How to See Chicago With Kids

Chicago sometimes seems to have been designed with kids in mind. There are many places to play and things to do, from building sand castles at one of the lakefront's many beaches to playing 18-hole minigolf at Navy Pier in summer. Here are some suggestions for ways to show kids the sights.


Several area museums are specifically designed for kids. At the Chicago Children's Museum, three floors of exhibits cast off with a play structure in the shape of a schooner, where kids can walk the gangplank and slide down to the lower level, and make a splash with a water playground, featuring a scaled-down river and a waterwheel.

Also at Navy Pier you'll find a Ferris wheel and Viennese swings (the kind that go around in a circle like a merry-go-round). In summer, crowds of kids make the most of Pier Park's 18-hole minigolf course, musical carousel, and remote-control boats.

Many other Chicago museums are also kid-friendly, especially the butterfly haven and the animal habitat exhibit with its climbable tree house at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the replica coal mine and hands-on Idea Factory at the Museum of Science and Industry, the dinosaur exhibits at the Field Museum, and the sharks and dolphins at the John G. Shedd Aquarium.

Parks, Zoos, and Outside Activities

Chicago's neighborhoods are dotted with area play lots that have playground equipment as well as several ice-skating rinks for winter months. On scorching days, visit the 63rd Street Beach House, at 63rd Street and Lake Shore Drive in Woodlawn. The interactive spiral fountain in the courtyard jumps and splashes, leaving kids giggling and jumping. The North Park Village Nature Center on the Far Northwest Side (on Pulaski Road north of Bryn Mawr Avenue) is a wilderness oasis, serving up 46 acres of trails and a kid-oriented Nature Center with hands-on activities and fun educational programs. Deer sightings are common here.

Millennium Park has a 16,000-square-foot ice-skating rink. Skaters have an unparalleled view of downtown as they whiz around the ice.

For more structured fun, there are two zoos: the free Lincoln Park Zoo and the large, suburban Brookfield Zoo, which has surprising exhibits such as a wall of pulsing jellyfish.

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