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The Best Things to Do in Chicago with Kids

A guide to the best things to do in Chicago with kids, including parks, museums, play spaces, and other activities.

A guide to the best things to do in Chicago with kids, including parks, museums, play spaces, and other activities.

Last updated: April 2022

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The Best Things to Do in Chicago with Kids

Table of Contents

This guide to the best things to do in Chicago with kids has been organized by neighborhood.



This bar and restaurant has 22 vintage arcade games and pinball machines. There are designated kid-friendly hours.

Swedish American Museum

This museum is home to the Brunk Children’s Museum which offers hands-on opportunities for children to learn about immigration. (The children’s museum is currently closed).


The Insect Asylum

A museum, art gallery, event space, and education center with nearly 2,500 insect and taxidermy specimens.

Puerto Rican Arts Alliance

Chicago’s Puerto Rican Arts Alliance has a wide range of programing and an exhibition space that promote and preserve Puerto Rican arts, history, and culture. It isn’t a museum, but rather a cultural center offering music classes, performing arts events, and art exhibitions. The current exhibition, Mapa de Historia explores structures that been declared heritage sites by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

The Best Things to Do in Chicago with Kids - Maggie Daley Park


Walk the Bloomingdale Trail (The 606)

This 2.7 mile elevated trail for bikers and runners goes along the southern edge of Bucktown and incorporates art installations and landscape design. Locals tend to call the trail “The 606” but if you want to get technical, the elevated walkway is the Bloomingdale Trail which is a part of the The 606. The 606 includes six street level parks (two aren’t complete yet) and the Bloomingdale Trail. Walsh Park, Park No, 567, and Churchill Field Park are all linked via the Bloomingdales Trail.

Walsh Park

This park at the eastern end of the Bloomingdale Trail has the neighborhood’s best playground. The playgrounds has larger taller play structures with slides and areas to climb that are great for kids 5 and up. There are also swings, but in general, this park is more geared towards kids past the toddler stage. In addition to the playground, this park has an athletic field, basketball hoops, and a dog-friendly area.

Holstein Park

The largest park in Bucktown has an outdoor pool, a wading area, a baseball field, a softball field, a volleyball court, and a playground with a splash pad – it’s definitely on of the best things to do in Chicago with kids. An annual Easter egg hunt, Movies in the Park, and a Spring Break Camp are hosted at this park.

Diversey River Bowl

This isn’t your ordinary bowling alley, Diversey River Bowl has concert level lighting and sound paired with lasers, black lights, and a bar. During the day the space is kid friendly but after 8 pm the space is 21+.


WhirlyBall is a unique team sport that combines bumper cars with lacrosse and hockey. It promises to be the most fun you can have while going 4 miles per hour. The Bucktown location has WhirlyBall courts, bowling, laser tag, giant jenga, connect four, corn hole, ping pong, plus a full bar and restaurant. This place can be busy, especially on weekends, so make reservations online. 

Purple Monkey Playroom

An indoor play space where young kids can burn off some energy while staying warm and dry on a cold or wet day. You can rent the space for birthday parties, join a themed playtime, or drop-in for playtime. Public playtimes are on weekdays only.


Ping Tom Memorial Park

A 17-acre park with Chinese design elements that has walking paths beside the Chicago River, a boat house, and athletic fields. The park also has children’s play spaces and community meeting areas plus a field house with a gymnasium, fitness center, and indoor swimming pool. During the summer, kayak rentals are available. The park is named after Ping Tom, a lifelong resident of Chinatown and a civic leader. The park is used for several events each summer.

Gold Coast:

360 Chicago

The observation deck of the John Hancock Tower has some of the best views of Chicago. As the name suggests, you can see 360 degree views of Chicago including Lake Michigan, the skyline, and the Willis Tower (formerly called the Sears Tower).

Tea at the Drake

The Drake is one of Chicago’s most iconic hotels and afternoon tea is served in the stunning Palm Court. Guests can choose from 17 unique blends of tea that some served with a three tiered tray filled with finger sandwiches, breads, scones, and petit fours. A Little Prince and Little Princess Tea is offered to kids between the ages of 4 and 12.

