Now Offering NEW! Date-Based and Flexible Date Walt Disney World® Tickets Now Available! E-Ticket Option NOW AVAILABLE. GET MY TICKETS!

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids

by Leap on June 11, 2018 1 Chicago

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Chicago Skyline

Your family will be blown away by a trip to the Windy City. With world-class museums, mesmerizing interactive street art, parks for days and miles of shoreline, the “Second City” will quickly become number one in your family vacations. With so much to do, you’ll want to consider some tips for visiting Chicago with kids to make your planning and decision making much easier.

Airports & Transportation | Weather | Fun Activities | Safety | Kid-Friendly Hotels

Tackling Transportation while Visiting Chicago with Kids

You can rent a car in Chicago, but it’s gotten a lot more expensive to park a car in the city. It can be a lot easier and less expensive (not to mention the time savings of not searching for a parking spot) to get around via public transportation, your own two legs and even bicycles if the weather permits.

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Transportation

In private cars

Whether you are renting or riding in private cars while visiting Chicago with kids, it’s a good idea to know the seatbelt and car seat laws, as they may differ from the laws in your state. All drivers and passengers must be secured in either a seatbelt or a child safety seat. Children under 8 must ride in child safety seats. Children over one year and at least 20 pounds may use a forward-facing child safety seat. If you are renting a car, you can look into bringing your own car seat vs. renting one from the car rental company. Chances are you will save a lot of money by bringing your own. If you are driving, keep in mind that sometimes the fast route through the city streets is to go underground. Yes, many streets go underground, and the trains are often elevated.

In taxi cabs and hired cars

If you will be taking a commercial vehicle, such as a taxi, when visiting Chicago with kids, be aware that young children are not required to be restrained in a restraint device. They will, however, be much safer if they are strapped into an appropriate infant seat, regular car seat or booster. You can order a ride with a car seat.

*Please visit the Illinois website for official laws and rules.

On buses or trains

Children do not need to be in car seats when traveling by these methods. The “L” is the elevated train in the city and some surrounding suburbs (it’s still called the “L” even if parts are subway trains and not elevated). The Metra is the commuter railroad that fans out into the suburbs via 11 different lines.

Chicago Airports

Chicago has two major airports — Chicago O’Hare and Midway. They are about a similar distance to the city, so choose the one with the best airfare or that has your favorite airline flying there. Midway is the smaller airport, but both airports have train service to downtown.

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Airport

It can be difficult traveling with little ones and luggage on a train — plus it could put you at risk for theft — so you might consider arranging a ride with a car service for airport transfer. It’s also easy to grab a taxi cab, Uber or Lyft (be sure to request a car seat if needed). These vehicle options will cost more than taking the train, but it can make your life a lot easier than managing strollers, luggage and small children on public transportation. Then you can take the trains once your luggage is stowed at the hotel.

Prepare for the Weather when visiting Chicago with Kids

Check the weather before your trip to see if you’ll be needing an umbrella or raincoat during your visit.

Depending on the season of your trip, you may need to prepare for weather when you visit Chicago with kids. You’ll find the best weather in April, May, September and October when temperatures are pleasant but not too hot. June through August can be very hot and humid or really nice. You just never know what you’ll get. A summer day can bring a downpour of rain, high heat and thick humidity or make a perfect sunny day. The city is beautiful in the summer, with many flowers in bloom and beaches packed with swimmers and volleyball players, but the city can also be very crowded, as this is a popular time to visit. November through March can bring biting winds and freezing temperatures that can possibly dip below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are braving the Chicago winter, wear layers and bring protective clothing. Check the weather before your trip to see if you’ll be needing an umbrella or raincoat during your visit.

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Bike Riding

Read Up Before visiting Chicago with Kids

Before we visit a new city, we love to read books about the city or stories that take place there. It’s also fun to recognize a city from movies. It helps the tadpoles make connections and get excited for seeing their stories come to life. Read your young children "Good Night Chicago" before bed to get them excited for the sights they are about to see. Middle readers will delve solving crimes in the Thorne miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago in "The Sixty-Eight Rooms" by Marianne Malone. Middle school and high school readers may get into the "Divergence" series of books and/or movies, which take place in a future dystopian Chicago. One of our family favorite movies that has many iconic views of Chicago is "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off." One of Mommy Frog’s favorite novels based in Chicago is "The Time Traveler’s Wife," which got her excited for a trip to the Art Institute.

