fun things to do with kids in chicago - family travel   Travel for Kids
united states
  | illinois


Chicago, the "Windy City," is also called the “Wild Onion” (the name Chicago comes from the Native American word shikaakwa), or “Second City,” the city rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1871. In Chicago, kids can go up Willis Tower, the tallest skyscraper in North America, check out dinosaurs and Impressionist paintings in the museums, soar on a giant ferris wheel or ride the elevated train in the Loop.
Chicago Photo Album
    Lakefront Parks - Art Institute of Chicago
    Navy Pier
    Magnificent Mile
    Lincoln Park
    The Loop
    Museum Campus - Field Museum
    Hyde Park
    On our blog "Tips for Chicago" – before you go and while you're there – best water play areas, museum-going, taking trains and buses, avoid long ticket lines for attractions in summer, and more.
    Ride the free trolleys – Chicago has four different free trolleys, with stops at places you’ll want to explore. The red, yellow and green trolleys go from the Willis Tower to the Field Museum, Water Tower and Navy Pier, daily in summer, weekends the rest of the year. The blue trolley goes in a loop from N. Michigan Ave. to Navy Pier, daily year round.
chicago model
  Chicago model – See the world's largest 3-D model of Chicago. Created from a very accurate digital map, all the buildings are constructed with a 3-D printer. It's easy to spot Willis Tower, towering over the other skyscrapers in downtown Chicago.
    The model is free, enter through the Chicago Architecture Foundation shop (224 S. Michigan Ave., across from the Art Institute of Chicago) into the atrium of the Railway Exchange Building.
    Street performers on Michigan Ave. – Just stroll up and down Michigan Ave., and there are all kinds of musicians - drummers drumming on yellow buckets, saxophone, tuba players, impromptu blues singers, and vendors making colorful balloon hats.
    Go to a baseball gameWrigley Field, an old-fashioned open air ball park, is a wonderful place to see a baseball game. Built in 1914 and the second oldest in America, the field hosts the Chicago Cubs baseball team. April through September, there are beind the scenes tours of this historic ball park.

Fun food


Chicago style hot dogs - load up your hot dogs with all the toppings, mustard, onion, relish, pickle, celery salt, sport pickle (ketchup is a special request). Chicago is also famous for its deep dish pizza, so sample pizza around the city. Caramel popcorn was practically invented in Chicago, kids will enjoy a bag full. For a dessert, there's Eli’s cheesecake.


Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) department store on State St. is a long standing family destination for lunch (chicken pot pie and desserts) in the Walnut Room. The Tiffany ceiling, chandeliers and dark wood paneling are a glimpse into a previous century, and in December, the Christmas tree.

family hotels chicago

Travel for Kids has so many fun things to do with kids in Chicago, but you'll need a fun place to stay.

Here's our own Travel for Kids hand-picked list of family hotels in Chicago, all styles and price ranges, in neighborhoods that are comfortable for families, and near to places you'll want to explore:

Chicago family hotels
travel tools chicago

Visiting the museums in Chicago? This pass has great discounts on the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago or Adler Planetarium, Museum of Science and Industry or 360 Chicago, plus SkyDeck. Savings for the whole family, and no waiting in ticket lines:

Chicago CityPass

Go City Chicago offers 1, 2, 3, or 5 day pass for discounts on Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, SkyDeck, bike rentals, lake cruises, and more. Also, customize the pass to select which attractions to see:

Go City Chicago
kids books chicago
Larry Gets Lost in Chicago childrens books  
Larry Gets Lost in Chicago
John Skewes, Michael Mullin

Take a trip around Chicago with Pete and his dog Larry. When Larry gets lost, he hops on the L train to Wrigely Field, goes to the top of the Willis Tower, meets a monster named Sue at the Field Museum, runs through Millenium Park, where he finds Pete, and they both get a soaking surprise. (Picture book)

Also fun board book for little ones: Larry Loves Chicago.



