When you have little kids, you tend to have your family vacations be focused around things that you think they would want. Does that mean that you can only go to Disneyland or on short road trips? Why would you ever take your little kids to a big city? Public transportation would be a nightmare. What if I have a big stroller, will it be easy to get around? What if I told you that Chicago is actually a very kid friendly city? Let me tell you about how amazing our recent experience was in Chicago with little kids.
We were fortunate enough to have a vehicle to get us all around. I thought parking would have been more of a nightmare, but most places had valet and we would just let them park our car instead of doing it ourselves. But what if renting a car doesn’t seem like a good idea for you?
The public transportation in Chicago is a total dream: taxis, Uber, trains and buses. When we weren’t riding in the van we would usually take a train into the city because we didn’t want to deal with car seats. Now, you may worry that getting down to the subway or up to the elevated train would be difficult. About 95% of the places we went to had an elevator that we were able to get up or down, but people were also very helpful getting us down stairs if we needed it.
If you need a cab, I would suggest maybe doing an Uber instead and letting them know that you have children and will be putting in a car seat. Honestly everyone there is the absolute nicest and will totally help you out.
We took our Baby Jogger City Select stroller and was shocked at how many others we saw while we were there. I love that it is so easy to break it down to throw in the car. You can easily take the seats off, fold down the frame and throw it in the car. Not only that, but it’s light and easy to get in and out of trains. Plus, maybe you want to do a lot of shopping on Michigan Ave, this stroller is perfect because you can get both seats to recline. That way your kids can sleep and have good naps while you are hitting all the amazing shopping plus it has a big undercarriage for all your purchases.
Chicago Child Friendly Activities
If you have never been to Chicago, I personally would suggest getting the CityPASS. These are great because it makes it so that you can get into so many different iconic places and if you do three of them it pays for itself. We loved this because we got in the Shed Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Skydeck Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago and The Field Museum. Not only did we get into so many places, a lot of them come with a fastpass that lets you skip the lines.
The Shed Aquarium was absolutely amazing. Both our kids were able to see unfamiliar animals and loved it. Did you know they have beluga whales and dolphins in there? It’s that big! These buildings were so big that it split up the crowd making you feel less of a sardine. I loved that you could get through it all in a few hours. If you are interested in adding a show, it’s simple to add that to your pass.
When thinking about what we would do, the Museum of Science and Industry didn’t seem like it would be a good fit. I was completely wrong. We could have spent an entire day in that place because there was so much to do there. Did you know that they have an entire plane inside? So many amazing things to see in there and learn it was great for kids, both young and old. I would highly recommend doing this.
The Skydeck Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago and The Field Museum were amazing, but for little kids they might be a little much. My kids did love the Skydeck and being able to go out on the glass deck, but really there wasn’t a lot for them to do. Really though, is there a lot for anyone to do up there? The Art Institute is great because your children get to see pieces of art that they will see in books. That is what blew me away, seeing paintings in person that I had seen in so many books.
I wish my son would have been awake for Sue or the elephants in the Field Museum, but nap time still comes around when on vacation. The museum is very interesting and I loved all the exhibits, but for my little kids I don’t think it was the best.
Finally, if you are going to be in Chicago I would suggest a sporting event. In Utah we only have an NBA team, so we don’t really attend professional sports, besides the Jazz. Being that we were there for baseball season a Cubs game was an absolute must. Just to see the the hustle and bustle outside the arena was incredible. Then, to enter and see how huge the place is was aw-inspiring. Also, the park is historical. If you have a baseball obsessed child like I do, you have to do it!
Free Family Chicago Fun
Maybe it was too much for you to get to Chicago and it’s not in your budget to do the CityPASS. Well, there is tons to do that doesn’t cost a lot, or anything at all.
City on one side, great lake on the other. You can enjoy this by walking or biking along the lake side. We were able to rent bikes for our family and enjoyed this so much. Loving that we could be together, enjoying some fresh air and being active was important to us.
Chicago can be hot and the kids need to cool off. When we were at the pier there was a fountain/splash pad that the kids could play in. I personally am not one to let me kids in these, but to see the joy it brought I couldn’t say no.
You have to see what’s known as “The Bean.” Did you know that the real name is actually “Cloud Gate,” but since it looks like a bean it caught on fast. Wondering what was so cool about this I had to go, but once you see it you are mesmerized. My son loved walking up to it and seeing himself, and the many people all around him. It’s great photo opp location (clearly, since everyone takes a picture there), but is an amazing piece of art.
Food of Chicago
When you hear Chicago, what food do you think of? Deep dish pizza and Chicago hot dogs are the top of my list, but there is so much more. Before going I had to ask around where to eat and what to eat. Those were for sure on the top of the list, but what else is there?
If someone told you to try Chicago mix popcorn of cheddar and caramel popcorn, would you try it? Garret Popcorn is definitely a must try. They have plenty of other amazing flavors, but if you don’t try the Chicago mix you haven’t lived. I may have eaten our entire bag just moments after buying it, it was that good.
Let’s talk the Chicago dog for a second. Just because you buy a hot dog in Chicago does not make it a Chicago dog. We had one at the Cubs game because when you’re at a baseball game hot dogs are a must. We did find the best Chicago dog though and it was at the Willis Tower. Great price and all the toppings to make a delicious dog you have to give these a try.
Now the most controversial food item of Chicago I would have to say is deep dish pizza. I was told by multiple people all the places that I HAD to go get deep dish. Well, sometimes you don’t have time to hit all the places people suggest, but you try. We were fortunate enough to have some amazing pizza though. The biggest decision you will make is where you go and we decided on Gino’s East because we could make reservations.
We wanted to have the perfect pizza party for my son’s birthday and they couldn’t have impressed us any more than they did. Making a deep dish pizza takes about 45 minutes, so be sure to get some appetizers. We went with classic soft pretzels and loved them. Whoever you choose, I’m sure you’ll say it’s the best because Chicago deep dish is seriously amazing.
Chicago Shopping is Perfection
We love shopping. Wait, I don’t think you get it, we LOVE shopping. Whenever I go to a big city I am one that wants to hit up all the stores that we don’t have in Utah. That isn’t hard since the Utah shopping scene isn’t amazing, but Chicago impressed for sure.
Did you know that the Gap in Chicago is a four story building? Whoopie, right? Well, in Utah we have some great Gap stores, but to have an entire floor dedicated to the kids was perfect for us. We walked in to a kids fashion showing that showed us exactly what we wanted to buy. That store will forever be one of our favorites.
Zara is an absolute favorite whenever going out of town because it’s great looks, but also amazing prices. Since we haven’t been to a Zara for months you would have thought we were never going to be shopping again. Again, another entire floor of amazing choices for kids that it was hard to leave not buying everything.
But what store was the absolute highlight of our entire trip? The Disney Store. Since it was our son’s birthday we had to go to get him something he’d love. Well, The Disney Store on Michigan Ave made us feel like we were walking into Disneyland. Once they heard we had a birthday boy they went above and beyond: coloring books, certificate and singing. This brought so much joy to our little guy that nothing could beat it. I mean, maybe the fact that he found a Captain Hook costume that he had to wear out the store and all the way through .
Would I Go Back?
Absolutely! I think there is so much to do in Chicago that there is no way to do it all in one trip. Granted, we did a lot. Looking back, I really am shocked at all that we were able to do even with little kids.
Chicago, thank you for making it the most amazing trip I would have never thought of taking my kids on. When thinking of a family vacation with little kids you don’t usually think of going to a big city, but Chicago impressed for sure. When you are planning your next family vacation I say, maybe put Chicago in the running. You won’t be disappointed.