Chicago is the perfect destination for a family-friendly spring escape. You can spend the day exploring hands-on exhibits at our interactive museums, boating through the scenic waters of Lake Michigan, exploring a sprawling play space in the heart of downtown, and so much more. Here’s a few of the top things to do during spring break in Chicago.
Explore the secrets of natural history at Field Museum. You’ll be greeted by Máximo, the largest dinosaur ever to discovered, from his home in the main fall. Then head upstairs to meet, SUE, the world’s most complete T. rex skeleton. You’ll find SUE in the museum’s impressive Evolving Planet exhibit, with a vast collection of full-scale dinosaurs depicted in their natural environments. And don’t miss the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit, where you can walk through a 5,000-year-old tomb, see one of the largest collections of mummies in the United States, and wander through an Egyptian marketplace.
The Shedd is home to more than 32,000 aquatic animals. The aquarium’s stunning Abbott Oceanarium overlooks Lake Michigan and houses friendly beluga whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins. The best view is from downstairs in the underwater viewing gallery. At the Polar Play Zone, kids can dress up as a penguin or play scientist and explore ice caves. Visit the Wild Reef, a recreation of a coral reef in the Philippines, teeming with sharks, stingrays, and live coral. The Caribbean Reef is a long-time favorite, where a diver feeds sharks, sea turtles, and moray eels. And don’t miss the 4-D Experience, where you’ll get up close to the action on the big screen.
Check out more kid-friendly museums in Chicago
360 CHICAGO & SkyDeck
Take your family to new heights at one of Chicago’s unforgettable observation deck experiences. SkyDeck Chicago is located inside the iconic Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the tallest building in the West Hemisphere. Kids of all ages will love stepping out onto The Ledge, an all-glass platform with jaw-dropping perspective of the city.
Near the lakefront, 360CHICAGO offers panoramic views of both the waters of Lake Michigan and sparkling skyline. It’s also home to Chicago’s highest thrill ride. TILT is a glass box that tilts visitors out over The Magnificent Mile, more than 1,000 feet up in the air.
Millennium Park & Maggie Daley Park
Let the kids run free at downtown’s beautiful Maggie Daley Park. The fun Play Garden features suspension bridges, tube slides and a big ship to explore. Older kids can tackle the 40-foot-tall Climbing Wall or putt along the 18-hole Mini Golf course through Chicago-themed obstacles like a six-foot-tall Willis Tower. In warm weather, the curvy Skating Ribbon becomes a walking and rollerblading path (in-line skate rentals are available).
Millennium Park is right next door, where larger-than-life public art includes the multimedia Crown Fountain (kids love to splash around in its cascading water walls) and the reflective Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean.” Next, head over to the renowned Art Institute of Chicago, which offers family programs and art workshops.
Museum of Science and Industry
Spend the afternoon exploring the massive Museum of Science and Industry, the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly all of the 800+ exhibits here are hands-on, including a real U-505 German submarine that you can walk through, an underground Coal Mine, and Science Storms, which explores the physics of natural phenomena like tornadoes, tsunamis, and avalanches. There’s also the Giant Dome Theater for kicking back and watching a movie.
Check out our guide on things to do with teens and tweens in Chicago
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago’s scenic lakefront Lincoln Park neighborhood is a favorite spot for families. Animals lovers will want to spend the afternoon at the free Lincoln Park Zoo, where they can spy polar bears, lions, monkeys, and more. Next, pet farm animals at the charming Farm-in-the-Zoo. Also nearby is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where kids are encouraged to connect with nature through interactive exhibits. One of the most popular is the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, home to more than 40 species of exotic butterflies. Don’t miss the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, a hidden gem tucked away next to the zoo.
Explore infinity and beyond at the dazzling Adler Planetarium. Catch a show in the state-of-the-art sky theatre, where you’ll zoom off into space to explore planets, swirling galaxies, and brilliant stars. Check out the Mission Moon exhibit, where you can launch a stomp rocket, get a peek inside the Gemini 12 spacecraft, and experience America’s first steps on the moon through the eyes of NASA astronaut Jim Lovell. Touch an actual moon rock and examine a meteorite that crashed to earth in the Our Solar System exhibit. Kids love to play in the Community Design Lab, where they can conduct science experiments with unusual supplies like marshmallows and bubble wrap. Little ones love Planet Explorers, where they can operate the controls in a two-story rocket and man the Space Station.
Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most popular family attractions. Reach for the sky on the Centennial Wheel that soars 200 feet up in the air with stunning views of the Chicago lakefront and skyline. Find more amusement rides for all ages at surrounding Pier Park. At the Chicago Children’s Museum, kids can do everything from commanding a castle to climbing the rope rigging of a schooner. Catch the latest flicks on the massive 3D screen at the AMC Navy Pier IMAX. Or take a Lake Michigan boat tour with the architecture-focused Shoreline Sightseeing or a high-speed thrill ride with Seadog Cruises. At the interactive Polk Bros Park, see free outdoor performances on the Lake Stage and City Stage.