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Maggie Daley Park

DNC Guide: Family Friendly

Make memories with the whole family in Chicago

Chicago is proud to welcome visitors from around the world to our great city for the Democratic National Convention 2024. While you’re here, we invite you to come experience what makes Chicago a city like no other — and why we’ve been named the Best Big City in the U.S. for an unprecedented seven years in a row.

Our city is the perfect place for an all-ages adventure, whether you’re looking to entertain young children, tweens, or the whole family. You can scale an outdoor rock wall, cruise along the lake, step inside a spinning tornado, or come face-to-face with the world’s largest dinosaurs. Check out some of Chicago’s most family-friendly things to do, including museums, attractions, outdoor adventures, and more.

We’ve created these Chicago guides with five specially curated activities to help DNC visitors experience different aspects of our great city. To delve deeper and make the most out of your time in Chicago, keep exploring with our guide at the link below.

Explore our family-friendly guide to Chicago

1. Explore new worlds at award-winning museums

A family at the Shedd Aquarium
Shedd Aquarium; photo by Abel Arciniega :: @tequilagraphics

Chicago’s lakefront Museum Campus should be the first stop for families looking to learn something new. The Field Museum is home to Máximo the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur known to man. The Shedd Aquarium lets you explore underwater worlds and meet sea creatures from across the globe. And the Adler Planetarium is one of the country’s oldest planetariums. 

Also along the lakefront, the Museum of Science & Industry is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, which means there’s plenty of room for spinning tornados, a real-life submarine, trains, planes, and just about everything else you could possibly imagine. 

Other fun museums for little ones include the Sloomoo Institute, dedicated to all things slime; Chicago History Museum, filled with interactive exhibits; and the Bronzeville Children’s Museum, the first African American children’s museum in the country. 

2. Experience iconic attractions

Navy Pier is one of the city’s top attractions and a year-round destination for families. Soar above the lakefront on the Centennial Wheel, a 200-foot Ferris wheel with climate-controlled gondolas and spectacular views. The Pier is also home to a variety of classic rides, the new FlyOver Chicago experience, the immersive Chicago Children’s Museum, and tons of kid-friendly dining, entertainment, and events. 

Walk on air at Skydeck Chicago inside the Willis Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. Explore the new Chicago-centric museum at ground level then ascend 103 stories to this jaw-dropping observation deck, where you can get your heart racing and snap an unforgettable photo on The Ledge.

You can also get a birds-eye view at 360 CHICAGO, home to the one-of-a-kind thrill ride TILT. Hover more than 1,000 feet above The Magnificent Mile, then get 360-degree views of four states from inside the former John Hancock Building, one of Chicago’s most iconic skyscrapers.

3. Run and play outdoors

Passengers on Chicago's First Lady Cruises
Chicago’s First Lady Cruises

With nearly 600 parks and 26 miles of stunning lakefront, Chicago makes it easy to enjoy the great outdoors — even in the middle of a big city. Families can choose from tons of fun activities, including biking, kayaking, boating, climbing, skating, and more.

Paddle with a skyline view while kayaking on the Chicago River or Lake Michigan. Grab a rental or join a guided tour from Urban Kayaks or Bobby’s Bike Hike. Your family can also rent jet skis, paddleboards, and more along the lakefront.

For more waterfront adventures, hop on a Chicago boat cruise. Choose from informational architecture tours, high-speed speedboat tours, and other all-ages options. 

Back on land, Maggie Daley Park is home to a 40-foot climbing wall, a whimsical playground, and a year-round Skating Ribbon with scooter and skate rentals available in the summer.

Nearby, Millennium Park is a sprawling public green space in the heart of downtown. Let the kids run and play in Crown Fountain, snap a family selfie in “The Bean,” and enjoy a picnic on the sprawling Great Lawn.

Other spots for outdoor activities in Chicago’s neighborhoods include The 606 elevated bike and walking trail, lakefront Jackson Park, and the 18-mile Lakefront Trail

4. See a kid-friendly show

A show by the Blue Man Group in Chicago
Blue Man Group; photo by Lindsey Best

Blue Man Group is the epitome of theatre fun — a colorful,  multi-sensory, performance art experience that keeps kids wide-eyed from the moment the curtain goes up. And if you pick a seat in the “Splash Zone,” expect things to get pretty messy.

For two decades, Chicago Children’s Theatre has presented a year-round schedule of awe-inspiring theatrical productions designed to inspire curiosity in kids and families. 

And Broadway in Chicago brings hit musicals, world premieres, and more exciting productions to Chicago stages. Check the schedule for family-friendly programming like Peter Pan, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and more.

5. Explore a historic zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo
Abel Arciniega: @tequilagraphics

Opened in 1868, Lincoln Park Zoo is among the oldest zoos in the United States. It’s open 365 days a year and is one of the few zoos in the country that offers free admission.

The zoo is home to more than 1,100 animals from across the globe, including mammals, primates, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, many rare and endangered species. Make sure to check out the newly redesigned lion exhibit, where you can get up close to a pride of lions as they hunt, play, and roam.

Kids also love the old-school carousel, train rides, and the farm petting zoo. Adults can find a moment of zen at the Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pond or along the Nature Boardwalk, featuring skyline views.

Explore all Chicago DNC guides