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This could be the most big-on-fun checklist you’ve ever had. Before your kids turn 10, here are a whopping 100 ways to entertain them in Chicago and nearby. It has essential city experiences. It has hidden gems. And it has tons of to-do’s that will find a special place in your heart. Dive into the list anywhere, and take your time — but not too much. The wonder years whiz by!

 

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1. Got a kid who loves dinos? Visit Sue, the world’s largest T. Rex, and Máximo, a cast of the largest dinosaur ever found at The Field Museum.

2. Get leaned at a 30-degree angle 1,000 feet above the city at 360 CHICAGO’S TILT.

3. Fire up your imagination at a kid-friendly show performed at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. Until the curtain is lifted, stay connected with SHAKES@HOME.

 

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4. See Mr. Singer perform a free musical story hour at Lincoln Park Zoo all year-round. Until restrictions are lifted, you can find keep up-to-date on his virtual performances via his Facebook page.

5. See the real 1966, 1989 and 2005 Batmobiles at the Volo Auto Museum. In 2021, they’ll be adding Jurassic Gardens, North America’s largest indoor animatronic Dinosaur Park.

6. Jam out at a Concerts for Kids kindie rock show or an all-ages show at Beat Kitchen. Right now they have an all-ages Bluegrass Brunch every Saturday at 11 a.m.

 

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7. Devour a bowl of frozen custard that’s made right before your eyes at Scooters Frozen Custard.

8. Fly a kite on Cricket Hill at Montrose Harbor.

9. Be a beach bum at a vacation town on the Michigan shoreline (aka: the other side of the pond).

 

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10. Jump yourself into exhaustion at Altitude Trampoline Park, Chicago’s first and only trampoline playspace and activity center.

11. Take the water taxi from downtown to Chinatown.

12. Shake, sing and be silly at an Old Town School of Folk Music Wiggleworms music class. Right now you can experience the fun online, from the comforts of home. No mask required!

 

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13. Gather berries at a U-Pick farm, like one from our story Get the Dirt on Veggie & Berry-Picking Season.

14. Make like a tourist and blaze through downtown on a Chicago Trolley.

15. Stroll the Naperville Riverwalk and stop to take a dip at Centennial Beach. This venue is closed for the 2020 season, but you can rent paddleboats and paddleboards at the neighboring Paddleboat Quarry.

 

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16. Appease your need for speed at Six Flags Great America. As of Jul. 27, the theme park hasn’t opened for the 2020 season, but the waterpark Hurricane Harbor is up and running.

17. Scoot around a faux road on a ride-on car in Little Beans Cafe.

18. Tackle the mega slides at Adventure Playground at Blackberry Farm in Aurora. (Be sure to keep tabs on their website for when they reopen after COVID-19 closures.)

 

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19. Snuggle up at interactive storytime at Play toy store in Logan Square, Andersonville or Lincoln Park.

20. Have a birthday party at Purple Monkey Playroom.

21. Hike Starved Rock State Park and snap a picture in front of a waterfall. For more low-key nature strolls, read our story Discover the Not-So-Obvious Spots to Hike, Camp & Fish Near Chicago.

white-sox-base-runningphoto: Chicago White Sox

22. Run the bases at a Chicago White Sox Sunday Family Night. Until baseball welcomes fans again, fill your stomachs with ballpark favorites. Get your fix of some of the game’s most iconic bites via the team’s Home Plates recipe page.

23. Watch sharks dart overhead at the Wild Reef exhibit at Shedd Aquarium.

24. Run away and join the circus. . . or just watch family-owned and performed Circus in the Parks (that benefits the parks!).

 

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25 Grab a swing seat at Molly’s Cupcakes and get a sugar high. There’s 5 Chicago locations!

26. Build sandcastle at Oak Street Beach.

27. Walk the quiet woodland trails of North Park Village Nature Center.

Climbing-Schoonerphoto: Chicago Children’s Museum

28. Scoot around in the Kovler Family Climbing Schooner at Chicago Children’s Museum.

29. Go to a Broadway in Chicago show at a downtown theater.

30. Make your dream birthday gift list at Building Blocks Toy Shop.

 

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31. Take a spin on Navy Pier’s Centennial Wheel.

32. Take a youth improv class at The Second City.

33. Get sprayed with water at one of the many splash pads in the city and ‘burbs.

 

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34. Tiptoe through the hidden Shakespeare Garden at Northwestern University.

35. Play with the latest toys and kids’ gadgets at Chicago Toy & Game Fair. For 2020, the dates are Nov. 16-22.

36. Curl up with a book at Harold Washington Library.

 

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37. Order a Rainbow Cone (and take a selfie with it).

38. Rope fake cattle at Onesti’s Wild West Town in Union.

39. Have a blast after dark and shop Argyle Night Market in Uptown.

 

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40. Get drenched at the water park capital of the world, Wisconsin Dells (and don’t miss Paul Bunyan’s for dinner).

41. Meet chefs and local farmers at Green City Market and have the kids join Club Sprouts, which encourages young people to try new, locally grown sustainable foods.

42. Escape to Lake Geneva for the weekend and take the 2.5-hour narrated U.S. Mailboat Tour that includes a very unique mail delivery to lakeshore residents.

 

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43. Plan a road trip to the Ozarks. Come on, you know Netflix’s Ozark has you curious!

