Are your kids a little restless? If you’re looking for new activities and places to hang out with your tots, kids, tweens, or teens, this guide will help you get past the cabin fever and do a little family bonding that’s fun, not forced.
Whether you’re a Chicagoland native or traveling to Chi-town for the first time, you’ll find kid friendly places to go with your kids. From the best restaurants to tourist attractions, this guide has you covered.
Each chapter is organized by topic so you can find what you’re looking for quickly.
- Chapter 1: Kid-Friendly Chicago Restaurants
- Chapter 2: Outdoor Activities
- Chapter 3: Indoor Play Activities
- Chapter 4: Theme Parks and Attractions
- Chapter 5: Educational Activities
- Chapter 6: Local Food Farms
- Chapter 7: Parks & Sight Seeing
Snack Happy at These Fun Chicago Kid-friendly Restaurants
Who said you can’t have fun with your food? These Chicago-area eateries elevate dining to an attraction that kids of all ages will love. From a medieval adventure complete with jousting to the only kid-friendly, G-rated restaurant where waitresses dance on the tables that we know of, this list is loaded with as much fun as food.
Perfect for all ages, the Rainforest Café makes mealtime an adventure. Part of a major chain of eateries, the food is tasty and kid-friendly, but the real benefit is the ambiance. Your kids will feel like they’re on an adventure in the depths of a rainforest. It’s all fun and no fear here, though. There are three locations in the Chicago area.
Tip: This is a fun place to bring the grandparents, too, and AARP discounts are available.
American Girl Place Café
A great stop for little girls who love dolls and pretending to be grown-ups, the American Girl Café is a fun place for ages 4-12. Brunch, lunch, and dinner are served here, but to make every little girl’s dream come true, check out tea time for the ultimate in tea parties. Reservations are strongly recommended, and meals and tea are served at specific hours, so you’ll need to plan ahead.
Located in Schaumburg, Medieval Times (Chicago Castle) brings the adventures of princes, princesses, knights, and the 11th century to life in a family-friendly dining experience. It’s the ideal spot to take little princesses and knights in training, of all ages. Best with the 4-10 year-old crowd, adults will have a good time, too. The set menu includes tomato bisque soup, roasted chicken, sweet buttered corn – and no utensils. Vegetarian options can be provided on request (but ask in advance!).
Billy Goat Tavern
Not a great place for little kids, the Billy Goat Tavern is a solid pick for pre-teens and teens. With nine locations serving the Chicago area, the chain is a local favorite with a quirky and entertaining back story. The food is worth the trip, but it’s the sarcasm and wit that keeps this place popular – not to mention the prices. And don’t miss the Cheezborger.
There’sa place in Chicago where table dancing isn’t something dirty – Ed Debevic’s is it. Snark, sass, and a cheap menu make this a fun place for teens. Little kids love the bright 1950s’ color scheme, and fast service is a plus for days when you’re in the mood to eat on the run.
Get Close to Nature with Your Kids in the Windy City
A wide range of habitats and diverse wildlife make Chicago’s nature beautiful. Bring your kids closer to it when you visit one of the area’s many nature centers, botanic gardens, or zoos.
Peggy Notebeart Nature Museum
This museum is more than a pretty name – it’s the Chicago Academy of Sciences Museum. Kids, teens, and adults will all learn something on a visit to this enchanting place. The museum operates numerous learning programs and classes, as well as citizen science projects.
Price: $, Thursdays are suggested donation days (no set fee)
Lincoln Park Zoo
One of the last free zoos in America, Lincoln Park Zoo has a reputation for great holiday lights in winter and phenomenal views of the city when the weather is warm and clear. It’s a perfect spot to let the kids run wild and learn about their favorite animals.
Price: Free, but parking can be pricey
Chicago Botanic Garden
Don’t miss the Wonderland Express train for kids that chugs through this free and delightful botanical garden. Plant lovers of all ages can get a free plant monthly beginning in May. The food served in the onsite café is delicious, too.
