Chicago’s family fun options are nonstop—just like your kids. Here are our top picks in and around Chicago for families, including world-class museums, kid-friendly restaurants and Lake Michigan beaches.
Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate

From the shoreline to the tips of skyscrapers and the busy streets in between, all-ages entertainment rules in Chicago.

Visit a Museum (or Two, or Three) 

Plan a day or more to explore top-notch and innovative museums.

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium houses 32,000 fresh and saltwater aquatic animals. Kids can touch sea stars and watch dolphins swim in Polar Play Zone. Divers hand-feed sharks and exotic fish in the Caribbean Reef exhibit's 90,000-gallon tank.

Adler Planetarium
Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium invites budding astronauts to "drive" rovers and conduct astronomical experiments in Planet Explorers. Celestial sky shows playing in the 360-degree, über-high-res Grainger Sky Theater launch viewers on exciting cosmic explorations. 

Field Museum of Natural History

Kids love toothy Sue, the largest complete T. rex  ever unearthed, and Evolving Planet, a walk through Earth's eons of life from single-celled organisms and dinosaurs to saber-tooth cats and homo sapiens at the Field Museum.  

Museum of Science and Industry

At the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, visitors love programs about technology, transportation and more. Create simulated tornadoes, lightening strikes, avalanches and tsunamis in Science Storms; explore the German U-505 Submarine; see yourself age 30 years in You! The Experience. 

Three adults in ball pit at Color Factory Chicago
Credit: Courtesy of Color Factory Chicago

Color Factory Chicago

Jump into a green ball pit and finish with a bright ice cream cone at this interactive Willis Tower museum. A Museum of Illusions and Museum of Ice Cream are among other hands-on museums to explore with the family.

Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo: Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo
Credit: Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo

Go Wild at a Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo

Opened in 1868, the free Lincoln Park Zooo is one of the nation's oldest. It's home to 1,100 animals from 200-plus species.

Brookfield Zoo

Chances are you can spot your favorite animal at the Brookfield Zoo, a 216-acre home to more than 2,000 creatures. Watch polar bears swim underwater in Great Bear Wilderness, where grizzlies, bald eagles and 2,000-pound bison also live. Check out the Hamill Family Play Zoo and animal-keeper talks. After a lively dolphin show, take a quiet stroll (1/4 mile) and unpack your picnic basket by the lake in Salt Creek Wilderness.

Crown Fountain, Millennium Park
Crown Fountain
| Credit: Alyssa Schukar

Splash, Play and Explore at Millennium Park

Free entertainment and outdoor beauty draw families to this park in the heart of Chicago. In summer, kids can't resist splashing in Crown Fountain. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion typically hosts free outdoor concerts throughout the year. The Lurie Garden is a scenic spot to wander, but the top family photo stop is Cloud Gate, a giant kidney bean-shape sculpture reflecting Chicago's skyline.

Ways to water in the MIdwest
North Avenue Beach, Chicago
| Credit: Courtesy of Choose Chicago

Head to the Beach

Cool off in the big lake at one of Chicago's beaches. Access to the city's 26 miles of lakefront beaches is free. Outfitters at some rent bikes, stand-up paddleboards and kayaks.

chicago red hot dog
Credit: Carson Downing

Try Kid-Fave Foods at Local Restaurants

You really can't go wrong with any family-friendly restaurant in a city the size of Chicago, but here are some of our favorites. Most kids love hot dogs; a stop at Fatso's Last Stand will set you up with the famous Chicago char dog. Dinner is perfect for deep dish; Giordano's and Lou Malnati's are a couple of the classics. Locally owned and kid-friendly (but not pizza) in the Loop? Yes! Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe is near Maggie Daley Park. If your crew needs a break from crowds, Gale V's Best Ever Grilled Cheese is a quiet surprise.

Relax (or Run) in Some Green Space

Morton Arboretum

Sometimes, kids just need room to roam. The Children's Garden at Morton Arboretum nurtures curiosity about nature with themed gardens and activities in Backyard Discovery Gardens and Adventure Woods. Rent biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing equipment on-site seasonally.

Maggie Daley Park Chicago
Credit: Courtesy of Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park

The $55 million, 20-acre Maggie Daley Park, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2024, was designed to appeal to the kid in everyone. Activities at the park include a climbing wall, minigolf, a play garden, in-line skate and scooter rentals, and, in winter, an ice skating ribbon.

Garfield Park Conservatory

Roving naturalist stations—as well as printable games and activities—engage children with the world of plants at this free conservatory, home to about 2,100 plant species housed in eight indoor spaces and 10 acres outdoors.

The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago
The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago
| Credit: Courtesy of Choose Chicago

End on a High Note

The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago

Thrill to the scene on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, where you can peer down on the city from 1,353 feet up.

Tilt at 360 Chicago

Older kids will love hanging out over the city—literally—on the 94th floor at the Tilt experience. (Must be 42" or taller to experience.)

navy pier amusement park chicago children's museum illinois aerial shot
Credit: Courtesy of Navy Pier

Navy Pier

Soar nearly 200 feet above the city on the Centennial Ferrris wheel at this historical entertainment complex—also home to the Chicago Children's Museum, Sea Dog speed boat rides, bike rentals, and free, twice-weekly fireworks (Memorial Day through Labor Day).

How to Save Money

Many of Chicago's family-friendly attractions and museums offer free days or participate in discounted admission programs. Check CityPass and Go City—Chicago for details.