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Whether you’re into historical tours, architectural tours, restaurant hopping, museums, parks and zoos, Chicago is filled with loads of reasons for you to visit and enjoy. While some known attractions and spots need admission fees, you can still enjoy Chicago with the kids while not spending too much. Here are some great ideas to do with your family in Chicago to get you started.
1. Splash Around in Millennium Park
Millennium Park is where you find the famous Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean”. You can view the city from different angles as well as maybe some distorted images of your faces. Taking photos at this famous landmark is definitely a must-do when you’re in Chicago.
Another eye-catching public art here is the Crown Fountain, which features two interactive video towers with digital faces that spout water on the surrounding splash pool. The park is also host to several free events such as music concerts and film screenings in the summer. The winter season is just as enticing as the McCormick Tribune Plaza becomes a free ice skating rink for those who bring their skates.
2. Have a local show you around the city
The Chicago Greeter program pairs you with volunteer residents to show you around the city. They can show you around Chicago through personalized guided tours based on your family’s preferences from architecture to food to public art and more. You can either book ahead for a 2-hour tour or do a walk-in for an hour tour with an Instagreeter.
Here’s a 2-day itinerary shared by a Chicago local too if you are looking to spend the weekend in Chicago.
3. Bring the kids and kids-at-heart to Maggie Daley Park
Just across the BP Pedestrian Bridge from Millennium Park is a stainless-steel winding walkway designed by Architect Frank Gehry. This beautifully redesigned 20-acre park is an amazing space for a number of family-friendly events throughout the year. The Play Garden in Maggie Daley Park offers 3 acres of fun for children under 12 years of age to explore. For those with older children, other amenities are available such as the climbing wall, skating park, mini golf, and tennis courts. Rental equipment for these activities are available.
4. Free tour of a Money Museum
If you ever wondered what a million dollars look like, you are in luck. The Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum offers a free guided tour of their facility. While wishing that this money is in your bank account instead, there are plenty of information here about the history of the United States dollar. You can play simulation games as well like saving the economy. The Money Museum is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, except on bank holidays. You should plan about 45 minutes for a self-guided visit.
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5. See Sue
Sue is the largest and most complete T-rex fossil in the world. Other than that, the Field Museum in Chicago houses several other interesting exhibits and artifacts that will surely be awesome for the family to see. Dinosaurs not enough? How about mummies from Egypt and Peru?
6. Spark creativity with Science
The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest science museums in the world. 400,000 square feet of interactive fun exists in this facility in Chicago. From aviation to tornadoes and flight simulators, people of all ages will find their day filled with curiosity and joy. You can even tour a real submarine!
7. Explore and eat at Navy Pier
Navy Pier is full of reasons to justify it being one of Midwest USA’s top destinations. Admission and some attractions are free while some features such as the Centennial Wheel requires a fee to enjoy. With heaps of shops, appetizing restaurants, amusing public events, and exciting boat tours to choose from, Navy Pier is also host to the Chicago Children Museum. The museum usually charges an admission fee but is open to all during Thursday evenings.
8. Hello, Fishies
The Shedd Aquarium showcases the diverse species of marine animals from across the world. From small to large fishes and even penguins, the family will enjoy learning about these animals from different forms of habitat.
It is also more than a destination as Shedd Aquarium has been in partnership with several alliances to help preserve, rescue and rehabilitate animals, not just marine life.
9. You can never go wrong with a zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States and one of the few that are still free for 365 days a year. Meet several animals from diverse climates with the family. They do not charge admission, you can show support by donating to one of the largest zoo-based animal and wildlife conservation and science programs in the USA.
10. See Chicago from Way Up
Skydeck Chicago is located in Willis Tower, Chicago’s tallest tower. It has the infamous ledge or glass box that lets you stand and look down from the 103rd floor of the building.
360 Chicago is located in the iconic John Hancock Building. They have added a thrilling experience called Tilt for those who dare to stand on a moving platform which “tilts” you face down to the street from the 94th floor.
11. Appreciate the Arts
For a much-relaxed activity with the family, see beautiful art creations from renowned artists from around the world at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Art Institute of Chicago is located in the city’s Grant Park. It is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. It is the second-largest art museum in the country, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
You would like to enter from its famous western entrance on Michigan Avenue where you can find the doors guarded by 2 bronze lions that are frequently dressed according to the season. With iconic works like Van Gogh’s self-portrait, Grant Wood’s American Gothic or Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, the museum is a favorite destination for tourists and residents alike in Chicago. It can easily eat up the entire day as well!
Chicago is a beautiful city to explore with several things to do even if they are for free. You can also see more of Chicago’s attractions with discounts and VIP privileges with the Go Chicago Card, CityPASS or Viator.
Where to Stay in Chicago
What are your favorite things to do in Chicago? Comment below.