Fun Activities for Visiting Chicago with Kids

When visiting Chicago with kids, the hard part will be narrowing down what to do. From shopping along the Magnificent Mile and visiting museums to playing at parks, beaches and hopping on architecture tours, you’ll find something to entertain each member of your family.

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - The Bean

Visit the tallest buildings

You can get a bird’s-eye view of the city from observation decks at two of the tallest buildings in the city. Both Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and the John Hancock Building have great views. The Hancock building’s observation deck on the 94th floor is called 360 Chicago. It features TILT, an enclosed platform that moves and tilts you out over Michigan Avenue. It is not quite as high as the Willis Tower Skydeck’s 103rd floor, but it has nice views of the lake and of the Willis Tower. The Willis Tower Skydeck has glass boxes that extend out over 4.3 feet from the Skydeck. These activities are not for someone with acrophobia — a fear of heights!

Take a boat tour

As amphibians, we frogs love exploring any city by both land and water, so the tadpoles are especially excited when we can hop on a relaxing boat tour. You can take architectural tours along the Chicago River or even go through the interesting Chicago Harbor Lock system and leave the river for Lake Michigan for a lake view of the city’s famous skyline.

Play in the Parks

Chicago has amazing parks that appeal to all family members. The parks are filled with interactive art such as “The Bean”, fountains, playgrounds, bike trails, other recreation and amazing views. You can rent bikes and take a long family ride along the lake or through the city’s many parks. The phenomenal Maggie Dailey Park offers a skate ribbon that is multi-seasonal. You can rent roller blades and scooters in the warmer months or ice skates in winter, and yes, Mommy Frog checked that protective equipment is included. Maggie Dailey also has mini golf, a climbing wall, tennis courts and various themed equipment in its play garden. You’ll forget you are in a city. And good luck getting your kids to leave!

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Chicago Park

The good news is that you can lure the tadpoles to yet another park. The nearby Millennium Park is where to find the iconic Cloud Gate, which is much more commonly referred to as “The Bean.” This massive stainless steel structure’s reflective surface is mesmerizing. Your kids will want to explore it from every angle. There is another ice rink at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. In warmer months there are free live performances, a summer film series, a summer music series, gardens and the tadpoles love to cool off by splashing in the park’s Crown Fountain, a shallow reflecting pool with lit-up 50-foot towers on either end. If you cannot get enough of the art, hop into the nearby Art Institute of Chicago or Grant Park, where you will find the famous Buckingham Fountain (any “Married with Children” fans out there? Perhaps I am dating myself?).

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Beach

Visit Museums

As mentioned, Chicago has great museums. There are hundreds of them. The hard part is that you cannot possibly visit them all in the same trip when visiting Chicago with kids. How to choose? How to choose? You cannot go wrong with any of the following must-see museums along the lakefront:

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids -Nature Museum

There are many more to choose from that are related to art, architecture, history, culture, science, art, nature, space, performing arts and libraries. There are two zoos: the free Lincoln Park Zoo (surrounded by more parks and bike trails) just north of the city and the Brookfield Zoo (a larger zoo in the suburbs).

Visit Navy Pier

Navy Pier is popular with visitors and a huge hit when visiting Chicago with kids. With its giant Ferris Wheel and Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze attractions, and art exhibits, it draws people in. You’ll find restaurants, cruises, gardens, the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and IMAX theatre and the Chicago Children’s Museum.

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Navy Pier

Try the local food

Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago-style hotdogs piled high with everything except ketchup. Polish sausages, Chicago mix popcorn and tamales also come to mind. Diet food does not. Whether you want a quick bite or some fine dining, be sure to indulge guilt-free into Chicago food. Foodies will find themselves in a culinary coma in the West Loop/Randolph St area. The Little Goat Diner is a family-friendly (if your kids are open-minded eaters) diner brought to you by the same creative genius behind the fancier Girl & the Goat across the street. If you are in that part of town, be sure to stop off at Cone for some interesting ice cream dessert — we recommend Netflix and Chill popcorn ice cream with mini M&Ms. Mommy Frog has been known to make us take a cab ride to this ice cream shop with an Irish Pub feel just for her favorite ice cream not found anywhere else. You’ll need some motivation to walk, ride bikes or go skating later and here it is (in the form of excess calories to burn).

