There’s more to do in Chicago with kids than Visit Navy Pier, and today we’re sharing 100 Things to Do in Chicago with Kids!
Things to do in Chicago
Chicago is one of the best family-friendly cities we have ever been to – and I mean the whole family, not just kid-friendly.
Chicago really does have something for everyone – with amazing food, fun activities for all ages, and an incredible diversity in the cultures and interests that you can explore while visiting. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, science, literature, theatre, comedy, art, animals, or just spending a great day at the park, you will find engaging activities all over the city.
You will have no problem filling up a week’s vacation with your favorite selections from this list – it would take you over a month to get through them all! I highly recommend looking into a Chicago City Pass – not only does it help you save over 50% of the admission costs, it includes VIP admission. This may seem like a frivolous perk, but it saves hours of your time: when we visited the Skydeck, we were through the line in less than 20 minutes while general admission was taking 3 hours!
Plus, for attractions like the Shedd Aquarium or Field Museum, the CityPass added on free passes to special experiences (in addition to VIP admission which makes for a shorter line) – at the Shedd that was a bonus $20 worth of passes and at the Field Museum it was a bonus $48! The attractions currently offered are:
- Shedd Aquarium
- Skydeck Chicago
- 3Field Museum
- 4Adler Planetarium OR Art Institute of Chicago
- 5Museum of Science and Industry OR 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck
Family-friendly Things to do in Chicago
1. A 14-acre museum might be intimidating, but don’t skip the Museum of Science and Industry.
2. T-Rex, a mummy, and hands-on displays anyone? Next stop, Field Museum.
3. Financial literacy doesn’t have to be boring for kids or adults as you’ll discover at Chicago’s Federal Money Museum and it’s 6 tons of gold bars.
4. Splash and play at Adams Water Playground.
5. See the city from a double-decker bus (we did Big Bus Chicago tours).
6. Airplane enthusiasts will love the themed restaurant Pilot Pete’s.
7. Unlike a lot of bike tours, Bobby’s Bike Hikes has rentals for kids of all sizes and abilities.
8. Come to the Lawrence’ Fisheries for the seafood, stay for the view.
9. Admission is always free at the Smart Museum of Art.
10. Perfect smoked seafood picnic fare awaits you at Calumet Fisheries.
Follow along with the story in Little Bear’s Garden at Gallery Park.
While the wait may be long, the popcorn experience at Garrett’s Popcorn is worth it.
Free exhibits and stunning architecture are on display at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Shakespeare is just right for kids at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Get up close with Illinois ecology and natural history at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Beluga Whale sightings anyone? Don’t miss the Shedd Aquarium.
Let kids see the world as a Swedish immigrant at the Swedish American Museum. (And one of my favorite pieces of art that I own is from their museum shop.)
Run, frolic and learn at the Chicago Botanic Center.
Stock up on super spy gear at Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co.
Kids’ eyes will delight inside Wooly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities.
To have a go at the pottery wheel, plan ahead for a visit to Clay Monet.
Looking for family-friendly brunch? Try Ann Sather – and don’t miss the legendary cinnamon buns.
Stroll the Chicago Riverwalk.
Avoid the beach crowds at Montrose Beach further up the lake coast.
A perennial favorite, Blue Man Group has regular shows in Chicago – catch them here if not somewhere else on your travels.
Best for elementary and older kids, the DuSable Museum of African American History offers something new for everyone.
See native Illinois animals at the free Phillips Park Zoo.
Let kids enjoy the scavenger hunt while you peruse the Green City Market.
With free admission for kids under 14, the Art Institute of Chicago has offerings for everyone in your family.
The 360-degree views at the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier will have kids asking for another trip. (Check out our full guide to what to do and eat at Navy Pier here.)
Since 1930, the Adler Planetarium has been connecting visitors with the skies. (some shots of our recent visit are above)
Explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House.
For an autistic-friendly play space, visit Kaitlin’s Hideout.
Immerse yourself in Chicago with a tour from a free Chicago Greeter.
Kids will love the delicate purses of meat and veggies at Wow Bao.
Chicago Fire or fire truck fans won’t want to miss Engine 18 where the show is filmed.
Locals say Kohl’s Children’s Museum is worth the trip out of the city center.
Paddle through the city in a double kayak with a tour from Wateriders.
Join a long line of famous visitors at Margie’s Candies and get one of her legendary sundaes.
Budding writers and readers of all levels will be inspired at the American Writer’s Museum.
Other children’s bookstores aspire to the awesomeness of Planet Esme.