Price: Free, but parking can be pricey
North Park Village Nature Center
A fun Chicago-area park for nature lovers of all ages, the March Maple Syrup Festival is a local hit. The park is home to deer, birds, and other wildlife, and also has its own apiaries for bees. If you’re looking for a great way to help kids get in touch with nature, you just found it.
Emily Oaks Nature Center
A thirteen-acre break from urbanity, Emily Oaks Nature Center is home to coyotes, flying squirrels, water snakes, and other animals that can seem like living myths to little kids. The three-acre pond is a perfect place to rest and enjoy the scene. The Woodland Wander Inn is a great spot in the park to help kids (and adults) learn about the surrounding environment.
Tip: This is a great place for birthday parties in summer and early fall!
Crabtree Nature Center
This nature center, over 1,000 acres in size, was formed by glaciers. Today, it’s a pristine escape in Cool County that offers little ones the chance to connect with the natural world. It’s a great place for birdwatching, with more than 260 species on site, including many migratory species. Several miles of self-guided trails are also available. Great for all ages, and with a focus on helping kids connect with nature, the center also offers several special programs to cater to individual interests.
Wildwood Nature Center
Part of the Park Ridge Park District, the Wildwood Nature Center is a fun stop for little ones – preschoolers will love the turtle pond, interactive exhibits, and the Nature Nook playroom. Older kids can have their birthdays here, and take part in scouting activities or school programs on site. Fun in any season, there’s also a campfire pit, rain garden, and even a butterfly pavilion on site.
Thorn Creek Nature Center & Preserve
The 600+ acre nature preserve offers an impressive mix of habitats, with a large number of species and a nature center housed in a converted church that was built in 1862. Throughout the year, the center hosts variety of educational programs for all ages.
Tip: No dogs allowed in the park!
Hidden Oaks Nature Center
From archeology to geothermal heating to natural habitats, Hidden Oaks Nature Center offers children of all ages the chance to explore the natural world around them. Inside, the exhibits offer a look at some of the area’s birds and animals. The center also places a focus on restoring the local ecology.
Plum Creek Nature Center
Set in the 890-acre Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, Plum Creek Nature Center gives kids a chance to encounter nature in a hands-on, interactive setting. The nature center is surrounded by cattail marshes, a pond, forests, and fields, making it a great place to see multiple habitats, too.
River Trail Nature Center
If your little kids act like animals, give them the chance to do so for real. At River Trail Nature Center, they can crawl in an eagle’s nest or a fox’s den. Other fun onsite activities include making nature puppets or exploring one of this nature centers many trails. In the mood for something sweet? The sugar maples here are a pretty sight in summer and fall, and the annual maple syrup festival is a treat for all ages.
Lincoln Park Conservatory
Four display houses, warm temperatures year-round, and an impressive history make the Lincoln Park Conservatory a beautiful place to visit. It might be too relaxed for younger kids, but preteens and teens will enjoy the lush greenery and impressive history of this beautiful building. Seasonal displays and a retreat from harsh weather are a few of the perks of this place.
Heller Ridge Nature Center
Located in Highland Park, the Heller Ridge Nature Center is a family-friendly destination in all seasons. Snow-sowing and cross-country skiing in winter, hiking and sports in summer, and learning about birds of prey, owls, and other creatures year-round make this a fun place to visit.
Phillips Park Zoo
Built in 1915, this zoo charges no admission fee and offers a twist on the traditional zoo – it places a focus on native animals, and has done so since 1934. You’ll find peacocks, elk, llamas, goats, wolves, and a wide range of other animals here, so even though there aren’t any tigers or gorillas, it definitely offers a walk on the wild side for visitors of all ages.
Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary
Run by Schaumberg Park District, the Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary is over 125 acres of outdoor fun. Winterfest keeps the park popular even in the coldest months, although it’s a beautiful spot year-round. Nature demonstrations, classes, and educational programs for all ages are offer all year, too.
Price: Free (Special events like Winterfest often involve a small cover charge.)
Let the Kids Go Crazy in Chi-Town’s Indoor Play Places
Before you head to any of the indoor play places listed below, make sure your kids are wearing socks – they’re almost always required.
