Chicago’s Best Kept Secrets for Families
Family-friendly Chicago attractions By Jody Halsted
Downtown Chicago (Flickr: Roman Boed)
When choosing family-friendly attractions in Chicago, a few places always seem to make the list: the ‘Magnificent Mile’ and its luxury shopping, the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, Millennium Park with photo opps at the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka ‘the bean’), the Field Museum of Natural History featuring Sue the T-Rex, and the massive Shedd Aquarium. All worthy sites. But to get a deeper flavor of Chicago with kids, add a few of these ‘local secrets’ to your itinerary.
Where to Stay
Hampton Inn Majestic Chicago Theater District (Courtesy Hampton Inn Majestic Chicago Theater District)
For a kid-friendly hotel within walking distance of Chicago’s top attractions, just look for the Majestic Building. Located a few blocks from Michigan Avenue, the Hampton Inn Majestic Chicago Theater District hotel is actually inside the Bank of America Broadway Theater. The hotel feels boutique, but is a great value with comfortable rooms and complimentary hot breakfast daily.
Just north of downtown Chicago, The Guesthouse Hotel gives families an opportunity to live like a local in one of the city’s most beautiful neighborhoods. Two and three bedroom suites feature gourmet kitchens, private balconies with grill and patio furniture, and even a fireplace. Spoil yourself with meal delivery from local restaurants, or get groceries delivered from local bakers and butchers. A dedicated ‘Kids page’ on the website offers activities and amenities for kids that will have you feeling like you’re part of the neighborhood in no time.
Where to Eat
Champions Burger at the DMK Burger Bar (Courtesy DMK Burger Bar)
Saying you have the “best grass-fed burgers, shakes and fries that ever hit your lips” are pretty big words, but if anyone can make that claim it’s DMK Burger Bar. The kid-friendly menu features 9 deluxe burgers, but it’s the house-made sodas, shakes, and Great Chicago Fries that make this a stand out dining destination. With 4 Chicago locations you’re not far from a great meal.
What to Do
Chicago is really a big city made of up dozens of smaller neighborhoods. The Lincoln Square neighborhood dates back to the mid-1800s, when the area was prairie farmland. With a wonderful European feel, a cute village square with a fountain, and a wonderful variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants this kid-friendly neighborhood is perfect for lazy afternoon wanderings.
Take a break from museums at Oz Park in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Begin with a stroll through the family-friendly Emerald Garden where statues of Wizard of Oz characters greet you along the pathways before taking the kids to Dorothy’s Playlot, which is filled with play equipment for climbing, swinging, and running. Look for a Hubby’s Dog House cart for a real Chicago Hot Dog to recharge after all that playing!
Chicago History Museum (Courtesy Chicago History Museum)
The city of Chicago is a pretty incredible place and the Chicago History Museum lets you discover it all! Become a Chicago-style hot dog or catch a fly ball at Comiskey Park in the Sensing Chicago exhibition. Get hands on building Chicago’s skyscrapers or tracing the path of the great Chicago Fire. You’ll need to plan a few hours to take in all the kid-friendly attractions at this museum.
(MORE: Insider Guide: Chicago)
Though it is connected to Millennium Park by the BP Pedestrian Bridge, few tourists cross Columbus Drive to enjoy Maggie Daley Park. The six Play Garden spaces are only the beginning to the wonders in this park. Summer adventures on the climbing wall give way to winter fun on the skating ribbon. Picnic groves, gardens, and year round events make this a must when visiting Chicago with kids.
You’ll want a car or taxi to get to the fun photo opp in the Near West area of Chicago. The office of Big Monster Toys will make you feel like you’ve wandered onto the set of Monsters, Inc. Hang from the doorknob of the oversized door and say hello to the big monster peering out at you. It’s a perfect ending to a fun family vacation in Chicago.