Chicago is packed with options for travelers of all ages and interests, and, thanks to a mix of outdoor activities and cultural immersions, it's particularly well-suited for children and families. Here our a few of our favorite places to go with kids in the Windy City.
Lincoln Park Zoo
A rare-to-find, free-to-visit zoo, this one in the Lincoln Park neighborhood is among the country's largest zoos with 1,200-plus animals from 230 species. Before your trip, check the website for daily activities, which include sing-alongs, cow milkings, and seal feedings. Its expansive public green space is also ripe for an impromptu picnic.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Also in Lincoln Park, this science- and nature-focused museum is one of the city's most affordable cultural mainstays (tickets are $9 for adults, $6 for kids between three and 12, and free for kids under three). Exhibits include the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven -- which is home to 1,000 butterflies -- and Hands-on Habitat, where kids can explore an underground cave and play on a giant roped spider, among other interactive activities. Live animal feedings are held daily at 1 p.m.
This 25-acre park off is located right off of Michigan Avenue in the Loop, and contains lots of little wonders. “The Bean,” affectionately nicknamed for its shape, is the focal point. The famed art installation is actually called Cloud Gate, and was designed by artist Anish Kapoor. Over the years, it's kept plenty of kids entertained as they make silly faces in the mirrored surface. During the summer months, cool off in Crown Fountain (which also features interactive artwork, video, and images that are displayed on 50-foot high glass blocks), or stake out a spot at the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion for free concerts and movies.
While locals might scoff at its high level of tourists, kids love Navy Pier. It’s free to hang out at the 3,000-foot-long pier. Along the structure, you'll find Pier Park (which is complete with a ferris wheel and other fun attractions and rides; extra cost), public art installations, an interactive maze (extra cost), the Chicago Children’s Museum ($15 tickets), and several dozen restaurants and other dining options. Tip: Check the schedule to see when Navy Pier is offering fireworks shows (free).
Willis Tower Skydeck
For the daredevil child, this is the place to be. It's one thing to work up the courage to go to the Skydeck, but the true test of bravery comes when deciding to venture out onto the Ledge. At 1,353 feet high, the glass-enclosed addition juts out over four feet from the building, providing a unique view of the streets below and around. General admission tickets are $22 for adults and $17 for kids ages three to 11.
Museum of Science & Industry
Being that nearly all of the exhibits here are interactive, this outpost is a real crowd-pleaser. Children will love everything about the museum, which is home to a home to massive model train and the world's largest pinball machine, among many other unique features and exhibits. Tickets are $22 for adults and $13 for kids ages three to 11.