Here are some of the coolest things to do in Chicago with kids, that will leave your precious ones asking to come back to the Windy City. Below, is a carefully selected list of fun and informative tours, giving you the opportunity to explore many Chicago places where all your family members will learn something new.
The Chicago Film Bus Tour has something interesting for everyone and is a must do if you have older children that are film buffs. This two-hour tour is one of the most fun things to do in Chicago with kids, that covers over 30 miles of Chicago’s famous streets and locations that have been used in some 75 movies over the last 100 years. Patrons will ride in a luxury tour bus and follow a path of the movies through iconic neighborhoods like Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast. At each stop guests will learn interesting information from an expert tour guide as well as view short film clips of each movie which was made at that location. Movie locations that are viewed on the tour include the Blues Brothers, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Fugitive, The Sting, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Transformers and the Untouchables. The wide breathe of movies makes this tour an unforgettable adventure. This tour is open to all ages and will certainly be a fun thing to do in Chicago with kids or teenagers with plenty of interesting facts about Chicago as well as the film industry.
There are many things to do in Chicago with kids such as the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. It is a unique way for older kids to learn about the historic architecture of the Windy City’s skyline. This 75-minute tour will inform guests of the historic architecture of some forty buildings as you travel through three branches of the famed Chicago River. Expert tour guides from the Society of Chicago Architects explain the various forms of historic architecture and the history behind each building as well as how Chicago was rebuilt after the devastating Great Fire of 1871. Patrons will view such architecture masterpieces as the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), the Wrigley Building, the Chicago Board of Trade and the John Hancock Center while they sit comfortably aboard a state-of-the-art tour boat. The tour boat has many levels with open air seating on the top level as well as a full bar on the lower level. This tour is open to all ages and is a perfect thing to do in Chicago with kids who are interested in culture, history and engineering.
The Chicago Grand Half-Day Tour presented by Grayline is the perfect way to organize the things to do in Chicago with kids, and families with older children to get acquainted with the Windy City. This four-hour tour takes guests through some of the iconic neighborhoods in Chicago as well as is a great sightseeing adventure for architectural minded people of all ages. The North Side portion includes the Botanical Gardens, the Magnificent Mile, Wrigley Field and Lincoln Park. South side highlights include Soldier Field, Shedd Aquarium, Grant Park and the sky dome at the Adler Planetarium. The tour ends at the John Hancock Building where patrons must make their own plans for returning to their hotel. When you are staying close by this ending point it is a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon. This is a great thing to do in Chicago with older kids for newcomers. With all the highlights and a drive through the city, patrons will be full of intimate knowledge of the history and culture of Chicago from before the Great Fire of 1871 until the city’s present vibrant culture.
The Six Flags Great America Amusement Park is the ideal way to spend a day with the things to do in Chicago with kids. This amusement park features plenty of thrilling rides, entertainment and carnival-style games. Six Flags Great America has several distinct areas within the boundaries of the park which include rides for kids, families, teens and adults. The children’s space is composed of three areas which include Kidzopolis, Camp Cartoon and Hometown Park. Within these areas there are a choice of fourteen children rides without height restrictions and two more for people over three feet tall.
Children can choose from a variety of coasters like the Jetson-themed junior coaster and the Little Dipper or choose one of the many other thrilling rides like Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine, Jester’s Wild Ride and the Bouncer. Children can also explore the waterpark by spending time at Buccaneer Bay and Skull Island. Families can enjoy exciting rides like the Scenic Railway, the Columbia Carousel and twenty more rides with height restrictions of three feet or taller. The park has three distinct water rides that include Yankee Clipper, Logger’s Run and Roaring Rapids.
Whether you are a child or a child at heart, Six Flags Great America Amusement Park is one of the coolest things to do in Chicago with kids! The water park area provides families with such excellent rides like Cast Away Creek, Monsoon Lagoon and Hurricane Bay as well as a variety of water slides for added entertainment. Riptide Bay has Mega Wedgie, Surf Rider, Dive Bomber and Tornado. Thrill rides located throughout the park with height restrictions include several coasters like the Batman Ride, the American Eagle, the Demon, Raging Bull, Viper and Goliath. Other heart stopping attractions include Superman: Ultimate Flight, Vertical Velocity, Revolution, King Chaos and the Giant Drop. Entertainment at Six Flags Chicago includes a variety of concerts and acrobatic shows throughout the season at various times in the park.
