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This summer we decided to take our kids to Chicago and show them everything that this amazing city has to offer. If you are planning to go in the future, make sure to keep reading to see our Chicago with kids activity list ❤️.
You might not know this but before moving to Florida we lived in Chicago for 2 years, and it is a place that we will always keep close to our heart. It is not only a beautiful and full-of-life city, with amazing culture and food, but it’s also where our first child was born! So we see Chicago as the place where our journey as a family really began and we couldn’t wait to show everything to our kids!
If you are planning to go to the museums, it is a good idea to get the CityPass, which includes 5 attractions and can save you a little bit of money. Keep in mind that due to COVID, some places are requiring reservations, so plan in advance to make yours.
For the most part we used public transportation and Uber/Lyft, which is ok since distances are short. But we did rent a car to go to places more than 1-hr away, mostly to avoid the risk of getting stuck on the way back.
Of course we started our trip by enjoying a deep dish pizza at Giordano’s. This is one of the many things Chicago is famous for. It was invented in the 40s and it really looks more like a pie than a regular pizza.
We also went to the huge American Girl Place store located in the Water Tower! It has 2 floors with everything you can imagine… if you like American Girl Dolls you can’t miss this store.
We finished our day at Millenium Park, where the famous sculpture “Cloud Gate” ‘commonly known as “The Bean”’ is found. Make sure to also check out the free outdoor concerts. You can grab a place on the lawn and enjoy a picnic with the family while you listen.
If you have a dinosaur lover at home, you need to go to the Field Museum. It is the home for Sue, one the the biggest and best preserved T-Rex ever found, and it is also the home of Máximo, the biggest dinosaur!
We headed towards Skydeck at the Willis Tower in the afternoon. You go up 103 floors to get an incredible view of the whole city. It is really cool to step on the glass boxes and watch the city below! Prepare yourself for a little bit of a line, but it’s worth it.
From the moment you step in, Shedd Aquarium is such an impressive place! My kids loved all the exhibits, especially the one with the sharks. Right now there are no live shows, but you can still watch the beluga whales and dolphins while they swim around.
There is so much to do there, so plan for at least half a day. We went at 11am, and stayed there the whole day.
We decided to leave the city plans for a little and go for an adventure park a bit outside Chicago called The Forge: Lemont Quarries. Although we went in an Uber, we couldn’t find one to get back to the city. So I recommend that you rent a car if you are planning to go.
They have a rope course for little kids, and for bigger kids and adults there is a more challenging rope course and a ziplining adventure, which I would recommend if you are going with kids older than 10 years old. The place is truly awesome, but not the best fit for our younger kids. Either way, definitely recommend it for the adventurous ones.
You can also do rock climbing, kayaking, and our favorite: outdoor laser tag!
After a day of heavy walking we went for something more relaxing at the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum is huge, and for the little kids it can get a little bit overwhelming, so I recommend going straight to the exhibits that you think they will like, instead of walking throughout the whole place. I definitely recommend the modern wing, which I feel is more engaging for the kids and they usually have a special exhibition. Ours was about the Obama Portraits, which our kids found very interesting.
The Ryan Learning Center has many activities for kids. Unfortunately it is currently closed due to COVID.
By the way, Eliana had a super cute camera that I found on Amazon. It’s perfect for their little hands. The best part is that it takes real pictures that you can later save on your computer.
We ended the day with a super fun night at Medieval Times. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but I have to say that we were all pleasantly surprised. The whole experience starts from the moment you go in and get transported to the Middle Age. The main show takes place in the Arena and resembles a medieval tournament, with horses and sword fights! You can also have dinner while you watch, but be prepared to eat with your hands like medieval people did.
Six flags was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip! Lines were not crazy at all, and there are so many roller coasters and rides, that there is something for everyone. If you like the thrill, you will LOVE this place. I’ve never seen crazier rides than here. There is one called Vertical Velocity where you get to 70 mph!
Our last museum to visit during this trip was the Museum of Science & Industry . It’s beautiful and has so many interactive exhibits! It is really very engaging for the kids. Their favorite exhibit was the airplane one. They have a 737 airplane that you can go into! Also, the flight simulators were a huge hit.
We rented a car to go to Starved Rock State Park, which has beautiful trails to explore. We first parked outside the St. Louis Canyon trail which was short and sweet, and ended in a nice waterfall. We then drove to the lodge and after lunch we went to the Starved Rock trail and we finished with the French Canyon trail, which was the most impressive one in my opinion.
The only thing I didn’t love about this park, is that the trails don’t have rails all the way through and I feel it can get a little tricky with kids on a rainy day. Thankfully we had a very nice day, but I still kept them close to me all the time.
We used the rented car to go to the Indiana Dunes, and WOW, what a beautiful place! The trails are definitely harder than the ones we’ve done before, so with little kids I recommend that you park next to the beach and see the dunes from there. There is one that you can climb from the beach, and the kids love to play going up and down. If you are up for the challenge, the trail 7 is the easiest one, it starts by the nature center and ends on the beach.
The water of Lake Michigan was sooooo clear and beautiful. Most of the people stay close to the restaurant, but if you move a little further from that area you can find a quiet spot to enjoy the water and the amazing view.
We went to the Maggie Daley Park thinking it was just a nice playground, but there were enough things for a full day of fun! From mini golf, to wall climbing, skating and bungee… this place had something for everyone. We went to the playground and played mini golf which features Chicago iconic structures, so it was also very fun to see.
After that, we went to the Navy Pier. If you have enough time, there is the Chicago Childrens Museum. We decided to slow down, so we just walked around and went to the Centennial Wheel where you can see the city from above. There are also a few other rides in the same area.
We finished our trip at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Admission is free and it is a very nice place to explore and learn.
Here are our top 3 dining places:
- Cafe Ba-Ba-Reba for amazing Spanish dishes and tapas
- Tanta for Peruvian cuisine
- Mercadito for Mexican food
You will really enjoy everything this city has to offer. We can’t wait to go back!