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This is a complete guide to visiting Chicago with kids: where to stay, what to do, and where to eat!
When our daughter Princess turned 10 we took a trip to Chicago in lieu of a big birthday party. I’ve been to Chicago several times [it is one of my favorite cities] but it was Princess’ first trip so we pulled out all the stops. If you’re considering visiting Chicago with kids, we’ve got you covered with where to stay in Chicago with kids, what to do when visiting Chicago with kids, and fun kid restaurants in Chicago.
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WHERE TO STAY IN CHICAGO WITH KIDS
The most popular area in Chicago to stay with kids is downtown. It is the main hub for the city’s tourist attractions and has a ton of lodging options. Downtown Chicago is actually quite large and is made up of seven different neighborhoods. They have official names [River North, Gold Coast, Streeterville, Lakeshore East, West Loop, The Loop, and South Loop] but for the sake of finding accommodations, there are only a few areas you need to know in Downtown Chicago:
- Near Magnificent Mile
- Near Millennium Park
- Near Navy Pier
- Near River North
- Near Grant Park
For most families visiting Chicago with kids, the areas near Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, and Navy Pier are where you want to be. South Loop near Grant Park is also a fabulous option if you plan to visit the Museum Campus. It’s a large area to cover but Downtown Chicago is incredibly safe for families.
Lincoln Park [North of Downtown Chicago]
Lincoln Park is another great area to stay in when visiting Chicago with kids. It’s not quite as “in the mix” of things but there are plenty of transportation options in the area and you’ll be near Lincoln Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, and Wrigley Field. The kid-friendly Getaway Hostel is also located in Lincoln Park. [Read more about staying in hostels with kids here.]
Lakeshore | Hyde Park [South of Downtown Chicago]
Hyde Park in Chicago is my favorite neighborhood in Chicago. It is incredibly diverse [it isn’t just a buzzword here — you will genuinely see all kinds of people flourishing in this community], has a more residential feel, while still being close to kid-friendly attractions. The Museum of Science and Industry is located in Lakeshore/Hyde Park as well as the DuSable Museum of African American History. Don’t believe the hype about southside Chicago; this is a beautiful area to stay when visiting Chicago with kids.
Best Family Hotels in Chicago
The Best Hotels in Downtown Chicago for Families
The Embassy Suites Magnificient Mile is one of the best family hotels in Chicago. Their ample sized suites are enough to fit most families in a room [or two], their complimentary breakfast is amazing, and the location is unbeatable. Some of the rooms even include a beautiful lake view.
Hyatt Regency Chicago is also one of the best family hotels in Chicago. They offer standard sized hotel rooms [one king or two queens] but connecting rooms are available upon request. The main perk of this hotel is its location; it is located just a few blocks from tourist attractions like Millennium Park [and a few blocks from my beloved Wildberry Cafe]. They also have a variety of on-site dining options including a small convenience store that comes in handy when you’re visiting Chicago with [always hungry] kids.
The Best Places to Stay in Lincoln Park Chicago
Located directly across the street from the Lincoln Park [and only a ten-minute walk from its free zoo!], Hotel Lincoln is as close to Lincoln Park as you can get. It is a family favorite in Lincoln Park Chicago because of their room options. Not only do they offer your standard hotel rooms [one queen, one king or two double beds] but they also offer junior suites and 1 bedroom suites.
If you have a larger family or your family just prefers more space, then Lincoln Park Suites by Sonder is one of the best family hotel options in Chicago. They offer professionally managed apartment suites with several two-bedroom options that come with fully equipped kitchens.
The Best Hotels in Lakeshore | Hyde Park
We’ve stayed in many hotels – even some 5-star hotels – and we can easily say that Sophy Hotel is one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed in. The entire hotel is decorated in outstanding art and the rooms don’t spare any details. They offer a few suite options but even their standard two queen bed room is spacious and incredibly comfortable. Sophy Hotel Chicago definitely has a ritzy feel but it is still kid-friendly and I highly recommend.
Hyatt Place hotels offer some of the largest hotel room options for families. Hyatt Place Chicago – South is no exception. All of the rooms come with a double-sized sofa bed and also offer the option of either one king bed or two queen beds. This hotel is also tucked with a mini-shopping plaza in Hyde Park with many eateries and shopping options within walking distance.
