Favorite Kid-Friendly Activities in Chicago



Description:

Guide written by Joy Bartolini and Madeline Jhawar of Italy Beyond the Obvious.

Chicago is a favorite American city for many and a blast for kids of all ages. There are best-in-class museums, parks, shops, and restaurants. It’s easy to plan a trip that combines culture, educational opportunities, and outdoor activities. The only challenge is deciding what to see if you have just a few days in town. .

Note: Be sure to read the Day Notes for the kid-friendly details on recommended attractions.

Ciao Bambino provides tips and advice around all things related to traveling with kids and is a guide to the best kid friendly hotels.

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Author: Ciao Bambino!


Day 1 - Chicago


Michigan Avenue Double Decker Bus Tour:

Start your Chicago experience with a double decker bus tour. The tour lasts about 2 hours and you can hop on and off as often as you like. Kids love riding in the open air and the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) is one of the many highlights of the tour.

American Girl Place:

Another popular activity here is a visit to American Girl Place in the Water Tower Building. You can bring your American Girl doll to the café for tea, lunch or dinner and even have her hair styled! You may want to book a reservation ahead of time because they get very busy. In the meantime, the boys can head over to Garrett Popcorn Shop. Garrett's has been serving popcorn since 1949 and the smell of fresh cheese and caramel corn greets you before you open the doors. This is consistently one of Oprah's "Favorite Things" - make sure you save some for the girls!

Hancock Tower:

When the weather and visibility is good, there are fantastic views from the top of this iconic Chicago landmark.

Navy Pier:

Navy Pier attracts both locals and tourists and is a great destination because there is something for everyone here. You can take the free Trolley from Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue to get here. The Children's Museum is very popular and fun for toddler age children. Older kids love the wild ride on the Sea Dog speedboat cruises and adults and kids alike will have fun at the Billy Goat Tavern made famous by the Saturday Night Live skit! Note, the Children's Museum at Navy Pier is open until 8p on Thursday nights and it is fun to ride the ferris wheel at sunset followed by dinner at one of the many restaurants on the Pier. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there are fireworks off the pier every Wednesday and Saturday at 9pm.


1

Chicago City Hop-on Hop-off Tour

Location:

Chicago, Illinois


2

Magnificent Mile

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Location:

625 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Contact:

tel: +1 312 642 3570
fax: +1 312 642 3826


3

American Girl Place

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Location:

835 North Michigan Ave. (Water Tower Place)
Chicago, IL 60611

Contact:

tel: +1 877 247 5223


4

John Hancock Center

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Location:

875 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Contact:

tel: +1 312 751 3680


5

Family Pavilion At Navy Pier

Location:

600 East Grand Avenue
Navy Pier
Chicago, IL 60611

Contact:

tel: +1 312 595 7437


6

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

Location:

600 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Contact:

tel: +1 312 595 7437


Day 2 - Chicago


Museum Campus and Museum of Science and Industry:

The Museum Campus is a 57-acre lakefront park that connects the Field Museum with the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. Large museums can be overwhelming so it pays to do your homework before you arrive and find a self-guided tour that works well for your family. It is also important to note that each museum could easily warrant a day-long visit – plan your visit accordingly.

The Field Museum has tours that include scavenger hunts and adventure highlights. If you need a break from sightseeing and want to relax, both the Aquarium and Planetarium offer educational movies for different age groups.

The Museum of Science and Industry is a bit of a trek from the other museums, but for elementary school age children it has a lot to offer. You can customize a museum day for your family with the museum's interactive visit planner. The museum recommends a "tour" for you based on your child's age and interests and provides a printable map of what your tour would look like - it's customizable for both first time or returning visitors . . . and kids love planning their day! Preschoolers will also enjoy this museum – there are tractors in the Farm Tech Exhibit they love to climb, baby chicks in the hatchery, and the world’s largest pinball machine (The Swiss Jolly Ball). The exhibit that takes the cake for infants through Grade 3 is the fabulous Idea Factory, which has timed entries, so it’s worth heading here first and then tackling the rest of the museum.

