The kids are almost out of school and summer vacation planning has begun. Whether your family is looking to experience world-class museums, sightsee or shop until you drop during this summer’s vacation, Chicago has it all! It’s a sports-loving, festival-mad, culture-rich city with something for everyone. There are endless things to do and explore with the family in and around Chicago and it’s time to get started planning. Here are a few recommendations on the best family hotels, events, museums, excursions, architecture, shopping, best kept secrets and more to get you started:
Best Family-Friendly Hotels near Downtown Chicago
- The four hotels in Burr Ridge (Chicago suburb) – Stay here, play there! Get the best of both worlds with free overnight hotel parking, easy access to the highway or the fun commuter train to Union Station, fantastic restaurants close by and great shopping here in Burr Ridge. And, best of all, all the best attractions and museums of downtown Chicago are just a stone’s throw away. Choose from the Chicago Marriott Southwest at Burr Ridge, SpringHill Suites Burr Ridge, Extended StayAmerica Burr Ridge, and the Quality Inn & Conference Center. Check out www.BurrRidgeHotels.com for info on each of the hotels.
Best Museum for Parents and Children
- The Museum of Science and Industry has exhibits for both adults and children and truly caters to everyone, with exhibits highlighting coal mining, underwater animals, science storms, robots and much more. Check out their website for more information on your visit.
Best Park in Chicago
- Millennium Park – Discover a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art that provide the backdrop for hundreds of free cultural programs including concerts, tours and family activities. Take a snooze on the lawn under brushed stainless steel ribbons of Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion or take a family selfie of your reflection in the famous “Cloud Gate” sculpture. Looking for a hidden gem? Check out the Lurie Garden, hidden by a 15 foot high hedge, perfect for reading or a summertime picnic. Fun for everyone!
Best Restaurant Patio
- Parlor Pizza Bar has one of the most coveted new rooftop spaces in the West Loop with one of the largest outdoor dining and drinking spaces in the area. The rooftop features a full bar constructed from an old freight-shipping container and high-top and lounge seating. Pizza and craft beers are the traditional fare, even enjoy a build-your-own Bloody Mary station on weekends.
Best Chicago Pizza
- Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is considered the oldest family name in Chicago pizza and is well-known for their Chicago-style deep dish pizza, handmade from scratch using the finest and freshest ingredients. Experience their exclusive sausage blend, fresh mozzarella cheese and the family’s secret recipe for flaky, buttery crust.
Best “Live Like a Local” Spot
- Wicker Park’s Historic Milwaukee Avenue houses some of the most beautiful and architecturally historic buildings in Chicago. With plenty of great restaurants, shopping and nightlife, Wicker Park has it all. Discover historic retail architecture and window shop through large display windows and imagine a streetcar running along Milwaukee Avenue. Notice the iron work around store entrances and ornamental bay windows above. Enjoy and explore one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Chicago!
Best Tourist “Trap”
- The Chicago Theatre has one of Chicago’s most recognizable landmarks, the red and yellow sparkling marquee illuminating North State Street at night. Catch a live show or take an hour-long guided tour available year-round and learn about the theater’s French-baroque features, like the exterior facade modeled after the Arc de Triomphe, the Versailles-inspired lobby and the grand staircase mimicking that of the Paris Opera. Even sneak a peak of the dressing rooms where Frank Sinatra and Dolly Parton have signed the walls!
Most Interesting Tour
- The Chicago Architecture Foundation provides a great 90 minute tour by boat from early spring through late fall covering all things architecture from classic buildings like the Civic Opera House to the mid-century Marina City experiment to buildings like Aqua and Trump Tower. You can find the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise at the southeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge.
Most Fun Way to Get Around in Chicago
- The El, Chicago’s elevated train. Take a look out the window and you’ll see everything Chicago is known for–the Chicago River, monumental architecture, and more.
Best Discount/Deal Around Chicago
-Chicago CityPASS – One ticket gets you admission to FIVE of Chicago’s most popular attractions: Shedd Aquarium (VIP entry), Skydeck Chicago (Fast Pass), The Field Museum (All-Access Pass), Museum of Science and Industry or 360 Chicago, and the Adler Planetarium or Art Institute of Chicago. Visit all five attractions and save 50% on admission fees with the Chicago CityPASS. Passes are valid for nine consecutive days. Learn more and purchase passes here.