There is no shortage of things to do in Chicago with kids to fill an impromptu weekend away or to plan an exciting summer vacation. Whether you have toddlers, school-aged children, or teenagers, this vibrant city offers engaging activities for everyone in your family. Explore well-known attractions, introduce children to the area’s famous deep dish pizza and Chicago dogs, and discover plenty of new things to do.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at our list of free parks and outdoor attractions. And, if the Windy City lives up to its name, there are also plenty of indoor museums and entertaining attractions to visit. The Wacker at Michigan Club Quarters Hotel in the heart of Chicago, or our hotel in the nearby Central Loop, are both perfect hubs to enjoy a tailor-made vacation and see everything Chi-town has to offer during your stay.
When you visit Chicago with toddlers, you’ll find plenty of things to do to keep the littles busy and engaged. Most attractions are located just a short distance from our Wacker at Michigan CQ Hotel, so you won’t have to worry about a long ride that ends in a meltdown – and your comfortable hotel suite provides a cozy place for kids to rest after a fun-filled day.
The Chicago Children’s Museum is less than a mile from your stay at Club Quarters Hotel, Wacker at Michigan. It offers a selection of permanent exhibits designed for toddlers, babies, and preschoolers, with crawler play areas and interactive role-playing experiences. Children and adult admission is $19 each, and infants are free.
Take a 75-minute must-see guided tour to catch all the highlights of this fantastic, family-friendly aquarium. Shedd Aquarium features sea otters, penguins, alligators, and beluga whales, plus Great Lakes species exhibits. There are touch experiences, playtime areas, and lots of learning opportunities at this interactive aquarium. General admission varies; book in advance online or call (312) 939-2438 to get the best pricing.
This fascinating place is one of the best cheap things to do with toddlers and young kids in Chicago. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum includes play spaces designed for children under age 7, so your toddler and preschooler will find lots to explore throughout the 25 interactive areas. The museum is also home to many rotating exhibits and the mainstay butterfly haven—featuring 1,000 free-flying butterflies—is an interesting experience for all ages. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for kids ages 3 to 12, and toddlers are free.
Bring toddlers and small children to Kohl Children’s Museum for a full day of exploration and fun. The 15 permanent exhibits offer experiences for making music, role-playing, water play, building, and more. Special programs at Kohl Children’s Museum are included with your admission and feature themes from dog safety and art to technology and science, storytime, and other exciting educational activities. Tickets for children and adults are $19 each, and infants are free.
There are plenty of things to do with kids in Chicago that won’t cost you anything. The countless area parks and outdoor spaces are loaded with free and cheap entertainment any day of the week. Because Chicagoans don’t hibernate in the winter, most of these things to do are available in the summer sunshine and winter snow. Plus, our Chicago hotel is located downtown, so you can walk to many attractions without paying for cab fare or parking.
The admission at Navy Pier is free and this bustling area of Chicago provides lots of inexpensive things to do with kids. Take in views of Lake Michigan from the Wave Wall Staircase. Walk along Wellness Way, a 1.5-mile fitness track with checkpoints along the pier. Or, stop at Polk Bros Park to catch free live performances, splash in the water features, and lounge on the lawn areas.
Millennium Park is a well-known, free Chicago attraction and a top place to snap memorable vacation photos of your kids. Stroll the Lurie Garden, visit Chase Promenades to see “The Bean” on Grainger Plaza, and take a self-guided walking tour—there are tons of things to do throughout the park for adults and kids to enjoy. Pack your own food and snacks to spend the day at Millennium Park taking in Chicago—for free.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the area’s top things to do in Chicago with kids in any season, even in winter. This free wildlife attraction is open year-round and offers tons of self-guided tours and activity sessions. If you don’t know where to start, the Little Explorers Tour is a two-hour self-guided experience through the best exhibits for families with children.
Visiting this projected artwork is one of the best free things to do in Chicago at night. The Art on the Mart installations are more than two acres wide and boast contemporary art and culture in stunning, colorful projections. Find a great spot to watch the show from the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells and Lakes Street. The installations rotate throughout the year—check the AOTM website for the current showing schedule.
Chicago has no shortage of indoor places for kids to play. When the weather isn’t ideal for outdoor activities, you can easily find things to do indoors at museums and attractions for children. Watch for discounts and free admission days, so you can add some cheap entertainment to your Chicago vacation.
Museums are an awesome way to keep kids busy indoors, and luckily for you, Chicago is home to many of the best in the country. The Museum of Science + Industry features exhibits for all ages, including adults. Experience a coal mine, see works from influential artists, and go aboard a recreated historic submarine. Admission is $21.95 for adults, and $12.95 for children ages 3 to 11. Workshops and special events cost extra.
Chicago is home to two incredible observation decks: The Skydeck and the 360 Chicago Experience. Either will top the lists of older kids’ favorite things to do in Chicago. The Skydeck at Willis Tower offers views of the city from the third-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The glass box extends four feet out to look down from 1,353 feet in the air. Kids under 3 can visit for free, admission for ages 3 to 11 is $26, and $35 for adults.
The 360 Chicago Experience provides panoramic views of Chicago from 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile, and if you’re feeling adventurous, try Tilt, a thrill ride that gives you a downward facing view of it all. Admission starts at $29 for ages 12 and up, and costs $20 for kids.
Legoland Discovery Center in Chicago is known as the ultimate indoor playground and is a can’t-miss attraction for families with kids. The two-story attraction includes a replica of Chicago made from 1.5 million Lego bricks, build-your-own stations, virtual reality areas, and more. Tickets start at $24.99 per person and they’re available in advance online.
Peppa Pig World of Play provides two hours of playtime for kids ages 8 and younger. The 14 imaginative scenes from the animated series give kids lots to do and explore. A meet-and-greet with Peppa Pig is included with each ticket. Each child and adult combo admission is $32.99.
Bring the whole family to a Club Quarters Hotel in Chicago and pack your stay with enriching, entertaining, and educational experiences that are fun for all ages. Shop exclusive special offers for your vacation, and take advantage of the city’s variety of free and cheap things for kids to do indoors and out.
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