Chicago is one of my favorite cities and a super kid-friendly place to visit. For many families in the Midwest, it’s an easy drive and offers a fantastic big city experience that still feels easy to navigate and full of friendly Midwesterners. No matter what time of year we visit, the city’s museums offer tons of fun for kids and parents alike.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite kid-friendly museums in Chicago. From dinosaur bones and shooting stars to submarines and butterflies, these year-round attractions will have your whole family learning something new while you play and discover.
Chicago Museums For Kids That Our Whole Family Loves
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If you have kids who are interested in dinosaurs or any other part of natural history, you need to make a stop at the Field Museum in Chicago, home of a spectacular T. Rex skeleton named Sue (Note: Sue is currently off display and will return in Spring of 2019). My kids also loved the Egyptian pyramid exhibit and the precious gems room. Keep in mind this is a more traditional natural history museum, but there is a fun kids space that’s more interactive in the basement and we found several volunteers who offered hands-on demonstrations throughout the museum. Definitely worth a visit, especially for kids ages 5+
Check it out: From Family Rambling, a helpful post with All You Need to Know Before Visiting the The Field Museum
This huge hands-on museum has something for everyone but probably offers more for elementary-age kids and teens than for really little kiddos. We spent an entire day here and certainly didn’t get to everything, so make sure you prioritize what you want to visit. There are up-charges for several special exhibits but if you’re an ASTC Passport member, general admission is free for you. My kids especially loved The Idea Factory area (for kids under 10) but they only allow a certain number of kids in at a time so make sure to arrive early if you want a spot.
We love this beautiful nature museum tucked into Lincoln Park, just north of downtown Chicago. Learn about the native plants and animals of the Midwest and Great Lakes with fun hands-on exhibits and tons of animal tanks to check out. There’s a fun little kids play area and both my boys love the water table. The rotating exhibits upstairs are always fun and are included with admission, plus you can often visit the butterflies in the greenhouse. When the weather is nice you can wander the park but we also love this museum for cold or rainy days in the city. Free for ASTC Passport members as well. Probably best for ages 2-12.
Check it out: From A Little Time and A Keyboard, a great post all about Exploring at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Chicago Museums for Kids on Our Bucket List
I’ve heard great things about this museum for kids, located at Navy Pier. My boys would love to check out the huge water table area or climb the schooner tower. Thursday nights are free and the first Sunday of the month is free for kids 15 and under.
Having visited several times before I had kids, I can’t wait to let my kids experience this world-class art museum. Tickets for adults a bit pricey but kids 13 and under are free! The Art Institute of Chicago offers a family art experience daily, plus ideas for mini-tours and even a great kids menu in their cafe. Do some prep ahead of time to help kids understand what they’re seeing. Look for special discounts for Chicago/Illinois residents.
Check it out: From Arrows Sent Forth, lots of kid friendly tips for visiting The Art Institute Of Chicago
My animal-lover kids are begging to visit the Shedd Aquarium and we are working to get it on our calendar for this spring! With live animal demonstrations, chats with their caretakers, to hands-on touch tanks, this is a fantastic aquarium experience. There are a variety of discounts available but I’ve heard from more than one person that it’s super important to buy tickets online to avoid some crazy lines, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend or during school breaks.
Don’t think this is just for watching a star show. The Adler Planetarium includes several interactive exhibits for kids and offers a variety of ticket prices depending on what your kids are interested in and how much time you have. Plus, it’s another ASTC Passport participant so members get free general admission.
Check it out: From The Working Mom’s Travels, lots of info about visiting Adler Planetarium and other Chicago attractions with little ones.
How to Save Money on Chicago Museums for Kids
Depending on how many of these institutions you’re thinking about visiting during your trip, you might want to check out the Chicago City Pass. It’s worth adding up admission to the museums you plan to visit and then comparing it to this city-wide pass. In many cases it can save you some money and also lets you skip some ticket lines.
I also can’t recommend an ASTC Passport Program enough. By joining your local science museum, you earn reciprocal membership to several Chicago museums. Make sure to read the fine print, since this offer only applies to museums that are 90 miles from Chicago. Look into Illinois/Chicago free days and discounts if you’re a local resident.
Whether you visit one or all of these great Chicago museums for kids, you won’t be disappointed. These attractions are a hit year-round and are a great excuse to check out the city!
If you’re headed to Chicago and have a question about one of these museums, leave a comment below. Have another Chicago museum you love or a special tip for visiting? We’d love to hear from you!