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Food

See a Sports Game

Chicago has many teams popular with sports fans. Depending on the season, you may be able to catch a Chicago Cubs (at the iconic Wrigley Field) or White Sox game, see the Chicago Bears play, catch a Bulls game or even experience a Blackhawks game.

Be Street Smart when Visiting Chicago with Kids

Chicago’s crime rate has been growing, but in most touristy areas you should be pretty safe. It's always good advice to play it smart and be vigilant when visiting Chicago with kids.

  • Hold hands.
  • Look both ways when crossing the streets — there are many one-way streets, meaning traffic could be coming from an unexpected direction.
  • Use a crosswalk — no jaywalking!
  • Do not assume cars will stop for you, even if you have the walk signal.
  • Discuss a plan in case you become separated.
  • Note your hotel address — you can pick up a business card when you check in.
  • Keep valuables in a safe. Do not carry money or ID in a backpack.
  • Ask for directions if you are not sure where to go.
  • Know which train or bus line and stop to take it before you board.
  • Stay in well-populated areas at night.
  • Keep valuables and cell phones safely stowed and out of sight, and keep the kids close to you whether you are on the street or using public transportation.

Kid-Friendly Chicago Hotels

Tips for Visiting Chicago with Kids - Hotel

When visiting Chicago with kids, you’ll want to choose a kid-friendly hotel in an area near your favorite attractions. Undercover Tourist is now booking discount hotel rooms in Chicago. You can get a jump on saving money on your family-friendly accommodations. Here are a few suggestions for our favorite Chicago hotels near the action. The newly renovated Omni Chicago is an all-suites hotel along the Magnificent Mile. They have an American Doll package, free milk and cookies, a complimentary backpack filled with crayons and other fun items, rooftop sundecks and an indoor pool. The Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/River North offers one- and two-bedroom apartments with a full kitchen. You can call ahead for grocery service. There’s an indoor pool, and you can borrow board games. With complimentary breakfast and happy hour, you can save a lot of money on food. The Four Seasons appeals to kids of all ages with make-your-own sundaes, a teen pizza-making class, a Kids Clubroom and more. The Embassy Suites has two locations in Chicago, offering a more budget-friendly hotel choice with plenty of room for a family, free cooked-to-order breakfast, a complimentary reception with drinks and snacks and a pool. Each location is in walking distance of family-friendly entertainment.

Chicago makes a great family vacation no matter how old your tadpoles are. With these tips for visiting Chicago with kids, you’ll be off to a great start in planning the perfect trip. Have tips for visiting Chicago with kids? Please share them in the comment section below.

Related: Tips for Visiting NYC with Kids

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
View Comments
<<  Newer Posts | Older Posts  >>
Jun 19, 2018 at 3:40 p.m. Liam Says...

I'm taking my kids to Chicago in August and looking forward to the trip.

Reply
Leave a comment
Name is required. Email is required. Please input a comment.
About Us
About Undercover Tourist

Undercover Tourist is the leading supplier of online discount tickets to Orlando, Florida-area attractions, including Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando ResortTM, SeaWorld® Orlando Resort, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and more.

Sign up for our newsletter!
Please enter your Name
Please enter your Email address
Now Offering
donaldduck

disneyland® resort california

Theme Park Tickets!
footer grass

Contact:  1 (800) 846-1302 (USA)  |  1 (386) 239-8624 (Worldwide)

Sign up for Our Newsletter Let's Plan a Better Family Vacation

monthly news, planning tips and special deals

Please enter your Name
Please enter your Email address

Contact Us

Send Feedback

Or call 1 (800) 846-1302 (USA)

1 (386) 239-8624 (Worldwide)


©2000–2018 Undercover Tourist. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions
As to Disney photos, logos, properties: ©Disney
lilypad
Newsletter logo

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

monthly news, planning tips and special deals from the Frog Family

Please enter your Name Please enter your Email address
×

Thank you for joining our email list!

Joined email list logo

You should be receiving your first email soon!
Thanks for being a part of the family.

×

Create An Account

In order to save your favorite items, you'll need to create an account.
Already have one? Sign in.

An Undercover Tourist account allows you to:

Join The Frog Family
No thanks ×
Planning an upcoming vacation?

Sign up to receive our newsletter with free printable park plans, FastPass+ recommendations and more!

Error. Please try again.


Nope, I'm not going on a trip.