Best Chicago Summer Activities For Preschoolers

Looking for some family fun in and around Chicago for you and your preschooler?  Here is just a sampling of some of the best summer activities you can take your young children to and have an unforgettable time exploring and creating great memories.

1 – 606 Trail – Bloomingdales Trail, Chicago, IL 60642

What was once a railway line has been repurposed as a public park and walking path. You will find all kinds of family-friendly activities here if you and your children enjoy being outdoors.  This is the perfect place for a family bike ride, walk, or just somewhere to go and enjoy some history in the city.

2 – Adler Planetarium – 1300 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605

First opened in 1930, this venue has been a popular fixture in the Windy City since its opening day, engaging visitors with what is going on in the skies above them. This is a great place to take children who have an interest in exploring what is out of this world.  The Planet Explorer area will capture the interest of children of all ages s with its many hands-on elements that spark exploration in each of the little minds that visit there.

3 – Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier – 800 E Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611

Navy Pier presents many different activities for you and your preschoolers.  One that you cannot miss is the giant Ferris wheel.  It is 200-feet high and provides an incredible 360-degree view of Lake Michigan and all the activities taking place at the pier.  The Centennial Wheel has enclosed gondolas that add to the safety and provide an unobstructed view that will be enjoyed by all.

4 – Chicago’s Children’s Museum – 700 E Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611

Also located on Navy Pier, this children’s museum is aimed at youngsters under the age of ten.  All kinds of tinkering, D-I-Y projects on-site will keep your children occupied and learning about important concepts.  If your child has an interest in science and history, this is one place you must take them to visit. 

5 – Chicago Children’s Theatre – 100 S Racine Avenue, Chicago, IL 60607

This venue is the largest professional theatre company in Chicago and has been designed specifically for children and families.  Shows often feature life-size puppets.  If your young ones show the right kind of interest, you may want to consider introducing them to the acting classes that are also offered here.

6 – Chicago Cultural Center – 78 E Washington Street, Chicago, IL 60602

Located inside what was once the central library of Chicago Public Library, the cultural center happens to be part of one of the most iconic buildings in the city.  Your preschoolers may not be all that interested in the spectacular architecture, but they will be excited about the exhibitions, theatrical performances, and concerts that take place here.

7 – Millennium Park – Millennium Park, Chicago, IL 60601

Located right in the Loop, this 25-acre green space is a popular attraction not only for Chicago residents but nearly all tourist, too.  A massive three-story steel sculpture popularly known as ‘The Bean’ (real name ‘Cloud Gate’) is located here as is the Crown Fountain with its wading platform. If you are seeking a place to spend some time with your toddlers that is big and green, this is it.

8 – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – 2430 N Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

Located within Lincoln Park, this nature museum is one of the top venues in Chicago for your children.  In addition to the displays that entice young minds, plenty of hands-on experiences are available and waiting for you.  The popular water tables teach children about rivers while the butterfly greenhouse is a must-see stop to include during your visit to this site.

9 – Lincoln Park Zoo – 2001 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614

It is rare to find a youngster who does not like a visit to the zoo. This particular site has historic architecture and world-class wildlife exhibits that are strategically placed among the mature trees and lagoons of the park.  If you are on a tight family budget,  the Lincoln Park Zoo is open 365 days a year and operates free of charge. When you bring the little ones to see all the animals in natural settings, be sure to bring a picnic lunch to each at one of several picnic areas within the park.

10 – Kohl Children’s Museum – 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, IL 60026 

Featuring 17 permanent displays, your children will have plenty to explore.  The innovative exhibits here are designed to make your little ones think and wonder about the world around them.  Must-see exhibits on-site include the Whole Foods Market, the waterworks station, and the veterinarian center.

11 – Morton Arboretum – 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, IL 60532-1293

The 1,700 acres that make up this site are home to a public garden, outdoor museum, an herbarium, and a tree research program as part of the Center for Tree Sciences. Enjoy the collections of living trees and plants with plenty of space for running or walking.  If you need a break, go to the library and give your children an impromptu story time or take a look at the exhibits you find there.


Summer is the time to get out and about in the city.  For families, there is no shortage of opportunities that are perfect for you and your children.  Even the very young ones can be brought to so many sites around the city and suburbs  Plus, many of these venues are designed to create a learning environment that will keep curious minds active and wondering.  Need to get your child thinking about something different for a change?  The list above should give you some excellent options.

Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.

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