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13 Fun Things To Do In Chicago With Kids in 2024

 
Great Wolf Lodge resort in Arizona

Chicago, the Windy City, is a fantastic destination for kids with a wide range of activities to keep them entertained and engaged. A visit to Navy Pier offers a day filled with fun rides, games, and the iconic Centennial Wheel for stunning views of Lake Michigan. Millennium Park is home to the world-famous Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as "The Bean," and Crown Fountain, where kids can splash around in the interactive water feature. The Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium provide educational and interactive experiences that are sure to captivate young minds. For animal lovers, Lincoln Park Zoo is a delightful destination, offering a chance to see a variety of creatures in a beautiful park setting. With its diverse cultural and recreational offerings, Chicago, IL ensures an exciting and enriching experience for kids of all ages.

With so many things to do and see in the Greater Chicago Area, it's hard to choose just one. That's why we've narrowed it down to the top activities we're sure your kids will love. Bonus: Many of these activities are free!

List: Things To Do in Chicago with Kids:

1. All the Big Museums

Dinosaur skeleton at Chicago's Field Museum

Source: Field Museum Twitter

There are so many world-class museums in Chicago that it can be overwhelming...and expensive. But did you know your family can save up to 53% on admission with CityPass? So go ahead and take your crew to The Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, The Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, AND the Adler Planetarium. In any case, even if you don’t purchase a CityPass, you have to visit at least one of these amazing educational spots when in Chicago!

2. Millennium Park Campus

Millennium Park

Source: Choose Chicago

It’s an unforgettable family experience, 1000 feet above the Magnificent Mile in the iconic John Hancock Building. Access breathtaking 360-degree views of the skyline and Lake Michigan, and, if you’re feeling brave, go full TILT – an enclosed moving platform that literally tilts you out over Michigan Avenue from the 94th Floor! It's an experience the kids won't soon forget. Also included: an interactive museum focusing on Chicago history.

3. Chicago Observation Deck

An aerial view of the Chicago skyline

Source: 360 Chicago Twitter

It’s an unforgettable family experience, 1000 feet above the Magnificent Mile in the iconic John Hancock Building. Access breathtaking 360-degree views of the skyline and Lake Michigan, and, if you’re feeling brave, go full TILT – an enclosed moving platform that literally tilts you out over Michigan Avenue from the 94th Floor! It's an experience the kids won't soon forget. Also included: an interactive museum focusing on Chicago history.

4. National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican art

Source: Mexican Art Museum Twitter

Mexican food, as well as The National Museum of Mexican Art. It’s free every day and has an special 10,000-piece permanent collection. Tip: If you’re travelling around Halloween, their Day of the Dead exhibit is sure to awe any kid (especially if they love the movie Coco)!

5. Emerald City Theatre

A performer on stage at Chicago's Emerald City Theatre

Source: Emerald City Theatre Twitter

There are a lot of ways to keep the kids entertained in Chicago, but it's not always easy on parents. Sit back, relax and let the performers over the Emerald City Theatre do the work for you! The venue hosts tons of family-friendly plays and offers a kid-friendly theater experience.

6. Chicago Architectural Center

An exhibit at the Chicago Architectural Center

Source: Chicago Architecture Center Twitter

Learn about Chicago’s neighborhoods, housing types and upcoming projects at the CAC! Check out the largest 3D model of Chicago, with more than 4,2000 buildings and cinematic elements to teach about the city’s rich history. They also run an interactive family program with hands-on exhibits to teach kids more about design and problem-solving
.

7. Lincoln Park Zoo

A baby Rhino at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Source: Lincoln Park Zoo Twitter

You can’t go wrong with Lincoln Park Zoo -- it’s open 365 days a year, and it’s free! Visit the zoo's new arrivals page to preview the newest animal babies, visit the petting zoo, and don’t forget to ride the historic carousel! Also, if you’re visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday between May and October, the Green City Farmers Market is right there on your way in to the zoo.

8. Garfield Park Conservatory

Visitors surrounded by plants at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory

Source: Garfield Park Conservatory Twitter

Also free, and open every day of the year except Christmas, this place is a hidden gem, about 5 miles west of downtown. Take a deep breath and stroll through one of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in Illinois, viewing thousands of plant species from around the world throughout eight indoor display gardens.

9. Take the Chicago Water Taxi to Chinatown

A sunset view of a lighthouse from the Chicago Water Taxi

Source: Chicago Water Taxi Twitter

Chicago has a Chinatown? Yes it does! And there’s a super fun way to get there -- the Chicago Water Taxi! Board at the Chicago Riverwalk, and dock in Chinatown to try one of its many great restaurants, or just get some bubble tea!