44. Putt your way through 18 kitschy-fun mini-golf holes at Haunted Trails in Burbank.

45. Wander through aisles of wacky science-experiment stuff at American Science & Surplus.

adler-telescopesphoto: Adler Planetarium

46. Gaze through a telescope on the terrace of Adler Planetarium.

47. Visit the 14,000-square feet of painted wall at the Mile of Murals in Rogers Park and increase your family selfie game.

48. Take a soccer class at Lil’ Kickers.

legolandphoto: LEGOLAND Discovery Center

49. Go bonkers for bricks at LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

50. Explore a natural paradise at Garfield Park Conservatory.

51. Take the family out for a Chicago Fire soccer game or sign up for one of their youth camps.

photo: Codeverse

52. Learn a foreign language—coding!—at Codeverse, the world’s first fully interactive coding studio designed for kids ages 6-12

53. Bask in a Japanese-inspired paradise at Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park.

54. Get doused at Crown Fountain in Millennium Park.

 

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55. Be a Miss Jamie’s Farm groupie and follow her around to Mariano’s stores and festivals (or book your own private show).

56. Watch as hundreds of butterflies are released daily at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

57. Go indoor skydiving at iFly in Lincoln Park, Rosemont or Naperville.

photo: Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Wild Encounters via Maria Chambers

58. Feed the goats or play with the parakeets at Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Wild Encounters.

59. Sip bubble tea at one of Joy Yee’s 7 Chicagoland locations.

60. Once it opens back up, have a family campout designed for the novice on Northerly Island.

 

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61. Once the largest diesel-powered Fireboat in the world, the Fred A. Busse is now set to share a bit of history with its passengers on a Chicago Fireboat Tour.

62. Party like its 1499 at Bristol Renaissance Faire, just over the Wisconsin border.

63. Get tickets—better yet, a season pass—to shows at Chicago Children’s Theatre.

Bellaboo Play Spacephoto: Bellaboo’s by TK Photography

64. Drive to Indiana for the worth-the-trip Bellaboo’s play space.

65. Visit the smallest shop in the U.S.—Little Popcorn Shop in Wheaton.

66. Get your scream on with these low key thrills and chills.

 

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67. Get lost amongst the blooms at Chicago Botanic Garden.

68. Explore one of the 17 permanent exhibits at Kohl Children’s Museum.

69. Go glamping in the Illinois wilderness.

 

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70. Fight real fire on the firetruck ride or cool off at the waterpark at the old-school Santa’s Village Azoosement & Water Park.

71. Bike the Fox River Valley Trail, making sure to stop at Batavia, Geneva or St. Charles for postcard-perfect views.

72. Inhale a stack of pancakes at Lulu Belle’s on Southport Avenue or in Franklin Park.

 

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73. Run, climb and explore at the Children’s Garden at Morton Arboretum.

74. Get artsy at Hyde Park Art Center.

75. Travel to Springfield for a lesson in President Lincoln history.

photo: Blue Man Group via ©Paul Kolnik

76. See the bald blue dudes drum, paint and surprise you at Blue Man Group.

77. Get fancy for family tea at The Peninsula Chicago.

78. Have a slimy, gooey good time doing experiments at Kids Science Labs.

 

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79. Walk over the city and onto The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago (and dare yourself not to freak out).

80. Put on your suit and take a dip in a community pool.

81. Play frisbee golf at Oak Brook’s Central Park.

 

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82. Go green and get juice at Real Good Stuff Co. that’ll have the kids begging for their veggies (they also do FroYo!).

83. Go roller skating under strobe lights at Aurora Skate Center.

84. Watch the old-fashioned flipping of the historic scoreboard at a Chicago Cubs game.

 

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85. Show the kids how hot-dog-eating is done (hold the ketchup) at one of our favorite hot dog joints.

86. Sign the kids up for a Hi-Five Sports Camp that’s focus is about so much more than winning or losing, it’s about teamwork, playing hard and fair, making new friends, learning the power of camaraderie and FUN.

87. Go on a Chicago-themed family scavenger hunt.

photo: The Forge

88. Have a family fun day the new The Forge: Lemont Quarries (aka The Forge), a 300-acre adventure park with ziplines, hiking trails, mountain biking, paddlesports, and a dedicated kids’ zone.

89. Race slot cars at Dads Slot Cars in Des Plaines.

90. Tour a farm and pet animals at Green Meadows Petting Farm.

 

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91. Glow in the dark at cosmic bowling at Waveland Bowl.

92. Take a whirlwind tour of some of Chicago’s most iconic attractions by buying a CityPass.

93. Spend time examining every detail in the Thorne Miniature Rooms at The Art Institute.

 

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94. Chase down the Toasty Cheese grilled cheese truck for a mmm-worthy meal.

95. Learn dance from pros this fall at a family program at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

96. Eat chocolates—and watch them being made!—at Long Grove Confectionery.

 

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97. Partake in sugary goodness at the end-all-be-all of vintage ice cream shops, Margie’s Candies.

98. Build your own robot at Robot City Workshop.

99. Have a staycation at one of Chicago’s kid-friendly hotels with amenities that will make it so you never want to leave!

100. Take lots of pictures and seize the moment. . . again and again and again.

— Maria Chambers & Kelly Aiglon

Featured photo: Pixabay via Pexels

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