Millennium Park:

It’s nice to balance a museum visit for half a day with an outdoor activity. Millennium Park is a fun outing for the entire family and ideally located on the way to the Museum Campus. This 25-acre park features award-winning landscape design and architecture as well as concert venues and a summer schedule with free programs for all ages. The Family Fun Festival runs throughout the summer and includes interactive activities, reading circles, musical games, concerts and lots of water activities. Kids love to splash in the 1 inch of water between the giant faces in the Millennium Park Fountain - be sure to bring swimsuits and towels. After you dry off, grab a rainbow cone, a Chicago tradition, at the ice cream shop. In winter, the ice skating rink is open and the Park Grill is open year-round for dining (reservations recommended).

If you are visiting Chicago between Memorial Day and Labor Day, check the Grant Park Music schedule to see whether the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be rehearsing at the outdoor Pritzker Pavilion (in Millennium Park) at Noon. If they are, get a picnic, sit on the lawn, and enjoy free music.

Chicago Art Institute:

You can walk from Millennium Park across a pedestrian bridge that connects it with the new wing of the Art Institute, and enjoy the view over the park from the museum’s terrace. The bridge also crosses train tracks which kids find exciting.

If you don’t have time to get to the Museum Campus, or want to stick around Grant Park, take the kids to the Art Institute’s Touch Gallery, which is designed specifically for little ones. And yes, they can touch everything! Note, admission to the museum is free on Thursdays and the museum is open until 8p.
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1

Field Museum (The)

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Location:

1400 S Lake Shore Dr
Roosevelt Rd. and Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60605-2496

Contact:

tel: +1 312 922 9410
fax: +1 312 665 7701


2

John G. Shedd Aquarium

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Location:

1200 S. Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60605

Contact:

tel: 312/939-2438
fax: +1 312 939 8069


3

Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum

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Location:

1300 S. Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60605

Contact:

tel: 312/922-STAR
fax: +1 312 322 2257


4

Museum of Science and Industry

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expert pick

Location:

5700 S Lake Shore Dr
57th St. and Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60637

Contact:

tel: 800/468-6674 outside the Chicago area
fax: +1 773 684 7141


5

Millennium Park

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Location:

222 North Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL 60601

Contact:

tel: +1 312 742 1168 / +1 312 744 3370 (Event Hotline)


6

Art Institute of Chicago

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expert pick

Location:

111 S. Michigan Ave
At Adams St
Chicago, IL 60602

Contact:

tel: 312/443-3600
fax: +1 312 443 0849


Day 3 - Chicago


Lincoln Park Zoo and Beach:

The Lincoln Park Zoo is a year-round destination and one of the oldest and most established zoos in the country. Kids love the Farm in the Zoo, and riding the vintage-looking-but-safe carousel. At Christmas time, the zoo is lit up with thousands of lights and offers a variety of holiday activities

North Avenue's huge sandy beach is the city's most popular beach in the summertime and can be easily accessed from the Lincoln Park Zoo - just walk across the pedestrian footbridge that crosses the Lakeshore Drive (at the south end of the zoo parking lot). Bring buckets, shovels, towels, and a picnic, or eat lunch at the cafe right on the beach.

Architecture River Cruise:

A 90-minute boat tour on the Chicago River, led by a member of the Chicago architecture foundation, is one of the tourist highlights for teenage-or-older children and adults. Book tickets in advance or risk them selling out. Not recommended for young children, as there is nowhere for kids to run around, and passengers have to be somewhat quiet in order to hear the guide’s descriptions.


1

Lincoln Park Zoo

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expert pick

Location:

2001 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614

Contact:

tel: +1 312 742 2000
fax: +1 312 742 7666


2

Architecture River Cruise

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Location:

333 North Michigan Avenue
Southwest corner of Michigan Avenue Bridge at Chicago River, river level.
Chicago, IL 60601

Contact:

tel: +1 312 751 1380


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