Photo by Jeremy Thompson
The Willis Tower Skydeck takes you to new heights when you are looking for fun things to do in Chicago with kids. Located on the 103rd floor of the famed Willis Tower (former Sears Tower), this deck offers a unique adventure for the thrill seeker and city skyline enthusiasts. The most intriguing experience is standing on the Ledge. The Ledge is an area that protrudes from the Willis Tower over four feet and is made of glass. Guests can view downward for 1,300 feet and admire Michigan Avenue from a different vantage point. The Skydeck has many telescopes located around the deck for optimal viewing of the Windy City. Interesting kid’s activities include various learning experiences about building construction, Chicago history and a scavenger hunt. There are dining options that include a traditional breakfast on weekdays and a pizza-type brunch on the weekends. Over 1.7 million people visit the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere each year and many families ear mark plenty of time to enjoy the expansive views that are offered while on the Skydeck.
Photo by JessieBear13
The Shedd Aquarium has the right environment for the perfect things to do with kids in Chicago. Located in Grant Park, this aquarium has over 32,000 animals for children and people of all ages to enjoy. This water wonderland has seven key exhibit areas which include the Caribbean Reef, Amazon Rising, Waters of the World, Wild Reef, Abbott Oceanarium and At Home on the Great Lakes. There is even a special Polar Play Zone where kids can wear a penguin suit, ride in a kids-submarine in the Arctic waters and study whales, dolphins as well as sea otters from a special underwater glass viewing area. Species in which guests can view are quite unique like the rarest iguana in the world that normally lives in the Bahamas to high-flying penguins to river turtles to beluga whales. The range of animal life is amazing and encompasses fresh as well as salt water species from a variety of ecological zones. As a great addition to fun things to do in Chicago with kids or teens, The Shedd Aquarium also has a 3D movie experience for all ages to enjoy. When you are ready to learn about sharks, octopus and Seahorses this is the only place in Chicago to consider.
Photo by Michael Kappel
The Field Museum is a traditional natural science museum that is one of the great things to do in Chicago with kids. This museum has a wide variety of exhibits for guests to enjoy whether you are a child, teen, young adult or elderly in age. Patrons are amazed when they view Sue which is the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in the world. Children have been learning about different cultures and animals of the world at The Crown Family Playlab where several interactive exhibits exist. Other exhibits within the museum are Inside Ancient Egypt, Evolving Planet, Underground Adventure, Restoring Earth, The Ancient Americas, Grainger Hall of Gems, Gidwitz Hall of Birds, Hall of Jade, The Tsavo Lions, Pacific Spirits, Africa, Project Hyena Diorama, Pawnee Earth Lodge, DNA Discovery Center and view the McDonald’s Fossil Prep Lab while scientists prepare delicate fossils and items for exhibit. The Field Museum also hosts special attractions that feature artifacts and cultures from the Greeks to Chinese Emperors to 3D movies on such fascinating places as the Galapagos Islands and Wild Africa. For an extra fee you can watch the spectacular 3D movie that explains where Sue was found, how scientists put her together and watch her come to life.
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The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the more interactive museums in the Windy City and one of the most fun things to do in Chicago with kids. Science people go nuts for this place and there are plenty of exhibits with moving parts to keep the kids in a state of fascination. The exhibits are expertly prepared and the docents onsite are helpful with additional information. One interesting item about exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry is that they are prepared based on age groups such as under 10 years of age, 10 through 13 years of age and so forth. This is helpful when planning visits with a specific age group and families can take advantage of the exhibits that match the age of their siblings. Outstanding one-of-a-kind exhibits include the only U-505 German Submarine in the United States, Think explains major scientific discoveries of the last 100 years as well as the Transportation Gallery which boasts trains, planes and automobiles. It's on ourlist of the best things to do in Chicago with kids, because there is something for everyone from farm technology to inventing the future to learning about the Great Train Story. Patrons also can learn about nature in the Science Storms exhibit which features information on tornadoes, hurricanes and avalanches. The location of the Museum of Science and Industry is not ideal but guests are certainly pleased with the interactive exhibits of knowledge that are available for children.