10. North Avenue Beach

An aerial view of sand and water at the North Avenue Beach in Chicago

Source: Mike Hamernik Twitter

Sure, you might want to skip this if you're planning a winter trip. But a trip to North Avenue Beach is a great activity to enjoy in during the warmer months! Of course, there is no ocean in Chicago, but there is an impressive lakefront to enjoy, and it's peppered with places to eat, shop, people watch and much more. Walk down to the water, play in sand, grab a slice of that famous deep dish pizza, enjoy an ice cream cone and enjoy the windy city!

11. The 606 Trail

Block party on Chicago's 606 Trail

Source: The 606

Originally part of the Bloomingdale train line, this 3-mile “rail trail” has helped bring some much-needed greenery to the northwest side of Chicago. Since the project was completed in 2015, it’s become a prime spot for cyclists, strollers, runners, dog walkers and kids. There are also tons of coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and shopping areas just blocks away.

12. Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

A fall view of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel in Chicago

Source: Navy Pier Twitter

Here's another way to show the kids an amazing view of the city! The park has closed, air conditioned gondolas that seat up to eight adults and two children. Navy Pier is also home of the Chicago Children's Museum, and puts on amazing firework shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer.

13. Chicago Botanic Garden

Lush plants at Chicago's Botanic Garden

Source: Chicago Botanic Garden Twitter

These gorgeous 385-acre gardens are actually in Glencoe, which is about halfway between Chicago and Gurnee, so it’s a great option if you’re staying at Great Wolf Lodge and taking day trips to the city, and it’s free -- except for parking. Need more info on how to make the most of your Chicago visit? Go to the Choose Chicago site!

FAQ's

What is one thing Chicago is known for?

Chicago is famous for a number of landmarks and local cuisine. But the most immediately noticeable element is its jaw-dropping architecture. (The answer, “deep dish pizza!”, is also acceptable.) From the heights of the Willis Tower (also known as the Sears Tower) to the river-splitting walk of the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s skyline is iconic. And that architecture holds many equally impressive landmarks, including “The Bean”—one of the largest permanent outdoor art installations in the world. Whether you’re looking for things to do in Chicago this weekend or planning a visit farther out, you’ll want to get a good look at the city’s amazing sights.

Why should my family make a visit to Chicago?

The above list contains many sights and experiences that can only be found in a visit to the Windy City. If you’re looking for things to do in Chicago, the city contains a host of appealing activities and sightseeing destinations for families: Downtown, you’ll find all-ages entertainment like Navy Pier and the 20-acre Maggie M Daley Park. Meanwhile, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum of Chicago, and many more must-see institutions can be found throughout Chicago. And the natural wonders of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River offer year-round outdoor adventures. Of course, any visit should include a stay at our Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee, just north of Chicago—click here to learn more.

Is Chicago a kid-friendly city?

Absolutely. As the third largest city in the U.S., Chicago hosts tons of fun activities and experiences for kids to do year-round. Scroll up for our list of Fun Things to Do in Chicago With Kids to get a sampling of the many local adventures perfect for children of all ages.

Where can I take my kids in Chicago in the summer?

There are many things to do in Chicago with kids after a visit to Great Wolf Lodge. These include popular attractions like Navy Pier, where kids can ride the Centennial Wheel—at 196 feet tall, it’s one of the largest ferris wheels in the United States. There’s also historical landmarks, famous tourist stops, and more. See our list of “14 Fun Things To Do In Chicago With Kids” for a longer list of options.

What are the top attractions and things to do in Chicago?

A number of the most fun things to do in Chicago can be found on our list above. Visit the Maggie M Daley Park, 20 acres of beautiful landscaping, a giant children’s playground, skating rink, and more. Make your way to the top of Willis Tower for one of the highest views in the country. Catch a game at Soldier Field or the famous Wrigley Field just north of downtown. Or take your pick of the numerous museums, parks, and other travel destinations found in Chicago. There are also plenty of free things to do in Chicago if you’re on a tight budget. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll have no shortage of fun.

Is two days in Chicago enough?

There’s never enough time to see and experience all that the city has to offer, but if you’ve only got a weekend available, we’ve got some suggestions for the best things to do in Chicago. If your time is limited, be sure to check out our list of the “14 Fun Things To Do In Chicago With Kids” for the most iconic Chicago activities.