Are you looking for the best things to do in Chicago with kids this weekend or on vacation? There are so many great Chicago Attractions to see whether you’re visiting the city or just looking for a staycation.
Some of our favorite Chicago attractions are the world-class museums, a fabulous zoo, and the best children’s playground we have ever been to. You will love exploring this windy city and finding all the popular attractions and kid’s activities.
Use this list of our favorite things to do in Chicago with kids to make it easier for you to plan. Bonus there are even a couple of free things to do in Chicago with kids too!
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Can’t Miss Things to Do in Chicago with Kids 2022
If you’re coming at Christmas Time make sure to check out the Top Things to do in Chicago at Christmas with Kids and where to see the Best Chicago Christmas Lights.
Chicago Museums & Aquariums
Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier
A great way to spend an afternoon is at the Chicago Children’s Museum located on Navy Pier. The museum has 12 different interactive exhibits for familes to explore and is great for younger kids.
Get their energy out climbing in the super cool Cloud Buster with 37 feet of climbable space or climbing a three-story schooner. Kids can also dig for dinosaurs, create art, enjoy a curious collection of tiny treasures, wash a car, ride a firetruck, and more.
If you have older kids they’ll love the tinkering lab creating cool STEM activities. Babies and toddlers can play safely in the Pritzker Playspace.
I would recommend this museum for kids aged 10 years old and younger.
Get more details on tickets and hours at Chicago Children’s Museum.
Shedd Aquarium Chicago
If your kids love fish, dolphins, beluga whales, and penguins this is a stop you will want to make. With 32,000 animals from the world’s aquatic environment, there is something for everyone.
The Shedd Aquarium is located on the Museum Campus on Lake Michigan. Which gives you a great view while watching the dolphin show or eating lunch at their cafeteria.
Kids can also experience a 4D movie and in the summer pet sting rays while visiting. There are three levels of fun so I would give yourself the good part of the day to explore this aquarium.
Tips for exploring Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium
Chicago Field Museum of Natural History
The Field Museum is also located on the Museum Campus in Chicago. Here your kids are able to explore the history of people from around the world. Several of the exhibits immerse you in the lives of these people. Visit a pyramid and mummies in Ancient Egypt or Native Americans’ life in a Pawnee Earth Lodge from the 1800s.
Kids will love playing in the Crown Family Play lab where they can explore science through growing plants at a Pueblo home, playing music from around the world, and uncovering dinosaur bones.
But the most popular exhibit for kids is the amazing dinosaurs located in the Evolving Planet exhibit. Your kids will be in awe looking at the huge creatures that used to roam the earth.
Tips for exploring Chicago Field Museum With Kids
Chicago Science and Industry Museum
Chicago is lucky to have one of the largest science museums in the world. This huge museum originally built for the World’s Fair has over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space. Science and Industry have done a great job of offering ways to learn about science at any age.
Little kids will love the farm, baby chicks, miniature trains, and the hands-on Idea Factory. Older kids will enjoy the Coal Mine, Uboat, Imax movies, and Science Storms Hall.
Holiday time is a great time to visit as the Christmas trees from around the world are on display.
Don’t forget to check out the science exhibit carts spaced throughout the museum for the kids to do quick science experiments.
Tips for exploring the Museum of Science and Industry
Are your kids interested in astronauts, stars, and space? Then they will enjoy learning at this small Planetarium located on Museum Campus.
Kids can drive a mock rover over the moon, do experiments in the community design lab, learn what a planet is and explore the stars.
What I love about this museum is their general admission rate is only $8 for kids and $19 for adults which is a steal compared to the other museums.
It is small enough you could add this stop to a visit to the Field Museum or Shedd Aquarium also located on the Museum Campus. All three share the same parking lots and are within a short walking distance.
Tips for Exploring Adler Planetarium
Art Institute of Chicago
A fun way to expose your kids to the world of art is by visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. The huge museum is located right downtown and across from Millennium Park. The best part is there is free admission for kids under 14 years old and Chicago teens under 18 years old.
On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11-3 pm kids can visit the Art Exchange in the Ryan Learning Center for fun art activities to try.
Spend an afternoon exploring the different galleries and immersing your kids in the world of art.
To learn more visit the Art Institute of Chicago.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum will transport you out of the city and into a world of nature. This fun natural history museum is located in Lincoln Park across from the Lincoln Park Zoo.
It is built around a family-friendly atmosphere that welcomes kids and helps them explore nature.
