Taking the Kids: Best Museums in Chicago for Families

Chicago is a family-friendly town and its world-class museums. Parents especially appreciate the fact that most museums are often interactive and educational yet just as enjoyable for adults.

While the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier might be best for little kids, the older ones might appreciate the museums on The Museum Campus, a 57-acre museum park near Lake Michigan, just south of the Loop, and home to the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum of Natural History and John G. Shedd Aquarium.

In the heart of downtown is the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago, or the history of African-Americans can be learned at the DuSable Museum of African-American History. For sports fans, the small but fun Chicago Sports Museum lets kids see if they can jump as high as Michael Jordan, see rooms full of sports memorabilia, and play interactive sports games.

A great way to keep costs down and save time on ticket lines is to buy the Chicago CityPass which offers discount admission up to five popular attractions: the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium or the Art Institute of Chicago. Or, check each museum’s website for free days of the week. Several offer free admission for children ages 12 and younger.

The African-American experience is depicted in unique fashion at this museum. The project started as a small display in a teacher's home, and with lots of community effort, the labor of love got its own building in 1973. Thousands of artifacts,...  Read More

Chicago History Museum
Photo courtesy of Photo by Jamie Bartosch

A special audio tour written specifically for teens is available at this museum in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, which is filled with interesting information and exhibits about the city's history. Families can visit the Konen Family...  Read More

A highlight of any trip to Chicago, this museum is home to one of the best and most diverse art collections in the world. But there's plenty here that will interest kids, including the Thorne Miniature Rooms, the displays of armor worn by...  Read More

Chicago Sports Museum
Photo courtesy of Photo by Jamie Bartosch

Think you can jump as high as Michael Jordan? Or want to see the remnants of the Chicago Cubs' famous "Bartman ball"? It's all here in this small but fun museum inside the Water Tower Place mall that celebrates Chicago's professional sports...  Read More

Field Museum of Natural History

The exterior of this hulking marble facility only hints at the historic treasures inside. The architect's goal was boldness and he achieved it with massive columns and striking galleries filled with natural light. Visitors are immediately...  Read More

Featuring such permanent exhibits as the breathtaking Butterfly Haven and the C. Paul Johnson Family Water Lab, this family-friendly nature museum is a pleasant surprise in the heart of the Windy City. Among the displays is Ameritech...  Read More

Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Adler Planetarium

This eye-catching, twelve-sided building along Chicago's lakefront - and part of the Museum Campus - includes rooms full of exhibits about the planets, moons, galaxies and the sun. But the museum's most popular features are its two sky theaters...  Read More

The largest indoor aquarium guides the viewer through the world's many marine habitats, from the entertaining colony of Falkland penguins to the exotic Amazon. Watch divers as they feed sea turtles, stingrays, sharks and tropical fish in the...  Read More

Museum of Science and Industry

This massive museum, one of the first and best in the country, features more than 2,000 hands-on exhibits about everything from outer space to robots. Some of its most famous exhibits are the re-created coal mine ride, walking on the Zephyr (a...  Read More

Located within Navy Pier, the Chicago Children's Museum is geared toward to children from toddlers to fifth graders. Its interactive exhibits are spread across three floors, including The Dinosaur Expedition, which lets kids dig without getting...  Read More


Meet Jamie Bartosch

Jamie Bartosch is a lifelong Chicagoan who thinks her hometown is the greatest city in the world. She is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a freelance travel writer, and the mother of two great kids.