Chicago’s top family attractions and restaurants
Chicago is full of family-fun attractions for visitors from all over the world. While we wouldn’t recommend going during the freezing cold winter months, summertime is a great time for a family vacation there.
There are plenty of national and city landmarks, as well as family-friendly restaurants, to venture to while in the “Windy City”. To help you plan your family vacation, we’ve put together a list of the top five attractions to see and the top five restaurants to try in Chicago.
Navy Pier is known as Chicago’s lakefront playground, as more than 8 million visitors a year come to see and spend the day on Lake Michigan. Your family can do just about anything you want to do in this 50 acres that’s filled with parks, shops, promenades, restaurants and other attractions. Take your family on a boat ride on the lake or for a ride on their 15-story tall Ferris wheel. Once you visit Navy Pier, you’ll see why so many locals and tourists come here every summer.
The Art Institute of Chicago
You may not think an art museum is a place for children, but the Art Institute of Chicago was once tabbed the No. 1 art museum for children. The museum features the largest Monet collection in the world and also includes modern American artwork and non-European galleries. There’s a family room with interactive activities to help engage and inspire young artists, and the museum also offers special annual events where storytelling, performances and treasure hunts happen. From the youngest tots up to parents and grandparents, the Art Institute of Chicago allows everyone the chance to enjoy art in their own way.
If you want to see Chicago’s skyline and more from North America’s tallest building, then Willis Tower is where you go. Formerly known as Sears Tower, this 110-story skyscraper is a cultural landmark and an iconic tourist attraction for Chicago. Head up 103 floors to the Skydeck where on a clear day you can see out about 40-50 miles and see four different states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. If you feel somewhat daring, then go out on the Ledge — a glass box that extends a little over 4 feet out from the Skydeck and has you standing 1,353 feet in the air.
Another fun family spot is Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. This urban park, which sits on 24.5 acres, features beautiful manmade structures and offers more than 500 free events each year. Whether your family is into concerts or tours or exhibitions, or maybe all of the above, Millennium Park provides all that plus many more enjoyable family activities throughout the year.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Want to know the best thing about this family attraction? It’s FREE to the public! Just about 5 miles north of downtown Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo has all kinds of exotic animals children love to see and learn about and they also have a carousel and train that children can ride. If you want to take a break from being in a big city, then go to Lincoln Park Zoo and immerse yourself in this free oasis of wildlife.
If your family is in need of some good American food and entertaining waiters, then check out Ed Debevic’s. This restaurant is known for its burgers and small but delicious sundaes served by some pretty sassy servers. When you come to Ed’s, you get served more than a plate of food, so if you don’t have a good sense of humor, then this 1950’s-like diner isn’t the place for you.
A hearty Italian meal or one with a juicy prime or aged steak is what you’ll have at Harry Caray’s. This Italian steakhouse attracts Chicago sports fans, as it’s named after a beloved Chicago Cubs sportscaster. With its spacious seating and good service, Harry Caray’s is a great dinner spot for your family even if you’re not a Cubs fan.
When you visit Chicago, you must try a classic Chicago dog, and that’s exactly what you can do at Hot Doug’s. The lines are typically a little long, but these dogs are worth the wait. You can have a normal hot dog, or go for a bratwurst or exotic sausages. There are always weekly specials, and if you want to try something different (which many locals love) then go on a Friday or Saturday when Hot Doug’s serves fries cooked in duck fat.
Have a major sweet tooth? Then, Margie’s Candies is a place you’ll want to visit. It’s an old-time ice cream shop that’s been serving since 1921. You can get several different kinds of sundaes, made with homemade ice cream, or snack on their homemade-boxed chocolates and candies. We understand the responsible parent within wants your children to eat real food before dessert, so get them (and yourself) a salad or sandwich before letting them load up on these delicious sugar filled treats.
Original Rainbow Cone
Another ice cream shop that’s been around since the 1920’s is Original Rainbow Cone. Their five-flavored ice cream phenomenon is complete with five different flavors of ice cream that make your cone look like a rainbow. On their Original Rainbow Cone, you get the combination of orange sherbet, pistachio, Palmer House (New York Vanilla with cherries and walnuts), strawberry and chocolate flavors. If this cone doesn’t entice your family, you can also try a banana split, shake or sundae.
Chicago is a beautiful city that’s full of all kinds of family attractions to keep your family entertained with fun while on a summer vacation. Before booking your trip, be sure to check out these family-friendly Chicago hotels.