A tropical-themed escape for kids who love arcade games, obstacle courses, and in good weather – rides, there are massage chairs for the adults, too. Relax and let the little ones run wild. This place was built for it.
Pump it Up
Get your bounce on with Pump It Up of Chicago. This prime party spot has open play divided by ages, and you can also join in on special family days. The operating hours, since the site also caters to birthdays and private parties. There’s a 20-foot climbing wall, bounce play structures, and more to enjoy here.
Purple Monkey Playroom
Ideal for under 5s, the Purple Monkey Playroom captures the sweetest side of childhood, but also lets your kids cut loose. A great stop for drop-in play, you can also schedule a birthday party or baby shower here. Remember that drop-in play hours are limited by their birthday party schedule.
Party Time Palace
Looking for a mechanical bull? Ok, not everyone is – but in case you are, Party Time Palace has one. And more than 20,000 square feet of indoor fun for preteens-adults. Laser tag, mini-golf, you name it, you’ll find it here. It’s a great place to spend a rainy or snowy day, and there’s no way you’ll leave bored. There’s also a special area for the littler kids in your bunch.
Jump ‘N Jam Playland
This place is a bouncy castle lover’s dream. Filled to the brim with inflatable play structures, open play at Jump ‘N Jam Playland is a workout for kids and a relaxing break for parents. Open play is offered Wednesday through Saturday.
Growth Spurts Play Place & Family Café
Growth Spurts is a small, intimate play place for little kids with a café for parents. It provides a relaxing atmosphere, it’s not built around going wild. The toys are designed to teach through play, and children have the chance to engage in dramatic play and physical activities that engage their creativity or improve their fine and gross motor skills.
Tip: Growth Spurts closes at 3, so make sure to arrive early in the morning. They open at 9.
A ghoulish twist on family amusement, Haunted Trails caters to kids ages 4+ and adults. Outside, you’ll find go karts, mini golf, and even a few mini-roller coasters. A few arcade games are also available on site, and there are mini go karts and rides for the younger set.
Catering to kids ages 2-12, the open play at Jump Zone is a great way to reward your kids for great grades on their last report card or help them burn off a little steam on a rainy or snowy day. This is a franchise play place, but every location is different. Call ahead to make sure there’s open play on the day you want to go.
Jumps ‘n’ Jiggles
Part of the Elk Grove Park District, this isn’t your typical indoor playground. A 28-foot-high carousel and a colorful themed playground for little kids make it a great stop for indoor fun. The structures and set up are ideal for ages 8 and under.
If you or a friend have kids with autism, this is a good place to let the little ones burn off some steam. The sensory play here is designed for autistic children, but just as fun for little ones who aren’t on the autism spectrum. Good for kids 12 and under, there’s no fear of a meltdown here – just fun.
Kids Town is a good place for little ones who love dress up, and can stimulate the imagination of toddlers and preschoolers who want to enter the ‘different worlds’ of each themed playroom. From aquariums to Thomas the Tank Engine, there’s a lot of fun to be had at Kids Town.
Tip: There are some snacks and coffee available, but bring your own. The temperature is a little on the cold side, too, so dress your kids for it.
Definitely for preteens, teens, and adults, Laser Quest is a national chain of indoor laser tag courses. They usually have a few arcade games on site, too. Here in the Chicago area, there are several Laser Quest locations, and each is a blast. With boulders, obstacles, doors, and bridges, there are plenty of objects to duck or hide behind while playing.
Tip: Come with a big group to make sure you don’t get split up.
Little Beans is an excellent location for toddlers and early preschoolers to burn off a little steam and run wild. The tiniest kids in your group can hang out in a designated play area that’s bordered off with a white picket fence. Like a little city for kids, there is plenty of grown up play here for the little ones, and the food and coffee are pretty good, too.
Theme Parks and Outdoor Adventure Spots in the Windy City
Looking for something a little more active than your average park or nature center? This section has a host of theme parks and outdoor adventures that will tucker out the tiniest members of your family and offer lots of laughs and fun in the process.
