“It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago. She outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them.” – Mark Twain, 1883
Chicago was only 46 years old when Mark Twain wrote those words, from a small trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River into one of the nation’s largest cities. Today, Chicago has become a global city, a thriving center of international trade and commerce, and a place where people of every nationality come to pursue the American dream.
Did you know that Over 50 million people visit Chicago annually? I and my family have visited Chicago in April, for the whole month, the previous year. If you think that was enough time to see everything you are wrong. This Windy City located on the shores of Michigan Lake has so much to offer. In this post, I’ve pointed out the attractions that are worth visiting for a family with children.
Field Museum Chicago
The Field Museum in Chicago is one of the most renowned natural history museums in the United States. The Museum’s permanent exhibits include topics such as bird habitats, African culture, animal biology, sea mammals, gems, fossils, Eskimos, Native American cultures, and much, much more.
The Field Museum in Chicago is a top family-friendly attraction that will entertain and inform kids and adults alike, and their collection of specimens make it one of the most prestigious museums in the US. Give yourself a few hours to walk around the Field Science Museum Chicago – and even then you still won’t see everything.
You can imagine my son’s reaction when he saw the extensive dinosaur collection at the Museum. Here he is with Sue the T-Rex: “Sue” is the world’s most complete T-Rex at 80%.
Opening hours: 9am- 5pm
At Shedd Aquarium, animals connect you to the living world, inspiring to make a difference. From whales to snails, tarantulas to turtles, you’ll meet 32,500 creatures from aquatic habitats around the world. Explore Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium, where you can get face to face with beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, sea lions, and penguins. Polar Play Zone is a permanent exhibit where kids and their families can play, pretend and discover through hands-on activities. Here we are galling the fish.
Don’t miss the aquatic show, starring the dolphins, belugas and more, and don’t miss the “Jellies” special exhibit. Then meet some of Shedd’s critters up close during live animal encounters in the Waters of the World galleries. And visit Granddad, the oldest fish in any aquarium or zoo! Shedd Aquarium is the “must-sea” destination in Chicago!
Opening hours: Mon–Fri 9am–5pm; Sat, Sun 9am–6pm.
Located in downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets, Millennium Park is an unprecedented center for world-class art, music, architecture and landscape design, where you can experience everything from interactive public art and ice skating to al fresco dining and free classical music presentations by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus.
The Cloud Gate Sculpture, also known as the “bean,” is one of the highlights of Millennium Park. Up close, the highly reflective nature of the sculpture captures the beautiful skyline of Chicago. The Cloud Gate Sculpture has thus become a tourist hot spot and is the perfect place to take your vacation snapshots.
Museum of Science and Industry
Any visitor can walk around outside of the U-505 German submarine (World War II) that is contained within the Museum of Science and Industry, but if you want to actually go inside, there’s an onboard tour available daily.
If you’re looking for a time-traveling experience, step into the museum’s “Yesterday’s Main Street’ exhibit, which recreates a Chicago street circa 1910. You’ll walk down cobblestone streets and peer into replicas of a Berghoff’s restaurant, the Chicago Post Office and the Walgreen’s Drug Company. There are silent movies playing at the Nickelodeon and an opportunity to get a vintage photo at the Old Time Photo Studio as a souvenir.
The museum is the best way to educate and entertain, through many interesting tasks for the children; whether it is simulating a tsunami, watching the indoor tornado, seeing themselves as 80 years old or learn about space travel while driving a shuttle, and many, many more.
Opening hours: Daily 9:30am–4pm. See website for extended seasonal hours.
Kohl Children’s Museum
Perfect for children up to the age of 8, the Kohl Children’s Museum Glenview has plenty of activities to promote a child’s learning and imagination. A hands-on art exhibit allows children to create their own masterpieces, while the Car Care area of the museum teaches kids how cars work.
Opening hours: Mon: 9:30 am – 12 pm, Tues – Sat: 9:30 am – 5 pm, Sun: 12 pm – 5 pm
Lincoln Park Zoo
Thanks to the city of Chicago, you can see the animals for free. The only thing you have to pay for is parking. Kids can take a spin on the Endangered Species Carousel or hop aboard a pint-sized animal themed “express” train. Located within a verdant park just minutes north of Chicago, the zoo has been a natural, free oasis for generations of animal lovers.
Animals: mammals, reptiles, birds, polar bear, zebra, crowned lemur, flamingo, African penguin, gray seal, camel, leopard, lions.
Opening hours: Weekdays 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (gates open 7 a.m.–6 p.m.)
Weekends 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m. (gates open 7 a.m.–7 p.m.)
Navy Pier Park is an outdoor landscaped area which features attractions such as a permanent 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, a musical carousel, an old-fashioned swing ride and an 18-hole miniature golf course. Navy Pier Park also includes a Skyline Stage, which features musical performances as well as dance, theater, comedy and film. The Pier’s South Dock is reserved for pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers. In season, four performance areas feature entertainment ranging from jugglers, mimes and stilt walkers to comedians, singers and musicians.
If you wish you can experience the Chicago skyline from a helicopter as your pilot narrates interesting facts about the city’s history while flying over iconic landmarks.
Mon-Thu, Sun 10 am – 8 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am – 10 pm depending on the season is always good to check
Chicago Botanic Garden
Depending on the time of the year you are visiting Chicago you can also visit the Chicago Botanic Garden and spend time with your family. See more in the post Chicago Botanic Garden – a paradise for all senses.
Opening hours of Garden Grounds: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Enjoy together with your children in 4D cinema, Kingdom Quest laser ride, Merlin’s Apprentice Ride, Racers Build & Test… and more! See Chicago’s top attractions made from Lego. Learn building tips from our Master Model Builder Workshops. The best thing (not for some parents) is that everything is kid-sized designed specifically for children aged 3-10 years to enjoy.
Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Six Flags Great America
Six Flags Great America is a world-class family entertainment complex featuring thrill rides, spectacular shows and exciting attractions. The park is located north of Chicago in the suburb of Gurnee and is open May through October. The rides at Six Flags Great America include lots of thrill rides for the adventurous, as well as family rides. Entertainment includes shows, concerts and festivals.
If you don’t want all the experiences to remain a vague memory remember to take your camera!
If you stay longer in the city it’s smart to buy Go Chicago Card: All-Inclusive Attraction Pass that provides free admission to over 25 of the city’s top activities, attractions, and tours, offering the ultimate in convenience, savings, and flexibility.