Chicago is well known for not only its world-class tourist attractions but also its overabundance of top-rated kid sites. There are so many places for kids to enjoy in the Windy City that parents can easily become bewildered. Some of these places are located along the city’s Lake Michigan shoreline while others are scattered around the city and surrounding suburbs. To get a head start on planning a whirlwind adventure, check out these top five kid-friendly Chicago attractions near the lakefront.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Picture by Sandy Bornstein

Picture by Sandra Bornstein

The Lincoln Park Zoo is a Chicago favorite that’s open every day and doesn’t charge an admission fee. Yep, it’s free — 365 days a year! It’s just minutes from the Magnificent Mile. The zoo has 15 animal habitats on more than 35 acres. At the Farm-in-the-Zoo section, urban kids can experience country life and interactive exhibits by meeting newly hatched chicks, harvesting vegetables, and learning about beehives.

360 Chicago (Located in the John Hancock Center)

Picture by Sandy Bornstein

Picture by Sandra Bornstein

Looking down from the 94th floor of Chicago’s fourth-tallest building, kids will be impressed with the panoramic view of the third-largest US city. Located on the Magnificent Mile, 360 Chicago offers unobstructed views of Chicago’s trademark lakeshore. On a clear day, it may be possible to see four states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]TIP: The lines at 360 Chicago tend to be shorter than the 103rd floor Skydeck Experience at the Willis Tower, so it’ll be a more bearable wait for kids.[/pullquote]


Art Institute of Chicago

Picture by Sandy Bornstein

Picture by Sandy Bornstein

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of a handful of museums that consistently appears on the top 10 list of world museums. Kids and their parents can marvel at artwork from ancient and modern times. By viewing different forms of art from a wide range of time periods and locations, kids will unknowingly enhance their understanding of history and cultures. The museum’s Vitale Family Room is a great place for parents and kids to flop on the floor and get engaged with art-themed puzzles and games, while energetic volunteers are at hand to infuse children with an appreciation for art. Don’t forget to check out the Art Institute of Chicago website for info on family activities. This museum is about a mile south of the John Hancock Center.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]TIP: Kids under 14 don’t have to pay an admission fee. [/pullquote]

RELATED: Looking to introduce your kids to art in a fun way while in Chicago? Check out An Art-Lover’s Guide to a Kid-Friendly Chicago!

Shedd Aquarium

Picture by Sandy Bornstein

Picture by Sandy Bornstein

While some kids may have gotten their fill of wildlife at the Lincoln Park Zoo, most will be thrilled to visit the Shedd Aquarium, the largest indoor aquarium in the world. The exhibits showcase more than 32,000 animals in a cross section of aquatic ecosystems. Parents should check the Shedd Aquarium website for information regarding special exhibitions, aquatic shows, and extraordinary experiences that include a variety of behind-the-scenes encounters.

Field Museum

Picture by Sandy Bornstein

Picture by Sandy Bornstein

The multitude of permanent and special natural history exhibits at Chicago’s Field Museum can be overwhelming. Parents should decide in advance which topics are best suited for their family and whether they want to pay an additional fee for the special exhibits. For example, few will pass on visiting the Evolving Planet and Dinosaur Hall while a limited number will opt to see the ticketed movie Walking the T. Rex 3D: The Story of Sue. Creating a priority list becomes essential when parents are faced with so many awesome options.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Tip: The Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum are located a couple of miles south of the city in the Museum Campus area. If time is at a premium, consider visiting one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.[/pullquote]

These five sites will introduce families to a handful of kid-friendly Chicago attractions. All can be seen throughout the year. It’s only a small taste of what Chicago has to offer. If time allows, there’s plenty more to see!

Do you have a favorite family-friendly Chicago attraction? Add your opinions in the comments below.

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About The Author

Sandy Bornstein

Sandy Bornstein lived as an expat in India. Her award-winning memoir, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, highlights what she learned as the only American teacher at an international Bangalore school. After living abroad, Sandy continues to explore the world and write about her travels. You can follow Sandy's adventures at www.sandrabornstein.com.