside of the building! Crazy!! But also crazy cool!
Cannon walked right out and started jumping and both Craig and I yelled for him to stop. But the Skydeck worker assured us it was totally secure! Gradually all of us made our way out there and it was a really cool experience.
It was a bit cloudy when we were there and I am hoping we can go back another time when the sun is out and the sky is clearer.
They are also doing a remodel of the Willis Tower building and soon there will be shops and restaurants on the bottom 3 floors. So once you are done taking in the views you can do some shopping and eating!
Tip: Get there early. There is actually an outside waiting line – at this time you can’t wait inside the building so be prepared for that. Plus if you get there early there is a better chance that the weather will be good and clouds/fog won’t block your view.
This is also one of the top things to do in Chicago with teens. Seriously your teens will love it! Especially all the cool social media pictures and videos they can take there.
To that point keep an eye on the weather and pick a day that looks as clear as possible. Book Your Tickets Now! Or Get CityPass and enjoy all 5 activities in Chicago, including the Skydeck!
Best In Chow Food Tour – Chicago Food Planet
I have always wanted to do a food tour, but wasn’t sure how it would go over with the kids. It ended up being great! We choose the right tour that was all about classic Chicago food (deep dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, hot beef sandwiches) which is also a lot of kids favorites. The Best In Chow Food Tour by Chicago Food Planet.
The tour was 3 hours long and we walked about 1 1/2 miles around Chicago stopping at a variety of restaurants to sample the food and also some Chicago landmarks where our guide gave us a great history lesson on Chicago and on the foods we were trying.
It was cool how we included not only history on Chicago, but also a lot of history and interesting facts about how these foods ended up being Chicago classics.
Eating 5 different kinds of foods can sound like a lot, but with the walking and the breaks in between to learn more about Chicago, the food it was perfect. Plus it kept the kids occupied and full so they were great and really enjoyed it.
At the end of our trip Carson said it was his favorite thing we did in Chicago! Book your tickets for the Best In Chow Food Tour now. Or try the Secret Food Tour and get your tickets here!
Centennial Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier
Head over to Navy Pier to go up on the Centennial Ferris Wheel! A fun way to get an amazing view of Chicago and the lakefront.
You can get tickets through the here for the Centennial Ferris Wheel or check with the Loew’s hotel – they sometimes have specials going where you can get tickets with your stay.
The Chicago River is a beautiful place to walk and takes you right through the city. There are great restaurants, ice cream shops, stores and beautiful Chicago architecture to look at. Plus you can take a boat tour on the water or even rent kayaks.
If you have a sports fan in your house you will definitely want to make time to check out Wrigley field and catch a game if you can!
Our next stop brought us out to the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago just north of downtown. Chicago has 70+ neighborhoods and it was fun to explore one of them! It was still a bustling area with people walking around yet had more of a small-town feel then the skyscrapers of downtown.
We checked out the toy store that was filled with a collection of fun and unique toys. Some of them were even invented by people from Chicago.
Then headed to the Women and Children First bookstore that had an amazing collection of books with a focus on women authors and topics. Then the candy store that had a unique and delicious collection of candy. All these stores were PERFECT for kids!
We also spent time at the Swedish American Museum learning about the people that came over from Sweden to Chicago then moved into the Andersonville neighborhood. The Museum was interesting but what the kids really liked was the children’s museum area upstairs! It was all about the journey people made from Sweden to Chicago with all sorts of hands-on activities for the kids – milking a cow, picking vegetables from the garden, cooking in their house, boarding the boat, it was really cool!
Andersonville had such a fun and inviting vibe to it. You could also tell the people that lived there and owned the shops had such pride in their neighborhood and Chicago. There is something to the craziness that is downtown Chicago and the energy you feel there. But it was cool to get a little bit outside of that (about a 15-minute drive) and into a neighborhood where you still felt that same energy just in a less chaotic way.
In the winter check out the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park. It is an awesome ice skating ribbon – not a rink as it is a curvy trail that goes around in a circle. You have amazing views of downtown Chicago while you are skating. It is a bit pricey at $16-18 per skate rental (same for kids)., but if you have your own skates it is free depending on when you go!
They have a concession stand area with picnic tables off of the ribbon. But be aware they have a Zamboni that comes through and fixes the ice for 1 hour multiple times throughout the day. So the ribbon is shut down during that time. . . which is frustrating when you get there right when that hour is starting!
Also remember Chicago is called the windy city so be sure to dress accordingly.
Chicago is also home to one of the best Christmas Markets in the US! If you are here around the holidays be sure to check out all the amazing things to do at Christmas time in Chicago.
