Moving to Chicago
Chicago with Toddler
We'll be travelling to Chicago with our 2 year-old for a long weekend in early
November. Any recommendations for toddler friendly activities (probably indoor),
hotels, restaurants, etc?
I'm a Chicago native and go back every so often with my kids, and
to see my nephew.
Some key things to see:
The Museum of Science and Industry (on the south side, near the
Univ. of Chicago). Great stuff that kids love, including a huge
model train layout, planes, old locomotives, on and on and on...
The Field Museum of Natural History. Dinosaurs, mammoths, you
There's a nice zoo (Lincoln Park), weather permitting. The
Aquarium is fun, and kid-pleasing, as well.
If the weather is nice, take an architectural boat tour (assuming
your child likes boats). You'll appreciate the views of Chicago
and the history, and your child should just like the ride, the
buildings, the bridges.
I haven't been there, but Navy Pier is a family-oriented
shopping/entertainment area. I've heard everything from it's a
lot of fun to it's the same as Pier 39, and I really can't judge.
I can't offer much advice on hotels or restaurants.
I grew up in Chicago, and visit occasionally with my now-2.
Shedd Aquarium is great, as is the Field Museum.
Skip Lincoln Park Zoo, it's an old-style zoo which I've found
very depressing: cages and very small exhibits.
My daughter likes the Art Institute: we play a ''game'' my mother
would play with me when I was little and go to the gift shop and
have her pick out 1 or 2 postcards of something on display at the
museum (painting, sculpture) and then walk through the museum to
find the piece. Very cool.
Children's Museum on Navy Pier is geared older, but mine likes
the Museum of Science and Industry quite a bit -- lots of buttons
to push, ice cream parlor, submarine and a new kids play area
that she could spend hours in.
We took our daughter to Chicago when when she was about 2 1/2 years old, (and
her six month old brother.) The fun family outing we had there was to the Shedd
Aquarium where you can see a kind of educational dolfin show, see penguins etc.
My daughter still talks and draws the Baby Beluga whales she saw there. I think it
was the Raffi song that made her edgar to see them. The whole place is amazing
from the old tanks that make you feel like you are in a museum from 100 years ago
to the modern wing that becomes one with the water. Be prepared for the
amusement park like prices. I think an adult admission was $30.
The new Mellenium Park near the Art Institute is not to be missed (depending on the
temperature.) It's full of shiny metal, ramps and a spitting sculpture that adults and
kids will appreciate.
I loved eating noodles in Chicago, like Penny's noodles in Bucktown and High Ricky
in Wicker Park. The food comes fast but I haven't been either of those places in a
There are several Rain Forest Cafes in Chicago. My kids love
them. The food is so-so but it's very fun for kids because
they have robotic animals such as gorillas. The simulate a
rain storm, etc. Beware of retail opportunities there!
If the weather is good the Lincoln Park Zoo is fabulous.
We spent a few days in Chicago with a then 21 month old in
November 2002. (The timing was because of a family wedding.)
Although it was too late for the ''harvest festival'' type
activities and too early for the Christmas lights, and it was a
bit cold and wet some of the time we were there, we really
enjoyed the trip and loved the city.
There is a lot to do indoors -- mostly some really great
museums, which doesn't sound like it would appeal to toddlers,
but our son enjoyed the Field Museum (if yours is more into
animals and dinosaurs than trains and trucks, s/he'll like the
Field even more) and the Shedd Aquarium. We didn't attempt the
The Childrens' Museum at Navy Pier is excellent. And there were
some kiddie rides and stores that were interesting to our son in
the shopping mall there.
The Museum of Science and Industry, in the university area
rather than downtown, is also great fun for kids. Check out
tractors (which kids can get in and pretend to drive), a real
airplane, chicks hatching...lots of good stuff.
Marshall Field's department store has a fountain for thowing
pennies, and a large upstairs room with some historical exhibits
where we could peek down into the space where workers were
setting up an elaborate holiday village and train display.
If the weather's not too dismal, the waterfront park that
stretches from the museum campus where the Field, the Shedd and
a planetarium is located up to the Navy Pier area is a great
place to just run around. We didn't find a kiddie playground,
but here are some big fountains, climbable sculptures, and geese
I've forgotten the name of our hotel (it was an older one, south
of the Loop and near the lakeshore) and don't remember clearly
any of the restaurants we ate in, so I can't help you with
that! But it wasn't difficult to find child-friendly places.
Fun for 13 year old in Chicago?
My almost 13 year old daughter and I will be traveling to
Michigan by train in late July and stopping over for 3 days in
Chicago. Any suggestions about how we can entertain ourselves? I
was there many years ago for a conference and just enjoyed
walking around and going out to dinner/music, but this trip
needs to be geared at least somewhat to her interests. She's
into animals, music, fashion, art (we'll probably go to the Art
Institute, but I don't know how well she'll take to the museum
scene). Also, any suggestions about where to stay? A reasonably
priced bed and breakfast not far from the train station would be
ideal, but not knowing the geography, that might be too much to
ask. If you're from there or visited before, any and all ideas
would appreciated. Thanks much
I lived in Chicago for 5 years, and if the weather had been
better, I would probably not have returned to California. But,
the summer is great and has a lot of fun things to do for adults
and teen-agers. I am not aware of any bed and breakfast type
accomodations near the train station or in the city, so if you
really want that type of accomodation, the closest place to look
would be in Lincoln Park (about 3 miles north of downtown).
