The Windy City wears many hats. Chicago is one of America's gourmet capitals, it's a hub of youthful energy and student-centric nightlife but all the while it's a welcoming family friendly tourist destination. The city’s comforting range of attractions on offer for families with young children in Chicago suits every little personality, from sea life enthusiasts to scientific brains. Fortunately, the city's very best pits - the culinary culture, the history, the creativity and the energy - are all things that you don't need an over-18 ID card to enjoy. The following five best family friendly attractions in Chicago are prime examples of just how accessible, fun and hospitable the city is for young families.
When in doubt, visit Navy Pier. This is a mecca of entertainment in Chicago, boasting a range of day-brightening attractions like theme park rides, an IMAX theater, cruises, regular outdoor performances and fireworks during the summer months. There's enough going on at Navy Pier to entertain the whole family for a full day of action-packed fun, although adults without accompanying tots will likely enjoy Navy Pier as much as families. However, unlike the standard museum attraction, there's no cover fee here and each attraction is payable individually - meaning this day out could run a little steep for young families.
The Shedd Aquarium is known America-wide as the biggest indoor aquarium in the country, but visitors will soon realize this attraction has both scale and quality. With tens of thousands of sea creatures residing at Shedd Aquarium - including Beluga whales and sea dragons - animal lovers will be charmed by the displays and regular shows at Shedd Aquarium. Highlights include the dolphin show and the jellyfish encounter, but lowlights will no doubt include a long wait in line outside for visitors who forget to purchase tickets online in advance.
The Children's Museum can be found on Chicago's Navy Pier, but we advise that guests with kids treat the two as individual trips, as the Children's Museum is itself a day-long activity. This attraction is sure to tire the kids out, with a seemingly endless supply of interactive and educational games, role plays, experiments and shows. From basic water games and arts and crafts activities to more advanced scientific experiments, the Children's Museum will keep both the little and the big kids entertained for hours on end.
If you have an hour or two to spare, the Conservatory, set in Garfield Park, is a unique and free attraction that provides a welcome retreat from the hubbub of the city. Adults will love the tranquillity here while kids will adore the range of wild and wonderful exotic flora growing inside the towering glass house. A slightly out of the way location is compensated for by free parking on the grounds, meaning this is reasonable accessible for most families. Renovations between 2014 and 2015 mean that some rooms may be closed, but there's still always plenty to see.
Science museums are a common sight in most big American cities, and they're usually a reliable choice for the kids, but the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is on a uniquely large and undeniably impressive scale. The MSI Chicago typically hosts at least three full-scale and interactive exhibits covering themes of science, history and culture, along with 'live science' shows and movies at the dramatic, vast Omnimax theatre. While toddlers are unlikely to fully appreciate the interactivity of many of the museum's exhibitions, kids of 6 and up - and the accompanying adults! - are guaranteed to spend hours of immersive fun here.