Family Living

Chicago Must-Dos: A Summer Bucket List for Families

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Popularly described as “The Windy City,” America’s third-most populous city, Chicago, is a major tourism destination. And, for those who call Chicago home, there’s much to see and do daily. Surrounded by bold, beautiful architecture and a recognizable city skyline just off Lake Michigan, Chicago residents enjoy being home to two Major League Baseball teams, several museums, many diverse neighborhoods, and (of course) deep dish pizza. If you’re hoping to make some family memories within the Chicago area this summer, look no further than your own “backyard.” Consider The Gardner School’s bucket list of attractions and places of interest in and around town.

Adler Planetarium

Chicago's Adler Planetarium is America's first planetarium and a premiere resource for inspiring the next generation of space explorers. A public museum dedicated to the study of astronomy and astrophysics, Adler Planetarium offers multiple activities for families, including fascinating exhibits, special events, and summer camp programs for kids. Families can even spend a night at the museum, solving an alien mystery, for the planetarium’s Astro-Overnights event.

Art Institute of Chicago

Located in Chicago's Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Housing more than 300,000 works of art within its 10 curatorial departments, families will be wowed by its many fascinating art collections exhibitions. Admission is free to children under 14, and general admission is free to Illinois residents on Thursdays from 5:00 to 8:00 pm.  

Baseball Games

Chicago is, without a doubt, a sports-friendly town, as it is home to two Major League Baseball teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. The Chicago Cubs, America’s reigning World Series champions, play at the famous Wrigley Field, where family members of all ages will be sure to have some fun. The Chicago White Sox play at Guaranteed Rate Field and offer a fun family atmosphere for the summer. Bonus—both teams offer unique opportunities for kids! Check out the Cubs Kids and White Sox Kids sites to learn more.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a great resource for parents and grandparents seeking to pass on their love of music with the children in their lives. Family-related programming at Symphony Center centers on a Family Matinee series, featuring three programs that explore how music takes listeners to different places, vividly portrays characters, and inspires an intensely emotional experience.

DuPage Children’s Museum

Occupying three floors by the Naperville Metra Station, just a few blocks from downtown, families can enjoy hands-on exploration adventures through art, math, and science at the DuPage Children’s Museum. With special exhibitions and events, as well as a S.M.A.R.T. Café that serves an array of high-quality food for the body and mind, kids will not only be entertained, but they will walk away with new knowledge.

The Field Museum

Founded in 1893, one of the world's great natural history museums, with a world-renowned scientific staff and collections of more than 20 million specimens, the Field Museum is sure to be a family favorite! From dinosaurs and mummies to exclusive special exhibitions, you'll never run out of things to explore. The museum also offers learning resources for kids, including virtual worlds to educator guides.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Featuring 12 family-friendly attractions, including a 4D Cinema, rides, and a master builder academy, LEGOLAND Discovery Center provides learning opportunities in a fun and festive environment. There’s even an overnight package opportunity for families interested in a night-time LEGO adventure in your pajamas!

Lincoln Park Zoo

One of the nation's oldest zoos (founded in 1868), housing 1,200 animals and representing 230 species, Lincoln Park Zoo is a 35-acre zoo located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The Lincoln Park Zoo is also one of a few free admission zoos in the United States, and it’s open 365 days a year. Among the park’s attractions includes an interactive digital experience about conserving wildlife in an urbanizing world, a Lionel Train Adventure, and an endangered species carousel.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is a public park located in the Loop community area of Chicago. Originally intended to celebrate the second millennium, the park boasts a new kind of town square–a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city with many free concerts and public art. It’s a great place for a family picnic, so pack up a lunch, and enjoy some quality time in the park’s beautiful atmosphere! You’ll also want to take a family photo in front of “The Bean,” or Cloud Gate, a stainless steel structure that has become a signature Chicago landmark.

Museum of Science and Industry

Located in Chicago’s Jackson Park, in the Hyde Park neighborhood between Lake Michigan and The University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere. Your family can experience seasonal exhibits, an Omnimax theater, and permanent exhibits such as exploring a coal mine and real-life submarines. Tip: You can save $2 per person by reserving your tickets online.

Navy Pier

A Chicago landmark, Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan. Among the attractions at Navy Pier, families can experience a 50-acre playground for all ages, as well as seasonal activities and events and a variety of restaurants and shops. The Chicago Children’s Museum is located at Navy Pier, with free admission for children under 12. For some thrilling fun, hop aboard the Centennial Wheel to see Chicago’s skyline from a rotating view. You can even take a ride on several dining and sightseeing boat cruises that depart from Navy Pier.

Water Wonders

Located just west of North Aurora’s Village Hall, children can splash, wade, and climb, while learning about water conservation and the native landscape of Illinois at Water Wonders. This unique attraction showcases a 125-foot interactive stream fed by a rooftop rainwater collection system. It’s both an eco-friendly and educational experience for families.