I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything, but now that the wedding is fast approaching there are a few things I wanted to mention for our potential guests.
We have had a few concerned parents asking us recently what they can do to entertain their children in Chicago while there for the wedding. I’ve done some research and found several websites listing family-friendly activities in the Chicago metro area. Additionally, many of the museums have children’s exhibits. I have updated the sights section to include the family friendly destinations and I will list them all here with brief descriptions as well.
Lists of family friendly Chicago activities:
Chicago Kids – A comprehensive list of family-friendly activities and attractions in the Chicago metro area
Alpha-mom Blog – A blog listing 50 activities to do with your children in Chicago. Some of them are for older kids, but many of them would be fun for younger children as well.
Family friendly attractions (addresses and maps for these attractions can be found in the sights section of the wedding website) :
Chicago Children’s Museum– Smack dab in the middle of navy pier, Chicago Children’s Museum is the place for preschoolers as well as for children up to age 10. While seasonal changes do occur permanent hands-on exhibits include Dinosaur Expedition which re-creates an expedition to the Sahara, and a dig for the bones of Suchomimus, a Saharan dinosaur and Kovler Family Climbing Schooner, a towering three story schooner with three floors of rigging which allows kids to travel to the ocean’s bottom and see topical fish and to the tip-top and racing through the rope-like tubes. There is also a mini urban adventure center known as Kidstown, which provides a toddler-scale community with grocery store, gas station and school.
The Chicago Historical Society – Time travel with your kids. The Chicago Historical Society is an active place where young children are allowed to climb aboard a twelve-ton locomotive. Activities change daily with craft demonstrations, creative history tales and opportunities to explore the hands-on gallery. You can’t miss the Sensing Chicago exhibit which allows kids to explore the sights and sounds of the city. They can ride a high-wheel bicycle, be a Chicago- style hot dog, discover history though smell at the Smell Map, plus much more.
The Shedd Aquarium – Enjoy a few hours under water. John G. Shedd Aquarium is a grand fish bowl perched on the shore of Lake Michigan – a blast for all ages. Located within walking distance of the Natural History Museum it is a nice complement to a day at the lakeshore. The staff has created a series of action plans to help parents enjoy the museum with their children. The themed “Ten Fun Finds” include things for tots, animal games, all about sharks, thing to make me hungry, and the best dressed at the Shedd. Each tour plan includes a high resolution map which may be downloaded from home.
The Brookfield Zoo – Try an animal encounter. The city boasts two zoos, each with a distinctive personality and both great choices for families. Brookfield Zoo – the larger of the two- is located west of the city about 15 miles. The state of the art complex has more than 20 exhibits and animal houses with butterflies, dolphins, and pachyderms. In habitats designed to replicate nature. The “Tropic World” recreates environments of the rainforests on three continents. The “Fragile Kingdom” imagines the desert, jungle, and mountainous regions. There is also an area dedicated to the sea as well as a Children’s Zoo which includes a petting zoo. During the winter months the Motor Safari becomes the “Snow Ball Express” with a heated version
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – This unique museum aspires to inspire people to learn about and care for nature and the environment. The exhibitions and public programs foster green living. Feature exhibits include Lawn Nation, about America’s love-hate relationship with lawns as well as a huge outdoor exhibit called the Greening Project. More remarkable and rewarding to share with children is the Butterfly Haven a 2,700 square-foot greenhouse with – you guessed it butterflies. Nearly 1,000 chrysalides arrive each week and each day new butterflies are released into the greenhouse. Enjoy a Hands-on-Habitat exhibit which is both hands-on and, body-on for naturalists ages 3 to 7. During the warm weather months take part in a garden gnome hunt in and around the grounds. Each day at 11a.m. join others in a half-hour discovery tour and explore the exciting world of animals and plants large and small. This guided play program for young learners and caregivers provides plenty of interaction.
The Museum of Science and Industry – If there is time for only one museum The Museum of Science and Industry is the one. It is a museum mall with a contemporary amphitheater rotunda and many interactive experiences. Just riding the escalator is a blast for most little ones. Exhibits include the U-505, the only German submarine in the US, a Coal Mine, and Smart House. Bonus points: Don’t miss Colleen Moore’s Fairytale Castle -a miniature fairytale castle donated by silent film star Colleen Moore. It includes tiny hand-painted murals and paintings by Walt Disney himself, tiny chandeliers adored with actually diamonds, the world’s tiniest printed bible.
The Adler Planetarium– Picture the universe without leaving the city. The first Friday night each month Adler Planetarium invites visitors to go “far Out” and view the moon, and the drama of the night ski through a 20-inch telescope that is connected to a large screen with a closed circuit monitor. To allow children younger than six years of age to also experience the sky’s wonder the planetarium conducts afternoon programs on Saturdays and Sundays. Visitors may also view Nergy, the solar car, on display from Northwesten University. Your family might also enjoy a show in the newly renovated 3-D Universe Theatre.
The Field Museum of Natural History – There is a lot to see and do for children at the Field Museum:
Nature Walk– A good exhibit for smaller kids is the nature walk exhibit. Follow the boardwalk around the display cases on the first floor to see a taxidermist’s dream. All kinds of animal and plant life are represented here. Each display case has at least one sign asking kids to find the objects inside, making it a big I-Spy game. For example, can your kids spot the 7 butterflies, 1 rabbit, or 2 birds? Some of the items are big and easy to spot, and some are more challenging, making it a fun game for all ages.
Evolving Planet– The Evolving Planet exhibit upstairs is another one you won’t want to miss. Enter at the north end of the Upper Level and find yourself transported back in time. Follow along the exhibits as you see the different forms of life that called Earth home, and then learn about the great extinction events that whittled down lifeforms on Earth to minuscule numbers, before rebounding again with new creatures. Take some time to explore the many skeletons in the Dinosaur Hall. Compare the size of your hand, head, and bodies to early hominids, including Lucy, recreated from 3 million-year-old bones found in Ethiopia. And be sure to pause to see the digital clock counting down the great extinction going on now, with 40 species going extinct every day.
Crown Family PlayLab– Newly opened in the fall of 2007 is a play lab for children in the Ground Level. This area is best suited to children under the age of 8. The Illinois Woodland is a big hit. A forest-like area includes dress-up clothes for kids to be woodland animals. Listen to the sounds of the forest at night and in the day. Or head to the Pueblo, where kids can harvest the corn and grind it into cornmeal. At the Dino Lab the kids can dig for their own dinosaur bone and identify what part of the dinosaur they’ve found.
I hope this list (which is obviously not comprehensive) helps some of you feel more confident about entertaining your little ones in the city.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. We’re always happy to help!