Chicago offers so much for families with teens and tweens, from swimming with Belgua Whales at the Shedd Aquarium to a city tour that involves Segways and fireworks. If you're heading into town with your favorite teen or tween this summer, here are 11 must-do activities to add to your bucket list.
Lean into the city from above. More than 100 stories up the Willis Tower lies Skydeck Chicago - an absolute can't-miss Chicago experience. Open daily, it offers spectacular views (you can see up to four states on a clear day), interactive exhibits and ... drumroll, please... The Ledge, a glass box that let's you walk four feet off of the side of the building. Meanwhile, at 360 Chicago atop the John Hancock Building, visitors can challenge themselves to the TILT: step onto an enclosed glass and steel moveable platform (it holds up to eight visitors per cycle) and hold on as the platform slowly tilts outward to a 30 degree angle, giving you downward-facing views of Chicago from 1,000 above the Magnificent Mile.
Celebrate Burgerfest. On July 12-13, the North Side neighborhood of Roscoe Village will celebrate all things burger at its beloved Burgerfest. Fifteen of the city's top burger slingers, including Butcher & The Burger, DMK, Rockit Burger Bar, The Slide Ride, and Cortland's Garage (last year's Critic's Choice) will be on hand with amazing burger creations, music and more.
Dance with a Beluga. The Shedd Aquarium offers an amazing array of unforgettable marine animal encounters. Perhaps the most up-close-and-personal is the Beluga Encounter, guided by a Shedd trainer. Your tween or teen will learn all about beluga whales as they wade into the waters of the Grainger Beluga Encounter Habitat.
Enjoy an evening of magic. Every Friday evening, the historic Palmer House Hilton Hotel hosts The Magic Parlour, an evening with famed magician Dennis Watkins. This classic magic show will have you and your kids on the edges of your seats. Cocktail attire is encouraged for this classy, old-fashioned private parlour performance.
Hit the Beach. Grab a towel and your swimsuit and catch some rays on Lake Michigan. North Avenue Beach boasts amazing skyline views and a nice expanse of sand for sunning. Castaways, the beach house shaped like a boat, is your go-to place for ice-cream and snacks.
Take a speedy boat tour of Lake Michigan. The Seadog is the fastest tour boat on Lake Michigan. Two-thousand horsepower of ferocious Seadog energy will both thrill and educate as you learn a thing or two (or three) about Chicago architecture. The adventure is especially worthwhile during the hot summer months (talk about a sea breeze), so don't miss this one.
Dance to the beat at Hip Hop Day. On August 2 - 3, Garfield Park plays host to Hip Hop Day, a free West Side music fest. Pay tribute to the four elements of Hip Hop and Chicago's contribution to Hip Hop as a whole as you enjoy B-Boy & B-Girl exhibits, Emcee Battles, Turntablism and Graffiti artists.
Eat a Chicago hot dog. What kid doesn't love a good dog? Superdawg (6363 N. Milwaukee Ave.) is our family's hot dog provider of choice. We celebrate birthdays, good report cards, and fine summer nights at this charming drive-in. Though it's well off the beaten tourist path, it's a classic must-do (and eat!). You'll know you've arrived when you spot the unique hot dog mascots, Maurie and Flaurie, on the rooftop. Your kids will get a kick out of the ordering system and the fact that you'll be served in-car by old-school car hops.
Cool off at Millennium Park. Kick off your shoes and dip your feet into Millennium Park's Crown Fountain. Take a selfie of your reflection in Cloud Gate, a.k.a. "The Bean." Millennium Park is a prime spot for kicking back and people watching, and the perfect spot for a picnic.
Enjoy fireworks by Segway. Every Wednesday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., Bike and Roll Chicago will not only teach you how to navigate the city by Segway but also lead the way to a top secret spot for viewing Navy Pier's fireworks.
Learn how to fly. Here's your chance to fly - or rather freefall - skydiver style. iFLY is an indoor skydiving experience that uses a vertical wind tunnel and four powerful fans to give you true free fall conditions, just like skydiving. You don't need to jump from an airplane, or worry about those important details, i.e. will my parachute engage? It's the newest challenging adventure in Chicagoland.