Chicago is an expansive city with so many awesome things to keep children of all ages occupied and happy for hours on end. The city is designed for family fun and getaways, boasting a bevy of high-flying architecture, excellent parks, and interactive museums.
Getting around Chicago with kids is also easy and mostly fuss-free, thanks to an artery of walkways and robust public transport. You can explore the city’s heart for a bagful of classic kid-friendly activities or choose Chicago’s eclectic neighborhoods for something unique. There’s something for every kid to do and see, no matter your budget and preference.
To help you plan the perfect family day out in the Windy City, here’s a list of what Chicagoans bank on as the best activities for kids in Chicago.
What makes Chicago such a great city for kids?
The Windy City is essentially tailor-made for kids and fun family outings. From small kiddos to teens, there’s something for every child in Chicago – without the supersized cost tag or standoffish attitude that makes some comparable cities seem like no-go zones for tiny visitors.
There are so many things happening in the city that your kids will love. Some of the best activities for kids in Chicago include tours, trolleys, shows, restaurants, parks, shops, and museums. Best of all, nearly all of them are centrally positioned and located so close that you will need little to no transportation. You don’t need to be street smart, although it might help.
Chicago is used to kids and all their shenanigans. No one (well, only a few people) will roll their eyes when tots throw tantrums or spill something. Chicagoans are cool like that.
Exploring Chicago as a family won’t break the bank, either. Public buses and the L train offer free rides to kids aged seven and under. You can expect to pay a discounted fare on trains and public buses for children ages 7 to 11. Of course, the city is also served by a chain of shuttle services, taxi/limo companies, and rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber.
There are multiple ways to discover the city as a family, too. You can get a bird’s-eye view at one of the city’s high-flying skyscrapers with viewing alcoves and glass decks. A fun boat ride on a river tour can help teens and tweens enjoy a ground-up view of the city skyline. Sightseeing buses and water taxis are also aplenty, and they serve up breathtaking lakefront scenery, with stops at some of Chicago’s crown jewels like the Museum Campus and Navy Pier.
And that’s only scratching the surface. There are tons of other plausible reasons why Chicago is such an awesome city for kids, including:
- It has some of the best healthcare providers and state-of-the-art hospitals, including the spanking new Lurie Children’s Hospital
- Sports is at the heart of everything we have come to love and adore about Chicago. If your child has a thing for sports, be sure to check out sporting hubs like the Wrigley Field and the United Center.
- Food in the city is diverse and to die for. How about deep-dish pizza, the classic Chicago-style hot dog, or some tasty caramel crisp popcorn?
- There’s no shortage of kid-friendly water fun – Talk about spitting fountains, splash pads, and massive pools!
- Chicago neighborhoods offer a basket of diversity, culture, and much more.
- Most neighborhoods in the city are fairly safe, with well-lit streets
- The tropical-esque beaches – Need we say more?
Why are activities important for kids?
Kids need to stay active, especially when school is closed, to promote healthy development and growth. But the best activities for kids in Chicago have many more benefits than you think. Here are the top reasons why activities are important for children of all ages:
– Physical activity is important for kids’ health and wellbeing
Activities encouraging kids to move – reach, stretch, bend – help promote and reinforce flexibility. Moreover, being flexible allows kids to stay healthy and participate in day-to-day activities without restriction or pain from joints and muscles.
More than that, having good flexibility reduces the risk of injury, promotes relaxation, and minimizes muscle soreness & stiffness. Besides, being flexible through activities promotes good posture, not to mention the role it plays in sports.
– Activities foster understanding
It’s crucial to support your little ones in understanding the world around them. Great activities give your child the tools and opportunity to learn, grow, and gain a better understanding. If done right, they can also expose your children to people, flora, and fauna, showing them how to respond and act to various objects in their surroundings.
Some activities like sightseeing allow kids to explore and investigate their environment in a safe and fun way. With your encouragement and support, these activities can help children gain the courage and the confidence they require to learn, grow, and succeed in life.
– Activities promote creativity
If you’re looking to raise a child who will become the next Michelangelo, your best bet is to introduce them to lots of activities. Doing so will help your child emotionally, socially, and developmentally. This is especially true if the activity is artsy, boosting your youngster’s problem-solving ability and analysis in many ways.
Creativity isn’t the end-all, be-all of activities, though. When children feel great while participating in activities, they help boost their self-esteem and confidence. And confident kids who can learn, create and make mistakes in a judgment-free environment find new ways of thinking that’ll serve them well for the rest of their lives.
– Academic success
Activities are important for children because they’re the best route to success in and out of class. In fact, numerous studies have shown a positive correlation between activities that promote physical activity or exercise and academic success. In one study focused on elementary school children, test scores and grades for active students improved by 13-48 percent.
– Activities provide relief from stress and anxiety
Between school work and social life, kids today can be highly stressed. Unfortunately, stress can affect your child’s mental health and well-being. Activities can provide a channel for kids to blow off steam and decompress away from their daily routines.
More important, perhaps, activities help children to have fun and quench any stress they might be facing. Playing, sightseeing, or being with other kids outside the class can be quite enjoyable. After all, most activities have a comfortable and relaxed environment.
– Activities teach kids respect and teamwork
Activities that involve interaction between children help your kids learn to work in a team. Some activities need kids to work as a team to accomplish a shared goal. In group activities like dance, sports, etc., more focus is on the goals of the team rather than on the individuals.
– Learning new responsibilities
Life is very different for kids when they’re out there. And that’s part of the magic of checking out the best activities for kids in Chicago. Exploring the city forces your little ones to break away from their cocoons and helps them accept new roles through skill development and decision-making.
Throughout your discovery of Chicago, your kids can embrace new roles, such as choosing where to eat, finding fascinating places to see, and navigating the map. These are the kind of life skills that we take for granted, yet will stay with your children as they grow up.
– Strengthens bonds and relationships
Exploring new places and fun things with kids has a way of strengthening bonds. It doesn’t matter if you’re exploring the city as an entire family or just you and the kiddos. These activities can strengthen bonds between siblings, bonds between parents and children, and even bonds between you and your spouse.
For instance, teaching your daughter to be brave through rock climbing is magical and can enhance that father-daughter or mom-daughter bond. Activities offer the perfect opportunity for you as the whole gang to make memories.
What do Chicago parents look for in fun places for kids?
Taking your kids to fun places is an amazing idea, but it also can be challenging for some parents. So, how do you get started? Here are some of the most important factors that Chicago parents consider when searching for fun places for their children:
- Your kids’ interests – Try not to force them to go somewhere just because you love it. There’s no point if they won’t find the place fun. So ensure you choose from a list of places that speak to your children’s interests and likes.
- Privacy – You certainly want your little ones at home. The last thing you want is for your kids to feel that their privacy is threatened.
- Your budget – Most of the best activities for kids in Chicago are either free or wallet-friendly. However, it would help if you considered places within your budget. You’ll need to do some due diligence and research on these costs.
- Weather – The season will do the most talking when choosing the right place to visit with your kids. If it’s winter, you’d be better off visiting a place with lots of fun indoor activities. For spring and summer, your kids will most definitely prefer outdoor activities.
- Special deals – Popular kid-friendly experiences in Chicago offer great discounts and deals throughout the year. These could make an otherwise pricey family outing much more affordable.
Of course, it all depends on the person. Thankfully, Chicago locals have plenty of places to choose from.