However, with only 3 days, I would recommend paying a bit more
for a room in the Loop area, as you will then be perfectly
situated to walk to most points of interest and won't have to
incur cab fare/time to get to these places (most are a short
walk or bus/el ride away). Here's a few things that may interest
both you and your daughter:
- The Art Institute of Chicago can be overwhelming, but if you
do go, don't miss the unusual paper-weight exhibit and
miniatures room downstairs near the Kraft gallery - your
daughter may find this more interesting than Impressionist
- I highly recommend taking the Chicago Architecture
Foundation's Riverboat Cruise, as it gives a spectacular
overview of the city's history and architecture - while taking
you up and down the Chicago river and out onto Lake Michigan.
It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny.
- Marshall Fields on State Street is an entire block of
shopping, and is one of the original departments stores noted
for it's architecture. There is a recently renovated food court
on the top floor which has great food, and is very convenient.
- The Magnificent Mile is the main shopping area (think Rodeo
Drive quality) on Michigan Avenue between Oak Street and Wacker
- The Museum Campus, just SE of the AIC has the Shedd Aquarium,
Field Museum of Natural History, and Adler Planetarium, all in a
single cluster. If you go out to the tip of the Planetarium,
you get a great view back to the city.
- Lincoln Park is a nice little neighborhood with funky shops
and restaurants, and the free Lincoln Park Zoo. You can also go
for a stroll on the path near Lakeshore Drive.
- Navy Pier is very touristy and expensive, so I would avoid it
and spend my time elsewhere
- The Theatre District in the Loop may have some good shows, and
you can get half-price day-of tickets at Hot Tix
- If you are an architecture buff, you can go to Oak Park
(western suburb of Chicago) and do the Frank Lloyd Wright
My family visited Chicago last fall and had a lot of fun.
Although there were no teens in our party, I think some of the
stuff we did would appeal to your daughter. The Navy Pier is a
great place to just wander. It is touristy but still nice, and
the stained glass exhibits are wonderful. If your daughter
likes the American Girls stuff, definitely pay a visit to the
factory. And the Museum of Science and Industry (easy bus ride
from downtown) has a lot of cool interactive exhibits that
should be fun for that age. The Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour
in Oak Park is great, and the architectural society boat tours
were thoroughly enjoyed by my parents (though I didn't go
because I was at the Children's Museum with my then-21-month-
old!) Monday and Tuesday, admission at most museums is free
(though special exhibits cost extra); if those aren't the days
you'll be there, you can get a CityPass which gets you
discounted admission to the Art Institute, the Field Museum,
etc. and is a good choice if you plan to hit several museums.
We stayed in an old hotel near the big fountain -- I'm afraid I
can't recall the name of either, but it's closer to the Field
Museum than to Navy Pier -- which was significantly less
expensive than the newer hotels in the downtown
business/shopping district, but still within walking distance of
almost everything we wanted to see, and the rooms, though
smallish, were quite nice.
Try Navy Pier. It has tons of shops, rides, food and during the
summer months, fireworks on Wednesday evenings. You can also
see the fireworks from the lakefront by the Planetarium.
Lincoln Park Zoo is right in downtown. My favorite zoo is the
Brookfield Zoo, but that's a bit of a drive from Chicago.
I just got back from a week in Chicago. It's a wonderful city,
and my 15 year old son has had a good time on several
relatively recent visits. (The best time, of course, when he
went alone to visit his sister, a college student there.)
The train station is downtown, not a noticeable
bed-and-breakfast area, but I found (on various internet sites)
great prices on good downtown hotels. (I'm a fan of old hotels,
with architectural character.) Kids seem to like Navy
Pier which is just north of the Loop (extensive exhibit of
stained glass along with all the amusements, people watching,
etc.). The Chicago Architectural Foundation (offices and gift
across Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute)has great walking
tours (and a boat tour): Chicago architecture is dramatic. The
Art Institute (I just spent a whole day there) has plenty of
stuff that would intrigue kids: there's a couple of rooms of
period furniture miniatures, my son loved the armor, there's a
Renaissance jewels. And, of course, the Impressionist paintings
are breathtaking. My son was completely occupied by exhibits at
the Museum of Science and Industry (in Hyde Park). You can walk
forever looking in funky stores on north side streets (Clark
Street, Belmont Avenue, for example). There's a zoo in Lincoln
Park (north side),close to the lake and stylish neighborhoods.