It's the 1920's, and Isabel Feeny dreams of being a journalist. When she discovers a mobster murdered in a nearby alleyway, she teams up with a famous crime reporter to solve the case. (Chapter book)


isabel feeney star reporter

The Great Fire started in a wooden barn, but spread rapidly in strong winds, creating a firestorm, iron bridges melted, even the ground and river burned! Read about the devastating events of October 8, 1871, plus history of firefighting and historic photos. (Chapter book)


Joan Hiatt Harlow

It's 1871. On the eve of the Great Fire, Poppy, a young orphan living in a bad neighborhood, becomes friends with Justin, whose family owns a fancy jewelry store. When Chicago goes up in flames, Poppy rescues the family jewels. (Chapter book)


chicago historical fiction fire kids Firestorm!
mr ferris and his wheel  
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
Kathryn Gibbs Davis, Gilbert Ford

In 1893 for Chicago's World Fair, Mr. George Ferris wanted to do something that would dazzle – he would build a gigantic wheel made of steel, powered by a steam engine, lit with eletric lights, spinning round and round. (Picture book)


Fair Weather
Richard Peck

At the turn of the 19th century, the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago is in full swing. The Beckett kids and Granddad are transformed by Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, Turkish tea, and a ride on the great Ferris wheel. Fabulous and fun read. (Chapter book)


Fair Weather chicago kids fiction
chicago kids sports baseball Oliver's Game  
Oliver's Game
Matt Tavares

It’s 1941, and a young teen gets a chance to bat for the Chicago Cubs, but his career is cut short. Years later, Oliver takes his grandson to his favorite place in the world, Wrigley Field. Beautifully illustrated. (Picture book)


The Wrigley Riddle (Ballpark Mysteries)
David A. Kelly, Mark Meyers

At historic Wrigley Field, ivy on the outfield wall is famous, but the ivy is disappearing. And what about the Wrigley Field treasure? Cousins Mike and Kate are trail to solve the mystery. (Easy reader)


Finding Langston  
Finding Langston
Lesa Cline-Ransome

It's 1946, eleven year old Langston and his dad move from rural Alabama to Chicago. Amidst big city noise and loneliness, Langston takes refuge in the Chicago public library, open to everyone, and discovers his namesake, the famous black poet Langston Hughes. This is a gem! (Chapter book)


The Wright 3
Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist

The Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright is about to be torn down, but there’s strange goings on in the house. Three friends search for ghosts, discover a glass man, and fight to save the house. A super Chicago mystery adventure! (Chapter book)


The Wright 3 kids books chicago
kids adventure chicago The Sixty Eight Rooms  
The Sixty-Eight Rooms
Marianne Malone, Greg Call

While visiting the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, Ruthie and Jack discover a magic talisman that allows them to shrink, small enough to step into all the miniature rooms. (Chapter book)

And don't miss their next adventures in the miniature rooms: Stealing Magic and The Pirate's Coin.


When Sue Found Sue
Toni Buzzeo, Diana Sudyka

Before you see Sue, a gigantic Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur at the Field Museum, read about Sue Henrickson was curious about everything, and good at finding things. One day on a dinosaur dig in South Dakota, Sue was curious about a tall rock cliff, and discovered a T. rex. skeleton! (Picture book)


Chicago History for Kids  

Illustrated history of Chicago over centuries – ecology and important events, explorers, Native Americans, politicians, immigrants, musicians, gangsters, athletes, plus 21 activities, build a model ferris wheel, make a stained glass window, recipes for caramel corn and Chicago-style hot dogs, write a blues song, and more. Good for older kids. (Chapter book)


Chicago Monsters
Carine Laforest, Lucile Danis Drouot

Visit Chicago's famous landmarks – Cloud Gate, Navy Pier, Crown Fountain, Lincoln Park Zoo, Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, and find little monsters hiding on each page. Fun for younger kids. (Picture book)


C is for Chicago
Maria Kernahan, Michael Schafbuch

Delightful look at Chicago, with colorful vibrant collages, from art and parks to sports teams, food, museums, buildings, holidays and music. (Picture book)


(More children's books on other Chicago pages)
twitterinstgramvimeo travelforkids