21+ Best Things To Do In Chicago With Kids Today
Chicago is one of the most exciting cities in the world. There are tons of activities for adults, but the city isn’t necessarily known for its activities for kids. It’s not always an option to leave the kids at home but don’t worry, we scoured the town to find the best activities for children of all ages. Here are 21+ things you can do in Chicago with your kids this weekend.
Take them on a tour.
Tours are a great way to expand a child’s horizons and expose them to new things without the expense of a bigger trip. Go on a food tour with your future foodie or a segway or kayak tour for your aspiring nature buff.
1. Iconic Foods of Chicago Tour
Source: Chicago Food & City Tours
Try the Iconic Foods of Chicago Tour and taste 5 Chicago iconic eats while getting a history lesson on famous landmarks in River North and Streeterville. Choices include plenty of kid favorites including the Chicago-style hot dog, popcorn, deep dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, and the brownie (yes- it was invented in Chicago!). Plus, they’ll learn how these foods became Chicago classics. Feed their bellies and their brains!
2. Segway Tour
Photo Source: Chicago Segway Tours
How about exploring the town on wheels? With kids ages 12 and up, you can check out the parks and the Chicago Skyline while riding around on segways. Segways are a two-wheeled transportation vehicle that’s easy to ride and a ton of fun. Even the most uncoordinated member of your family will appreciate this ride because it does all of the balancing for you! And bonus? It makes even the shortest person stand a little bit taller while enjoying the sights.
3. Chicago Architecture Kayak Tour
Photo Source: Chicago Tribune
Architecture tour via kayak? Sign us up! The Chicago Architecture Kayak Tour is a 2.5 hour kayak opportunity that guides you down the Chicago River as it flows through downtown. Kayaking is a fun way to get kids on the water. Plus, an architecture tour is a great experience for kids because there are many stops along the way along with stories about Chicago, its architecture, and the river. To make the best of the experience, be sure to bring along snacks and drinks.
Insider Tip: If your family falls in love with tours on the water, there’s more where that came from. Check out our favorite Chicago boat tours.
Spend a Day at Navy Pier
Navy Pier is packed with things to do, and we’ve included some of our favorite family-friendly activities. If you are looking for more options, we give you our best tips and activities in this guide to Navy Pier.
4. Chicago Children’s Museum
Source: Urban Matter
There are a variety of spots to hang with the kids at Navy Pier. The Chicago Children’s Museum may be one of the first sights you see and is a mix of play and learning. There are hands-on exhibits like Water City and the Tinkering Lab. The Dinosaur Expedition gives young scientists an opportunity to dig for fossils and analyze bones from a life-sized dinosaur skeleton.
5. Centennial Wheel
Photo Source: Navy Pier
You can take a ride on the 200-foot-high Centennial Wheel and get amazing views of Chicago. The Centennial Wheel offers a premium VIP gondola experience. It includes admission to up to four guests, plush seating, a trademark glass bottom and other perks that you’ll have to see to believe—or ride to describe. Also, you can enjoy this ride in any season because of the air conditioning and heating systems.
6. Tall Ship Windy
Source: Tall Ship Windy
Pretend to be pirates aboard the Tall Ship Windy. Though they offer architecture tours and seasonal firework cruises, Tall Ship Windy really shines in their themed sails. Adventurous kids will love the “Tales of Real Pirates of the Inland Seas,” where they’ll hear famous pirate stories set against the city’s beautiful skyline. Ahoy matey!
Let them run and play.
Looking for the best way to get your child to take a nap and just chill? Get their heart rate going with physical activities. Here is a list of activities that will tire your kids out that practically guarantee you’ll get a good night’s sleep.
7. Maggie Daley Park
Photo Source: Maggie Daley Park
Want to climb, skate or play tennis? You don’t have to choose because you can do all three at Maggie Daley Park. It features Chicago’s only outdoor climbing park. There are beginner and advanced places to climb with instruction from the park staff. The climbing rock sits at the center of a skating ribbon which is great for ice skating in winter and rollerblading in the warmer months. Other fun options include tennis courts and an 18-hole miniature golf course. You can also bring your picnic basket and have lunch in the park or in one of the four Picnic Groves.
8. LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago
Photo Source: Lego
If you need a break from stepping on the LEGO® in your living room, take kids to the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago. It’s a 30,000 square-foot space dedicated to the iconic plastic building toys. With the Kingdom Quest interactive laser ride, 4-D movie theater, daily building workshops, and the ever-popular Miniland featuring Chicago landmarks, you can easily spend a day here.
9. Altitude Trampoline Park
Photo Source: Altitude Trampoline Park
If you can’t stop the kids from jumping on the bed all the time, Altitude Trampoline Park may be the answer. Take them to this 33,000 square feet space of indoor trampolines and other fun attractions, including monkey bars and foam pits. Kids will be able to jump and flip to their heart’s content and you are free to join in on the fun or just relax and watch. If you have younger kids, take advantage of Toddler Time on weekday mornings.
10. Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo Source: Facebook
Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos founded in 1868. It is also one of the few free admission zoos in the United States. This top Chicago attraction boasts over 200 species of animals including big cats, primates, reptiles and birds. Head to the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo and your kids can have a blast making mudpies and climbing log towers. Or have them channel their inner Tarzan and enjoy a treetop climbing adventure.
11. Goldfish Swimming Lessons
Photo Source: Facebook
Get your tot swimming as early as four months old with Goldfish. They have heated pools and small classes for your kiddos. Once you step inside, you enter a “tropical oasis” with vibrant colored walls designed to be a fun and enhanced learning experience for kids and parents. You can also plan your little one’s next birthday party here or get the whole gang together and have family swim time.
12. Chicago Beaches
Photo Source: WTTW
Sometimes you can’t beat the simple lure of sand, water, and sunlight. Popular options include Oak Street Beach which has chair rentals, Loyola Beach which has a playground and walking trail, or 31st Street Harbor known for its jets, slides and climbing walls. If you need help planning a trip to the beach or are curious about which one to choose and its amenities, you can visit the Chicago Park District’s Beaches page.
Insider Tip: For more recommendations on beaches, especially if your kids are of the four-legged fur variety, you’ll appreciate the Beaches section (#12) of our Awesome Things to Do in Chicago guide.
Help them learn a thing or three.
Looking for opportunities for play with a little learning thrown in the mix? These experiences combine the best of both worlds. Kids of all ages can interact with museum exhibits, use their knowledge to solve puzzles and learn a new language.
13. Garfield Park Conservatory
Photo Source: Facebook
At the Garfield Park Conservatory, kids will enjoy the Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden. They can experience plant life including the Sensitive Plant that cringes when touched and the Play and Grow Garden with its options to make mud pies, walk through an obstacle course, and experiment with pebbles. There is also weekly programming that includes story-time and planting projects.
14. Shedd Aquarium
Photo Source: Mommy Nearest
Interested in whales, dolphins, and sea otters? Grab the whole family and come to the Shedd, the world’s largest indoor aquarium that has tons of activities for kids and adults alike. With over 32,000 animals, there is plenty to see. And if your children are between the ages of 5-12, you can even arrange an overnight adventure filled with animal encounters, activities, and a scavenger hunt.
15. Adler Planetarium
Photo Source: Facebook
Grab your young aspiring astronaut and visit the Planetarium. Children ages 3-8 can become a “space explorer” and take a two-story rocket to outer space. In the Community Design Lab, there are hands-on projects that let you turn your iPhone into a telescope and the Space Visualization Lab provides an opportunity for kids to chat with scientists.
16. Harold Washington Children’s Library
Photo Source: Chicago Public Library
The Thomas Hughes Children’s Library has a variety of programs for kids of all ages. The Early Learner Neighborhood has a puppet stage and story nook for kids under five. You can check out the library’s calendar for events that focus on crafts and sharing stories. Tweens can learn in the digital media space which includes some virtual reality tools.
Photo Source: Facebook
Codeverse makes coding approachable and fun for kids aged 6-13 with their proprietary KidScript language, state-of-the-art technology, and flexible learning spaces. You could have them try a class (first class is free!) or sign them up for a longer camp experience.
18. Learn Spanish
Photo Source: Instituto Cervantes
Hablas español? Children have a natural ability to learn another language and lessons will help them learn how to communicate in both Spanish and English. Popular options include the CervantesKids program at The Instituto Cervantes and Spanish Horizons . Both have year-round Spanish programs for kids and youth.
19. Escape Game
Photo Source: Facebook
If you are looking for an experience for the whole family, try one of the escape games. Solve clues and try to get out of a locked room within 60 minutes. Whether you make it out or not, it’s a great time and tests everyone’s knowledge. For most escape rooms, kids eight and older can participate. There are some locations that can adjust their games for younger kids.
20. Emerald City Theatre
Source: Chicago Children’s Theatre
In the mood for a little theatre? Try Chicago Children’s Theatre family-friendly plays. The shows are often based on beloved book series like Frog & Toad and Beatrix Potter stories. Or you can enroll the kids in a theatre class or summer where they can learn critical soft skills like confidence and team building. With their Red Kite Project they offer unique and innovative programming for kids on the autism spectrum and other developmental and learning disabilities.
21. Museum of Science and Industry
Photo Source: Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is home to a variety of fun, interactive exhibits for children of all ages. The Idea Factory Exhibit is a research facility for “young scientists” age 10 and under. This gives them an opportunity to test their own theories of light, construction, and more. You can even plan a museum sleepover spending the day building and creating, completing a scavenger hunt, and then snuggle into your sleeping bags for the night.