Chicago Local Highlights

Published on February 18, 2022 - Updated on February 25, 2022

Chicago has something for everyone! Whether your kids prefer to explore nature, play at a park in the city, or stay warm inside at the aquarium, Chicago has no shortage of great family-friendly activities. Check out a few of our local ambassador recommended ones below!

Chicago Family-Friendly Activities

Lincoln Park Zoo

2001 N Clark St., Chicago


The Lincoln Park Zoo is open and relatively inexpensive to visit. This urban zoo is nestled between the Lincoln Park neighborhood and the lakeshore, and it is a great FREE option – actually, it is one of the few free zoos in North America! It's easy to stroll through, and some of the exhibits feel quite 'close-up,' so you can see the animals well. There is also a children's zoo on the west side of the 30-acre property where you can see a red wolf, a black bear, and an indoor section with a few frogs and turtles.

Shedd Aquarium

1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago


Shedd Aquarium is a great spot to visit when you need a fun indoor educational activity. Make sure to touch the stingrays; it is the most exciting part of the whole experience! (Currently, the stingray touch tank is only open May-October) You will need to purchase timed tickets in advance to visit the aquarium, so make sure to plan out your visit ahead of time.

The Museum of Science and Industry

5700 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago


The wonders of nature are explained in several exhibits throughout The Museum of Science and Industry. Science Storms recreates tornadoes, tsunamis, and lightning storms with the help of museum visitors, while Numbers in Nature demonstrates the beauty and significance of natural patterns. Be sure to stay to watch one of the IMAX films. They are often about animals and wildlife, and kids love them! The museum also offers virtual reality and lab experiences, flight simulations, and viewings of educational films in its Giant Dome Theater.

Chicago Lakefront Trail

7100 South/2560 East to 5800 North/1000 West, Chicago


The Chicago Lakefront Trail stretches almost 19 miles around Chicago and is good for biking in most places. It passes through at least thirteen lakefront neighborhoods and four parks. It's super scenic with magnificent lake views and gorgeous cityscapes. Primarily used for walking, jogging, and cycling, it's super popular in the warmer months.

Indiana Dunes State Park

1600 N 25 E, Chesterton, Indiana


Indiana Dunes is open and very much worth the 1-hour drive from Chicago! There is a beach area where your kids can splash around in the water and obviously plenty of sand to run around and play in! There are also plenty of trails to hike or just enjoy your afternoon with a beautiful view.

The LaBagh Woods

West Foster Avenue, N Cicero Ave, Chicago


If you're looking for a hike in the city, there is no better place than The LaBagh Woods. These woods offer an easy opportunity to take a hike, catch glimpses of various natural habitats, including wetlands, savannas, and sedge meadows, and enjoy great outdoor time without planning a big getaway from the city. Known for its bird watching opportunities, these woods are part of the southern tip of Cook County's North Branch Trail, which follows the North Branch of the Chicago River. Open year-round from sunset to sunrise, you'll find people enjoying mountain biking (though relatively flat- this is still the Midwest after all), walks with their dogs (leashes required), hiking, picnicking, and nature observing.

Chicago Navy Pier

600 E Grand Ave, Chicago


The Chicago Navy Pier is a fun day out for tourists visiting the area. There are many restaurants on the pier providing outdoor dining options, so you can make an afternoon of it and get lunch or dinner while there. They also have a children's splash pad, a giant Ferris wheel (amazing views!), and a children's museum.

Do you have any favorite Chicago spots you like to visit? Any local gems? We love hearing about all of your family adventures. And don't forget to tag us on Instagram @gethappyly with all of your photos as well. We know you've got them! Let's share them!

Looking to get out of the Windy City for a few days? Check out our Spring Break Road Trips from the Twin Cities! Quite a few of the destinations are close to Chicago and will get you out and about and adventuring with your family. And don't forget about Shawnee National Forest and Sleeping Bear Dunes! A half day's drive will get you to hidden gems in the Midwest!

And if you want even more great content at your fingertips, then download the happyly app and enjoy access to the best ambassador-recommended destinations right at your fingertips! It's the country's only mobile-first family activity planning app for fast access to all of our blog content, favorite activities, and expertly curated days, both locally and in many communities and travel destinations across the country.

Thoughtfully captured by:
Natalie Proctor
Natalie Proctor is what some would call a “Southern transplant” in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee before attending the University of Arkansas to pursue a degree in advertising and public relations with a minor in marketing logistics. Natalie attributes her love of the outdoors to her parents always encouraging her to have a deep appreciation for nature and all that the world has to offer. As a family, they spent many years growing up going on camping trips, skiing, rafting, and traveling together. While Natalie loves the seasonal lifestyle in Jackson, she was ready to become a part of something bigger and challenge herself. She found Happy Active Family at the perfect time, upon meeting Caitlin and Thomas, and strives to help other families spend meaningful time together, just as she has been able to with her own.
More posts by Natalie
Our favorite activities in Dallas, TX.
Enjoy some socially distant fun with your kiddos this Halloween with our printable scavenger hunt!
Denver is a wonderful place to spend time with your kiddos! With 300 days of sun a year, it’s likely that good weather will accompany your visit and y