American Girl Place

The American Girl Place is more than just a store selling dolls. This location offers experiences like a doll salon, personal shopping, and a restaurant.

The Best Things to Do in Chicago with Kids - Museum of Science and Industry

Hyde Park:

Museum of Science and Industry

It’s easy to spend a full day in this massive museum with exhibits about space travel, farming, and transportation. While the museum is geared towards children, adults like to see the German U-boat. This is one of the very best things to do in Chicago with children, many local families go multiple times a year.

Japanese Garden

An authentic Japanese garden located within Jackson Park that was gifted to Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair to symbolize mutual respect and friendship. The park has a Shinto Gate, a moon bridge, a pavilion, and traditional Japanese horticulture. The park’s cherry trees usually blossom in late April or early May. This garden is also referred to as Garden of the Phoenix and Osaka Garden.

Jackson Park

A large 550 acre park spanning the east of Hyde Park along Lake Michigan that was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux who also designed Central Park. This park was the site of the 1893 World’s Fair and is home to the Museum of Science and Industries, the Osaka Garden, the Garden of the Phoenix, the “Golden Lady” Statue of The Republic, and Yoko Ono’s SKYLANDING. The park grounds feature the Bobolink Meadows nature trail, vegetable and flower gardens, three harbors, the 63 Street Beach, basketball courts, tennis courts, athletic fields, a golf course, and a driving range. 

Washington Park

This 345 acre park is at the western border of Hyde Park and is home to the Washington Park Arboretum, the Fountain of Time Sculpture, and the DuSable Museum of African American History. The park facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, cricket fields, two gymnasiums, a photography lab, a dance studio, a racquetball court, softball fields, a Harvest Garden, and a nature area. Like Jackson Park, the park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. 

Midway Plaisance

A green stretch of land that connects Washington Park and Jackson Park and runs along the south of the University of Chicago campus. The park has an ice rink in the winter which is used for roller skating in the warmer months. 

DuSable Museum of African American History

The DuSable Museum is the nation’s oldest independent African American museum and is dedicated to exploring the African American experience and accomplishments. The collection includes over 15,000 paintings sculptures, printed works, and pieces of historical memorabilia.

The Best Things to Do in Chicago with Kids - Wrigley Field


Wrigley Field

Guided tours of Wrigley Field are available and take visitors to the press box, Cub’s clubhouse, visitor’s clubhouse, and dugout. Tour guests even get the chance to step onto the field. This is one of the most popular things to do in Lakeview.

Diversey Range and Mini Golf

A driving range and mini golf course located in Lincoln Park that is scheduled to reopen soon after renovations.

The Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group shows are kid-friendly and interactive and combine music, comedy, and stunts.

Gallagher Way Events

Gallagher Way is a small park right beside Wrigley Field that is a venue for many events including an Easter egg hunt, concerts, movie nights, fitness events, and children’s events. You can find the Gallagher Way calendar of events here.

Margaret Donahue Park

A small 0.5 acre park decorated with a Cubs theme. The park has a playground with climbing structured designed to look like the Hancock Tower and Sears Tower.

The Best Things to Do in Chicago with Kids - The Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park:

Lincoln Park

Note: Lincoln Park is the name of both a park and a neighborhood.

Spanning over 1,150 square acres, Lincoln Park is Chicago’s largest park. The park runs along the lakefront from Ohio Beach in Streeterville, through the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and Uptown, and all the way to Ardmore Avenue in Edgewater.

The section of Lincoln Park that is within Lakeview contains Belmont Harbor, tennis courts, a bird sanctuary, an archery range, and a 9-hole golf course.

Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo is free and open 365 days a year. The zoo is one of the best things to do with kids in Chicago because it is large enough to see different areas across several visits. The zoo is home to animal species from around the globe including monkeys, camels, giraffes, zebras, polar bears, hippos, flamingos, and penguins. There is even a Farm-in-the-Zoo that has a dairy barn with goats and cows. This is a place where children can learn about taking care of farm animals. 

The zoo hosts a variety of annual events including major happenings like Zoo Lights, Easter Egg hunts, craft beer tastings, food truck socials, and a wine festival. Plus there are weekly events for children.

The Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail is a 18.5 mile long trail that runs along Lake Michigan. The trail is shared by joggers, walkers, bikers, and skaters and offers incredible views of the lake and city skyline. Chicago has a bike share system called Divvy with several stations near the trail – riding a Divvy bike along the trail is a lovely way to spend a sunny day.

North Ave Beach

North Avenue Beach is located right off of North Avenue (a pedestrian tunnel that goes under Lake Shore Drive will take you there). This is a big hub of activity in the summer. There are volleyball courts, plus paddle boards, kayaks, and bikes for rent. Volleyball leagues are very popular in Chicago and lots of people play after work in the summer. 

Oz Park

This large park gets its name from the Wizard of Oz themed sculptures throughout the park. The park has biking and walking trails, basketball courts, tennis courts, and playgrounds. During the summer the park hosts some Movies in the Park.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

A natural history museum with a live butterfly house with 200 species of native and exotic butterflies. Visitors will also discover a collection of taxidermy animals, nature walks, and a reptile exhibit. This museum is geared towards children of all ages with lots of hands on activities.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

A botanical garden within Lincoln Park. The conservatory has four houses which display exotic plants, orchids, and plants needed for the gardens within Lincoln Park. Admission is free and this is the perfect place to escape the Chicago cold while spending time in nature.

Lincoln Square:

Old Town School of Folk Music

The Old Town School of Folk Music offers music classes to people of all ages. There are Wiggleworms classes for toddlers and small children plus classes focused on traditional folk instruments like guitar, banjo, and mandolin for older children, teens, and adults. The dance and movement classes include Flamenco, Irish Step Dance, Middle Eastern Belly Dance, Bollywood, West African Dance, and more. The school has a theater where concerts and special events are held. 

Lillstreet Art Center

An art center offering a wide variety of classes and workshops for children and adults. Class offerings include ceramics and sculpture, drawing and painting, metalsmithing and glass, photography, print making, textiles, and classes for first time artists.

Ainslie Art Plaza

A pedestrian plaza with seating, landscaping, and a mural. Events like Wednesday Night Live, a maker’s market, and concerts take place here.

Giddings Plaza

This public square is considered to be the heart of Lincoln Square. It is a pedestrian only area with a fountain, statues, and murals. Many of the neighborhood’s events and street festivals take place here including the German American Oktoberfest, Apple Fest, and Square Roots. During the holiday season it is decorated with Christmas trees.

River Park

Located where the Chicago River meets the Chicago Canal, this 28 acre park spans both sides of the Chicago River. The park has a swimming pool and a canoe launch and is considered to be a good spot for fishing. Additionally, there are seven tennis courts, two baseball fields, a playground, and an interactive water playground. Basketball and indoor soccer leagues play in the large field house.

Welles Park

A 15 acre park in the heart of Lincoln Square with an indoor pool, fitness center, fields for baseball, softball, soccer, track and field, and football, and a European-style gazebo.

Winnemac Park

A park owned by both Chicago Public Schools (Amundsen High School) and the Chicago Parks District that has a prairie garden, a nature trail, three softball fields, and a soccer field. Swimming and gym activities are held at Amundsen High School.

Wednesday Night Live

Movies are shown at Ainslie Art Plaza and an area is transformed into a beer garden for this monthly summer and fall event. The 2022 dates are July 20, August 17, September 21, and October 19.

Logan Square:

Big City Readers

Run by Miss Beth, Big City Readers is an education company focused on teaching kids to read through classes and events. Miss Beth is a beloved teacher and her classes are one of the best things to do with kids in Chicago.

Midlane eSports

A gaming lounge hosting tournaments and viewing parties. Gaming stations are available to rent for $8 an hour and snack foods and cocktails are available. PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, and tabletop games are available. 

PanIQ Escape Room

PanIQ offers three different escape room 45 minute experiences for 2-8 players. A family-friend escape room challenges participants to find a Wizard’s cat.