Pirate’s Cove Theme Park
Designed for fun-loving kids ages 1-9, the Pirates Cove Theme Park is a popular Elk Grove attraction. Castles, carousels, ships, and slides capture the attention of little buccaneers and maidens. There’s a picnic area and snacks can be purchased here, too.
Tip: Gym shoes and socks are strongly recommended. This place is packed with activity, and your kids will be on the go for hours.
4D cinema, a technicycle ride, Legos to play with, a factory tour, and a Duplo village are all part of the fun at this Chicagoland attraction. Ages 3-12 will have a blast while here. We can name a few adults who would love it, too…
Tip: Buy your tickets on the Legoland website for a steep discount.
Adams Water Playground
Part of Adams Park, the Adams Water Playground is a great stop to cool off in summer. With slides, spray fountains, waterfalls, and padded ground, the water features here are loads of fun. The park also has plenty of dry playground space if it’s a little chilly out to jump around in the water.
Enrich Your Child’s Mind in Chicago Museums, Libraries, and More
There’s no shortage of fun and educational museums and cultural attractions in the Chicago area. We’ve gathered the info on some of the best in the area. The best part? Most are free or low cost.
Chicago Water Tower
Older school children and some older teens may enjoy the stunning architecture and impressive art collection found here. Located on the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s most easily-recognized landmark was built from 1867-1869 and survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Exhibits change regularly so check the website to see what’s on display before you visit.
Swedish American Museum
The big attraction here is the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration. The first of its kind, this museum offers a hands-on experience for children that helps them to imagine the Swedish immigration experience. Kids of all ages will have a great time here, engaging in activities on an old Swedish farm like milking cows or setting the table for dinner, then ride a 20-foot ship to America, and move into log cabin in the U.S.
Museum of Science and Industry
Easily one of the best museums in the Chicago area, the Museum of Science and Industry is a high-tech experience for all ages. For a special treat, the museum offers a behind-the-scenes tour that kids and adults will equally appreciate. Exhibits vary, but don’t be surprised if you find robots, mirror mazes, fairy castles, steel trains, and space-themed activities here. It’s a great pick for ages 3 and up.
Chicago Children’s Museum
Kids ages 0-10 (and the adults that hang out with them) are guaranteed a good time at this fantastic museum. Loaded with hands-on activities and educational play opportunities, it’s one of the best children’s museums in the U.S. Step inside and enjoy the fun!
Chicago Public Library
Always an all-ages attraction, the Chicago Public Library makes reading fun and interactive. Bring your little ones to the library for activities, story time, and to choose a book or two to keep them entertained.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House
An ideal outing for older kids with artistic personalities, the Robie House is a local cultural icon. Arm your older kids, preteens, and teens with digital cameras and let them loose. At the end of the day, share your photos for a unique look into the way your child sees the world.
A powerful museum dedicated to African-American history, culture, and art, the DuSable Museum is a perfect place to take older kids and teens, although children ages 5 and up are welcome. Past exhibits have covered everything from the impact of Jewish scholars in African-American colleges to poetry and African-American soldiers in the Vietnam War.
Muntu Dance Theater
Although not the best for very young children, Muntu is a great stop for older kids and preteens, as well as some teens. This dance theater hosts performances, but if you ask around, you’ll hear about make and take mask-making classes and dance classes, too. African dance is a great way to get a little exercise with the kids while sharing a cultural experience.
This all-ages outing is great for anyone who loves the water or the creatures that live in it. The tanks here are so large that there are some unexpectedly large guests living here – whales! It’s an experience your kids will never forget. To make it even more so, consider taking one of the behind-the-scenes tours.
It might look a little frightening from the outside, but inside, the Adler Planetarium is a fun and engaging museum. It offers a wide variety of shows on a daily basis, and includes an education center that’s designed to get young minds excited about the universe that surrounds them.
Chicago Cultural Center
There’s always something happening at the Chicago Cultural Center. The building itself is worth looking at, but inside there are dozens of free events each month, including concerts for little kids and activities for school children. Take a look at the calendar and plan ahead – events fill up fast in this attractive venue.
