One thing teens and tweens will never call Chicago is boring.

Whether they're thrill-seekers, explorers, artists, shopaholics or knowledge hounds, these 10 must-dos will have them instagramming and tweeting all about their great family vacation.

1. Escape Rooms

Save the White House, Escape a Zombie, Take a Mission to Mars

The Escape Room@The Escape Game Chicago

Chicago's escape rooms are the ultimate thrill. Whether you're finding your way out of a goldmine, breaking out of prison, or thwarting an art heist, nothing gets your adrenaline pumping quite as much as that ticking clock! Check out EscapeHouse Chicago,  Fox in a Box - Chicago and The Escape Game Chicago for starters.

Explore Chicago's Attractions & Tours.

2. Maggie Daley Park

Climb, Skate & Mini Golf on the Lakefront

Climbing wall at Maggie Daley Park in Chicago©Abel Arciniega

Scale two rock-climbing walls at Maggie Daley Park, reaching a max height of 40 feet over a total surface area of 19,000 square feet. The wall is divided into beginner and advanced sections, with three different types of climbing: bouldering, lead-harnessed, and top rope. Once you're done scaling a wall, strap on your rollerblades or grab a scooter (both available for rent), and take to the skating ribbon, a meandering track through the surreal park landscape. (FYI: Over the winter months, the ribbon becomes one of the city's most unique ice-skating "rinks."). Looking for something a little less heart-pumping? Try a round of mini golf. featuring replicas of iconic Chicago structures, including the Willis Tower, Wells Street bridge, and the Picasso public art sculpture.

Check out Chicago Parks & Outdoors

3. Museum Campus

Pet a Stingray, Meet a Titanosaur, Rocket to the Moon


The Museum Campus is a trifecta of thrills. The Shedd Aquarium offers the chance for amazing marine animal encounters, including feeding sharks, meeting penguins, dancing with Belugas and petting stingrays — all under the guidance of Shedd trainers. Just next door, the Field Museum of Natural History recently welcomed a new resident: Titanosaur, a giant, long-necked herbivore from Argentina. From snout to tail, it stretches 122 feet (that’s longer than two accordion Chicago Transit Authority buses end-to-end). You'll also find mummies, bugs, a 3D theater, and so much more to amaze you. And at the Adler Planetarium, a trip to the Moon, Mars and Jupiter are only a few of the intergalactic journeys you'll take. Sitting on the banks of Lake Michigan, aspiring astronomers will find their inspiration.

Learn all about Chicago's Museums.

4. Hip Shop Hopping

Shop Super Cool Chicago Boutiques

ThreadlessThreadless by Randy Aquilizan via flickr

For hip, artsy teens, Threadless is a must-know. The t-shirt company is currently without its usual boutique front, but starting in 2019, customers can visit Threadless at its new location, 400 N Morgan St, where you might be lucky enough to happen upon some exclusive deals. Threadless features designs created by independent artists from both Chicago and beyond, and its HQ  showcases large-scale creations by some of Chicago's best street artists. Despite the name, you'll find more than surplus military gear at Belmont Army (855 W Belmont). This Chicago classic stocks trendy fashion, vintage garb and skater gear — and that's just for starters. And at Crush in Roscoe Village (2138 W Roscoe St), you'll find a super-sleek store stocked with designer togs for kids, tweens and teens (as well as adults), plus a custom T-shirt bar.

Search Chicago's stores and boutiques.

5. Chicago Riverwalk

Kayak, Bike Ride & Fish Along the Chicago River

Kayaks at the Cove@Ranvestel Photography

The award-winning Chicago Riverwalk isn't just a sweet spot for river and city views, dining, sipping and socializing. It's also the place to be for an urban kayaking adventure. Check out Urban Kayaks for tours and rentals, then stop in at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum (99 Chicago Riverwalk)Beginning at river level and spiraling five stories up, the museum is a truly unique experience. Here's a tip: With a  Divvy bike station located nearby (Chicago's bike-share program), you can casually cycle along the 1.25 pedestrian-only Riverwalk for an entirely different experience of one of Chicago's most popular and vibrant sights. Oh, and there's fishing too!

Explore Chicago's Attractions & Tours.

6. Blue Man Group

Go Ahead, Get Messy!

