Date nights spent in the kid-free zone are a parenting survival necessity from time to time, but sometimes it’s fun to skip the sitter and have the kids crash the party. Adult conversation is a snooze fest anyway, right? Read on for family date ideas that will appeal to the whole gang, from crashing at a museum to bonding 94 floors over the city.

photo: Adler Planetarium

(1) Spend the night counting stars at Adler Planetarium’s Astro-Overnight: Night Sky Explorers edition. Not only do you get unlimited access to explore all the exhibits and experiences Adler has to offer, you get the VIP treatment with hands-on science activities available only to overnighters.

(2) A trip to Asia sound interesting? Skip the TSA lines and get a taste of life in South Korea at Chicago Children’s Museums Heart & Seoul: Growing Up in Korea exhibit, which brings modern-day South Korea to Chicago.

(3) You might think you’ve had wild slumber parties, but they’re nothing compared to this one. Pack up your jammies and flashlights and snuggle up with SUE the T. Rex, the African savannah and ancient Egyptian culture for an overnight adventure at The Field Museum.

photo: Museum of Science and Industry’s Brick by Brick

(4) If you haven’t done so yet, you’ll want to carve out time to see Museum of Science and Industry’s temporary Brick by Brick exhibit, which features a collection of more than a dozen massive LEGO-built structures and hands-on build challenges that will lead to fun family competitions.

(5) Chicago is a gold mine when it comes to museums, from art to surgical science and animals to stars, and lucky for you, they offer many free days for Illinois residents throughout the year.

photo: Shedd Aquarium’s Washed Ashore

(6) It’s always a good day for a trip to Shedd Aquarium, but even more so now with the Washed Ashore exhibit that features larger-than-life sculptures of aquatic animals, created entirely from plastic beach trash to illustrate how plastic pollution has become one of the gravest threats to our environment.

(7) You can’t say you’re a Chicagoan if you’ve never seen Blue Man Group — it’s an absolute must. Their high-energy, comedic shows will have you tapping your toes and laughing along, no matter your age.

photo: Discovery Museum in St. Louis

(8) We have a few long weekends coming up, so how about a road trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Minnesota or to see the Gateway Arch and Discovery Museum in St. Louis?

(9) Some of the best family bonding happens in the kitchen, and The Kids’ Table offers Family Dinner nights in their Lakeview and Wicker Park locations where you can work side-by-side with your kids to whip up a delicious meal you can replicate at home.

photo: Kings Dining & Entertainment via Maria Chambers

(10) Bowling alleys have really upped their game over the years – and Kings Dining & Entertainment venues in Lincoln Park and Rosemont are no exception. Not only do they offer an opportunity to strike out for an afternoon of family fun, but their dinner options will have you wanting to make a night of it.

(11) Take care of dinner and entertainment by seeing a movie at Studio Movie Grill in Wheaton. Their cozy reserved seating, the ability to order food from your seat and the copious amount of personal space allotted to each movie-goer makes for a stress-reduced night at the movies.

(12) Sure, it’s a bit nippy to be swimming outside, but Chicago has you covered with indoor water parks that’ll feel like a tropical escape.

photo: ice skating at Millennium Park via Maria Chambers

(13) Lace up your ice skates and figure 8 with a view at Millennium Park or the historic Wrigley Field.

(14) If you prefer your skates to have wheels and the air to be temp-controlled, trade in the ice skates and show off your mad skills at and old-school-cool roller rink.

photo: Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports via Maria Chambers

(15) Board in the ‘burbs at Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports, where all-ages snowboarding and skiing is located smack-dab in the middle of Lisle, making for an easy “mountain” getaway without the headache of road trippin’.

(16) Get your thrill fix by heading to the 94th floor of the John Hancock to experience TILT, which leans you 1,000 feet above the city at a 30-degree angle, or walk over the city and onto The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago in Willis Tower (and dare yourself not to freak out).

Do you have an family dates planned soon? We’d love to hear about it in the Comments below.

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— Maria Chambers

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