Price: Most Events are Free (some events may cover a small fee, so check in advance)
Chicago Greeter Tours
Staycations are a great option for busy families, and the Chicago Greeter Tours can help you feel like you’re on one, even when you’ve only got a few hours. The tours are free, offer plenty of insight into Chi-Town history, and are fun and engaging, even for the wildest tots.
Kohl Children’s Museum
Designed to entertain children ages 0-8, there are 16 permanent exhibits and several temporary ones at the Kohl Children’s Museum. Theatre games, art and nature activities, and science-related adventures bring imagination to life while accommodating Illinois educational criteria.
The Field Museum is everything you’d expect in a natural history and science museum. Kids can shrink to the size of a bug to crawl around the Underground Adventure or sit back in awe, watching Sue the T-Rex’s life story in 3D. The Crown Family Play Lab is a place just for the smallest visitors, and gives kids a hands-on opportunity to explore the exhibits. A DNA Discovery Center, the Grainger Hall of Gems, and the Pawnee Earth Lodge (interactive) are just a few of the Field Museum’s highlights.
Loyola University Museum of Art
School-age children will enjoy the massive art collection housed in the Loyola University Water Tower Campus’s Museum of Art. Escape from winter chill or summer heat by ducking into the galleries here and enjoy the art. Make it an interactive outing by bringing drawing pencils and paper with you so they can create their own masterpieces while looking at the artwork of generations of master artists.
Illinois Holocaust Museum
If your family is learning about World War 2 or another aspect of Jewish history, don’t miss this stop. You can find educational resources and history exhibits here, but there’s more. The Illinois Holocaust Museum has an impressive art collection, and often includes special exhibits for children, such as the Harvey L. Miller Family Youth Exhibition.
Chicago Children’s Theater
Professional-caliber productions for all ages. Many Chicago-area families strive to never miss a show put on by this theater company. Once you’ve seen your first Chicago Children’s Theater production, you’ll see why.
Tip: Skip the website – you’ll find all the info you need on their Facebook page.
Smart Museum of Art
Older school children and teens who love art will enjoy the Smart Museum of Art. The museum focuses on more modern pieces, but also has a sizeable collection of Asian and European art, as well as numerous works from the Old Masters, ancient art, and contemporary works. It’s the fine arts museum of the University of Chicago, and a fully-functioning academic art museum in additional to a place for the public to encounter art.
Arlington Heights Historical Museum
A little more exciting than most local history museums, Arlington Heights Historical Museum even has a special kids section on its website. The museum includes a carpentry shop, a blacksmith’s, dioramas of old Arlington Heights, a log cabin, two older homes complete with period furnishings, a doll collection, and a dollhouse collection. It’s a good place to take 1-4th graders to learn about local history.
Bronzeville Children’s Museum
Although this African-American history museum follows a strict age policy, only letting children ages 3-9 enter, it’s worth the visit. Bronzeville offers a unique window into Chicago’s past – one it can be hard to find in history books, but that needs to be shared. The museum only offers guided tours, and keep in mind that hours are limited.
Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn
A play-based museum with fully-interactive and educational installations, the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn is learning through fun. Inside, it feels like a play place crossed with a classroom, in all the best ways. Great for ages 8 and under.
Children’s Neighborhood Museum
This fun museum is a part of the Round Lake Park District. It’s a miniature town, and kids can take on any role in society want to. Everything is perfectly sized for 1-6 year olds, and there’s a special crawler zone for kids under age 1.
Tip: This place fills up fast and has a maximum capacity of 30 kids, so get there early to make sure you can get in!
Cuneo Museum & Gardens
An active part of Loyola University, Cuneo Museum and Gardens is more than an educational institution. The grounds are gorgeous, and in winter, the light show is unbeatable. Wander around the sculpture garden or great lawn in summer, and make it into a fun art activity for the kids by bringing sketch pads along so they can draw what they see. The mansion is still open to the public, and you can download a virtual tour from Loyola’s website, too.