And, a great time was had by all generations doing something I
never thought I'd ever recommend going to the top of the Sears
Used to hate Chicago, but now I love it
Chicago is great in the Summer. A 13 year old girl interested in
animals would like the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's on the North Side
in Lincoln Park and across from Lake Michigan. If you hit some
warm weather, you may want to spend some time at the Beach. The
Art Institute is great. There is also a museum of Contemporary
Art behind Water Tower Place. Chicago is a city full of museums
of interest and you may want to invest in a multi museum
visitor's pass so you can save money on the admissions cost. If
I recall, The Art Institute is Free on Tuesdays. If she's into
shopping Water Tower and the Magnificent Mile (North Michigan
Ave) are great. Make sure to go to Navy Pier as well. You can't
miss the huge ferris wheel.
I don't know of any B&Bs near the train station. You may want to
pick up a The Chicago Magazine and other local publications as
soon as you arrive.
Enjoy some real Chicago pizza while you're there. Have fun!
WOW -- what a fun place for a 13 year old girl! First of all,
Michigan Ave. has some of the best shopping around, with
amazing stores one right after the other ! o if she likes to
shop, you're in luck. Also, Navy Pier is a lot of fun day or
night, with great restaurants (fun theme-related places),
games, rides, boat tours, ice cream, etc ... a fun place for all
ages. There is also a great architectural boat tour that
travels up the Chicago River and points out all of the great
architectural points of interest, along with some history (if
she likes that type of thing). Needless to say, Wrigley Field
is a fabulous place to catch a ball game. For pizza lovers,
you can't beat the stuffed pizza in Chicago, especially My
Pies (Fullerton and N. Clark?) or Gino's East. Hope this
Kid-friendly places in Ann Arbor and Chicago
Going to Ann Arbor and Chicago. Any recommendations on
kid-friendly places to visit or to eat at? We're taking our
6 year old and 4 year old.
Navy Pier in Chicago is great for kids of all ages. There
are rides, shops, restaurants, and my favorite is The
Childrens Discovery Museum. For great sandwiches or a ''pot
pie'' pizza try Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders. I think
it's on Clark Street, not far from downtown.
Ann Arbor has lots of great places to take kids. The Hands-
On museum, downtown near Main St., is good. Since it is
free, the Natural History Museum on campus is even better.
It has dinosaurs, and slightly funky dioramas. Very few
places aren't kid friendly, but a good (and often not too
crowded) place to eat near campus is Seva (on Liberty St.),
a vegetarian restaurant.
We just took a 2 week trip to Chicago while my
husband was there for work. We have lived there in the
past (pre-kids). There are lots of great places to take
them, even when the weather isn't great! You did not
say where you are staying, but from right downtown,
there is a free shuttle that will take you out to Navy Pier.
On a nice day, you could spend much of the day here!
We went on a very rainy, ugly day and took in the
Children's Museum (that easily takes a couple of
hours), then to see Beauty & the Beast at the theatre
there. The museum had a folk singer and the kids and I
sat and sang songs while she played guitar. If it's nice,
there is a huge ferris wheel there that brings you up so
high that you can see all over the city, and there are lots
of other rides (carousel, etc ..). Therre are a couple of
casual, fun restaurants there for lunch, too. In the
suburbs, in Barrington, was a great museum called
''The Children's Health Museum'', where the kids could
get their hands on things that taught them about how
their bodies work, the community, and the environment.
My kids didn't want to leave! You'd need a car to get to
that, though. You can also pay $1.50 (under 5 free) and
take the bus from downtown to the aquarium or
Museum of Natural History. The kids loved both of
those as well! Also in the suburbs is the fabulous
Brookfield Zoo. You can get all around the city on the
''El'' quite easily with kids and mine liked trying ''a new
train'' as they called it! Good luck and have fun!
I lived in Chicago for many years, great place to visit.
I recommend, along with the tons of museums, a boat tour along
the Chicago river. It's worth it, great way to see incredible
architecture. Also, lots of great beaches along the lake and the
Lincoln Park Zoo not to be missed. Suburbs are far away, not
worth the trips out there. ''Near North'' side has all the
Someplace fun with 5-year-old
I am returning home to Green Bay, Wisconsin for Christmas and am
stopping in Chicago for a day or so, on the way. It has been so long since
I have been back, that I am left unsure of where to go. I would like to
take my five-year old son to someplace fun! I thought about visiting the
Sears Tower with him in Chicago, but that is about it. As for Wisconsin I
have come up with driving to Door County, but I am not sure as I have never
been there in winter, and don't know what they have to offer. Any ideas
would be great, even of nice cozy places to stay for a few days, especially
The Chicago Children's Museum (http://www.chichildrensmuseum.org/) is
perfect for five-year-olds. (It's free if you're a member of Lawrence Hall
of Science or any of a number of other Bay Area museums).
The museum is at Navy Pier (http://www.navypier.com/), which has a free ice
skating rink (you can rent skates inexpensively), a carousel, a Ferris
wheel (yes, even in the winter -- dress warmly!), and free rides in
The classic free activity in Chicago in December, one I remember fondly
from my own childhood, is walking around Marshall Field's State Street
store, where the lavishly-decorated street-level windows, if you follow
them in sequence, tell a story.
this page was last updated: Oct 10, 2004
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