Year-round Adventures With the Kids in Chicago

Looking for fun things to do with the kids in Chicago is a chore, especially when the weather makes any sane parent want to hunker down by a space heater and do nothing all weekend. Living in the Midwest comes with its share of perilous weather, but as long as there isn’t a blizzard and the streets are clear enough to drive, you can still take your kids someplace fun in Chicago.


Depending on where you’re coming from, Chicago offers a variety of transport options that can accommodate your entire family. If you’re flying in, you can take a van taxi from O’Hare, rent a car, or even use public transport to get to any one of the many hotels in Chicago. Busses and trains in Chicago are inexpensive and run almost everywhere in the city. They are a great alternative to driving to save you money on gas and keep you off the road during rough weather.

Winter Activities

Chicago lives up to its nickname, the Windy City, to a dangerous degree in winter. The year 2015 had one of the coldest winters ever in Chicago, with temperatures in February reaching -8 degrees Farenheit. Add in the wind chill factor and temperatures were as low as -20 or -30 degrees.

Needless to say, it’s a time of year when most families prefer to stay inside. Then again, there are certain activities you can only do when snow covers the city. Check weather reports for a weekend with above zero temperatures, then plan a day trip with the kids to one of these winter wonderlands.

Snowshoeing at Morton Arboretum

snow morton

Image via Flickr by MicheleUkleja

This well-maintained forest hideaway becomes a paradise of snowy exploration in the winter. Kids and parents can rent snowshoes to help them stay above the snow while viewing beautiful trees and other wildlife. Admission is discounted during the winter months at just $9 for adults and $6 for kids up to 17.

Skiing and Snowboarding


Image via Flickr by Lotzman Katzman

There are no slopes in Chicago proper, but about an hour’s drive can get you to a ski resort for a fun weekend or day trip. Villa Olivia, a public park in Bartlett, offers lessons for beginning skiers and has a snow tubing run for those who don’t ski. For an inexpensive hotel on the way from Chicago, try the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Chicago West-Roselle.

If you’d rather go north, there’s the Raging Buffalo Snowboard & Ski Park in Algonquin. This park has a great beginner’s slope with a magic carpet to automatically take riders back up to the top. In the summer they have wakeboarding lessons on the Fox River. The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Chicago-Algonquin is very close to the park.

Ice Skating

ice skating

Image via Flickr by cortneymartin82

One of the best activities for winter is outdoor ice skating. Maggie Daley Park in Chicago has a ribbon-like track for ice skating laps around the competition. Capacity for the rink is 700 people, so you don’t have to worry about it being overcrowded, even during the busiest time of year. Admission to the park’s ice skating track is free and skate rentals are available for $12.



Image via Flickr by Lotzman Katzman

Certain parks in Chicago have just the right hills for perfect sledding. Some parks, like Arndt Park, combine sledding hills with an ice skating rink, so you can get all your winter fun in one spot. Others, like the park at Caldwell Woods, are near indoor warming centers with fire pits so you can warm up after a wipeout in the snow. Older, more daring sledders may want to try the slopes at James Park or Cricket Hill.

For All Seasons

These fun destinations are worth a visit at any time of year.

Indoor Playgrounds

indoor playground

Image via Flickr by BrownZelip

These indoor hideaways from the elements are great places for your younger kids to play. Certain playgrounds, like Kid’s Island, even offer day care for your kids while you get your nails done or get some coffee. Explore & Much More is one of the largest of the indoor playgrounds in Chicago, spanning two floors and accommodating kids up to eight years old. These locations are popular and sometimes pricey, so make sure to call ahead for reservations.

Children’s Museums

children's museum

Image via Flickr by naydeeyah

Chicago is host to a myriad of children’s museums focusing on science, history, and everyday life. All of them give kids a chance to interact with exhibits and learn new things.

For kids who like art, there is the DuPage Children’s Museum, a large museum with exhibits on science and math that also includes a free daily art project with the price of admission. The KidsWork Children’s Museum is a place for the most hands-on learners. Kids can touch everything there including the larger than life game of Operation complete with buzzer and light-up nose. Admission to KidsWork is only $6 per person. Another great spot, the Chicago Children’s Museum, has free admission for kids the first Sunday of every month.

Lincoln Park Zoo

lincoln park

Image via Flickr by Kyle Jameson

This zoo gets a category to itself for all the awesome activities it offers kids. Of course there are the animals to see, but there is also an outdoor ice skating rink, an incredible indoor playground with swinging rope bridges, beautiful gardens to explore, a train ride, a carousel, and three cafes where you can sit down to a meal. Some of these attractions close down during the winter, but others, like the ice skating rink and the indoor playground, make for great winter destinations. The best part of visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo is that admission is completely free for all ages.

For anyone who has taken a trip to Chicago with the kids, how far did you go and how much did you spend? Feel free to leave a comment below telling us exactly how the trip went.

Author bio: Kasey Rubenstein is a Hipmunk writer and a film buff. Her favorite travel destination is Japan, her favorite movie is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and her favorite superhero is the Flash. You can find more of her writing under the guise of her alter ego, Girl In Cape.

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