The Loop:

Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park is the ultimate playground, or, actually, a series of playgrounds for children of different ages. In addition to elaborate playgrounds, the park has a skating ribbon and a rock climbing wall. Maggie Daley Park is located directly to the east of Millennium Park.

Bike Tour

Bobby’s Bike Hike leads a Family-Friendly Tour of Chicago that caters to families with young children and combines a bike tour with a food tour. In addition to offering tours, the company offers a variety of rental services. They offer day-long single and double stroller rental, plus they rent all the bike equipment that a family could need.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute is one of just two buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair that still stands today. The Beaux-Arts style building was used as the World’s Congress Auxiliary Building during the World’s Fair, before being turned over to the Art Institute of Chicago. The bronze lions standing at the stairs were added in 1894, after the AIC took over the space. The museum is located within Grant Park.

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

A museum sharing the story of the Chicago River and its moveable bridges. The museum lets visitors enter a bridge house at river level and then climb up five stories to the top of the bridge house to take in 360 degree views of the city. This museum is open seasonally closes during the winter months.

The Color Factory

This new interactive museum immerses Chicagoans in art and color with experiences that engage all the senses including 15 new installations and exciting artist partnerships.

Museum of Illusions

An immersive museum for people of all ages. Here you can experience optical illusions that make for fun photo opps.

Museum Campus:

According to the city’s website for Grant Park, Museum Campus is located within Grant Park so we are listing it under the Loop.

Field Museum

Chicago’s famous T-Rex, Sue, can be found at this natural history museum along with cultural collections and anthropological artifacts from all over the globe. This museum has exhibits that visitors of all ages will enjoy, including young children.

Shedd Aquarium

Chicago’s aquarium is home to a wide range of animals including dolphins, penguins, sharks, sea otters, and more. Visiting the Shedd is one of the best things to do in Chicago with kids since children of all ages love to explore the aquarium and see the aquatic shows.

Adler Planetarium 

This was America’s first planetarium, and it’s the place to learn about astronomy and astrophysics. The planetarium has shows geared towards children (one involves Big Bird and Elmo) plus programming for adults. Each Wednesday, the planetarium is open until 10 pm for Alder at Night.

Skydeck at the Willis Tower (Sears Tower)

Both 30 and 60 minute tours of the Willis Tower are available. These tours include an interactive look at Chicago’s history and then a trip to the Skydeck, the building’s 103rd floor observation deck. On a clear day, the views span four states. The Skydeck is home of The Ledge, a glass box ledge that extends out from the Skydeck, 1,353 feet above the streets below. The Ledge requires an additional ticket.

Architecture Tour

Several tour companies run architectural boat tours that cruise down the Chicago River. The best tours are run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center aboard Chicago’s First Lady. In addition to the very popular architectural tour, evening cruises and photography cruises are available.

Old Town:

Chicago History Museum

This museum focuses on sharing the history of Chicago. See dioramas that depict what the city looked like before the Chicago Fire and browse special exhibits that cover topics like fashion, famous Chicagoans, and Chicago history. 

Immersive Van Gogh

A massively popular special exhibition at LightHouse AirSpace that involves music and projections of Van Gogh’s paintings.


National Mexican Museum of Art

This free museum is home to one of the nation’s largest Mexican Art collections; it spans history from ancient Mexico to today. The Nuestras Historias Stories of Mexican Identity exhibit highlights works from the Permanent Collection that tell diverse stories of Mexican identity in North America and features works from both sides of the border. The museum is also a cultural hub hosting theater, dance, music, and literary events.


See Lincoln Square

River North:

Kayaking in the Chicago River

Wateriders offers kayak rentals from their 500 North Kingsbury Street shop. They offer hourly kayak rentals plus a variety of tours including an architecture tour, a ghosts and gangsters tour, and a fireworks paddle. There are double kayaks which are great for kids.

Boat Rental

The Chicago Electric Boat Company has a fleet of easy to drive electric boats that you can rent to cruise the Chicago River. They have boats to fit 10-16 people and you can bring your own food and drinks.

Rogers Park:

Loyola Park and Loyola Beach

This 40 acre park is Roger Park’s largest. Loyola Park is located north of Loyola University and along Lake Michigan. The park contains tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields, and a playground. A field house has two gymnasiums, a woodshop, and a boxing center.