Bowl or brunch with the entire family at Pinstripes (the pictures are above are a sample of what we ordered when there for dinner and bowling).
Window shop and people watch your way through the Wicker Park neighborhood.
Butterfly garden, animal feeding time, and more are all free at the Wildwood Nature Center.
Just off the loop, the Maggie Daley Park boasts an absolutely unbelievable 3-acre playground.
Geared towards school-aged kids, the youth exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum will be a memorable stop.
If visiting late summer, check out the Chicago Air & Water Show.
Play in Oz Park, inspired by Chicago native L. Frank Baum’s beloved Wizard of Oz books.
The Bronzeville Children’s Museum is the only African-American children’s museum in the country and caters specifically to kids ages 3 – 9.
Have a budding doctor in your group? Try the unique International Museum of Surgical Science.
Amazing Race fans will love an Urban Adventure Quest.
Experience a one-of-a-kind indoor farm housed in a former meatpacking building, aptly named, The Plant.
While finding the best pizza in Chicago may be a challenge, Lou Malnati’s often wins the battle.
Art, dining, shopping, and architecture will draw you to the James R. Thompson Center.
Explore underground Chicago on a Chicago Tunnel Company tour.
What’s better than a boat tour? A speedboat tour!
Hike the 1000-acre Crabtree Nature Center.
Learn about local history at the Arlington Heights Historical Museum.
Watch summer turn to fall at stunning Swallow Cliff.
Practice Native American crafts at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian.
Car enthusiasts will love oogling over TV and movie auto stars at Volo Auto Museum.
Make an African-style necklace and more at the Muntu Dance Theater.
Get fingers dirty at the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Dive into an authentic Italian beef sandwich at Al’s Beef.
Authentic drive-in movies are rare these days – share this retro experience as a family.
Be prepared for the wait and the stunning burgers at Au Cheval.
Eclectic and odd, American Science and Surplus is the perfect unexpected stop.
Kid-friendly theater is always an option at the Emerald City Theater.
Explore the streets of Chinatown or visit the Chinatown Summer Fair.
Indulge the kids with a sweet treat from the iconic Rainbow Cone.
Free admission at the Lincoln Park Zoo makes it a perfect choice in a pricey city.
Everyone will fondly remember a day spent at Navy Pier. (Check out our full guide to what to do and eat at Navy Pier here.)
Live horse racing is featured three days a week at Arlington Park.
The Harold Washington Library is a great choice for a rainy afternoon.
Stroll the 606 rail-to-trail, and then people watch when little feet need a break.
Big and little foodies will satisfy their hot dog cravings at Hot “G” Dog.
Skip the lines at the Willis Tower and take in the views at 360 Chicago, in the former Hancock Tower.
Take your picture with the Millennium Park bean.
See Yoko Ono’s sculpture installation at Jackson Park.
Experience a medieval meal at Chicago Castle.
Learn to paddleboard on Lake Michigan.
Kids learn that farming doesn’t only happen in the country at Chicago’s City Farm.
Kids and parents will love dashing through Building Blocks Toys.
Let imaginations run at the Chicago Children’s Museum maker space, perfect for the 10-and-under set. (Our favorite children’s museum we’ve ever visited and a Chicago must-do, some pictures from our last visit are below.)
Explore the Puerto Rican culture at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture.
The on-screen faces overlooking Crown Fountain are mesmerizing. Frolicking in the water encouraged!
Indulge in some gourmet cupcakes or donuts – the city is known for them!
Meals are served underground at the Billy Goat Tavern – the inspiration between the classic SNL skit.
Take a family photo in front of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.
The National Museum of Mexican art was designed primarily for kids. Love that!
The history of Naperville is on vibrant display at the Naper Settlement area – designed to entice kids of all ages.
Try an escape room challenge perfect for kids and the entire family at Escape Game Chicago.
Take in a show at the Chicago Children’s Theater.
Explore local photographer’s work at the City Gallery Chicago.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation shows you a bird’s eye view of the city with a 400-block model of Chicago.
The entire family will find something to love about the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Cat & Mouse Games takes family game night to a whole new level.
Kline Creek Farm takes you back to how we prepared and grew food in the 19th century.
Escape the urban jungle at nearby Northerly Island.
Get a Hop-On-Hop-Off trolley pass to see the main downtown attractions with ease.
Quirky, fun, and delicious – Superdawg.
Kids can get their quesadilla on at Frontera (or grab some churros and Mexican hot chocolate at XOCO).
Pin these 100 Awesome Ideas for Things to Do in Chicago with Kids for your Chicago vacation planning:
Did we leave any must-do Chicago activities off of this list?