Elk Grove Village Historical Museum
Activities for young kids, youth, and teens are available at the Elk Grove Village Historical Museum all year, including the Pirates Cove Theme Park for little kids we mentioned earlier. The museum is open all year, and offers a captivating view of Elk Grove’s history. Outdoor activities include skating, a water park, sledding, golf, and more. Indoors, there are dance and aquatics facilities that host a wide range of programs and even an onsite preschool.
Evanston Art Center
Catering to ages 4 and up, the Evanston Art Center offers a host of classes as well as exhibitions of artists, including several from the local area. Camps, free film screenings, and art parties are part of the fun here, too.
Price: Free (exhibits and film screenings)-$$$ (classes, camps, and art seminars)
Lake County Discovery Museum
The Lake County Discovery Museum is loaded with history, art, and adventure. Exhibits range from hands-on and interactive experiences for younger kids to the Vortex Roller Coaster Theater and world’s largest public collection of postcards. Outside, there are hiking, biking, and horse trails, as well as playgrounds, picnic shelters, and fishing ponds.
Tip: Get a discount on admission when you buy your tickets on the museum’s website.
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
This museum is home to a massive collection of pottery and artifacts from Native American and paleo-Indian cultures across the United States. A fun place for the whole family, kids can explore inside a real wigwam, make-and-take craft activities, and activity tables. Most of the fun takes place early in the day, so get there as early as possible. Ages 4 and up will love it.
Skokie Heritage Museum
Ever been to a log cabin? You can bring the kids to visit one here. Built in 1847, it’s opened on visitor request and offers a unique peek into Skokie heritage. The nearby historic engine house is where most of the museum’s activities take place today, and offers an equally impressive view into the past. Preschoolers and teens might find it too boring, but younger grade-schoolers will enjoy playing with toys from the past and learning about local history.
Get Curious About Food on Local Chicago Farms and Orchards
In the area surrounding Chicago, there are plenty of local farms and orchards to explore. Help your kids learn about where their food comes from wile picking pumpkins, apples, corn, and other produce, and enjoying a lots of fun activities. From hayrides to a World War 2 museum, there’s more to area farms than you might expect!
For insurance reasons, the majority of Chicago area farms won’t let you bring your pets along. Leave your four-footed companions at home to avoid making a long trip home instead of spending a fun day on the farm.
Perfect for all ages, the Wagner Farm is a working farm with an onsite museum, as well as pigs, chickens, horses, cows, and more. Pick pumpkins, choose farm-ripened apples to take home, or engage in any number of interactive activities with the kids.
Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm
Only open for a few months each year, Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm is the perfect fall attraction. There are rides, pumpkins to take home and carve, a play village, and dozens of other fun activities that make getting ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving a lot of fun.
Petting zoo, hay rides, corn maze, pony rides, pumpkin patch…if it’s a kid-friendly farm activity, you’re likely to find it on Didier Farms. While the kids go wild and have fun, the adults can take advantage of the great farmer’s market prices on fresh produce. When everyone’s worn out, grab a few of the apple donuts. Rumor says they’re delicious.
Goebbert’s Pumpkin Farm
In 1927, Jim Goebbert opened this iconic area farm, down the road from the original Goebbert family farm. Today, he and his wife have retired and their sons run the operations here and at the newer South Barrington location. They offer a mix of more than 19 activities for all ages, as well as you-pick produce, a farmer’s market, and a petting zoo with a giraffe. The Fall Festival here is an unbeatable event, but it’s a great place to visit year-round, too.
Tip: Weekdays are usually a little cheaper and less crowded.
Located 37 miles from Chicago, Heinz Orchard is the closest orchard to the city. It’s a no-frills experience, but a real farm one. Bring strollers, wagons, and plenty of space for apples – you’ll be picking your own when this orchard is open, and bringing them home by the bushel.
Price: Free-$ (there’s no admission fee, but the orchard does charge for the amount of apples you pick to take home)
Apples, honey, homemade herbal teas – Homestead Orchard is a feast for the senses. The farm is starting to graft several heirloom varieties of apples, too. Some even date from the colonial period. Onsite, you’ll find an unexpected surprise, as well; there’s a room dedicated to World War 2 history.
