Chicago may be the Second City, but it’s always first in our hearts. Seeing and experiencing our city through our children’s eyes means opportunities to repeatedly realize how lucky we are to call Chicago home. In 2019, check out 19 places where you can fall in love with Chicago as a family.
Family Days take place on the second Saturday of each month at this museum. They offer workshops, open-studio sessions, gallery tours and performances, all designed and led by Chicago artists for little ones and their adults. Prepare to be wowed by the homegrown creativity.
220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago
Watching kids scamper up the structures in the Play Garden at Maggie Daley Park makes it look almost as if they are scaling the spectacular skyline that towers behind them. That view alone will make you love Chicago. Add in the unique skating ribbon, the picnic groves and the Cancer Survivors Garden, this is the perfect place to take in the city you love with the people you love.
337 E. Randolph St., Chicago
All ages will walk away with a new appreciation for the design of our fair city, from the skyscrapers to bungalows, after a visit to the new Chicago Architecture Center. Check out the programs for kids and families. Don’t miss architects’ predictions for what Chicago will be like in 2050!
111 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago
The way to your family’s heart is through the stomach, right? Eli’s is reason alone to love our fair and tasty city. The complimentary tasting and traditions experience at the café at 1 p.m. every day is both interesting and delicious.
6701 W. Forest Preserve Drive, Chicago
Chicago is a city of broad shoulders, as Carl Sandburg famously described it, and he’s not the only writer who was enamored with Chicago. Learn more about them in this unique museum. The Children’s Literature Gallery will delight parents as much as it does kids and is a uniquely Chicago place to go for story time.
180 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Seeing the iconic “Chicago” in lights on the marquee can make one swoon. This landmark opened in 1921. Grab a photo with the sign and catch a show. Want more? Take the Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour, which includes an opportunity to stand on the stage and check out the dressing room walls signed by many amazing performers.
175 N. State St., Chicago
We admit Chicago is a little tougher to love in the cold winter months, but chase the cold away with a trip to the toasty-warm Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the nation’s largest. The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden is a great indoor option no matter what the weather is, and Wild Wednesdays are fun for families, too.
300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago
This 1.25-mile path is open year-round, and you can check out the small McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. However, the Riverwalk shines brightest in the warmer months when cafes and docks are open, art installations are on display and Chicago is ready to play.
Chicago is, of course, very urban, but there are pockets of nature where it’s easy to forget that, and North Park Village Nature Center is one of them. Families can explore woodland, wetland, prairie and savanna in every season and enjoy many family-friendly programs and seasonal festivals.
5801 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago
This 2.7-mile trail named for the first three numbers in every Chicago zip code quickly became a favorite destination for families both on foot, bike and scooters. This transformed elevated rail is a great way to explore the Humboldt Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park neighborhoods, featuring art installations, green space and family-friendly events.
Chicago hot dogs are famous, and everyone has their favorite spot. We’re not trying to start a debate, but the Portillo’s at Clark and Ontario makes the list because it is decorated with many items from the original Chicago Stadium, including the original Chicago Blackhawks 1938 Stanley Cup banner. Also, the amazing chocolate cake brings families together.
100 W. Ontario St., Chicago
We call Chicago home, and so do exotic animals like eastern black rhinoceroses and polar bears. Visit them and hundreds of other species for free 365 days of the year at Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in North America. Don’t miss the dazzling view of the city skyline from the Nature Boardwalk.
2001 N. Clark St., Chicago
The Water Tower
Arguably the city’s most treasured landmark, it’s easy to feel a sense of history here. Construction began in 1867 and it was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Now it houses free art exhibits.
806 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Chicago’s 26 miles of open and free lakefront is stunning, and the more than two dozen beaches make it irresistible. It’s tough to pick just one spot. But if you have a dog, the Montrose Beach Dog Friendly Area will have you, your kids and your canines feeling the love for our city.
One advantage of having a world-class university in our backyard is enjoying its world-class museums, including the Oriental Museum. The treasures from around the globe would be reason enough to appreciate this institution, but its great family and children’s programs and special events are designed to help kids get in touch with their inner Indiana Jones. (Parents can do that, too.)
1155 E. 58th St., Chicago
Take in a game
Find your favorite team in hot spots around the city. Wrigley Field, a landmark on Addison built in 1914, is the friendly confines to the Cubs and the home of Gallagher Way, where you can take in a movie in the summer or ice skate in the winter. Soldier Field has hosted football, soccer, baseball, hockey and boxing since 1924, and is still a hot bed for events all year long—even when the Bears are in their offseason. The United Center—home to both the Bulls and Blackhawks—is site of statues to sports legends, like Michael Jordan and Bobby Hull, great for taking photos with your family. Guaranteed Rate Field, where the White Sox play, has a special kids deck dedicated to young fans.
Adults may see it as just a means to a commuting end, but little ones love the L. An L ticket is one of the best sightseeing deals in town and more than 200 miles of L tracks offer a unique perspective of the city. Take it on a weekend to explore a new neighborhood and find a new corner of the city to love.
Chicago History Museum
Learning about Chicago’s history means falling in love with its innovative, resilient spirit. Your heart will swell with pride at the new Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America exhibit that shows the impact our great city has had on the nation. Sensing Chicago, a permanent exhibit in the Konen Family Children’s Gallery, allows families to experience the city’s past in interactive ways. Don’t miss the birthday party the museum throws for the city on March 4!
This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.