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Intergenerational Things to Do Outdoors in Chicago for Grandparents and Kids

A photo of the Chicago skyline on a sunny day

There are always things to do in Chicago for people of all ages. That’s one of the best aspects about being in a vibrant metropolitan area. As National Grandparents’ Day approaches, it’s a good time to mark the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. If we’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s the vital importance of social connections. This blog post will offer indoor and outdoor things to do in Chicago to ensure you’re able to spend time with those you care about.  

31 Things to Do with Family in Chicago.

Below are a variety of indoor and outdoor things to do in Chicago. Before you go, be sure to check the weather forecast and see if there are any public health precautions a particular venue is taking. Once you do that, you can decide which ones work best for you and your family.

  1. 1. Lincoln Park Zoo: Free to the public, this 35-acre zoo features an old-school carousel, locomotive rides, Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, and Farm-in-the-Zoo.
  2. 2. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (in Lincoln Park): This interactive museum creates hands-on experiences where kids can play in the water tables while they learn about rivers. It also features a butterfly greenhouse.
  3. 3. Brookfield Zoo: This world-renowned zoo features over 2,000 residents on its 216 acres. You can take in a dolphin show and sign up for seasonal giraffe feedings, penguin encounters, and education-focused animal kingdom experiences.
  4. 4. Millennium Park: This 25-acre park has a three-story steel sculpture entitled Cloud Gate or “The Bean.” There’s also Lurie Garden, Crown fountain, rock climbing, ice skating, a large playground, and an outdoor pavilion that hosts live music and outdoor concerts.
  5. 5. Navy Pier: This iconic 50-acre landmark is situated on the shoreline of Lake Michigan and is packed with restaurants, shops and family attractions, including the climate-controlled 200-foot-tall Centennial Ferris wheel, an old-fashioned Wave Swinger, and a 1920s-inspired musical carousel. 
  6. 6. Chicago Shakespeare Theater (at Navy Pier): The Shakespeare Theater showcases kid-friendly performances, including shorter 75-minute abridged productions geared toward families and students. 
  7. 7. Chicago Children’s Museum (at Navy Pier): Your 10-and-under grandkids are sure to enjoy digging for bones on a dinosaur expedition, tinkering with real tools in a DIY maker space, and painting or sketching in an art studio.
  8. 8. Shedd Aquarium: Everyone can get unique, up-close-and-personal experiences with museum sleepovers, behind-the-scenes tours, shark-feeding tours, being a trainer for a day, and interacting with stingrays. It also features Amazon river tanks; colorful coral and fish-of-the-reef exhibits; and Polar Play Zone where you can see dolphins, beluga whales and otters.
  9. 9. Field Museum: Home to SUE —  one of the largest, most extensive, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever found — and Máximo the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur known to man. You can also see a real mummy, experience an array of hands-on activities in the Crown Family PlayLab, and watch a rotating schedule of 3D movies. 
  10. 10. Museum of Science and Industry: The largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, this museum houses 35,000 artifacts and has exhibits spanning over 14 acres with everything from a real-life U-boat to trains and planes to robots. There’s also a Baby Chick Hatchery; Mirror Maze; and exhibits on energy, glaciers and space exploration.
  11. 11. Adler Planetarium: The oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, visitors can see the moon through the aperture telescope, enjoy sky shows, and get a hands-on feel for space exploration in the Planet Explorer area. 
  12. 12. Art Institute of Chicago: The Thorne Miniature Rooms feature meticulously reproduced miniature rooms that bring the world of art and architecture to a kid’s level. The Vitale Family Room offers puzzles, books and colorful blocks. The Ryan Education Center offers free admission and hosts special events, interactive workshops, and family programming for kids 14 and under.
  13. 13. Bronzeville Children’s Museum: The first African American children’s museum in the country, it’s filled with exhibits for children ages 3 to 9, with a unique tour format that ensures kids get maximum educational value from each exhibit.
  14. 14. Chicago History Museum: Climb aboard the very first “L” train car, ride a high-wheel bicycle, hear about the Great Chicago Fire, catch a fly ball at Comiskey Park, smell the Union Stock Yards, and dive into a giant Chicago-style hot dog.