The museum has ten different exhibits and nature walking trails around the museum. You can see small live animal exhibits, learn about taxidermy, the Chicago river system, watch butterflies, and find tons of climbing and exploration areas for kids.
It’s a really cool museum in the city for kids I’d make sure to add to your Chicago bucket list.
Tips for exploring the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Chicago Attractions for Families
Once you’re done with the museums visit some of these cool Chicago attractions with your kids.
Willis Tower – Previously Sears Tower
There are two fun things to do with kids at Willis tower:
Color Factory -a really cool new exhibit located on the lower level of Willis Tower.
At the Color Factory, your family will be immersed in the world of color. There are 25,000 square feet of color piquing your curiosity and inviting you to play and discover.
Visitors will find colorful immersive rooms, interactive installations, and activities inspired by the city of Chicago. For example, a green ball pit represents the St. Patrick’s day dyeing of the Chicago river.
Find ticket information at Color Factory.
SkyDeck Chicago – Get the best view in the city at Willis Tower Sky Deck you can see 4 different states on a clear day. You’ll be on the 99th floor of the tower and 1,353 ft high.
If you’re brave step out onto the Ledge with a glass floor so you feel like you are floating in the air above the city. It’s pretty cool and makes for great pictures.
They also offer the Willis Tower Skydeck kids club with coloring pages, quizzes, scavenger hunts, and interactive games.
Find ticket information at Skydeck.
Navy Pier is a huge pier that jets out into Lake Michigan. It boasts amazing views of the city skyline and the lakefront.
Here you can shop, dine, and take boat tours on the lake. They also have fun attractions like the Centennial Ferris Wheel which soars to a height of nearly 200 feet. Visitors can also ride the Carousel and the Drop Tower.
There is often entertainment on the pier and fireworks in the summer. Just check the Navy Pier events page to see what’s going on. But honestly just strolling the long pier can be fun.
If you come at Christmas time they have a festive holiday event called Light Up the Lake that can’t be missed. Learn more about it in Top Things to Do at Christmas in Chicago.
Boat Tours on the Chicago River
Take a relaxing boat tour down the Chicago River with your kids. Wendella Boat Cruises offers a family-friendly 45-tour option which I think is the perfect amount of time for kids.
On the cruise, you will learn about the Windy City’s rich history and all the Chicago architecture you will see as you cruise by.
This cruise is a shortened version of their 90-minute cruise which gives more details and history about the city. If you have older kids then you might enjoy the 90-minute option.
There are several boat companies in the city offering other tours so find one that fits your family’s needs.
Find out more about tickets & times at Wendella Tours.
Pizzaria Uno & Duo
If you want Chicago food head to Pizzaria Uno & Duo for Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza. They have the best pizza in the city. Both locations are in classic old Chicago buildings in the River North area. The building is part of the charm but also does not have a lot of room so the restaurant gets crowded fast. Try and visit on-off times to get in the fastest.
Find the addresses and menus here.
Take a Train Ride
If you live out in the suburbs take the kids on a Metra train ride to the city. Your kids will love the experience of riding the train and you’ll love not having to deal with traffic. If you live in the city hop on an L or Bus to get to all these cool attractions.
At Christmas time take a ride on the CTA Holiday Train or Bus. It’s all decorated for the holidays and Santa makes a visit. Learn more in Things to do In Chicago at Christmas.
Free Things to Do in Chicago with Kids
Save money on your trip with free activities in Chicago for kids. Let’s be honest, the Museums are amazing but can get pretty expensive. So, I try to add in some free activities to balance out the visit.
Here are a few free places in Chicago that my kids absolutely love going to!
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago is very lucky to boast a free zoo for all visitors. The Lincoln Park zoo is located on 35 acres in Lincoln Park just north of downtown Chicago.
Children of all ages will love seeing the nearly 200 different species from lemurs to giraffes, polar bears, seals, flamingos, apes, lions, and more.
Surrounding the zoo are also beautiful walking paths and a great photo op with the Chicago skyline in the background while standing on the bridge.
At the Holidays there is a really cool Zoolights event however there is a fee of $5 to attend.
Tips for Exploring the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Grant Park & Buckingham Fountain
Head over towards the lake for a beautiful walk through Grant Park a 318-acre park. This park is the hub of the downtown lakefront area. Included in the park are Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum Campus.
All of these sections’ outdoor areas you can walk around for free. Take a walk along the lake paths and see Buckingham Fountain which has water displays every 20 minutes from May through October.
