Chicago for the Under 5 Set
Chicago has a wide range of museums and sights to see for all age groups, but some sites are better suited for young children. Here are my picks for kids under age 5 in Chicago.
5 Fun Things to do in Chicago with Young Kids
1. Chicago Children’s Museum – Navy Pier
There is such a wide range of activities for kids at the Chicago Children’s Museum. From building a fort, to inspecting collections of tiny treasures, we could have spent many more hours at this museum. My 4-year old daughter had the time of her life climbing a two story rope tower, digging for dinosaur eggs, and splashing in the water tables (complete with raincoats).
My son who is 8-years old, had fun, but there were fewer areas of interest for him. He felt that some of the play areas were for kids much younger than the ripe old age of 8.
Tip: This museum is a member of the Association of Children’s Museums, so make sure to bring your home children’s museum membership card to receive a discount on admission.
Children will also enjoy the experience of Navy Pier with many tasty restaurants, a laser tag area, IMAX theater, and cute shops and eateries. The Ferris wheel has just been remodeled this year, and although it may be too scary for small kids, it’s fun to just watch as you take a leisurely stroll along the lake.
2. Maggie Daley Park
They did not make playgrounds like this when we were kids, and I must say that I had just a twinge of jealously when I took my kids to Maggie Daley Park for the first time. There is a separate area for young kids with smaller slides and climbers, but my 4-year old played just briefly there before heading over to the “big kids” area.
Let your kids run off some steam on the climbers and giant aluminum (fast) slides. The area is very stroller friendly, and you have a great vantage point to keep an eye on your munchkins from below. I climbed up the play structures with my kids and tried one or two of them myself, after I saw several other parents doing the same. You will need to give the five-minute warning multiple times at this park before you leave!
3. Shedd Aquarium
Although appropriate for bigger kids too, Shedd Aquarium is a great place for little ones! Plan for a short visit with young children, and don’t expect to see everything in one day. I think the highlights for kids under age 5 are the starfish touch area, where kids can touch and feel live sea animals, the reef exhibit, and the penguins. The dolphin show is really interesting, but you be the judge if your young kids can sit through the show after all of the stimuli of visiting such an amazing aquarium.
4. Pool time
When we are staying at a hotel, a pool is a must for our family. We often start and end our days with a swim while on vacation. The pool area at Hilton Chicago is honestly one of the best indoor hotel pool areas we have ever experienced. The large lap pool is flanked by tall windows with a city view and a rooftop deck for sunning in warmer months. The water was crystal clear, and the temperature was perfect for small children who get chilled easily. There are two hot tubs. So if kids are playing in one, other grown up guests can be relaxing in the other.
5. Sugar Fix
Just a short walk from Hilton Chicago is a Stan’s Donuts shop. While not the healthiest option, you’re going to walk off all the sugar as you go about your fun filled day in Chicago. They also serve Chicago-based Intelligentsia coffee, bagels, and gelato.
Although you can’t go wrong with any flavor donut, my favorite is pistachio, and my kids vote for chocolate frosted. Stan’s originated on the West Coast, but Midwesterners can now enjoy them in Chicago too!
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