  15. 15. Chicago Sports Museum: This museum combines high-tech interactivity with unique sports memorabilia and an impressive collection of game-used items and other sports artifacts. Kids can test their skills against some of the all-time greats, use CSI-type technology to unravel some of Chicago’s most infamous sports mysteries, and step into a replica broadcast booth to call a game just like Harry Caray.
  16. 16. Maggie Daley Park: Recently renovated, this park has Chicago’s only outdoor climbing park, a path-like “skating ribbon” in the winter, tennis courts, and picnic spots. Don’t miss the 3-acre play garden. There’s also an enchanted forest, wave lawn, and an array of slides. 
  17. 17. Grant Park Skate Park: Watch skateboarders, rollerbladers and BMX bike enthusiasts making the most of the park’s multi-skill-level concrete ramps and grinding rails — all with a lakefront view.
  18. 18. Skydeck Chicago: Located in Willis Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, glass boxes extend approximately 4 feet from the skyscraper’s facade, more than 1,300 feet above ground level. Guests can see up to four states and 50 miles out. While you’re up there, learn about the city’s landmarks from a multilingual computer program.
  19. 19. TILT at 360 CHICAGO: You can literally tilt outward over 1,000 feet above Michigan Avenue. This 94th-floor observatory deck in the former John Hancock Building provides 360-degree views of four states. 
  20. 20. Oz Park: Tucked behind Lincoln Park High School, this 14-acre park is named for one-time Lincoln Park resident L. Frank Baum (creator of “The Wizard of Oz”). There’s a wooden playground called “Dorothy’s Playlot,” and the grounds are dotted with statues of famous characters from Baum’s book.
  21. 21. Garfield Park Conservatory: A stunning, glass-topped botanical conservatory with six greenhouses and two exhibition halls that’s home to hundreds of plant species and interactive exhibits. It features a Palm House, Fern Room, Desert House and outdoor gardens. The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden offers a play area surrounded by blooming plants.
  22. ​​22. Chicago Botanic Garden: Featuring 27 gardens on 385 acres in Glencoe, Illinois, it also offers a Nature Play Garden learning center and a Japanese Garden.
  23. 23. Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio: Visit the Oak Park home and studio where Frank Lloyd Wright honed his Prairie School design style. You can observe his influence — naturalistic elements, straight lines, low-hanging roofs. Afterward, you can walk the surrounding Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District to take in more of his iconic work.
  24. 24. The 606 Trail: This 2.7-mile elevated path runs through Logan Square, Wicker Park and Humboldt Park. The trail also features a variety of art installations.
  25. 25. The Forge — Lemont Quarries: This 300-acre outdoor adventure park, located a little over 20 miles from downtown Chicago, is filled with zip lines, a mountain biking course, kayaking and canoeing spots, and more.
  26. 26. Harold Washington Library Center: The entire second floor is devoted to children’s books, games, hands-on activities and multimedia tools. Head to the ninth floor to see a beautiful winter garden with stunning glass ceilings. 
  27. 27. Kohl Children’s Museum: 30 minutes outside the Loop, this museum has 17 permanent exhibits, including a pet vet center, the water works station, and a lifelike simulated Whole Foods Market. 
  28. 28. Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center: While this museum spells some harsh truths about the Second World War, it also offers some important lessons. The museum features an art collection and several great educational resources for young minds to learn about history.
  29. 29. National Museum of Mexican Art: Located in the Pilsen neighborhood, this museum offers a 10,000-piece permanent collection that showcases the vibrant richness of Mexican art and culture. 
  30. 30. DuSable Museum of African American History: Originally designed by visionary architect Daniel H. Burnham as horse stables, the DuSable Museum’s 19th-century limestone and timber structure is now one of the South Side’s most prominent cultural institutions. The museum features well-curated exhibitions of art, poetry, and notable topics like the experience of black people in the armed services.  
  31. 31. Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago: This dance company performs authentic and progressive interpretations of contemporary and traditional African and African American dance, music and folklore. 

Staying Young at Heart.

At Presbyterian Homes, we believe intergenerational relationships help keep everyone learning and growing. That’s why family is such a big part of everything we do. If you’d like to learn more about our living options or talk about the things we do in Chicago, use the contact form on this page.