Photo by Raellyn & Melissa
The Adler Planetarium has much more to offer than just far off galaxies. This planetarium is one of the most informative things to do in Chicago with kids, that will inform guests on everything there is to know about our universe in an entertaining educational format that includes exhibits that explain the history of telescopes to astronomy in culture to being on a mission to the moon. There are plenty of interactive learning stations associated with exhibit to help keep people of all ages entertained. This also allows patrons to concentrate on the specific things they might be curious about with space and astronomy. Planet Explorers lets children explore space vehicles in a playground setting that allows a real hands-on experience for children. While visiting the Adler Planetarium patrons can add-on to watch one of the many video presentations that include an animated version entitled One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure which is a big hit with children. For adults try the add-on for one of the shows like Cosmic Wonder or simply visit the Adler Planetarium just to view the Chicago skyline from a distance. Whether you are young or old there is something of interest at the Adler Planetarium for you.
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The Chicago Children’s Museum is one of the must see museums when you are looking for things to do in Chicago with kids. This museum is better served for children under the age of seven because there are not many activities for older children. The Pritzker Room is a play room wonderland for babies and toddlers. This room is filled with a variety of toys, building blocks and costumes which are appropriate for children. Children can learn at various interactive stations about different items in the world like water which includes toys, raincoats and much more. The Tinkering Lab and Skyline station allow for children to be creative with building materials, styles and even electronics. Children can dig at the Dinosaur Expedition station and can learn about the planets earliest occupants. There are also arts and crafts areas where children can be creative and make a memorable souvenir of their adventure. With a central location and easy access the Chicago Children’s Museum is a perfect thing to do in Chicago with kids of younger age.
Photo by Christine Urias
Formerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago brings the city of Chicago into a new perspective for guests. Located on the 94th floor this viewing experience of downtown Chicago is complete with plenty of area to roam and enjoy the panoramic skyline. 360 Chicago has many interactive stations that are great things to do in Chicago with kids and adults to learn interesting facts about the history, culture and buildings of Chicago. The Tilt is the first-of-its-kind experience in the world. Guests enter the space which is then extended outward from the building and then tilts patrons downward allowing for a view of the Miracle Mile from some 1,000 feet above. Patrons can indulge in a variety of signature cocktails, beverages and café-style food at Architect’s Corner. Whether you want to visit during the day, around sunset or at night 360 Chicago will give you big views of the Wind City’s skyline.
Photo by Karen Bryan
The Brookfield Zoo is always an entertaining choice when you are looking for things to do in Chicago with kids. The Brookfield Zoo has everything for babies to adults and all ages in between to enjoy. Guests can view animals in realistic habitats that range from the deserts of Africa to the rainforest of the Amazon to woodland animals of North America. Family Play Program and Sleepover Safari are two events that can be experienced by guests and families. Imagine learning from nature educators and artists while you explore different activities that are designed to enhance awareness of nature’s importance to our world. Backstage Adventures for guests 8 years of age or older are available which allows you to be up-close with the zoo keeper as you learn about different animals and their habitats. Patrons to the Brookfield Zoo can add-on other experiences like Wild Encounters, the Zoo Tram, Play Zoo, Dolphins and there is a fun carousel. There are of course amazing animals like the Snow Leopard, Mexican Gray Wolf, Polar and Grizzly bears too. The Brookfield Zoo is a great way to spend a day among your favorite animals of the world.
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The Legoland Discovery Center has a few different features that are unique when compared to other things to do in Chicago with kids. This event has three distinct areas of thought. First, Legoland has an amusement park feel with the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride, Merlin’s Apprentice Ride and the LEGO 4D Cinema. The second part of Legoland is the whole space in a giant play room with different themed areas like Jungle Expedition, Pirate Adventure Island, DUPLO Village and LEGO Racers: Build and Test. The last area of entertainment is that Legoland is much like a museum with the Miniland Chicago station and there is a factory tour that teaches people the history of making LEGO products. When guests are browsing the areas of interest there are plenty of statues of animals, cars, trains and whatever else you can imagine building out of LEGOs. The Legoland Discovery Center in Chicago continues to fascinate guests of all ages by bringing imaginations to life with LEGOs.
