Immerse yourself in science, history, art, animals, and more when you take a family trip to Chicago, Illinois. Lake Michigan provides a stunning backdrop for the architecture dotting the Chicago skyline. The Windy City welcomes thousands of tourists during the summer months, but it has plenty of engaging options to attract visitors year-round. Book a stay at one of many incredible Chicago vacation rentals today. Here are the most unforgettable kid-friendly activities to try out in Chicago.

1. Check Out Your Reflection

No trip to Chicago is complete without a trip to Millennium Park for a picture by the Cloud Gate sculpture. Often referred to as the Bean, this sculpture has a reflective surface on its curved shape, which creates distorted images. Kids love looking at themselves in the surface, and parents love snapping photos. Another kid favorite in the park is the fountain with digital screens designed to look like water is coming out of mouths of faces that appear.

2. Take a Tour Via Water

Chicago features many waterways, so taking a boat tour is a natural option. Kids enjoy the excitement of riding on a boat, and parents get to see highlights of the Chicago skyline from the water. The excitement may wear off quickly for young kids, so consider how long your little one can sit still before climbing aboard.

3. Learn About History

Chicago’s many museum options all offer at least some exhibits for all ages. The Museum of Science and Industry features a German submarine, coal mine replica, flight simulators, and other interactive displays. Another popular option is the Field Museum, home to Sue the T-Rex. The museum also boasts other exhibits, including gems, cultural artifacts, fossils, and meteorites. While young kids find some of the exhibits interesting, school-age kids and teens usually have a longer attention span and are more interested.

4. See Animals in a Park

Get fresh air and see animals at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo is free to the public, and it’s situated in a beautiful park setting, which gives it a unique atmosphere. Kids can see big cats, reptiles, primates, giraffes, and other animals. A petting zoo area and carousel offer additional fun for younger kids.

5. Experience Chicago from Above

Get a new perspective of Chicago’s architecture when you see the buildings from on high. The Skydeck in the Willis Tower gives you a view from the 103rd floor. Glass ledges that stick out from the side of the building let you look down to the streets below. The wait can be long, so arrive early. Another option is 360 Chicago on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building. In addition to regular viewing, older kids at least 42 inches tall can do TILT, a thrilling experience featuring a platform that tilts out at an angle.

6. Stroll the Pier

Navy Pier is an iconic Chicago stop that gives kids the chance to see fun sculptures and ships while walking around the pier. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel and other rides on the pier with older kids. Inside, the Chicago Children’s Museum offers interactive exhibits suitable for kids of all ages, including crawlers and toddlers. Areas designed just for younger kids give your youngsters a safe spot to explore and create. Popular exhibits include the firehouse, fort building, dinosaur expedition, and a schooner-shaped climbing structure.

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7. Hit the Beach

The shores of Lake Michigan offer up prime beach-day fun for summer visitors. The 31st Street Beach is a popular spot with a harbor, fishing dock, playground, spray ground, and climbing trees. Glencoe Beach is another family-friendly option with chair and umbrella rentals, spray ground, picnic areas, and kayak, paddleboard, and sailboat rentals. You can appreciate a warm shower back at your vacation rental to wash off all the sand.

8. Play at the Park

Chicago has many neighborhood parks scattered throughout the city, so you’re likely to find one close to your vacation rental. Maggie Daley Park is a standout option, even if it’s not close to your rental. The Play Garden features themed areas for different ages, including areas for ages 2 to 5, so all the kids can play. Slide Crater is a huge area for older kids with suspension bridges, towers, and long slides. In the winter, take the kids ice skating on the skating ribbon.

9. Look to the Skies

Inspire your little space lovers with a trip to Adler Planetarium, the first planetarium in America. Three theaters let you see the stars even during the day with amazing sky shows. You can also check out many exhibits related to space, including antique instruments and prints. Use what you learn at Adler Planetarium to spot constellations from the deck of your vacation rental.

10. Explore Underwater Worlds

Satisfy your child’s curiosity about underwater worlds at the world-famous Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium offers something for all ages, including the Polar Play Zone for young children. Animals on exhibit include beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, otters, and many other aquatic species. Stimulate the senses in the Aquarium’s 4D theater. When you return to your vacation rental, you can compare notes on your favorite animals while sitting on the deck.

11. Surround Yourself with Exotic Plants

The Garfield Park Conservatory features thousands of plant species with indoor and outdoor displays that make it feel like a quiet retreat from the city. During the summer months, let the kids wander through the 12 acres of outdoor gardens. The Play and Grow Garden is designed for kids 8 and under, with places to make mud pies, do an obstacle course, and make music. An indoor children’s garden is another age-appropriate area for young kids. Perhaps you can spot some of the native plants on your way back to your vacation rental.

12. Shop Kid Style

Kids would rather pass on most Magnificent Mile shops, but Chicago offers several kid-friendly stores with interactive displays and fun activities to keep little ones entertained. The American Girl Store is a popular Chicago spot for school-age kids. Eat at the cafe, take dolls to the doll spa, or attend special events at the store. Check out the LEGO store with the young builders in your family, where you can see large LEGO sculptures, build with LEGOS, and choose new building sets to put together when you return to your vacation rental.

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