Downtown Chicago with Kids
The biggest city in the Midwest has a surprising number of kid-friendly attractions right downtown. For starters, there is so much green park space, lots of shade and the city is very stroller-friendly.
Navy Pier and its boardwalk is a wonderful, high-energy place to shop & eat, catch a boat tour, ride the ferris wheel, and best of all, it’s free! Visit the Chicago Children’s Museum while you’re there and experience the kid’s block party… a replica of a neighborhood block party – kid-sized.
Shedd Aquarium & Oceanarium is one of the best aquariums in the country. It has a Beluga whale exhibit, adorable otters, and a cool reef area with sharks. If you’re a family of 5 or more, check the family membership prices, it may be cheaper to buy the membership rather than 5 individual tickets.
Chicagoans are very proud of Sue the T-Rex in the Field Museum. Of course you’ll find many more wonderful surprises at this science and nature museum, but don’t miss Sue.
I love Millennium Park for many reasons. It’s home to “the Bean” the coolest outdoor sculpture my husband and I have ever seen. At the Crown Fountain, dozens of kids in swimsuits were splashing in the fountain puddles. Be sure to have yours wear water shoes, as it gets pretty slippery. Large, clean restrooms are a major plus. And, it’s also free! Love that!
The Sears Tower Skydeck offers an amazing view of the city. Older kids will appreciate it more than littles, but worth it, for sure.
If you have a daughter, you may already know there’s an American Girl Place here. Plan to have lunch, (make reservations as many weeks in advance as you can!) then get her picture on the cover of a souvenir American Girl Magazine at the Photo Studio.
Take ‘the el’ (elevated train) at least once. A subway ride is a memory that lasts if you don’t have one where you live.
When it comes time to eat, there’s 2 things you gotta try. 1. A Chicago-style hot dog. And 2. A Chicago-style pizza. For the hot dog, the local favorites are Superdawg Drive-in, and Portillos for Chicago Dog and Italian Beef. For pizza, the local favorites are Bella Bacino’s and “Lou’s” Lou Malnati’s Pizzaria. Joan, my Chicago-native neighbor prefers Portillos and Lou’s.
When looking for a place to stay, I’m once again recommending a Residence Inn: The Residence Inn Marriott Downtown. Residence Inns save you so much money on food by providing a full, hot breakfast in the lobby area every morning, kitchens in the room to store and reheat leftovers or cook meals from scratch, and a grocery service- often with no delivery charge. They also have many rooms with a separate bedroom, so if your child has an early bedtime or a nap, you don’t have to be so quiet.
A little insider tip: Buy City Pass for admission to: Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science & Industry, Adler Planetarium, & Hancock Observatory or Sears Tower Skydeck.