Things to Do in Downtown Chicago With Kids

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Cosmopolitan downtown Chicago offers a number of activities for kids.
Cosmopolitan downtown Chicago offers a number of activities for kids. (Image: chicago river, chicago image by rese3282 from Fotolia.com)

Downtown Chicago, commonly referred to as The Loop, encompasses the central financial, theater, government and shopping core of Chicago. Within The Loop, visitors with children in tow will find a number of activities to keep the young ones busy. The Children's Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium and Millennium Park are places to seek out when in downtown Chicago with kids.

Chicago Children's Museum

Located at Navy Pier, the Chicago Children's museum maintains a number of permanent and rotating exhibits geared toward kids. A mock fire station, fully-equipped art studio and urban garden area with giant garden-themed toys are just a few options for keeping little hands busy. The museum offers early-learning and art-learning programs, in addition to birthday parties and free entry on Thursday evenings. All other days, admission for adults and children is $10 per person as of 2010.

Chicago Children's Museum 700 E. Grand Ave. Chicago, IL 60611 312-527-1000 chicagochildrensmuseum.org

Shedd Aquarium

Located on the south end of Grant Park, the Shedd Aquarium is one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world. A wide variety of fish and mammalian sea creatures are on display at Shedd Aquarium, including dolphins, Beluga whales and sea otters. Of particular interest to children is the Polar Play Zone, a kids-dedicated area where little ones can try on a penguin costume and play pretend, get up close with sea creatures in the touch pools and explore a child's size submarine. Shedd Aquarium is open daily with the exception of December 25.

Shedd Aquarium 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60605 312-692-3373 sheddaquarium.org

The Art Institute of Chicago

Known for its impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, The Art Institute of Chicago is the second largest fine art museum in the United States. For children with an interest in art, the Institute offers family programming, including special family-friendly exhibits, tours and hands-on activities in the Family Room. The Lions Trail Family Tour is geared specifically for children ages 5 to 10 and presents the museum's artwork in a fun and dramatic way. The Magical Dwellings Inside and Out workshop is for youth ages 9 to 12 and allows for young artists to create their own miniature piece of installation art.

The Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60603 312-443-3600 artic.edu

Millennium Park

A 24.5 acre park in downtown Chicago, Millennium Park is more than just wide lawns for picnics and play. The park houses a theater, art gallery and a number of family-friendly festivals and events. In the summer, the park hosts a free Family Fun Festival each Friday. Children's music, circus and theater performers take the stage and activities such as face-painting and arts and crafts are offered. Also on-site is the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, open during the winter months. Ice skating is free and open to the public. You can rent skates for $10, as of 2010.

Millennium Park Welcome Center 201 E. Randolph St. in the Northwest Exelon Pavilion Chicago, IL 60601 millenniumpark.org

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