Downtown Chicago Family Guide

You can find plenty of things to do with kids at these restaurants, attractions and more.

Whether you live in South Shore or Rogers Park or far out in the suburbs, you probably have visited downtown at least once while living in Chicagoland. What’s not to love? You can get up close to the amazing skyline along Lake Michigan, visit your favorite local attractions and grab a bucket of CaramelCrisp at Garrett Popcorn Shops.

Downtown Chicago can feel like it’s packed with tourists at times, but for locals, seeing the sights can make a great day trip for the family. Tip: Hop on a train to avoid parking, too. Metra riders ages 11 and under can ride free (up to three kids with each adult). CTA also offers free fare for kids ages 7 and under.

Once you make it downtown, you’ll find plenty of things to do with your kids. Check out our family guide to Downtown Chicago to plan out your day. Below, you’ll find shops, restaurants, museums and more.

Eat

JoJo’s Shake Bar

These outrageous milkshakes will blow your kids’ minds! The Biggie Shakes ($14) at JoJo’s Shake Bar come with amazing toppings like a gold-sprinkled marshmallow, a sugar cookie or a chocolate-covered banana.

Eataly

Walk around this Italian marketplace to find fresh bread, pasta sauce and other delicious food. You can also stop by the restaurant, Osteria di Eataly, to enjoy Napoli-style pizza and pasta. Save room for dessert-to-go from the pastry bar with all the Italian desserts.

Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe

Downtown Chicago is packed with so many breakfast places! Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe makes the top of our list. You can’t go wrong with any of the pancakes on the menu, especially the Cinnamon Roll or “Signature Berry Bliss” (if you have a sweet tooth).

Shop

American Girl

American Girl fans love nothing more than to visit the flagship store in Downtown Chicago. You don’t have to only shop there — there’s a salon to fix a doll’s hair or you can eat lunch at the adorable café. Before you go, check the upcoming special events listed on the store’s website.

The Lego Store

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

Located in Water Tower Place, your kids can get their Lego fix in this store. Before you walk into the store, take a look at the iconic Chicago buildings built with Lego bricks on display. They’re huge!

The Disney Store

You don’t have to travel all the way to Disney World to enjoy a little magic. The Disney Store offers entertainment for kids with a variety of toys and merchandise. The store also hosts fun events, which have been postponed due to the pandemic.

Play

Maggie Daley Park

Photo Credit: Choose Chicago/Abel Arciniega

Chicagoland has amazing playgrounds, and Maggie Daley Park’s Play Garden (reopens Memorial Day weekend) has something for kids of all ages. Throughout the year, you can also enjoy mini golf, rock climbing and ice skating. While you there, take a stroll through Millennium Park to spot the Bean and attend festivals during the summer.

Museum of Illusions

Get ready to challenge your minds and trick your senses at this newer Chicago museum. Experience more than 80 one-of-kind exhibits that will teach your kids about math and science. Plus, you’ll be able to take so many fun photos!

Skydeck Chicago

Photo Credit: Skydeck Chicago

If you want to see one of the best bird’s-eye views of the city skyline, take the Willis Tower elevator to the 103rd Floor. You can sit on The Ledge, a glass box that will let you look down below. New in 2021, check out the new, interactive Chicago-themed museum. Read more in our Skydeck Chicago family guide.

Explore

Navy Pier

Photo Credit: Josh Ohms Photography

The downtown attraction seems to be a popular summer bucket list item for families. You can enjoy views of the city while eating outdoors, a quick boat ride or a fireworks show. We love exploring Polk Bros. Park, where there are free events during the warmer months.  

Chicago Riverwalk

Stroll 1.25 miles along the Chicago River to find great restaurants, public art displays and some water fun. If you’re here at night, you’ll have the best view of Art on theMart, a nightly projection on the Merchandise Mart at 8:30 and 9 p.m.

Art Institute of Chicago

Photo Credit: Art Institute Chicago

In the center of Downtown Chicago, spend some time at one of the best art museums in the world. Kids ages 14 and under always get in for free, as well as Chicago teens under 18. After seeing some amazing art, drop in at the Ryan Learning Center (temporarily closed) for family-friendly activities. 


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