Photo by David Guthrie
The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of those mainstay things to do in Chicago with kids that is great for both, locals and visitors since the zoo was created in 1868. The Lincoln Park Zoo has also had a long and proud history of offering this adventure for free to guests. The zoo has many different areas that feature natural habitats which are surrounded in the distance by some of the more spectacular buildings of the Windy City. Distinct habitat and animal areas like the Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House includes animals like the White-Faced Saki Monkey from the Amazon rain forest, Sand Cats of the North Africa Sahara region, Red Pandas from the Himalayas as well as an assortment of reptiles like the Spider Tortoise from Madagascar and the Oriental Fire-Bellie Toad which normally live in Korea. The McCormick Bird House features such standout bird specimen’s like the Taveta Golden Weaver from eastern Africa and the Central American species of Blue-Crowned Motmot. There are several other areas that house animals from the Regenstein Center for African Apes to the Helen Branch Primate House to the Kovler Lion House. There is also a farm space with chickens and pigs as well as the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo. The Lincoln Park Zoo has two additional attractions that guests can enjoy with the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel and the Lionel Train Adventure that wanders over a trackless path through canyon and forest scenery before stopping at a red bricked depot. There are so many things to do in Chicago with kids and a trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo will surely be the highlight of your day or visit to the Windy City.
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The Millennium Park has many attractive features that lure people to its boundaries that are looking for free things to do in Chicago with kids. The park was re-designed in 1997, is open to the public and free with lots of space to explore. One of the main attractions in Millennium Park is the Cloud Gate which is referred to locally as The Bean. This giant mirror portrays the skyline of Chicago and Michigan Avenue in a different way each time a guest gazes into the apparatus. The Lurie Gardens are a sight-to-be-seen when the flowers are in full bloom amidst an ever changing background of artistic sculptures. During the winter months the city of Chicago constructs an ice skating rink complete with rentals and a warming hut. A variety of concerts are performed at the Pritzker Pavilion. Millennium Park is in a great location and can satisfy everyone in the family with one of the many free attractions located in the park.
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The Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament Championship is a unique way to spend time with your family and is one of the exciting things to do in Chicago with kids. Once seated in the Grand Ceremonial Arena guests will witness live knights with real weapons trying to secure the crown of being the King’s Champion. The two-hour show features a variety of events from knights batting with swords, a jousting match as well as gorgeous trained horses performing for the audience. Guests can enjoy the beautiful flight of the Royal Falcons while they dine like kings of a past era. Dinner features a four-course meal with roasted chicken and there is a vegetarian option for the non-meat eaters. This exciting family-friendly event has a new winner each night and families of all ages feel like they win with all of entertaining aspects of the show.
The Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theater is an ideal event for families looking for things to do in Chicago with kids that are over the age of five years. The Blue Man Group has been entertaining audiences for many years with their iconic blue painted faces and their memorable raucous music. This one and one-half hour show is filled with state-of-the-art multimedia effects that enhance the performance as the Blue Man Group rowdily play a variety of instruments from drums to homemade washboards. The theatrics of the event are superb throughout the show with lots of confetti and other items flying through the air. The Blue Man Group utilizes plenty of modern technology that will amaze audiences as they flow from one choreographed song to another. When families are looking to have a little fun with their children that are at least five years old, the Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theater is a great way for a family to bond for an evening.
The Trapeze School New York in Chicago is an entertaining way for a family to have things to do in Chicago with kids and to spend time with each other in a non-conventional atmosphere. This unique program is perfect for a wide age range of guests that are seeking an experience that is athletic, challenging and inspirational. Classes are designed for patrons that are over the age of six years old and provide a team building adventure that requires the trust of everyone in your group. Expert instructors take groups through the necessary safety and acrobatic techniques before taking to the trapeze. Participants can learn a variety of skills from balancing to high-flying trapeze moves to walking a tight wire. During the summer months the Trapeze School New York Chicago offers a kids camp that includes instruction on a variety of circus-style skills like juggling, stage presence and intricate acrobatics. The Trapeze school is one of the best things to do in Chicago with kids for the family that wants to build trust with their siblings while being in an athletic setting.