Chicago Family Vacation Ideas – Summer and Winter

Chicago Family Vacation IdeasChicago Family Vacation Ideas

Chicago, Illinois is the third largest city in the United States. The size may seem intimidating for Chicago family vacation ideas you may have. Chicago is  a very family-friendly, down to earth city and has a small town feel about it. Any family will find something to do in Chicago.

Chicago gets its name from a Potowanami Indian name that means “wild onion” or “skunk”. When the Indians first settled along Lake Michigan is was a patch of rotting marshland onions. The name Chicago seems right for such a location. Chicago nickname is the “Windy City”. Most people assume the name comes from the strong winds that can blow across Lake Michigan. The nickname was given to Chicago by Charles Dana, an editor of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper because he was tired of listening to the local long-winded politicians. The Old Water Tower located in downtown Chicago holds the stories of Chicago’s history

Chicago family vacation ideas are available every season of the year. Families will find activities inside and outside regardless of the weather to meet their interests.


Lake MichiganChicago Family Vacation Ideas

Chicago has several miles of beaches along beautiful Lake Michigan. There is room for building sand castles, swimming, wading, boogie boards and running in the sand dunes. When your family is hungry, enjoy a picnic along the lakeshore. Another option is dining at any of the restaurants you will find nearby. If you get tired of the beach, there are paved bike trails that run along the lake for 14 miles. Look into renting a bike to ride any distance your family would like to ride.

Navy Pier

The summer of 2016 was the 100th birthday of Navy Pier. Navy Pier is home to the Chicago Children’s Museum. 13 exhibits that cover three floors. Children have a chance to invent their own gadgets, discover dinosaurs, and run their own town. Nick Jr. Magazine awarded the Kids on the Fly exhibit the Playful Travel Award. This exhibit lets children be a pilot, play air traffic controller, and experience airline safety.

Navy Pier has a new climate controlled Ferris wheel that will give children a great view of the Chicago skyline. Navy Pier is also home to a children’s theater, Imax theater, many boat rides, and restaurants.

ZooChicago Family Vacation Ideas

Lincoln Park Zoo is one of Chicago family vacation ideas. This zoo is admission free and open every day of the year. There are many exhibits to experience including the gorilla house, polar bear habitat, birds of prey, a nature boardwalk, and the family children’s zoo. An interesting fact about Lincoln Park Zoo is that it is one of the oldest zoos in the country. The zoo is located in the heart of Chicago only walking distance from Lake Michigan.

Six Flags Amusement Park

North of Chicago you will find Six Flags Amusement Park . There is fun for the whole family in the water park or the amusement park. Many rides and attractions are appropriate for any age visitor.

Millenium ParkChicago Family Vacation Ideas

Your Chicago family vacation ideas surely include Millenium Park. This is the city’s newest gem. The kids will enjoy splashing around in the fountains, climbing on the sculptures and seeing their reflection in “The Bean”. Only a short walk away you will find the Buckingham fountain. Your family will be amazed by the daily light show after dark.



Millenium Park

Winter time provides many outside activities at Millenium Park. The outside skating rink in front of  “The Bean” and skating path through Maggie Daley Park will provide hours of fun and exercise for your family.

MuseumsChicago Family Vacation Ideas

The Field Museum, Science and Industry Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium are just some of the museums that you will be able to enjoy. You will find adventures here when the weather outside is cold or snowy. Each museum has its own favorites that visitors come back to experience many times. The coal mine at the Science and Industry Museum, Sue the dinosaur at The Field Museum, the Beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium and the giant telescope to see the planets through at the Adler Planetarium are just a few of the favorites. All of these museums are hands on for the children to learn and experience.


Final Thoughts

The only question left for your Chicago family vacation ideas is what time of year you will visit Chicago. The suggestions listed are only a beginning for your adventures in Chicago. You can add many other activities that are within a short drive or train ride from Chicago if you have room in your schedule.Chicago Family Vacation Ideas

Planning ahead is always recommended for the best prices on hotels and attractions. If you plan to stay in downtown Chicago planning ahead is important because the hotels do fill up. Because of all the events that happen in and around the city of Chicago. There are family friendly hotels in Chicago to choose from. Also, consider staying a short drive or train ride outside of the city for better rates on hotels.


Which activities interest you the most? I hope I have given you a few Chicago family vacation ideas for you to explore.

Leave a comment or suggestion about traveling or staying in Chicago so we can learn from your experience.


Chicago Family Vacation Ideas





  1. Dan

    I love this post! I haven’t traveled much, and this gave me a lot to think about when I get around to planning a trip. Chicago will definitely be on my list of places to see now!

    1. Janice Martin (Post author)

      Dan I am happy to hear that Chicago is a place you would like to visit. There are many more things to see and do then were listed in the post. Feel free to check in again if you would like some more ideas.
      Best regards, Janice

  2. John

    Love going to Chicago. Your list would be a lot of fun with a toddler. My son was 8 the last time we went. We did hit Lake Michigan and the Navy Pier. We also went to a Cubs game, Willis Tower and watched the fire works off of Lake Shore Drive.

    1. Janice Martin (Post author)

      Chicago has so much to offer. There is no way to include everything there is to do in just one post. For any age child there are choices that will suit their interests. The fireworks are beautiful and they are lit twice a week all summer long.
      Thank you John for your comments. Please share the post with those that would benefit from the information.
      Best regards, Janice

  3. Xdeem Li


    Chicago seems like a cozy little town, even though it is the third largest city. Summer definitely would make more sense, especially traveling with family. Winters are just too cold in Chicago, but you can say that about many cities. The zoo sounds like a great idea for families, and the fact that the admission free. WOW! Also, most people don’t think about the beach when they think about Chicago, since it is in the Midwest. Thanks Lake Michigan. You forgot to mention the great food! Fabulous steaks and Chicago style pizza.

    1. Janice Martin (Post author)

      Thank you Xdeem Li for your recommends.
      You are so right about the the food in Chicago. The pizza and hot dogs are famous and very kid friendly.
      Chicago has many offerings year round that are inside and out. Don’t let the cold keep you away!
      Best regards, Janice

  4. Koko

    Hi Janice, thanks for this interesting reading expedition on Chicago – truly brilliant. I have never been to the US much less Chicago and would like to frequent soon and have put Chicago on my list as a family vacation spot. Thanks for the heads up on what Chicago has to offer. Cheers.

    1. Janice Martin (Post author)

      There is so much for families to do in Chicago. So many more museums and activities that would make the post way too long to read.
      Your will not be disappointed spending time in Chicago no matter when your come.
      Thank you for your comments and your interest.
      Best regards, Janice

  5. Kerri

    I have never been to Chicago and have always wondered what there was to do there. I may have to take a trip and see some of the places you have highlighted. I would have never thought about the beach when visiting a large city. That’s an awesome suggestion to get away and relax beach-side.

    1. Janice

      Thank you for your comments.

      Chicago is a very diverse and rich environment. Summer or winter provide a wide variety of activities. There are so many more activities then I listed in this article. If you do visit let me know and I can tailor suggestions to your specific interests.

      Best regards, Janice

  6. Alice

    Thanks for this post! We lived in Chicago for two years and all of your recommendations are spot on! The planetarium is also great and Moreton Arboretum is stunning! There’s always so much going on in Chicago, and the restaurants are fantastic, the mexican ones especially. Thanks again, I think I need to book myself a visit back there now!

    1. Janice

      Come on back for a visit! Chicago is a great place to spend some time.


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