Make sure to look back towards the city and take in the beautiful city skyline.
This downtown Chicago attraction is located right in the heart of the city. It also is one of the most photographed areas of the city. Here you will find the famous Cloud Gate or Bean as Chicagoans call it. A huge silver art piece that reflects the buildings in the city. Your kids will love running around it and finding their image.
Kids will also enjoy the Crown Fountain featuring two huge glass towers with images of Chicagoans’ faces that squirt water for the kids to play.
Want some entertainment? Head over to the Jay Pritzker Pavillion which hosts live music concerts and summer movie nights. Bring a picnic blanket and enjoy a concert in the park. Don’t forget to stroll through the beautiful Lurie Gardens located on the south end of the park.
If you’re heading over in the wintertime make sure to visit the Holiday events and the Official Chicago Christmas Tree located in the park.
You can also rent some ice skates and skate around the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink while watching the city buildings go by. It’s a great way to spend a winter afternoon in the city.
Tips for Exploring Millennium Park Chicago | 8 Things to Do with Kids
Maggie Daley Park
Ready to see the best playground in the city? Then head over to Maggie Daley Park! It’s connected to Millennium Park by a silver ribbon walkway called the BP Pedestrian Bridge. Once you walk over you will see the towering slides, bridges and ladders in the 3 acre Play Gardens. I have never seen any playground like this with six sections of fun.
In the park you will also find a huge skating ribbon for ice skates in the winter and roller blades in the summer. Bonus no charge if you bring your own skates! Don’t forget to check out the huge climbing walls and miniature golf course created with Iconic Chicago buildings. The kids will be amazed at all the cool places to climb and run in this park!
Tips to exploring Maggie Daley Park Chicago
How to Save Money Visiting Chicago Attractions
1.If you are visiting the city and plan to go to several of these attractions look into purchasing a CityPASS. The CityPASS bundles together the price to visit 5 Chicago attractions over a 9-day period and saves you up to 48% on admission fees. It’s a great deal. Learn more at my CityPass Reveiw
2. Pack a lunch and snacks for the kids. All the museums and parks have areas to picnic both inside and outside. Take advantage of these and bring your own food.
3. If there is a museum you think your family will want to return to consider buying a family membership pass for the year. Usually, you only have to go 2 or 3 times to pay for the membership fee.
Bonus: Science and Industry Museum Membership includes underground parking with your pass. Great for visiting in the winter months.
4. Save money on parking by taking public transportation. The kids will love taking a ride on a train or bus and you will save on parking fees.
5. Go on a Museum Free Day. Yes, they all have them in Chicago. You can find them on the museum’s website or see all the free days here.
Where to Stay in Chicago
There are tons of hotels in the City of Chicago. I would suggest staying in the loop area, off Michigan Avenue or Lincoln Park to be close to all the attractions.
However, if you go further west you will probably find better pricing. Get some ideas by looking at one of our favorite travel sites Booking.com. You’ll find tons of hotel options to choose from with helpful reviews.
Things to Do in Chicago Suburbs
You’ll find more great family-friendly attractions in the Chicago suburbs. Just a few of our favorites are the Chicago Kohl Museum in Glenview, Chicago Botanical Gardens, and Six Flags Great America just north of the city.
Find out more great places to explore in our best Chicago Family Attractions.
I hope this list of Things to do in Chicago with Kids got you excited about exploring Chicago Attractions. It’s a great city for family adventures and I hope your family will enjoy it as much as mine!
Do you have any great Chicago tips to share? Please let me know in the comments or any questions you may have.
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Monday 26th of August 2019
Love it – Chicago is a great place to spend some time with the kids. I personally like the Pier but it’s not for everyone. Love the Aquarium. Great post.
Kelly @ My New Danish Life
Monday 10th of June 2019
Great list! We are originally from this area and have tried all but the planetarium. We'll have to add it to our list. We will be stopping by many of these (plus many more) this summer! :)
Thursday 13th of June 2019
Hope you enjoy visiting Chicago this summer! Make sure to check out the planetarium and stop by the beach located right next to it too.
Monday 13th of May 2019
These are great tips on things to do with kids in Chicago! I'll add that, if you're a Chicago resident, you can also get free tickets at the library (if you have a card). There's a limited number and they're not guaranteed, but it's worth a try!
Monday 13th of May 2019
Hi Theresa - Great Tips on the library tickets for Chicago Residents! That's a great way to save some money. They can be hard to get but worth a try.