WHAT TO DO WHEN VISITING CHICAGO WITH KIDS
Chicago has so much to do. Seriously – SO MUCH TO DO! It isn’t one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States for nothing. From the Navy Pier to Millennium Park to the Museum Campus, there is more than enough to fill a weekend itinerary in Chicago.
What are our family’s top to-do’s for families visiting Chicago with kids?
Chicago Food Planet Food Tour
Every parent I know struggles with getting their kids to try new foods – especially when they’re traveling. Consider a food tour with Chicago Food Planet. We took their Navy Pier Signature Food Tour; not only was it an incredibly kid-friendly tour but it was an absolute blast. The tour lasted around 2 hours and provided us with over 4 items to try. There were plenty of stops to sit [and eat] so it was very walkable for the girls.
Our tour guide Harry somehow got the girls to try a Chicago style hot dog with mustard, celery salt, and pickled peppers. Yeah, I’m shocked too! The tour was fun, interactive, and a great no-pressure way for everyone in the family to try new foods from local businesses. They offer other tours in different areas of Chicago with varying lengths. Highly recommend reviewing their tour options and picking one that fits for you when you’re visiting Chicago with kids.
Remember how we said after our Spain trip that we would take the Hop On Hop Off bus in every city we visited? Well, we weren’t kidding. Chicago Trolley offers two different tour options for their hop on hop off bus:
They also offer a night tour that does not have hop-on, hop-off privileges and lasts approximately 2 hours.
Their downtown tour will get you to most of the attractions families are visiting Chicago with kids to see. The hours for that particular tour are short [from 9 AM to 4 PM] but it is an easy and convenient way to see all the attractions downtown Chicago has to offer.
Adults are $42 and kids are $18 if tickets are purchased online. It’s a great value though because the second day is free. Yep, that’s right. You can get unlimited hop-on, hop-off privileges for two days for that same low price. It’s a great value and is definitely comparable to many of the transportation options in Chicago.
Chicago is well known for its stunning architecture and many companies offer architecture tours via the lake. While some kids aren’t necessarily wowed over by pretty buildings, the water tours are still a fun way to see the city. Mercury Cruises offers an Urban Adventure 90 minute river and lake cruise that covers all the architecture bits but also talks about the city’s history. They also offer a night cruise, a fireworks cruise, and even a canine cruise. We have not yet had the pleasure to take one of their entertaining cruises but it is definitely on our wishlist for the next time we are visiting Chicago with kids.
Popular Chicago Destinations
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I LOVE CHICAGO! This isn’t the first time I’ve spread my love for the city via the Internet. Check out my post with detailed information on a ton of fun things to do in Chicago with kids over at Thrifty Family Travels.
FUN KID RESTAURANTS IN CHICAGO
I could dedicate an entire post to the Safehouse Restaurant in Chicago — it was that much fun! It’s a spy-themed restaurant with fun challenges and puzzles that make your entire dining experience interactive. When you Google the restaurant, it comes up as a nightclub but it is actually a really cool, super-duper kid-friendly restaurant with absolutely excellent food. Did I put enough adjectives in that sentence? Let me try again.
Safehouse Restaurant is one of the most fun kid restaurants in Chicago with delightful surprises, engaging staff [ahem, fellow secret agents] and delicious eats. I could come up with more adjectives but I think I made my point.
I don’t want to give too much away because that ruins the mission — I mean, the dinner — but if you’re looking for fun kid restaurants in Chicago this one tops the cake. So. Much. Fun! [Pssst be sure to try the Mission Impossible burger!]
Wildberry Restaurant is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere so I had to include it in the list of fun kid restaurants in Chicago. They are only open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch but boy do they do those meals justice. Their pancakes are their staple dish and simply must be sampled. Their portion sizes are absolutely huge and enough to share [or not]. There are ample options for kids on their Little Berries menu [the one egg meal is our favorite] and their coffee is brewed to perfection.
Wildberry is a very loved institution in Chicago so there is almost always a wait. Be sure to check in via Yelp before you head there to get a jumpstart on the line. Once you’re seated, the service is super fast and they provide kids with magnetic drawing boards to entertain them until the food arrives.
Have you been to Chicago? What are your favorite tips for visiting Chicago with kids?