Secrets to discovering downtown Chicago with kids

Looking for a new view of the city? Searching for a cheaper place to park the car? We have 15 secrets to discovering Chicago with kids that will keep your downtown adventure exciting.

Chicago is such a large place with so many activities and events for families. We have fifteen secrets with new ways for families to discover downtown.

  • If you live in Chicago, you can check out a free museum pass at your local library. A big savings.
  • Museum memberships rock. Buy online and look for reciprocals to save.
  • It’s cheaper to park by the back door entrance at the Museum of Science andIndustry. And there’s hardly ever a line to get in.
  • The Art Institute offers complimentary stroller rental.And kids under 14 are always free.
  • Never let the kids buy a souvenir. Otherwise they’ll ask every time and you’ll waste too much time. Make the adventure the prize.

Exploring museum wonders

  • Kids under 11 ride Metra free on weekends and some holidays with a paying adult. Adults can buy an all-weekend ride pass for$7. Take advantage. And let the kids sit up top-they’ll get such a kick out of it.
  • If you do drive, look for a parking meter. I often find I save by taking it to the streets.
  • Chicago has an underground pedway system in the heart of downtown that covers about 5 miles. Take a look at the online map before you venture into the city so you’ll know where to duck in case of rain. Or duck anyway just to add to the fun.
  • If you are looking for a short boat ride, the water taxi from the Shedd to Navy Pier may be all the boat ride your little ones need. Park and boat. It really makes the day more fun.

Getting around the city

  • You can get to the front of the line (and save on admission price) at many Chicago sights with a CityPASS.
  • You’ll find my favorite view of downtown on the 96th floor of the John Hancock-in the ladies room (sorry fellas). The 96th floor is a fun place to stop for lemonades and a munchie.If you order right, you won’t spend a fortune and you’ll essentially get the same view as the expensive restaurant one floor down.
  • It doesn’t seem like it would be, but Buckingham Fountain up-close and personal is an exciting adventure. You are not a Chicagoan till you feel its mist on your face.And it’s a fantastic photo op.
  • You’ll find amazing free concerts at Millennium Park all summer long. Pack a blanket and dinner. But don’t bring your pet. No dogs are allowed at Millennium Park.
  • If you go to the Rock N Roll McDonalds (600 N. Clark St.), your kids will love the escalator.
  • ABC7 broadcasts live from its State Street Studio throughout the day. If you are nearby, wander by to see a live newscast inaction. Your kids will get a kick out of trying to get on TV.

Seeing the sights

I’ve got going downtown down.

When my girls were younger, we were traveling through Ohio when we stopped at Hardee’s for lunch. The man working the counter told me he saved all year so he could take his kids to Chicago each summer.

“We stay in a hotel downtown and go to the museums,”he said. “Chicago has the world’s best museums. You are so lucky to live there.”

I vowed that day I would take my girls to the city at least once a week.

And we did.

I’d pack it up, and after kindergarten pick-up, we’d venture down to the city just about every week.I remember my husband calling me one afternoon while we were at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

“Can we call you right back?”I asked. “We are watching a turtle catch a bug for lunch.”We sat at the glass and watched for at least 20 minutes that day.

Yes, l know-dragging the kids downtown can be a drag. They tire easy and you have a million things to do. But, once I made the commitment, I found a way to make it happen. And in doing so I learned a lot of shortcuts along the way.

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