Chicago, America’s third-largest city, rests on 234 square miles of land and is home to nearly 3 million people. Yet, aside from it being called the windy city and supposedly hiding a giant metal bean, Chicago is more or less a mystery to most people. Very few even realize that this bustling metropolis has a fantastic slate of family-friendly attractions.
Whether the kids love theme parks or you’d rather chill on the beach, there’s something for everyone in Chicago. If you need more convincing, here are eight reasons why you should plan an escape to the city ASAP.
1. The Shedd Aquarium
You wouldn’t think a big city like Chicago would bring you closer to nature but, at the Shedd Aquarium, that’s exactly what it does. Discover the wonder of the underwater world at one of the biggest and most popular aquariums on earth. It’ll take anywhere between three to six hours to make your way through all the exhibits. Along the way, you’ll meet monkeys, frogs, lizards, sharks, and more.
2. Millennium Park
Yes, the giant Bean is real and it’s waiting for you in Millenium Park. The giant steel structure provides plenty of fun photo opportunities, but the park is also home to a fountain, flower garden, rock climbing park, pavilion and plaza full of restaurants. Outdoor art galleries, stunning architecture and about 20 million yearly visitors make this park the family-friendly attraction that it is. Check out the park’s website for information about upcoming events and attractions.
3. Professional Sports
Whether you and the kids are into baseball, basketball or another professional sport, you can probably catch a game in Chicago. The city is home to a variety of elite sports teams, including the White Sox, Cubs, Bulls and Blackhawks. Catch a fly ball at historic Wrigley Field, view Michael Jordan memorabilia at the United Center or head on over to Soldier Field to watch a Bears game. Wear jerseys, face paint and other game-day attire to pep each other up and make plenty of memories.
4. Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago has a vibrant art scene and is even home to a world-class art institute where you can view paintings by the likes of Monet and Grant Wood. Museum admission is free for kids 14 and under. Plus, there are a plethora of hands-on activities, games, puzzles and books available in the Vitale Family Room if the little ones tire of gazing at the art. Drop into the Artist’s Studio to create a family art project enjoy another fun workshop.
5. Indoor Skydiving
If you live in the Midwest, you only have a handful of indoor skydiving experiences to choose from, and many of them are in Chicago. Here, iFLY owns three different locations across the city where you can skydive in a vertical wind tube. If you’re already blown away — pun intended — it’s even cooler than it sounds. This surprisingly inclusive activity accommodates people of various sizes, abilities and ages, offering fun for the whole family.
6. Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower
Perhaps you’d rather keep both feet on the ground. Even so, your kids might have a hankering for heights, in which case you’ll have to take them to the Skydeck. This attraction lies at the top of Willis Tower, a 110-story high skyscraper that offers stunning views of the city. Step out onto the Ledge, a glass box that rests 1,353 feet above the ground, and take in the cityscape. Just try not to get vertigo looking down.
7. Navy Pier
Visiting in summer? Be sure to visit Navy Pier. This outdoor space is brimming with kid-friendly attractions, including a waterfront playground, mini-golf, bikes for rent, boat rides and a giant Ferris wheel. Twice a week, Navy Pier puts on a firework display with music. Eat your way along the pier and be sure to stop at the fudge and popcorn shops to stock up on snacks. Whenever you visit, you’re sure to glimpse amazing views of the city skyline, especially at sunset.
8. The Beach
Chicago is a waterfront city located on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Thus, it’s home to a number of beaches that offer swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, and volleyball. Montrose Beach is dog-friendly so you can easily bring your pooch, too. Rent bikes, jet skis, chairs and other equipment from vendors nearby and enjoy waterfront seating at many of the restaurants that line the street. Pack your own picnic to save money and skip the lines at busy eateries.
Planning a Trip to Chicago with Your Family
Planning a trip to Chicago with your family doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, visiting a big city is as simple or complicated as you make it. If you’re only there for the weekend, choose a few main attractions and leave the rest of the day to fate. Let your curiosity lead the way as you shop, eat and sightsee your way through the windy city. Perhaps you’re staying for a week or more. Then add a few more of the above experiences to your list.
Whatever you do, take lots of pictures and soak in the moment. If you focus on your family, you’ll all have fun and make memories to last a lifetime.