There is no shortage of fun things to do in Chicago with kids of any age from babies and toddlers to older kids and teens. My children are 2 and 5 years old so I will adding more activities as they get older and we get to visit more kid friendly attractions in Chicago.
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Best Things to do in Chicago with Kids
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1) Children’s Museum
The Children’s Museum is a great choice for rainy days. With multiple exhibits in different rooms, little ones are sure to be entertained for hours. Whether they like to splash, climb, tinker or explore, the museum will not disappoint. Stop by the Pritzker Playspace (hours are limited) with your baby, toddler, or preschooler if to meet other families or if the place is overrun with older kids. Keep in mind, many exhibits do have special infant and crawler play areas if you have a little one in tow.
Location: Located at Navy Pier – 700 East Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611-3428
Regular Hours: 10 am–5 pm Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
Admission: Children & Adults $14.95; children under one are free. Free admission for everyone Thursday evenings from 5 – 8pm and for ages 15 and under on the first Sunday of every month.
2) Navy Pier
Before kids, I considered Navy Pier a tourist trap. Now, I see it as a convenient spot for my toddler to get his wiggles out. With activities for every season, Navy Pier is worth a visit.
Admission: Free but attractions might have their own admission
3) Polk Bros Fountain and Plaza
Located at the entry point of the Pier, I have a love/hate relationship with this fountain. I love how happy it makes my water-obsessed kiddo but I hate how long it takes me to coax him into leaving. The 12,500 square foot fountain isn’t just a regular fountain. It is basically a giant splash pad where your delighted kid can burn off some energy while you hide in the nearby shade. Bring a swimsuit if your kid, like mine, insists on getting completely soaked.
5) Boat Ride
Keeping a two-year old somewhat confined and entertained on a boat might not sound like the best idea but we’ve had nothing but great experiences with our super independent and wiggly son. The trick is to choose a sightseeing cruise (conveniently located at Navy Pier) that is short enough to avoid the dreaded meltdown. Our go-to includes the 40 minute Shoreline Classic Lake Tour or the 30 minute Seadog Speedboat Tour “The Lakefront Tour Experience” (do not mix up with their Extreme Thrill Rides).
5) Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park is THE park I take my kids to when we have a good block of time for some serious fun. The 20-acre park really is a spectacular playground for toddlers and kids. With plenty of green space to run around on, the best part of this park is the play garden. The set-up is completely different from a typical park or playground. It is charming, imaginative and conveniently separates areas for various age groups.
Location: 337 E. Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60601
Regular Hours: Maggie Daley Park is open from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm 365 days a year.
Admission: FREE Admission but there are costs associated with the climbing wall, mini golf, and snack kiosk.
6) Millennium Park
Millennium Park is a lovely, well-kept green space where multiple events occur throughout the year. It is also home to two popular tourist attractions that absolutely delight my two-year old.
Cloud Gate, known as The Bean, is a big shiny bean-shaped sculpture that is perfect for a photo op but also for a toddler that is highly entertained by reflective surfaces. Catch the reflection of the Chicago skyline or just your kid pulling funny faces.
The Crown Fountain, an interactive work of public art, is quite the unique 50-foot sculpture. LED screens randomly flash the faces of 1000 residents while actual water spouts out of their mouths. This means that on a hot day, kids and adults get to cool off and splash around. I’m not sure if my toddler is most amused by the faces or the mouths spitting water but he is always entertained. The area can get slippery so make sure your kid has stable shoes and doesn’t run.
Location: 201 E. Randolph St. Michigan Ave. & Columbus Ave.
7) Chicago Riverwalk
The Chicago Riverwalk is basically steps from our home so this is definitely a go-to for us. From walking our beloved doggie to strollering our now toddler when he was a newborn, it holds a special place. My son often requests to come here to watch the boats and kayakers (if you see a kid pretending to paddle, it’s probably my kid). The mile plus route offers the opportunity to just walk and take it all in or hop on a bike, ride the water taxi, grab a bite to eat, catch some live entertainment, enjoy the floating gardens, etc. Plan your visit during one of the bridge lift days to really delight your toddler.
Don’t miss the the Water Plaza (La Salle to Wells) on a really hot day. There is a charming little fountain where little ones can splash in the water sprays.
8) Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Located in Lincoln Park, the Peggy Notebaert Museum is dedicated to expanding knowledge of nature and environmental science. While this might sound advanced for a young child, the museum is actually very toddler-friendly with numerous hands-on exhibits. From an up close visit with critters to an obligatory “burn some energy” play space, the Peggy Notebaert is a gem in the city. Be sure to check out the signature Judy Istock Butterfly Haven (home to over 1,000 butterflies) and maybe even catch the daily First Flight Butterfly Release. The museum is accessible via several convenient bus routes and many visitors choose to combine it with a visit to the nearby Lincoln Park Zoo or Green City Market.
Location: Located in Lincoln Park at 2430 N Cannon Dr, Chicago, IL 60614
Regular Hours: Monday through Friday 9am – 5pm; Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm; See this page for holiday hours and more information
Admission: $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors (60+), $6 for children ages 3 – 12, Free for children under 3
9) Garfield Park Conservatory
Rain or shine, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a FREE and lovely destination for families. It is especially lovely during bitter winter days when you just need to be surrounded by greenery and tropical temperatures. While toddlers will enjoy all the gardens, the Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden gives kids a chance to play while also learning about plants in a comfy setting. Warning: your toddler will want to try the giant slide on your visit. Check the calendar for current happenings (from goat visits to kid-friendly concerts) throughout the year. Parking is free or just hop on the Green Line to the Conservatory-Central Park Drive Stop.
Location: 300 N. Central Park Ave. Chicago, IL 60624
Regular Hours: Daily: 9:00am to 5:00pm; Wednesdays: 9:00am to 8:00pm
Admission: FREE but they do ask for a donation at the door.
10) Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere. Through October 24, the MSI is home to the popular Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit which 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.
Location: 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60637
Regular Hours: Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Admission: Adult – $21.95, Child ages 3-11 – $12.95, Members – FREE, Special Exhibitions and Exhibitions are extra.
11) Play on the Beach
Like most kids, my kids love spending time at the beach especially digging in the sand. Chicago has many beaches along the lakefront. The most convenient beaches for visitors are located downtown (Ohio Street, Oak Street and North Avenue) but they are also the most popular. Two beaches for more of a local feel include Kathy Osterman Beach and Foster Avenue Beach which are both located north of downtown.