Price: Free-$ (no admission fee, but you will pay for what you pick or consume at the orchard)
This all-ages farm offers seasonal items, from a corn maze and pumpkins in autumn to Christmas trees in winter. The pumpkin patch and hayrides are a hit in fall. The farm isn’t fancy, but it is fun.
Odyssey Fun Farm
The Odyssey Fun Farm offers a mix of wild and fun farm activities for kids of all ages, from inflatable play structures to corn cannons and corn and hay mazes. You can easily spend a full day here, and the only consequence will be tired kids. The only downside? This farm is only open for a few months each year.
Kuipers Family Farm
It’s an apple orchard, a pumpkin patch, a Christmas tree farm….and a whole lot of fall and winter fun. There are plenty of homemade goodies, like apple donuts and sweet popcorn, and in the warmer seasons there are tea parties, chili cook-offs, and biking events, among other reasons to come to the farm. A vintage feel, giant slides, and homemade honey make it an area must-see for fun on the farm.
Royal Oak Farm Orchard
Kids of all ages can have a great time at this Christian farm, where apple and pumpkin picking are the main attractions, but the free entertainment area comes in a close second. They close for a few months every year, but in summer and fall, this place is packed. The onsite restaurant serves delicious, fresh-from-the-farm food, and the farmer’s markets almost always offer delicious fare to take home.
Price: Free-$$ (pay for what you do, eat, or pick)
Kline Creek Farm
Part of the DuPage Forest Preserve District, Kline Creek Farm recreates the feel of a farm in the 1890s. Daily activities include canning, baking, sheep-shearing, and more. The Farmhands program caters to children ages 7-12, and gives them a chance to attend a camp that feels like a real farm and teaches the chores that children would have completed in the 1890s in a fun and exciting way. Every day from 10-4, there’s a lot going on at the farm for all ages, and there’s always something new for the little ones to learn.
Price: Free for daily activities, $$-$$$ (camps and educational programs)
Up for a trek the farm, but don’t feel like leaving the city? Check out the tours at City Farm. If your kids REALLY love digging in the dirt, they can get involved as volunteers on these urban farms, too. Perfect for ages 5 and up.
Price: $ for tours, free to volunteer
Enjoy Outdoors Kid-friendly Activities in Chicago
Chicago has more to do outdoors than you might realize. From snowshoeing and kayaking to sledding and hanging out on Navy Pier, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a great time with the kids outside in the Windy City.
Naperville Beach Park & River Walk
The crown jewel of Naperville, the Beach Park and River Walk offer outdoor activities, great views, and a lot of fun for all ages. 1.75 miles of beautiful scenery, fountains, bridges, and outdoor art are here for your enjoyment, free of charge.
One of the most popular places in Chi-Town for residents and visitors, chances are high that you’ve been to Navy Pier a few times. Don’t discard it when you’re looking for ways to keep the little ones active. There’s plenty to do here, and as often as you may visit, there’s always something new to see.
Price: Free-$$$, depending on what you choose to do while here
One of the most famous public parks in the United States, Millenium Park offers a range of activities and sights. The landscape design is stunningly beautiful, even in winter. Activities change by the season, so check out the events calendar before heading to the park.
Price: Free-$$, based on what you choose to do
Sprawling over 319 acres in the Loop, Grant Park is one of Chicago’s largest inner city parks and is home to Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, and the the Art Institute of Chicago, among other attractions. It’s a place you could visit daily forever and never run out of attractions to see or new activities to do.
This artsy neighborhood is a fun place to walk with the family, and offers plenty of boutiques and unique shops to catch the attention of even the most difficult-to-please teens or preteens. The hipster vibe is unmistakable, and there are also a few small parks in the area. People-watching is fun here, too.
360 Chicago (John Hancock Observatory Deck)
Located on the Magnificent Mile, 360 Chicago offers a unique view of the city – from 94 stories high. Sunset is the perfect time to watch the city change as the sunlight fades and the city lights begin to shine. A perfect outing for budding artists and photographers, it’s also a fun, awe-inspiring experience for little kids.