Blue Man Group
© Lindsey Best

The hyperactive theatrical experience that is the Blue Man Group at Briar Street Theater (3133 N Halsted St) features all the things teens, tweens and adults who refuse to grow up absolutely love. It's a light show, a live music show, a comedy show, a performance art show, and a let's-get-really-messy show all wrapped into one. And if you're in one of the front-row seats, you'll be provided with a waterproof smock. Trust us, you'll need it. Before you head to the theater, do a little shop-hopping among the vintage and alternative clothing stores along Belmont Avenue and Halsted Street. Aspiring fashionistas won't be able to resist.

Check out these 10 Hot Shows to See in Chicago!

7. Navy Pier

Thrill Ride Ferris Wheels, Wave Swingers & Speedboats 

Navy Pier@ Navy Pier

Let's start at the top — literally. Navy Pier’s Centennial Wheel is an iconic part of the Chicago skyline. In fact, when you take a ride in it, you become part of the Chicago skyline! Soaring to heights of nearly 200 feet, enclosed gondolas mean you can take a ride rain or shine. Plan your visit around Navy Pier's biweekly Aon Summer Fireworks shows, Wednesdays and Saturdays, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, for an even bigger wow factor. Seasonal Pier Park attractions also include the Pepsi Wave Swinger, carousel, climbing walls and Light Tower Ride. Once you've come down to earth, head to the waters of Lake Michigan for the most extreme of extreme thrill rides. With exhilarating high speeds and full 360° spins, the jet-propelled Seadog Extreme "blasts off to start and splashes down to stop." This is your chance to experience full-throttle slalom runs, sharp twists and turns, and speeds of 45mph on the open water, thanks to not one but two 1400 HP engines. It's the most horse-powered commercial passenger vessel of its kind currently cruising the Great Lakes. Just an FYI: You're definitely going to get wet!

Explore Chicago's Attractions & Tours.

8. Summer Festivals

Movies Under the Stars, a Taste of Chicago, Dance in the Park

Millennium Park Summer Film Series@Abel Arciniega, Millennium Park Summer Film Series

Chicago is big on festivals. There isn't a month that goes by without a crowd-drawing event. A couple of teen and tween pleasers to mark your calendars for include the outdoor Summer Film Series at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, which runs June through September. Take a seat at the pavilion or lounge on the Great Lawn with a blanket while you view cult favs on a state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen. Taste of Chicago gets underway at Grant Park July 11-15, featuring chefs and musicians, combined with entertainment for all ages and several thousand tasting servings of favorite Chicago bites. Chicago SummerDance  (June 28-August 25) brings people of all ages and skill levels together in Grant Park’s Spirit of Music Garden (601 S. Michigan Ave.) on a 4,900-square-foot, open-air dance floor for dancing and FREE dance lessons. SummerDance takes place Friday to Sunday evenings each week in Grant Park, as well as on select dates in neighborhood parks citywide for SummerDance In The Parks.

Check out more festivals on our Festival & Event Guide.

9. Skyscraper Experiences

Step onto a Ledge, Then Take a Tilt 

Skydeck Teen Girls Jumping@Adam Alexander Photography

More than 100 stories up the Willis Tower lies Skydeck Chicago, an absolute can't-miss Chicago experience. Open daily, it offers spectacular views crossing four states on a clear day, interactive exhibits and — drumroll, please — The Ledge, a glass box that allows you step four feet outside the walls of the building, as though you're walking on air. Up the thrill ante by taking a trip to 875 N. Michigan (formerly the John Hancock Building) on the Magnificent Mile, where the 94th floor observatory, 360 Chicago, will literally tilt you over the city 1000 ft. up.

Explore Chicago's Attractions & Tours.

10. Museum of Science & Industry

Travel Down a Coal Mine, Touch a Tornado, Step into a U-Boat

MSI submarine@Museum of Science & Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry is all about unique, extraordinary, never-before-experienced moments. And it's the largest science and industry museum in the Western Hemisphere, which means you can spend the whole day here, and then some. A couple of highlights: The museum's Coal Mine has been taking visitors deep into a (mock) mine shaft since 1933. Enter the Science of Storms exhibit and you become a part of seven natural phenomena: lightning, fire, tornadoes, avalanches, tsunamis, sunlight and atoms in motion. And don't miss stepping inside a real U-505, the only German submarine in the United States. 

Learn all about Chicago's Museums.



Save 50% on premium admission to Chicago’s top attractions with CityPASS tickets.  

Includes prepaid admission to 5 must-see attractions:

Valid for 9 consecutive days, Chicago CityPASS tickets cost $108 for adults (value $214) and $89 for children ages 3-11. Buy online at or at any CityPASS attraction.

Spend less, experience more.