Family Guide to Downtown Chicago | Chicago parent
Whether you live in the South Shore or Rogers Park or far away in the suburbs, you’ve probably visited downtown at least once while living in Chicagoland. What’s not to like? You can get up close to the beautiful skyline along Lake Michigan, visit your favorite local attractions, and grab a bucket of CaramelCrisp from Garrett Popcorn stores.
Downtown Chicago can feel like it’s packed with tourists at times, but for locals, seeing the sights can be a great day trip for the family. Tip: Also get on a train to avoid parking. Metra cyclists aged 11 and under can ride for free (up to three children with each adult). CTA also offers a free rate for children 7 and under.
Once in the city center, you will find plenty of things to do with your children. Check out our family guide to downtown Chicago to plan your day. Below you’ll find shops, restaurants, museums and more.
JoJo’s Shake Bar
These outrageous milkshakes will blow your children’s minds! The Biggie Shakes ($ 14) at JoJo’s Shake Bar come with amazing toppings like a gold dusted marshmallow, a sugar cookie, or a chocolate covered banana.
Stroll through this Italian market to find fresh bread, pasta sauce, and other delicious dishes. You can also stop at the restaurant, Osteria di Eataly, to enjoy Napoli-style pizzas and pasta. Save room for take-out desserts from the pastry bar along with all Italian desserts.
Pancakes and coffee with wild berries
Downtown Chicago is packed with plenty of breakfasts! Pancakes and wild berry coffee are at the top of our list. You can’t go wrong with any of the pancakes on the menu, especially the Cinnamon Roll or “Signature Berry Bliss” (if you have a sweet tooth).
American Girl fans love nothing more than visiting the flagship store in downtown Chicago. You don’t have to do your shopping there – there’s a salon to fix a doll’s hair or you can have lunch in the adorable cafe. Before you go, check out the upcoming special events listed on the store’s website.
Located at Water Tower Place, your kids can get their Lego patch at this store. Before entering the store, take a look at iconic Chicago buildings constructed with Lego bricks on display. They are huge!
The disney store
You don’t have to travel to Disney World to experience some magic. The Disney Store provides entertainment for children with a variety of toys and merchandise. The store also hosts fun events, which have been postponed due to the pandemic.
Maggie Daley Park
Chicagoland has some amazing playgrounds, and the Play Garden at Maggie Daley Park (reopens Memorial Day weekend) has something for kids of all ages. Throughout the year you can also enjoy mini golf, rock climbing and ice skating. While you’re there, take a stroll through Millennium Park to spot the bean and catch festivals during the summer.
Museum of illusions
Get ready to challenge your spirits and trick your senses at this new Chicago museum. Discover over 80 unique exhibits that will teach your kids about math and science. In addition, you will be able to take so many funny photos!
If you want to see one of the best bird’s-eye views of the city’s skyline, take the Willis Tower lift to the 103rd floor. You can sit on The Ledge, a glass box that will allow you to look down. New for 2021, discover the new interactive museum on the theme of Chicago. For more, read our guide to the Skydeck Chicago family.
The downtown attraction seems to be a popular summer list item for families. You can enjoy the city view while eating outside, a quick boat ride or a fireworks show. We love exploring Polk Bros. Park, where free events are held during the warmer months.
Stroll 1.25 miles along the Chicago River to find great restaurants, public art exhibits, and water sports. If you’re here at night you’ll get the best view of Art on theMart, a nighttime screening on the Merchandise Mart at 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Chicago Art Institute
In downtown Chicago, spend time in one of the world’s best art museums. Children 14 and under always get in for free, as well as Chicago teens under 18. After seeing amazing artwork, head to the Ryan Learning Center (temporarily closed) for family activities.
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