Bobby’s Tike Hike
If your kids can bike, they can go on this fun tour of our city. Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the stops on the route, and kids can win prizes for answering trivia questions along the bike ride. It’s a two-hour ride, trip, so make sure you bring a snack or two along for the ride.
Tip: Buy your tickets online to nab a discount off the in-person purchase price.
Kidical Mass Family Bike Rides
Family bike rides for 2-4 miles in a neighborhood near you – and if you can’t find one, you can get involved with Kidical Mass and organize one. This volunteer-based national organization focuses on making biking fun for kids of all ages, from peddlers to the ones who accompany you in trail-a-rides or back-of-bike boosters. Dress fun, and get ready to have a blast.
Maggie Daley Park
Set in the heart of Chicago, Maggie Daley Park is newly-renovated and full of adventure. From climbing facilities to a massive skating ribbon, there’s no shortage of things to try. The park is beautifully landscaped, too. It’s great for all ages, and while you can hang out here for free, it’s also a good idea to bring spending cash with you.
27 acres of wetlands and urban fishing make Palmisano Park a fun place to visit. The park also offers a phenomenal view of Chicago. In winter, it’s a great place to go sledding. Summer offers fishing in the pond and the chance to just lounge and enjoy the sights. Great for all ages – just add outdoor sports equipment, and you’re set for fun.
Skokie Lagoons Kayaking
The Skokie Lagoons are one of the area’s most popular water-based attractions. They offer excellent boating and fishing opportunities, and when you combine the peaceful scenery with the fun of kayaking, you’ve got the perfect recipe for an outing with teens and preteens. Several private companies provide kayak rentals in the area.
Storybrook Trail in Little Bear Garden at Gallery Park
Perfect for preschoolers, Storybrook Trail shares a heartwarming story on different plaques in the park. Kids will eagerly run from one ‘page’ to the next, eager to find out how the story evolves. There’s an onsite playground and plenty of space to run around, too.
Put Their Creativity to the Test with Chi-Town Art Activities for Kids
Chicagoland has plenty of artists, and plenty of places to help your little ones practice their own art skills. From throwing pottery to painting on canvas, making jewelry, or scrapbooking, you’re sure to find a place they’ll love on the list below.
Ages 4 and up can learn to sculpt or throw pottery on the wheel. Keep an eye on the studio’s calendar for open days and special bargains, too. There aren’t drop in sessions every day, and when the studio is open, it fills up fast.
Tip: Canvas painting days are new here. Don’t miss them.
Color Me Mine
This national chain of paint-your-own ceramics and pottery is a fun place for any kid old enough to not break their craft. You’ll find a wide selection of ceramic figures to choose from, including seasonal items and the occasional licensed character (think Mickey Mouse). Each location is a little different, so call in advance.
Tip: If your kids love Color Me Mine, look into loyalty programs and join their email list – not every location will offer these, but the ones that do have some great offers.
The CRE8 Workshop offers help and instruction in a wide range of artistic, scrapbooking, jewelry making, and craft-making methods. There are tons of tools on site, and even offer extra help for kids who need to complete an art activity for school. It’s not designed for little children, but the workshop is a great place to bring older children, preteens, and teens.
The Painted Penguin
If you’re in the mood to paint, but you aren’t sure what, head to The Painted Penguin. Children and adults can express their creativity on canvas or ceramic at this fun and entertaining spot. Got a dinosaur lover in your group? Check out the archeological and paleontological digs. Grab a cool drink and a snack in the Cooler Café while you’re at it. For jewelry lovers, you can you’re your own jewelry on site, too. Perfect for artists of any age or interest.
Thrown Elements Pottery
Thrown Elements is open to all ages and skill levels. This clay studio offers classes, but also hosts drop-in sessions so you can paint a piece of pottery or work with clay to get a feel for what it’s all about.
Artist @ Heart
The ultimate make-and-take art experience, Artist @ Heart offers paint-your own or make your own ceramics, painting, mosaics, and more. For little ones with a desire to get serious about art, there are art classes for kids and tots, and even a camp. All ages are welcome, as long as they’re interested in making something special.