We could have spent all day here and wish we would have gotten here earlier since they had to kick us out when they closed at 5 pm. The Museum of Science and Industry is one of our favorite things to do in Chicago with kids.
There are a lot of hands-on activities and yes some of the things are pretty complex but kids have a way of finding how to make it fun for their age. Even if that means they aren’t doing it right but instead are just hitting a bunch of buttons.
They also have a kids’ area that is perfect for toddlers up to 10 year old. And right next to the kids’ area is a farm area where you can drive a combine and sit in a tractor.
The highlight of our visit was the kids watching a baby chick hatch and come out of its shell. They stood there with their noses glued to the glass for a good 20 minutes waiting for the chick to come out. It was a really cool experience for them to see up close and personal.
We recommend giving yourself a whole day to explore the museum and either bringing a lunch or buying lunch at their cafeteria.
We parked on the street across from the museum and it was a perfect spot since we could walk to get pizza from the same spot. This is definitely one of the best Chicago museums for kids, we definitely recommend a visit!
Chicago Children’s Museum
The Children’s Museum is located at Navy Pier. It is a multiple story museum and most of the things there are geared towards younger age kids 6 and under. Our 8 (almost 9) year-old found a lot of things to do and we spent a good amount of time in the building section.
We’d recommend this Chicago museum for kids 10 and under – and just know for older kids you will want to check out the exhibits and find the ones that are geared more towards older kids.
The house/restaurant/car areas always seem to be a big hit with our kids and they love playing house or setting up their own situations. In this case they really enjoyed being mailmen and setting up their “house” in the tree house area. It is fun to watch their creativity come to life when they are in Children’s Museums and can just explore at their leisure.
And of course, the water room is always a hit and keeps the kids occupied for a while.
Cannon and Craig ended up spending an hour building a house while the other kids came and went exploring other areas of the museum. I don’t know who had more fun, Craig or Cannon!
We ended up in the same boat where we could have spent more time but they were closing. What is up with all these museums closing at 5pm? We don’t really get moving until after lunch . . .
We recommend giving yourself a good 4 hours here or if you want to come earlier play for a while, then head out to Navy Pier to eat, then come back if your kids aren’t done playing!
Navy Pier and the Children’s museum should definitely be on your list of top attractions to do in Chicago with your family.
Have space lovers in your family? Check out the Adler Planetarium! The Planetarium location is awesome – right along the lake front and they have fascinating information along with great planetarium shows. Our kids really enjoyed The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time exhibit along with the very hands on Planet Explorers exhibit.
They have a variety of shows available including one that is specifically for little kids – with Sesame Street characters in it!
A huge aquarium with tons of great information and fish. LOTS of fish! We haven’t gone to the Shedd Aquarium very often since it seems like it is always busy . . . We have heard it is best to go first thing in the morning so you aren’t stuck waiting in line.
If aquariums are your thing it is worth making a visit. They have over 32,000 animals and over 5 million gallons of water. With exhibits on Beluga Whales, the Caribbean Reef, jellyfish, penguins, sharks and so much more.
Field Museum Of Natural History
We walked to the Field Museum from the RV park we were staying at and had a couple of hours to explore. We love how the museum pass gives us the opportunity to do this! Since we get in for free. There were a lot of really cool things to look at, but out of all the museums it was our least favorite.
It seemed like the kids felt the same way. We kind of quickly walked through all of the displays which did take a while since there are so many and it is a big museum.
Art Institute of Chicago
If you have a budding artist in the family or you are really into art then you won’t want to miss the Art Institute of Chicago. They also have an Artist Studio that they recommend you stop in to see what is going on the day you visit.
I know for us hands on activities are the only thing that really makes an Art Museum work for our family. Or else their hands want to go to touching the art work . . . If you are unsure about visiting an Art Museum with your kids check out our post: Tips For A Successful Trip To An Art Museum With Kids.
Indoor Play Zones
If you are looking for an indoor play zone for kids in the cold Chicago weather check out this post: Best Indoor Play Places In Chicago.
If you are interested in doing a bunch of these activities, you can purchase a CityPass that will enable you to do 5 of these!
CityPass Chicago includes Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, Field Museum and your choice of Alder Planetarium OR Art Institute of Chicago and your choice of Museum of Science and Industry OR 360 Chicago Observation Deck.
This is a great way to enjoy what Chicago has to offer and save money by purchasing the pass instead of paying for tickets for each activity separately. We hope you enjoy Chicago!
