We’re acutely aware that raising a family is forever hectic. School days, summer camps, shuttling kids between activities, family vacations away from your hometown—all of these make it difficult to slow down and remember to take advantage of all the coolness Chicago has to offer. Mark off a few days on your family calendar to get reacquainted with our city. . . we’ll give you a few ideas to get you started.
Still Spectacular After All These Years: Millennium Park
They're a first-stop on every tourist's list, but should also be on every Chicagoan's camera roll: engage in a little water play at Crown Fountain in Millennium Park and take a selfie at Cloud Gate (aka The Bean).
Show Off Your Bravery at Skydeck Chicago
Put your fear of heights aside and walk 4.3 feet into a glass box, The Ledge, at Skydeck Chicago, Willis Tower's heart-pumping attraction. Don't forget to open your eyes! Before you head up, check out their new interactive museum that's just as fun as the views from the top.
Cruise the Waterways
Adventure out on the water with a little help from Chicago boat tour companies. You'll learn a bit about our city and its architectural history and take in a whole lotta gorgeous views cruising Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. From finding the best seat for Navy Pier’s weekly fireworks to cruises that let you bring your pup find your favorite by reading Ahoy, Captain! Explore Chicago’s Waterways on a Family Boat Cruise.
Bask in the Serenity of Baha'i Temple
Walk around the stunning grounds of an architectural marvel, the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette and learn about the other six temples around the world by touring the basement museum (free and open to public).
See Chicago from a Whole New Angle at 360 CHICAGO and TILT
Shoot 94-floors high at the Hancock Building and lean (squeal and maybe cry a little) 30-degrees over the city with 360 CHICAGO and TILT.
Spend a Day on the Riverwalk
Explore the Chicago River on a bike, kayak, boat, or by walking along the riverfront and don’t forget to visit the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. Every night at 9 and 9:30 p.m., Art on theMart treats Chicago to artistic projections set to music on Merchandise Mart's facade.
See Chicago on Two Wheels
Dust off those bikes, grease the chains, strap on a brain bucket and get those legs pumping on a bike path. From the shores of Lake Michigan to the furthest reaches of the suburbs, there are tons of options for family biking in Chicago.
Giggle Your Way Through WNDR Museum
Bring your cameras and get ready for family silly time! WNDR Museum, the ever-evolving, immersive art and technology experience, features one-of-a-kind installations from artists, collectives and studios locally and globally that prioritize joy, curiosity and creativity.
Welcome Back Chicago Children's Museum
After a year-and-a-half shutdown, Chicago Children's Museum is back! Kids can play in a Castle with secret tunnels, tackle the Cloud Buster, a 30-ton, 37-foot-tall steel dreamscape that celebrates adventure and risk-taking, excavate dinosaur bones and more!
Ogle the Beauty of Jackson Park
Visit Garden of the Phoenix at Jackson Park, a southside Chicago gem. This Japanese-inspired garden will set the tone for a relaxing stroll through nature.
Cruise the 606
Walk or ride your bikes along The 606, an awesome elevated trail with sculptures and great views, connected to six neighborhood parks that mirrors the Highline in New York City. If you don't have your own bike you can Divvy or let Four Star Family Cycleryloan you a ride.
Transport Yourself to China
Walk the streets of China Town for an experience like no other, which can even include a kid-squeal-inducing ride on the water taxi. Eat at any one of the authentic restaurants, take photos under the red gates, and enjoy the outstanding river views from Ping Tom Memorial Park, a 12-acre park located in Chinatown.
Appease the Super Hero Fanatics in Your Family
Stroll through one of the many exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry where your kids will learn from in-house scientists through hands-on stations and immersive experiences. Their temporary exhibit, Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes, celebrates Marvel history with more than 300 artifacts, including original comic book pages, sculptures, interactive displays and costumes and props from Marvel's blockbuster films.
Seek Out a New Favorite Hot Dog Joint
Love ’em or leave ’em, hot dogs are big in Chicago, and if your kids haven’t begged for one yet, they will soon. We love the on-the-go ease (no silverware!) and colorful condiments (kids get a pass where the sacrilege of using ketchup is concerned). Grab one at a legendary local hot dog joint and turn eating into an adventure.
While you're at it, enjoy a low-key Chicago Dogs baseball game, named in honor of Chicago's favorite street food.
Turn Your Exploration Into a Game
Show your kids the coolness of their hometown with this scavenger hunt idea. It’ll take you to the tippy-top of the Navy Pier Centennial Wheel and strolling the Chicago River to see the moveable bridges. You can download this scavenger hunt for kids here.
Partake in Some Themed Dining
Dining out doesn’t have to be a snooze fest. There are lots of themed restaurants to let your kid’s imagination truly run wild. Immerse yourself in different worlds that range from an American Girl Doll immersion to a delightful meal in a rainforest.
Watch the Kids Go Bananas for Blue Man Group
Listen to music and laugh during the silences at an iconic Blue Man Group show, returning after a long hiatus on Aug. 18. They're known for their wildly popular theatrical shows that combine comedy, music and tech for a totally unique form of entertainment. With no spoken language, its perfect for kids and adults of all ages, languages and cultures.
Go For a Game, Stay for the Fun
See a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, one of the most iconic ballparks in America, and explore the ever-evolving Gallagher Way that surrounds the park and offers family-friendly dining and entertainment. If your allegiances align more with the south side, take the family to a White Sox game, but perhaps still take a peek at Gallagher Way on another day.
Search for Fairy Houses
Chicago is infusing a bit of magic into their Natural Areas through a series of enchanting Fairy Houses. Adventurous park-goers will be rewarded with the charm of these mythical wooden structures that are made with natural items like branches, plants, feathers and rocks. You'll find them in 20 parks throughout the city and it's a great excuse to explore an area that's new to you.
Book a Hotel with a Pool
Make it a staycation and book a hotel for a few days! We love the Sheraton Grand Chicago for their riverwalk location steps away from Michigan Avenue and kids dig their indoor heated pool. You can even bring along the family pooch, as they're dog friendly!
For other ideas on hotels with amazing kids amenities, including a Lincoln Park stunner that's as cozy as home, The Neighborhood Hotel, read our story Staycation Spotlight: Chicago Hotels with Amazing Kid Amenities.
Dig Into a Deep-Dish Pizza
Nowhere else in the world makes a deep-dish pizza like Chicago does. We have the market cornered. Finger Licking Foodie Tours offers a 2 1/2-hour, self-guided deep-dish pizza tour that intros foodies to four landmark pizza places in one outing: Gino's East on Superior, Giordano's on North Rush St., Pizzeria Uno on Ohio St. and Malnati's on Wells St. Skip the lines and get seated immediately with VIP service and pizza delivered fresh out of the oven in only 10 minutes.
— Maria Chambers
Featured photo: courtesy of Navy Pier