Too windy? With museums, theatre and outdoors fun galore, Chicago, Illinois is a happening destination for family travelers of all ages, and at all times of year.
We didn’t need the daughters of the First Family to tell us how great Chicago, Illinois is for kids. There’s plenty to do in the Windy City for school kids or kids of all ages, and their curious parents. For more general information, contact Chicago’s tourism office website or call 877/CHICAGO or 312/744-2400. For current entertainment schedules and restaurant guides, check www.metromix.com.
Family Savings Alert!
This destination participates in the following savings programs that give families access to tours and attractions at discounted prices. Check out what’s available:
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 North Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
A welcome respite from bustling downtown, the nation’s oldest zoo rests on 35 acres of parkland in the heart of the city. Besides an animal collection that’s a real treat in nice weather, there is the Lincoln Pritzker Children’s Zoo featuring a new Walk in the Woods exhibit recreating the woodlands of North America with native creatures, such as the River Otter and American Beaver. With one of the largest zoo-based Conservation and Science Centers, many exhibits encourage visitors to learn by not only viewing, but by participating. In the Farm-in-the-Zoo, for instance, you can feed and milk the cows, as well as watch the daily milking demonstrations. There is also a farmhouse kitchen where guests can learn where food comes from. Did we mention that admission is always free?
Make a bee-line for Museum Campus, a pedestrian-friendly area which is home to the following three renowned museums:
Field Museum of Natural History
1400 South Lake Shore Drive (at Roosevelt Road)
Chicago, IL 60605
This world-class museum has hands-on exhibits to help kids and families discover the ancient worlds of dinosaurs (don’t miss Sue, the largest T-Rex skeleton ever found), Egyptian mummies, and extinct civilizations. Your family will learn about the power of volcanoes, exotic mammals and different types of birds. There’s so much to see here, don’t try to do it all in one day.
Museum of Science and Industry
57th and Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637-1414
A thorough look at how things work, with over 25 exhibits designed for hands-on interaction. It also houses the city’s major Omnimax theater which is of great interest to younger kids. Our favorites are the coal mine tour which make you feel as if you are 600-feet below the surface, and the chick hatchery where you can actually watch chicks hatch and hop around, and a genetics exhibit explaining the mysterious DNA and showing off a number of genetically modified creatures (nothing grotesque). The Great Train Story includes interactive exhibits and realistic terrain with 34 trains, 500 scale structures, 28 bridges, and a 14-foot Sears Tower helps visitors explore rail operations in the United States on a trip from Chicago to Seattle. “ToyMaker 3000” is an exciting exhibit that employs a Computer Aided Design (CAD) sytem, robotic arms and an automated assembly line to present the world of automated manufacturing. The remarkable new YOU! the Experience permanent installation allows families to explore all aspects of the body in depth, using state-of-the-art multi-media. One of the most timely exhibits is the new Smart House, which is a full size houses built on the grounds with the most current green building techniques. And don’t miss the 250-foot-long real WWII German submarine in its own exhibition room.
John G. Shedd Aquarium
1200 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Home to over 25,000 animals, Shedd is the world’s largest indoor aquarium. The Oceanarium recreates a Pacific Northwest coastal habitat for Beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters and harbor seals, all seen through underwater viewing windows. In the main aquarium, habitats from all over the globe are represented. If you take your time, you’ll find the Amazon Rising exhibit fascinating. There are plenty of hands-on exhibits, opportunities to try a scientific experiment, a dolphin show and periodic “Sleep with the Fishes” overnights for families. Fantasea is a new show which involves music, song, boats traveling through the air, and Beluga whales, dolphins, penguins and even a hawk strutting their stuff.
Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum
1300 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605-2403
Journey into space through galleries, the Star Rider Show, and the shifting educational programs in the Sky Theater. The first Friday evening of every month is a “Far Out Friday,” featuring special telescope viewings, demonstrations, and live entertainment.
Shop On The Magnificent Mile: Michigan Avenue
625 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 401
Chicago, IL 60611
Everything your child’s pre-teen heart could ever desire can be purchased on Michigan Avenue. Stores and stores galore: the flagship Marshall Field’s department store (a stunning space at Christmas), Niketown, FAO Schwarz, the American Girl Place and endless amounts of pricey boutiques. Crowded beyond belief on Saturdays and Sundays and worth a look — even if you only plan to window shop. Those with infants and toddlers might prefer a Chicago Trolley tour of the MM (773/648-5000).
Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust
951 Chicago Avenue
Oak Park, IL 60302
If there’s a budding architect in your family, don’t miss the birthplace of Prairie Style architecture at two sites in and near Chicago. First, tour the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in nearby Oak Park, Wright’s architectural laboratory from 1898 to 1909, the first 20 years of his career. This is where he and his family lived, and where he designed more than 150 buildings. The home and studio were completely restored in a project which began in 1974 and guided tours are offered of both buildings. Various programs for youths and adults are available and families are encouraged to attend a block building education session where guests can design their own dream homes in Wright’s drafting studio. Other programs highlight the architectural priciples that shaped Wright’s work. Additionally, there is a walking tour of the Oak Park community, where visitors can view the exteriors of many buildings which were designed at the restored studio. Back in town, the 1909 Frederick C. Robie House, located on the campus of the University of Chicago, and described by Wright as “the cornerstone of modern architecture” is open for touring during its ongoing restoration project.
1616 North Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60614
If you happen to be traveling with older teenagers, then Second City might be a great place for you and your family to find some laughs. This comedy club, with two stages, one seating 290 audience members and the other 180, is famous for launching the likes of Jim Belushi, Mike Myers and Bill Murray. Call for reservatins if you are looking for talent, funny people and a bit of improv stand-up
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