The dome shaped planetarium sits at the edge of Lake Michigan.
The Adler Planetarium is the first in the country and was built in 1930.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Get Ready for Endless Fun at These 8 Kid-Friendly Attractions in Chicago

Why the Windy City is Perfect for Families

When planning a family vacation, you want to make sure the destination has plenty of attractions that will keep your kids busy and enjoying themselves. Look no further than Chicago, without a doubt one of the best cities in the United States to visit with kids.

Book one of the best hotels in Chicago, figure out how you’re going to get there, and then embark on the most fun part of the trip planning process — figuring out what you’re going to do while there.

Visitors will find fabulous city parks, zoos, museums and a stunning skyline. With so much to do, your itinerary will be jam packed — to your dismay, as your kids will want to spend the whole day at each of these attractions.

Check out our picks of things to do in Chicago with kids and your entire family is sure to have a memorable trip.

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium is a public museum situated on the banks of Lake Michigan on the tip of Northerly Island. It is the first planetarium in the country and has been welcoming families, tourists and locals since 1930.

The planetarium has three full-size theaters that show a variety of space-related shows throughout the year. The museum also has a range of extensive exhibitions that include antique scientific instruments, documents and a number of exhibits related to astronomy and astrophysics.

If you’re looking for free things to do in Chicago, look out for free museum days at the Planetarium.

A tour boat motors down the Chicago River with sky rises in the background.Book a tour on the river for a great perspective of the Windy City.Photo Credit: Getty Images

See the City from the Water

While the typical tourist who visits the Windy City will see the sights from the back of a taxi or by walking the sidewalks, one of the best ways to see Chicago is from the river. A number of companies offer river or lake tours.

Book a Chicago architecture boat tour and hop aboard to experience stunning views of the iconic buildings that make up Chicago’s skyline. Many of the tours have guides aboard that give history of the sights.

Alternatively, you can book a dinner cruise to dine with a view. Each year the city dyes the Chicago River Green for St. Patrick’s Day and a few companies even offer exclusive St. Patrick’s Day cruises for a truly unique Chicago experience.

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An overhead shot of the museum, with nearby marina and boats docked.One of the most popular exhibits for kids is Sue the T. rex.Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Field Museum

The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. The museum features a very diverse collection of permanent exhibits. In addition they attract high-quality temporary exhibits and traveling shows.

One of the most popular exhibits for kids is Sue the T. rex, which also includes a 3D movie experience. There are a number of other dinosaur exhibits in interactive displays and landscapes.

Inside Ancient Egypt offers your kids a chance to see a re-created mummy tomb. Other exhibits that rank highly with kids include The Crown Family Play Lab, which offers tons of interactive fun, Underground Adventure, Pawnee Earth Lodge and McDonald’s Fossil Prep Lab.

A ferris wheel at the water's edge with many people milling about.The pier is a great place to sit and watch the boats come in.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Navy Pier

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago, Navy Pier juts out into Lake Michigan and is easily spotted by its iconic Ferris wheel in Pier Park. My daughter loved the views from the top of the Ferris wheel and was entertained for quite some time just watching boats from the pier.

For even more educational fun, the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier offers three floors of fun for kids of all ages.

A polar bear looks at the camera while underwater.The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest in North America.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is a free, 35-acre zoological park in Lincoln Park. The zoo is one of the oldest in North America and one of the only zoos that doesn’t charge an admission fee.

A wide variety of animals call the zoo home including polar bears, large cats, gorillas, penguins, monkeys and reptiles. The zoo is also home to a massive oak tree that dates all the way back to 1830, which was before the city of Chicago was founded.

Your kids will love watching all of the animals and parents will appreciate the relaxing environment and views of the skyline, making this one of the best family things to do in Chicago.

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Exterior of the aquarium, a white stone building with a pentagon tower at the top.The Shedd Aquarium contains more than 32,000 animals.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Shedd Aquarium

One of the world’s largest aquariums, the Shedd contains more than 32,000 animals representing more than 1,500 species of fish, snakes, amphibians, marine mammals, birds and insects. Several permanent exhibits include Caribbean Reef, Waters of the World, Amazon Rising, the Abbott Oceanarium and Wild Reef.

There is a 4D theater that offers a rotating 3D film with interactive elements such as bubbles, smells and more. An aquarium makes for one of the best things to do in Chicago with toddlers as it’s out of the tiring sun and filled with plenty of interesting things for them to look at.

Old stone tower rises up beside skyscrapers.The eight level shopping center is sure to keep you entertained for hours, especially because it contains the LEGO Store.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Shopping at Water Tower Place

Located on the Magnificent Mile near the historic Chicago Water Tower, Water Tower Place houses a massive shopping center development along with The Ritz-Carlton hotel, luxury condos and office space. The eight-level shopping center attracts many visitors due to its impressive size and large variety of shops.

With plenty of options for mom and dad, the kids won’t mind tagging along when shopping means stores like American Girl and The LEGO Store are on offer.

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a meal sits on a table overlooking the city at night

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A silver walkway through the trees with skyscrapers towering in the background.This is where you can take a selfie at the iconic bean sculpture.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Millennium Park

A visit to Chicago with family wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Millennium Park. Taking a selfie at the iconic Bean sculpture is a must. The large, shiny, bean-shaped sculpture is officially known as Cloud Gate, but locals and tourists alike know it best as “The Bean.”

Visitors of all ages love walking around all sides of the sculpture and seeing their reflection and reflections of the sky and surrounding buildings. The park also has an outdoor concert venue where many free events are held throughout the summer months.

Connected Maggie Daley Park offers a great playground for the youngest visitors and some fun climbing walls for teens and older kids. If it’s warm out, pack a towel and go for a splash in the Crown Fountain for a memorable end to your day at the park.

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