Chicago is also on the list of awesome place to go for Christmas!
Where To Stay
WOW. That is what we all said when we walked into our room on the 14th floor overlooking Navy Pier with a play campfire and tent setup for us. If a room could be perfect in Chicago this would be it!
I love how the Loews hotel caters to kids and families. On our way in we were greeted with a package of toys for each of our 4 kids. Yes, they each got their own! We had booked for the Snowed-Inn package so, as I mentioned above, when we walked in the room the tent was set up along with hot chocolate and cookies for the kids and an in-room movie of our choice.
After settling in we took a walk around the hotel and they have a beautiful lap pool for swimming, a spa and workout room. Along with an outside patio area that looked like it would be beautiful in the warmer months.
The location is also perfect since you are close to all the downtown activities, the Magnificent Mile and we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to go. It was definitely hard to leave! Learn more about Loews Hotel in Chicago here.
The Guesthouse Hotel
I don’t even know if it is fair to call this a hotel! We walked into the room and we couldn’t believe the high ceilings, the space and the gorgeous decorations! The owners had started down the path of building condos and then decided to change to a hotel. And we are the lucky recipients of these unbelievable hotel rooms!
We stayed in a 3 bedroom suite with 2 bathrooms (the master bath had an amazing shower that doubled as a sauna!) a living room, dining area and a full kitchen. It was hard to leave to go out to explore when the place was so great!
You can also let them know ahead of time if you want any baby gear (cribs, highchair, toys, etc) or games and coloring supplies for the older kids and they will have them there waiting for you. Learn more about the Guesthouse Hotel here.
The lobby area was also beautiful and they hold small weddings and conferences there. Or, when events aren’t going on, you can just go down to hangout by the fireplace or in the library – where they also have kids books and games.
Our visit felt more like we were visiting friends than staying in a hotel. Both Craig and I said we could live there!
Best Western River North
Another nice hotel option is the Best Western River North. This is a great hotel if you are looking for a more affordable option, but also want a nice big room. Plus it is located in a great location to be able to walk to a lot of the downtown attractions.
Our room was huge and had 2 double beds and a pullout bed. They also have a large pool that was perfect for our family and allowed the kids to burn off some energy.
Another plus was their onsite restaurant that had pizza for dinner, a bar and a great breakfast selection. It was snowing when we were there so it was nice that we didn’t have to leave the hotel, but could stay right on site to get a tasty and convenient dinner and breakfast.
Our kids favorite thing about the hotel was the free ice cream sandwiches and Push-Ups that they had behind the front desk. Plus they were unlimited so you could get as many as you wanted! Learn more about the Best Western River North hotel here.
RV Option: McCormick Center Truck Marshaling lot
Check out our post on our stay for all the details. But basically it is a truck parking lot where you can park your RV and then walk or ride your bike to the museums and Navy Pier! It is nothing glamorous and there are no hookups but the location was pretty great. Check out the McCormick Center Truck Marshaling Lot.
Where To Eat
I wasn’t really sure if I should put this under Attractions or Where To Eat since The Safe House is basically both! In order to get into the restaurant you have to give them the password and if you don’t know it they make you do a dance and flap your arms around like a chicken and then they let you in.
Little do you know, everyone in the restaurant was watching your dance moves! So upon entering everyone claps and cheers for you. Good times!
You then sit down to order and are given all of the instructions on dinner and drinks as well as a set of clues for an in-restaurant scavenger hunt. There is also a magician in the house that does some pretty cool card tricks.
The food is done in packages that include an appetizer, meal and a drink (non alcoholic – but never fear, there is a great selection of alcoholic drinks to pick from). You will not leave hungry assuming you can force yourself to sit down and eat!
We were having so much fun walking around taking everything in and trying to find the clues that our server had to come find us to tell us to come sit down and eat or it would get cold!
If you are there to celebrate or just for the heck of it – order the flaming dessert. It is a huge ice cream with a flaming candle on top. The kids LOVED to end the night with this!
A totally awesome experience that everyone in the family will enjoy and remember.
The Urban Belly was delicious!! Our kids weren’t sure about trying the Asian inspired cuisine. They aren’t the most adventurous eaters. But by the time we were done they all LOVED it and wanted to come back the next day.
They had great kids menu options (a very simple fried chicken with white rice that even picky eaters would be OK with) plus some good sharing food like the dumplings and the huge bowl of soup. They even have sharing bowls out that you can use!
Craig and I loved ours as well and definitely recommend checking them out!
Looking for upscale Italian dining? Then this is the place for you! Bar Roma is located in the Andersonville neighborhood and had an awesome vibe and ambiance.
