Between the culture, the cocktail bars, and the world-class dining, it’s easy for grown-ups to have a great time in Chicago. But what about kids? Much-loved family attractions like Navy Pier are a no-brainer for your visit, but there’s plenty more around the city to please even the pickiest kids — and parents, too.
Here are four mini-itineraries to help you bring on the family fun. Each pairs a kid (and budget) friendly Chicago restaurant with nearby all-ages attraction so you’ll be one big happy family during your trip.
Hot dogs at Portillo’s and arcade at Dave & Buster’s
For a downtown lunch without the fuss, grab classic Chicago dogs and crinkle-cut fries at the retro-fun Portillo’s. Kids will love the ’50s diner feel at this beloved local chain, and with the promise of a famous Chocolate Cake Shake for dessert, they’ll be on their best behavior. Next, head a couple blocks north on Clark Street to play games galore at Dave & Buster’s (plus a full bar to make it a parent-pleaser, too).
Burgers at Harry Caray’s and shopping at The LEGO Store
Water Tower Place is packed with shops for mom and dad, but The LEGO Store is always a hit with kids. After they’ve gotten their fill of mixing, matching, and building, head up to the top floor for Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch, where a “Little League” menu of burgers, nuggets, and more make it a home run for the whole family. Another bonus: right next door is the Chicago Sports Museum, home to interactive games and sports memorabilia galore.
Barbeque at R.J. Grunts and wildlife at Lincoln Park Zoo
Spend the day visiting the lions, monkeys, and polar bears for free at Lincoln Park Zoo. Check for daily activities like Feed the Cows and Meet an Animal, which give kids a chance to come face to face with a range of animals. Afterwards, cross the street to fun-loving R.J. Grunts for chicken wings, nachos, hand-dipped shakes, and a salad bar big enough to feed the zoo.
Pizza at Summer House and strikes at Kings Bowl
Pretty much any family can agree on bowling and pizza. Kings Bowl in Lincoln Park offers some of the best lanes in Chicago. Make it a daytime activity, since Kings Bowl is 21+ after 7 p.m. For lunch, nearby Summer House Santa Monica has something for everyone, from basic pepperoni to pies with candied bacon and fresno chilies.