The Field Musuem
Dig for dino bones and learn about natural history through play and activities. Walk through the Evolving Planet exhibit to learn about the history of life from tiny fossils to an exhibition hall filled with life-size dinos. Grab lunch at The Field Bistro or Explorer Cafe. The museum is easy to navigate with strollers, even on crowded days, and offers ample parking, which costs $19 for the first four hours and $22 after.
Adler has something to interest everyone in your family, from the new Planet Nine sky show to the Mission Moon exhibition. And we haven't found a kid yet that doesn't like looking through telescopes. Before you visit, keep in mind that you'll pay for parking and admission--including extra for sky shows--and, as with any of the big Chicago museums, grabbing lunch there doesn't come cheap. If you are trying to stick to a budget, pack your lunches and pay a nominal fee to put everything in a locker until you're ready to eat.
We've always loved the Shedd Aquarium. Nothing beats the Wild Reef exhibit that gives you a diver’s-eye view of sharks, stingrays and every imaginable kind of sea life. The Abbott Oceanarium brings a bit of showtime with its aquatic shows and young kids can get their hands wet in the touch tank and other interactive exhibits in the Polar Play Zone area. The Shedd is easy to navigate with a stroller and there are three fun options on-site for lunch.
Musuem of Science and Industry
For all those parents who barely made it through high school science classes, The Museum of Science and Industry proves that learning about science can actually be fun. Young kids will enjoy watching baby chicks hatch, climbing on farm equipment and playing in The Idea Factory. And older kids (and parents) can learn about the human body at the ‘You! The Experience’ exhibit, have fun with Legos at ‘Brick by Brick’ and more. The museum has attached parking and is easily navigated with strollers.
Is it weird to let your kids play in some giant-headed guy's spit? Not in Chicago, where Crown Fountain at Millennium Park is a top destination on hot summer days. While you're in the area, be sure to visit The Bean, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Lurie Garden and Maggie Daley Park. Millennium Park is easy to get to via public transportation, or park in one of the nearby parking garages (convenient but pricey).
This zoo just keeps getting better and better as the years go on. Get up close and personal with creatures big and small, from primates in Tropic World (no strollers allowed, so be prepared to park and carry) and polar bears at Great Bear Wilderness, to parakeets at Hamill Family Wild Encounters and butterflies. Paid parking is available on-site and the zoo has numerous spots to purchase lunch or snacks. Bring a stroller, or rent one--the zoo is quite large, so be prepared for lots of walking.
Lincoln Park Zoo
The best thing to love about Lincoln Park Zoo--other than all the amazing animals, of course--is the fact that it's one of the few remaining free zoos in the country. Don’t miss the old standbys: The Farm-in-the-Zoo and the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo. Bring cash so kids can ride the carousel or the zoo's train, which both cost a nominal fee. Parking is nearby, but expensive ($30 for a 5-hour visit) and it’s a good idea to bring a stroller or wagon--the zoo is large for little feet.
John Hancock Center
Get great views of Lake Michigan and Chicago! On clear days you can even see our neighboring states. If you're brave, venture to the 360 Chicago Observation Deck--94 floors up--and try out TILT, a one-of-a-kind experience where you are tilted out at a 30 degree angle over Michigan Avenue. Elevators get crowded during peak times so try visiting before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m. for the smallest crowds. Parking is located in the same building.