The menu is somewhat limited as there isn’t a kids menu, but they were super accommodating and were able to make a simple pasta for our picky eaters. Plus they have a meatball option – 3 giant meatballs – that the kids loved!
Craig and I enjoyed the drink selection and our meals were fantastic! If you are looking for delicious pasta this is the place for you.
After we were done at the MSI (Museum of Science and Industry) or I should say once they kicked us out when they closed . . . we took about a mile walk to Giordano’s pizza for a real deep dish Chicago style pizza. Be aware that these pizzas can take up to 45 minutes to cook so you may want to call ahead or just be prepared to wait. We ordered an appetizer to hold the kids over while we waited.
Gino’s East Pizza
I am from Wisconsin, but I don’t think I had ever had true Chicago deep dish pizza growing up. Yes, I have had Uno chain pizza, but it doesn’t even come close to comparing to true deep dish pizza in Chicago!
We visited Gino’s East (South Loop location) and sat in a booth where we could see out to the streets of Chicago. They also have a brewery so we had amazing pizza and microbrew!
It would be hard to say which one was better since I liked the crust better at Gino’s, but liked the sauce better at Giordano’s. But in either case both were good and I definitely want to eat at both places again. Trying all the deep dish pizza joints is definitely one of the great things to in Chicago with kids!
If you follow us you know we always seek out the best donuts. Well, Doughnut Vault did not disappoint. They were yummy! It was an interesting place since you walk into a room about the size of a walk in closet and there is a lady behind the counter and she has all the donuts next to her (where you can’t even see them).
And the flavors are listed on a board so basically you come in and tell them what you want and get out of the way for the next person. It is a popular place! We weren’t ready for that and normally let the kids see the donuts and pick what they want, so Craig took them outside and quickly made decisions off of what I thought the kids would want.
The donuts weren’t anything fancy but they were super yummy and all of us enjoyed them. They are definitely in the running for best donuts in Chicago.
Free Things To Do
The Bean/Millennium Park
I wasn’t sure what all the hype was about. I mean, it is a bean looking thing in the middle of a park . . . then we went and saw it. It is actually really cool!
Given the shape of it and the reflection you can look at it 20 different ways and see a different reflection.
We had fun looking at all the different angles and going underneath it. Fun fact: Did you know it is actually named Cloud Gate not the Bean.
If you are in Chicago it is worth making a stop to check it out. It is located in Millennium Park. Had we been in the city longer we would have scheduled a day to just hang out at Millennium Park.
It looked like they had an amazing park for the kids and there was lots of room where we could have run around and played tag and had a picnic. I also want to check out the crown fountain next time we are here.
You can also head over the Grant Park and check out the Buckingham Fountain and the art installations throughout the park.
Lincoln Park Zoo
A FREE zoo! Yes you read that right everyone gets into the Lincoln Park Zoo free all the time! The Lincoln Park Zoo is located just off of the North Avenue Beach section of Chicago. They have penguins and polar bears. Plus farm animals and apes. If your kids are into animals add this to your list of places to visit while in Chicago. This is one of the best things to do with kids in Chicago.
Also be sure to check their site for different events going on at the zoo.
We used the Lakeshore trail that runs right along Lake Michigan to walk and bike to most of the places we went. The Lakeshore trail offers a beautiful view of the city. It worked out great. We stayed at the McCormick Center Truck marshaling lot so everything was close and most things were in walking/biking distance. You can learn more about where we stayed here.
Looking to do some sightseeing and walking? Head over to Navy Pier and walk out on the Pier and through the restaurants and shops. It is only free if you don’t buy anything :). And they do have some cool activities and attractions so maybe worth spending some money here.
Looking for ideas on how to get around the city with kids? Check out this great post on using Lyft and Uber with kids!
If you are looking for more to explore in Chicago be sure to check out the South Side as well! This article does a great job sharing the top things to see in the South Side of Chicago.
Looking for street art – check out this great article on the top places to see it in Chicago! Plus all these public art spots in the city.
Into shopping? Don’t miss Michigan Avenue and all the awesome shops there! And if you like flowers don’t miss the Chicago Botanical Gardens.
Check out this post for more Things To Do In Chicago and this one for more great places to stay with kids. And if you are heading north be sure to check out these great Airbnb Milwaukee options and the city of Milwaukee and Kenosha!
Want more midwest travel?! Check out the great things to do in Minneapolis.
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**Thank you to Choose Chicago and their partners for hosting parts of our stay. All opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links.**
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