Planning to visit Chicago with your family? In this article, we have compiled a list of the best family-friendly activities in the Windy City, to help anyone organizing a family trip get the best of this fantastic city.
A little advance planning will help you avoid having to spend your precious holiday time searching online for things to see and do with your family while you’re there.
Fortunately, this task is relatively simple nowadays. Some simple online research will reveal detailed information about the most amazing places to visit with children in Chicago and, in some cases, make reservations and get discounts.
As a result, going to the zoo, visiting museums and taking food tours can all be planned with time to spare, saving you from a tight spot once you and family reach your destination.
Activities for all ages and interests
Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States, and is packed full of activities and places worth getting to know with your family.
Below, we have narrowed down a list of activities and places in Chicago which we recommend for families traveling together. That said, we strongly recommend looking beyond our list and exploring all options you consider to be appealing. After all, there are plenty of things to do in town which you and your family shouldn’t miss.
- Chicago cuisine
One great experience which the whole family can enjoy is a Chicago Food tour. These tours allow visitors with limited time to experience the best of the city’s typical cuisine, while strolling through some of its most iconic neighborhoods.
There are many Chicago food tours available, and each one takes a different approach to the city’s local cuisine. We recommend taking some time to read about them before settling on one and making reservations.
Among the factors which you should consider beforehand is the length of the tour. In most cases, food tours can take up to 3 or 4 hours. Take some time to go through the tour route as well, and check whether the excursion is suitable for children. Finally, pay attention to the menu!
- Lincoln Park Zoo
Located between the Mid-North District and the Old Town Triangle, Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the best places in Chicago to visit with small children.
One of the oldest zoos in the United States, Lincoln Park Zoo is entirely free to the public, meaning you can enter the park at no cost.
Check the map before visiting, as the Zoo contains multiple entrances. If you’re arriving by car, use the parking areas at the Fullerton Parkway or Cannon Drive entrances.
Once you’re inside the park, you’ll have access to a wide range of dining spots and stores – why not have lunch and spend the day there?
The Zoo is open daily. During summer, you can access the park from Monday to Friday (8 AM to 5 PM) and on weekends and holidays (8 AM to 7 PM).
Also of note: Lincoln Park Zoo is right next door to Farm in the Zoo, so you can easily visit both places in one day. Just bear in mind that Farm in the Zoo closes at 4:30 PM.
- Navy Pier
Located at the Navy Pier Marina in the Streeterville neighborhood, the Navy Pier is known for its open spaces and free public shows for the whole family.
Navy Pier offers an eclectic range of activities, dining spots, and stores. Head to the Pier Park Rides and enjoy the centennial wheel, the carousel, or the drop tower.
Rides are not free, but they are relatively inexpensive, and tickets can be bought in advance via the Navy Pier website.
Getting to the Navy Pier is pretty straightforward. If you’re traveling by car, you can use one of two on-site parking garages. Otherwise, just catch any of the CTA buses or make use of Chicago’s excellent bike share system.
- Shedd Aquarium
Located next door to Central Station and the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium is one of the most best places in town to visit with children.
Visitors to the aquarium can gaze upon a wide range of aquatic animals and plants, including sharks, sea otters, turtles, penguins, seahorses, corals, belugas, stingrays, sea stars, jellyfish and octopi.
Among the fascinating exhibitions at Shedd Aquarium are “Underwater Beauty”, “Caribbean Reef” and “Amazon Rising”.
Tickets are available in advance on the aquarium website, along with detailed information to help plan your visit. General admission costs $39.95 for adults, and $29.95 for children.
Shedd Aquarium’s opening hours change regularly, so make sure to check the webpage on the day prior to your visit, to avoid any nasty surprises. There are several parking lots for visitors arriving by car, as well as plenty of public transport links.
- Maggie Daley Park
Located in New Eastside, Maggie Daley Park is one of Chicago’s most impressive green spaces, and is a perfect outdoor option for families visiting the city.
The park first opened in 2014 and has become a favorite spot for kids of all ages.
Attractions available in the park include rock climbing, bouldering and miniature golf. The park also boasts a massive Play Garden, and a number of spots in which to enjoy a family picnic.
One of the highlights of Maggie Daley Park is the Skating Ribbon, which is home to two separate rock-climbing structures.
Maggie Daley Park is open daily, from 6 AM to 9 PM, and is located next door to Millennium Park, another great family-friendly attraction. Getting from one park to the other is relatively easy; just take Anish Kapoor’s BP Bridge.
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