We’re starting our Summer City Guide series off with a trip to the to the Windy City! In this series, we’ll be highlighting cities across the US and Canada that make great destinations for summer travel! Let’s get starting with a look at 10 fun things to do in Chicago with kids!
1. Visit the Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium is one of the largest and most popular indoor aquariums in the world. The aquarium is home to 32,600 of species of sea life as well as one-of-a-kind experiences such as penguin encounters and shark feedings! Exhibits will allow you to explore the Caribbean Reef, the Amazon, the waters of the Pacific Northwest, and their famous penguins in the Oceanarium. The Aquatic Show features dolphins and beluga whales, and be sure to catch one of their awesome 4D movies that will take you on a dive into the deep blue sea!
2. Explore Navy Pier
Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s top spots for dining, shopping, entertainment and fireworks. The Centennial Wheel offers amazing views or the city, plus there are other fun rides like a carousel, a wave swinger and a light tower that kids love to ride. After exploring the rides and games on the pier, you can grab a bite to eat. With everything from gourmet restaurants to food stands to ice cream shops, Navy Pier has something for everyone in the family! If you’re visiting on Wednesday or a Saturday evening, you won’t want to miss the Navy Pier fireworks show!
3. Hang Out in Millennium Park
Known for it’s beautiful skyline, another quintessential image of the city of Chicago is “The Bean”- a larger than life, shiny, bean shaped sculpture located in Millennial Park. But a photo op with the Bean isn’t the only thing you can do in Millennium Park. Crown Fountain is an absolutely must for kids (and adults) on a hot day, the Laurie Gardens make for a beautiful walk, you can grab a bite to eat the the Plaza at Park Grill which is Chicago’s largest outdoor dining venue, then you can take the pedestrian bridge over to Maggie Daley Park where the kids can try rock climbing on a 40 foot climbing wall or explore the Play Garden!
4. Step Out onto Skydeck Chicago
Skydeck Chicago is located on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower and offers incredible views of Chicago and Lake Michigan! The Willis Tower is the third tallest building in the Western Hemisphere so this stop is only for those who are brave! The Skydeck has panels of glass floor you can walk or lay on, and those who are really brave can walk out on the Ledge’s glass floor which sits at 1,353 feet in the air and extends 4.3 feet out from the Skydeck! If you can muster up the courage- the views are definitely worth it!
5. Go on an Urban Adventure Quest
Urban Adventure Quest is a super exciting way to explore the city of Chicago. Use your smart phone to solve clues, complete challenges, see the sights and learn local history! These self guided scavenger hunts will help you see all the main sights in Chicago as the app gives you questions, puzzles and challenges that will send you around town in search of the answers! If you have kids who love brain teasers and puzzles, this is a super fun way to engage the kids in a self-guided city tour.
6. Take a Pizza Tour
Chicago is famous for it’s deep dish pizza- but just who has the best Chicago style deep dish pizza is always up for debate because everyone has a favorite! Chicago Pizza Tours offers guided pizza tours, or you can do a DIY pizza tour by letting everyone pick a different pizzeria so you can taste test as many pizzas as possible! Have the kids keep data on how everyone in the family ranks each pizza so they can decide on the winning pie!
7. Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo
Looking for something FREE to do in Chicago this summer?! Check out the Lincoln Park Zoo. One of the oldest zoos in the country, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a “world of wildlife among skyscrapers”. It’s pretty unique to be in the middle of of a major city but surrounded by animals from all over the world! And with free entry for adult and kids alike- it’s a great way to spend an afternoon in Chicago!
8. Kayak the Chicago River
Urban Kayaks offers guided kayak tours and rentals in downtown Chicago. Their Riverwalk location offers kayak tours of the Chicago River- including a Chicago history tour, a sunset tour, a fireworks tour, and a twilight paddle. They also have a lake location where you can kayak or paddle board out into Lake Michigan for great views of the skyline! Tours are anywhere from 1 to 2 hours and they have tandem kayaks so kids can paddle with an adult. You can also rent kayaks or paddle boards and go out exploring on your own!
9. Shop the Magnificent Mile
Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is an incredibly popular shopping destination and while kids may groan about a day of shopping- there are plenty of stores here to peak their interest! The American Girl Store and the Lego are a big hit with kids, as well as the Apple Store, the Nike Store and Dylan’s Candy Bar where you can end your shopping spree with a sweet treat!
10. Visit the Field Museum of Natural History
Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History is known as one of the top natural history museums in the world. Conveniently located in Chicago’s Museum Campus, the Field Museum of Natural History is home to permanent exhibits featuring China, Egypt, the ancient Americas, bugs, dinosaurs and rare gems. The Crown Family Play Lab is a great place for kids with six themed play areas that allow them to get their hands dirty while gigging up dinosaur bones, grinding corn in a Pueblo, or playing different kinds of instruments from around the world!
Which of these 10 things to do in Chicago with kids interests you most? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check out our other Summer City Guides to help you plan your family travels this summer!