The park offers a packed schedule of recreational events for parents, children, adults, and seniors. Special recreation activities are available for individuals with disabilities. Arts classes, craft classes, improv workshops, and summer camps are also offered.

Athena Board Game Cafe

A BYOB cafe with a library of 300 different games. For $5 you can play as many games as you like for as long as you like.

Roscoe Village:

Clark Park

A park providing over 22 acres of green space along the bank of the Chicago River. The park has a soccer field, a baseball diamond with seating for 1,250 spectators, and a boathouse that offers canoe and kayak rentals. The boathouse is Chicago’s premier rowing center and has year round training facilities.

South Loop:

Northerly Island Park

A 119-acre park located on the shore of Lake Michigan just south of Museum Campus. The park has strolling paths, a pond, prairie grasslands with over 150 different species of native plants that is an important habitat for birds.

Museum Campus

The campus that is home to the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium is listed under the Loop.

The Best Things to Do with Kids in Chicago - Navy Pier


Navy Pier

Visiting Navy Pier is known for being one of the most popular things to do in Streeterville. Navy Pier is a long pier that goes out into Lake Michigan and there are many restaurants and activities located on the pier. On Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summer, fireworks can be viewed from the pier. Navy Pier also hosts outdoor film screenings, concerts, and other events. Plus, there is also a massive Ferris Wheel located on the pier.

Tall Ship Windy

This schooner gives sailing tours of Chicago. It’s great way to see the skyline from the lake and they do offer fireworks cruises too.

Lake Michigan Cruises

There are a variety of different cruises that depart from Navy Pier. There are dinner cruises, speedboat tours, private charters, and more.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Located on Navy Pier, this museum brings arts programs, STEM experiments, and imaginative play to children.

360 Chicago

The observation deck of the John Hancock Tower has some of the best views of Chicago. As the name suggests, you can see 360 degree views of Chicago including Lake Michigan, the skyline, and the Willis Tower (formerly called the Sears Tower).


A restaurant with bowling and bocce – reservations are available for the games.

West Loop:

Altitude Chicago Trampoline Park

An indoor trampoline park with 14 attractions including trampolines, wipeout, a trapeze bar, and a rock climbing wall. The space hosts toddler time, kid’s birthday parties, adult only nights, and summer camps.

Wndr Museum

This is less of a museum and more of an immersive art experience/place to take cool instagram photos. General admission is a whopping $32 (about twice the price of The Art Institute of Chicago).

Brooklyn Boulders

A rock climbing and fitness facility offering rock climbing and yoga classes. There are classes for children as young as 5, plus classes for older children, teens, and adults.

Punch Bowl Social

A bar and restaurant with a bowling alley, bocce, ping pong, karaoke, and a variety of games. At 10 pm the space becomes 21+ but it is all ages before that.

Chicago Children’s Theatre

A theater devoted to offering plays for children such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar Showand The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party. They also have a summer camp and acting classes.

West Town:

Mr. Dave Music

The classes at Mr. Dave Music are the best thing to do in Chicago with kids in the West Town and Wicker Park neighborhoods. A variety of classes are offered on weekdays including the classic music classes where kids get to dance around, learn about new music instruments, and play the drums. Additional classes include yoga and painting classes. It’s best to book online in advance since classes tend to fill up – you can book single classes and multi-week sessions.

Wicker Park:

Walsh Park

This park at the eastern end of the Bloomingdale Trail has the neighborhood’s best playground. The playgrounds has larger taller play structures with slides and areas to climb that are great for kids 5 and up. There are also swings, but in general, this park is more geared towards kids past the toddler stage. In addition to the playground, this park has an athletic field, basketball hoops, and a dog-friendly area.

Play Indoor Mini Golf at Big Mini Putt Club

Big Mini is a bar with a 9 hole indoor mini golf course that is kid-friendly until 6pm. The course was designed for ages 4 and up. You can book tee times in advance online.

Mr. Dave Music

Technically, it’s in West Town so find the full description there.


Friday 12th of April 2024