This Chicago for kids and families itinerary is broken down by neighborhood, listing the top kiddie sights to see in one area before moving on to the next.
Chicago for Kids and Families: the Near North neighborhood
Navy Pier is the place to be at downtown’s northern edge. The boardwalk’s rides – such as a whirling swing, sky-high Ferris wheel and musical carousel – provide thrills, plus all sorts of boat trips (including fun, quick jaunts on water taxis) depart from here. What’s more, the Chicago Children’s Museum is located on the pier and offers a slew of building, climbing and inventing exhibits to keep young ones busy. Burger and pizza places abound along the wharf.
In free Millennium Park, kids love to run up and touch the enormous silver Bean sculpture and splash in Crown Fountain, an art piece that has become a de facto water park. Afterward, walk over the pedestrian-only BP Bridge to reach Maggie Daley Park, where an enchanted forest and boat-themed playgrounds await (all free), along with rocking climbing and mini-golf (for a fee). At the Loop’s western edge, brave kids can ascend to the observatory atop Willis Tower, one of the world’s tallest buildings. Bonus bravery points if they step onto one of the glass ledges jutting out in mid-air.
The Museum Campus has three family friendly institutions lined up in a row. Dolphins, beluga whales and sharks swim in the Shedd Aquarium. Dinosaurs and mummies stuff the Field Museum. Telescopes and rockets stoke imaginations at the Adler Planetarium. Lou Malnati’s is nearby for a deep-dish pizza fix.
It’s a hike to get to, located on the city’s south side, but the Museum of Science & Industry is a must. As the largest science museum in the western hemisphere, there’s enough to see to last an entire day. Tour an authentic German submarine from WWII and submerge into a life-sized coalmine shaft. Check out a baby chicken hatchery, gigantic doll castle and mock tornado. And that’s just to begin….
The free Lincoln Park Zoo is always a big kid pleaser, thanks to its swinging chimps, roaring lions and barnyard full of farm animals to feed. The butterfly haven and frog-croaking marsh provide gentle thrills at the Notebaert Nature Museum. North Avenue Beach rolls out a fine stretch for swimming and sand castle making. Lifeguards patrol in summer, and the steamboat-shaped beach house sells burgers and ice cream.