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Things to do with kids in Chicago

If you are planning a trip to Chicago, don’t miss out on these things to do with kids while you are in Chicago. 

 I included free things, cheap things, and the things you don’t want to miss! 

Free Things to Do With Kids in Chicago

Finding free things to do with kids is the easiest way to stretch your vacation budget. And the Windy City has plenty of free things to keep you busy all day. 

A Walk along the Riverwalk 

Kids have lots of energy, and a great way to help them work through that energy is to take a walk along the Riverwalk. Keep your eyes open for artwork as you walk.  If you get hungry on your stroll, there are also nearby restaurants or bring a picnic and eat beside the river. 

Lincoln Park Zoo

Zoos are a great way for children to get an up-close and personal experience with animals all over the world.  It’s a great place to visit to inspire your child to be a future conservationist. 

Lincoln Park Zoo covers 35 acres and is one of the few free zoos still available in the US.  Most visitors spend 2 to 3 hours going through the exhibits, but if you have an animal lover, plan to have lunch nearby so you can spend as much time as they want to see all the exhibits. 

Learn more at  

Garfield Park Conservatory 

Whether you are visiting Chicago or live there, Garfield Park Conservatory is something you want to check out.  

There are lessons and activities like scavenger hunts, lesson plans, and weekly activities. 

Check out all the free printables and lesson plans on their website

Museums Free Days in Chicago 

Things to do with Kids in Chicago

I am all about the free museum days, they tend to be a little bit busier, but they are a great way to stretch your vacation budget. 

Some museums that offer free days include the Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago History Museum, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, and many others.

Art Institue of Chicago is always free for children under the age of 18 and is also free for active-duty military, underprivileged families, and Illinois educators. 

Museum of Contemporary Art is always free for kids under 18, visitors with disabilities,  and many public service members. 

Another always free museum is the National Museum of Mexican Art. 

Cloud Gate

Things to do with Kids in Chicago cloud gate

Also known as The Bean, Cloud Gate is a public work of art and one of the largest pieces of permanent outdoor art globally. 

You can find this exciting piece of art in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago.  The reflective surface of the piece reflects the Chicago skyline, along with people moving about the park.  It was inspired by liquid mercury and kind of looks like an enormous drop of liquid metal. 

Maggie Daley Park 

Things to do with Kids in Chicago Maggie Daley park

If you are looking for a place to help your kids get their wiggles out, you can’t beat the Maggie Daley Park that is right in the middle of the Loop. 

This 20-acre park has so much to offer, from a skating ribbon (so don’t forget your skates or rent a pair there) to themed splash pads, bridges, a climbing wall, and even miniature golf. Bring a picnic lunch, and you won’t even have to leave the park for snacks. 

Cheap things to do with kids in Chicago

If you are looking to spend a little money but not blow your whole budget, this list of cheap things to do with kids in Chicago is the list you are looking for. 

Kohl Children’s Museum

Children’s Museums are on my must-do lists any time we travel. They are always so different. Kohl Children’s Museum is beautiful. 

This museum is really geared for children under the age of about 8. So if you have older children, they may not enjoy it as much, but you might be surprised. There is a Whole Foods pretend store, a water area (bring a change of clothes!), and if you get hungry, there is a cafe in the museum. 

Chicago Botanic Gardens

Things to do with Kids in Chicago Kohl Museum

While admission is free to the gardens, you do need to pay for parking. So this moves into the cheap things to do with kids. The Gardens cover 385 acres.  

This is an excellent place for a nature walk. Make sure to bring a little nature journal and some pencils so your child can document all the bugs and flowers they see.  You can also give them an old digital camera or old phone to take photos with as they walk around. 

Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier + More

Navy Pier offers many attractions, but you can’t miss the 200- foot high Ferris Wheel called the Centennial Wheel. The gondolas are completely enclosed, excellent for kids (and parents) who are not as brave in open gondolas.

While you are at Navy Pier, you can also check out Chicago Children’s Museum, with three floors of play.  (A genius way to get a cool break on a warm day!) 

Also, check out the fountains at Polk Bros Park.  There are more than 150 jets for some cool water fun. Bring bathing suits or a change of clothes. 

Another fun spot is the Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze that is 4,000 square feet of maze fun. 

Must-do things to do with kids in Chicago 

On top of all the cheap and free things on the list, I have compiled some things that I wouldn’t miss checking out before your vacation to the Windy City winds down. 

Shedd Aquarium

This made the list of free museums, but if you happen to visit on a day that isn’t free, it is a must-do.   This museum will make you say wow around every corner. Don’t miss the shark feeding tour and up-close fishy experience. 

There are fish and sea creatures from all around the world in the tanks. 

American Girl Place 

If your child has fallen in love with the American Girl line of dolls, then the American Girl Place is a can’t-miss for your family. 

This is a magical place for a morning or afternoon with your child. You can choose dolls and accessories or just window shop. You can even get your dolls’ ears pierced and hair done.  They even have afternoon tea.  

Chicago Children’s Theatre

This is the largest professional theatre company solely devoted to children. They have life-sized puppets and shows that cater to children; it is a great way to introduce the arts to your child. 

The staff is genuinely happy and excited to interact with children, and they offer a lot of things to do while you want for your play to begin. 

Chicago has so much to offer to families that you may have difficulty narrowing down what to on your vacation to Chicago. Of course, this list isn’t all-inclusive, but it’s a great round of some things you can do with your kids in Chicago. 

Travel articles on KiddyCharts

Here is some of the other travel related content that we have on KiddyCharts - we LOVE to get out and about with the kids.

There are even more ideas on the web, so take a look at those and get some inspiration too.

Travelling with kids tips from around the web

Today we have some helpful tips for you to travel with tips.

If you are after things to do with the kids, we’ve got loads of ideas there as well. We are also great for teachers too, so bookmark the page, and keep coming back for advice. For example, this article is excellent to help teach kids art; perhaps you have time in between trips?!?

Come back for more tips on travelling with kids,


Helen is a mum to two, social media consultant, and website editor; and this site is (we think) the only Social Enterprise parenting magazine! Since giving up being a business analyst when juggling travel, work and kids proved too complicated, she founded KiddyCharts so she could be with her kids, and use those grey cells at the same time. KiddyCharts has reach of over 1.1million across social and the site. The blog works with big family brands (including travel) to help promote their services, as well as offering free resources to parents of kids under 10. It gives 51%+ profits to Reverence for Life, who fund a number of important initiatives in Africa, including bringing running water and basic equipment to a school in Tanzania. Helen has worked as a digital marketing consultant (IDM qualified) with various organisations, including Channel Mum, Truprint, Talk to Mums, and Micro Scooters. She loves to be creative in the brand campaigns she works on. Get in touch TODAY!

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