Chicago: Top Attractions
|Play ball! Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. (courtesy, Chicago CVB)|
For families, Chicago offers first-rate museums, a top-notch aquarium, miles of lakefront walkways and bicycle paths, great art, and architecture. From the observation deck of the 110-story-high Sears Tower, the tallest building in North America, you get a panoramic city view that kids just love. And down on the Loop's streets, find sculptures by Picasso, Miro, Chagall, and other masters, as well as cafÃ©s serving the country's best deep-dish pizza when snack time hits.
John G. Shedd Aquarium
The world's largest indoor aquarium presents a diversity of habitats and critters. Wild Reef's floor-to-ceiling windows put you face-to-face with dozens of sharks from the Philippines. Walk through the Amazon River exhibit to find piranhas, sloths, and caiman. Eels, barracudas, and rainbow-colored fish abound in the Coral Reef Tank. The beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, and harbor seals of the Pacific Northwest star at the Oceanarium. At "Crabs," running May through November, discover how these creatures regenerate legs, glow in the dark, and adapt to freshwater and sea environments.
John G. Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium: 312.939.2438, www.sheddnet.org
Chicago Children's Museum
At this Navy Pier museum geared for toddlers to 12-year-olds, kids can invent their own flying machine and send it soaring two stories up into a tower, reconstruct parts of a 100-million-year-old dinosaur, and climb a schooner's rope ladder from the deck to the crow's nest. Young kids especially enjoy WaterWays, where they float toy boats, splash about, and play with the pulleys, pumps, and pipes. Meet enormous insects and giggling flowers in BIG Backyard.
Chicago Children's Museum: 312.527.1000, www.chichildrensmuseum.org
Watch Major League Baseball
With two home teams, baseball's big in the Windy City. Plan ahead to root for the Cubs at Wrigley Field, one of the oldest MLB stadiums still in use, or the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. If you can't score tickets, then tour the ballparks, where kids get to walk onto the field and sit in the dugoutÂ—amazing treats. Wrigley Field offers regularly scheduled tours, but U.S. Cellular Field only allows groups of ten or more by reservation.
Chicago Cubs (Wrigley Field): 773.404.CUBS, chicago.cubs.mlb.com
Chicago White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field): tickets: 866.SOX.GAME, tours 312.674.1000, whitesox.mlb.com
Recently named one of the top ten family-friendly zoos in the U.S. by Child magazine, Brookfield is well-known for its naturalistic exhibits. Wind along the paths of Habitat Africa: The Forest to view okapi, forest buffalo, dwarf crocodiles, and red river hogs. Mexican gray wolves reign at Regenstein Wolf Woods. Take young kids to the Hamill Family Play Zoo, where they can touch snakes and lizards, examine animal X-rays, design a zoo, dress up as a bird, and create miniature gardens.
Brookfield Zoo: 708.485.0263, www.brookfieldzoo.org
The hands-on exhibits at the Field Museum make learning about natural history fun. At Underground Adventure, kids get a bug's-eye perspective of life at the end of their yards as they travel through an ecosystem of roots and dirt. Examine real dinosaur teeth, claws, and bones in Dino Zone. And at Inside Ancient Egypt, make your way through a life-size Egyptian tomb. Dozens of dinosaur fossils and life-size casts from China join Sue, the world's largest tyrannosaur skeleton, from May 27, 2005, through April 23, 2006.
Field Museum: 312.922.9410, www.fieldmuseum.org
Museum of Science & Industry
Younger children will stare in amazement as they see chicks hatching from their shells at the Baby Chick Hatchery, lose their breath as they walk through a 16-foot-tall model of the human heart, and learn about science in Idea Factory. Older kids won't want to miss the chance to destroy enemy missile launchers in F-14 Tomcat flight simulators or explore the "History, Culture, and Future of Video Games" exhibit. "Body Worlds," here until September 2005, takes visitors on an extraordinary journey through the human body, with more than 200 authentic human specimens on display.
Museum of Science and Industry: 773.684.1414, www.msichicago.org
The Navy Pier & Chicago Shakespeare Theater Families can spend an entire day at the Navy Pier, a former naval facility turned into a recreational center. In addition to being home to the Chicago Children's Museum, the Pier sports a Ferris Wheel, a funhouse maze, an IMAX theater, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Introduce your kids to the bard on Family Saturdays when lively thespians perform "Short Shakespeare," mini-versions of plays adapted especially for squirmy youngsters. Treat the teens to a full-length performance. The Navy Pier: 800.595.PIER, www.navypier.com
Chicago Shakespeare Theater: 312.595.5600, www.chicagoshakes.com
Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
Learn about stars, galaxies, and solar systems through a series of exhibits and planetarium shows. Gateway to the Universe imparts a sense of the vastness of space. The Dynamic Gallery theater takes you on a 3-D computer-animated tour of the Milky Way and Bringing Heavens to Earth shows you how Polynesian navigators steered by the stars. At the Adler's interactive StarRider Theater you participate in exploring the universe by operating controls on your seat armrests.
Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum: 312.922.STAR, www.adlerplanetarium.org
Chicago Botanic Garden
This garden's 385 acres are filled with wonderful sights, smells, and tactile experiences, such as its 26 specialty gardens and quiet water spaces. In the Children's Garden, kids learn about plants as they wind their way through the evergreen maze and prairie garden. The Enabling Garden features areas for those with physical or sensory impairments. Camp CBG, available in the summer, offers day programs for children including educational and fun classes such as Bugs Brigade, Incredible Edibles, and Salad Science.
Chicago Botanic Garden: 847.835.5440, www.chicagobotanic.org
This 24.5-acre urban oasis, located on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets, offers intriguing attractions and plenty of romping space for cooped up kids. The Crown Fountain's towers show video images of Chicagoans' faces while the Lurie Garden features blossoming flowers and cherry trees. From November to March, skate on the outdoor ice rink.
Millennium Park: 312.742.1168, millenniumpark.org
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication