Chicago is a beautiful, bustling, glorious town. There are tons of things to do in Chicago, indoors and outdoors. There are activities for all seasons, at all price levels, and in all areas of the city. Chicago is also a city of extremes. We have extreme heat, we have extreme cold, and we get torrential rains, all of which could send you desperately looking for indoor activities.
Before kids I never let a little snow, rain, or heat deter me from getting out. However, after kids, I find myself searching for indoor activities, so as not to freeze, scorch, or drown my poor son.
The following is a list of 15 things to do in Chicago, indoors, with kids! I hope that a few of these resonates with you and that you’ll visit Chicago even in not-so-perfect weather!
Indoor Attractions & Activities for Families:
In searching for things to do in Chicago indoors, the first things that come to mind are the Museums, and there are five big ones! The Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science & Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Art Institute. (I’ll cover four of the big five in this article). There are many smaller museums scattered throughout the city as well.
1. The Adler Planetarium
First up, as its name implies, the Planetarium is all about the planets and solar systems. With nine permanent exhibits, and a variety of shows and events, the Planetarium has something for everyone. They have exhibitions on the moon, the solar system, the universe, telescopes, and astronomy, to name a few. Check out their website to see their current exhibits.
The most interactive exhibit for small children is the Planet Explorers exhibit. It’s like a small children’s museum inside of the Planetarium. My son could spend hours in there.
A bonus is a private nursing room located right outside the exhibit. Although nursing mothers can nurse their children anywhere within the Planetarium.
Galileo’s Café is the restaurant/café at the Planetarium, and they have a good selection of food for kids; click here to see the latest café menu.
Address: Located on the Museum Campus at, 1300 s. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60605
2. Field Museum of Natural History
Next, the Field Museum of Natural History is an extraordinary natural history museum. From dinosaurs to ancient civilizations, to sparkling gems, to an exhibit on the history of beer, this museum offers a little bit of everything.
The Field Museum is great for children. Sue, the complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, is enough to capture any child’s attention and imagination. Although, the museum has a number of ancient creature’s bones on display. Two other family-friendly exhibits are the ‘Underground Adventure’ and ‘Crown Family PlayLab’ exhibits.
‘Underground Adventure’ is great for kids as they can interact with plants and animals that they can find at home. This exhibit is all about exploring the plants, animals, and soil around us.
The tagline for the PlayLab is to “Explore Science Through Play,” and that is precisely what goes on here. The exhibit is interactive as kids can play instruments, explore various cultures, touch artifacts, and play dress up. This exhibit is for 2-6-year-olds.
You can find information about all of the Field Museums exhibits, here.
Programs & Events
The Field Museum also hosts events on a variety of different subjects. The ‘events’ webpage is nice in that it tells you whether the event is family friendly or for adults. Some of the topics have included insects, dinosaurs, ceramics, mammals, and birds. Check out the events page for a list of their current events.
For sustenance the Museum offers a café, a bistro, and an outdoor bar and grill. You can also bring your own food. Strollers are allowed throughout the museum except for ticketed special exhibitions. A private nursing room is available inside the ladies restroom, on the ground floor, behind the Siragusa Center. Additionally, mothers are free to nurse wherever they feel comfortable.
Address: Located on the Museum Campus at, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60605.
3. The Museum of Science and Industry
Next up is the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). On my opinion, this is one of the best things to do in Chicago, indoors with kids! It’s a science museum to be sure; however, they also have elaborate programs and exhibits on history, culture, astronomy, robots, and technology.
At the time of writing, the Museum of Science and Industry has 25 exhibits, open to the public. They have popular exhibits like the U-505 Submarine and the model train exhibits. However, there are lesser known and equally as fascinating exhibits such as exhibits on baby chicks, mirrors, ships, coal mining, a fairy castle, extreme ice, on farming technologies, on space, on whispering, and the ‘Idea Factory.’
Two exhibits that are great for smaller children are the ‘Mirror Maze’ and the ‘Idea Factory.’ The Mirror Maze is like a sensory rainforest. There is mirror play but also elaborate visual components which explore patterns in nature and interactive stations where children can get hands on. The Idea Factory is for children under ten years old and helps children to explore shapes, test air pressure, play with water, and build. The exhibit is very hands-on and suitable for all ages!
Check here for a current list of exhibits, and appropriate ages.
The Museum offers numerous events including weekly story time, museum after dark, and some seasonal events. Click here, to see a current list of current events.
They also have a ‘Giant Dome Theater’ showing movies on various subjects; past films have been on Tornado Alley, Cuba, and the Oceans.
Strollers are permitted throughout the museum; however, they explicitly prohibit wagons. There is a nursing room located in the ‘Idea Factory.’ Mothers may nurse their children anywhere in the museum that they feel comfortable.
Address: 5700 s. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60637
4. The Art Institute of Chicago
At first glance the Art Institute may not seem like the best place for kids. But, the cool artifacts, vibrant colors, and endless hallways make this the perfect place for children.
If your kiddo is not into browsing art, the Art Institute offers a litany of other programming. It currently offers ‘The Artist’s Studio, which is offered daily from 10:30am-5: 00 pm, and is free. They also offer classes and workshops, such as ‘Artful Play’ for ages 3-5. Additionally, the Art Institute offers family friend festivals, monthly story time, and family workshops-for school-aged children.
They also have the ‘Family Room’ where you can find crafts, books, and activities for small children and tweens alike.
There is an infant care space located near Gallery 249 and nursing is permitted in the Family Room. Additionally, mothers may nurse their children anywhere in the museum that they feel comfortable.
Click here for information specific to families.
Address: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603
5. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
The Nature Museum is one of the best things to do in Chicago, indoors with small children. The Museum has lots of activities and exhibits for children. Three of the best things to do are visit the Butterfly Haven, play at RiverWorks, or jump around the Hands-On Habitat play area.
The Butterfly Haven boasts 1,000 butterflies and several bird species, nestled into a 2,700 square-foot greenhouse. RiverWorks is basically a series of giant water-tables where kids can explore how rivers work, and also play with water. The play area is an enclosed area with a treehouse and a slide. There is also a cave, a boat, and other interactive activities. For a list of current exhibits, click here.
Additionally, the Nature Museum has daily events for kids, including story time, ‘critter connection,’ live animal feedings, and butterfly releases. Click here to see what’s going on this week.
Strollers are permitted everywhere except for the Butterfly Haven exhibit. The website explicitly states that nursing mothers are welcome to nurse their children wherever they feel comfortable.
Address: 2430 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago IL 60614
6. The Garfield Park Conservatory
The next attraction on the list is not only impressive due to its exhibits and offerings, but it’s also free. However, they do ask for a donation at the door. This place makes it on the list of things to do in Chicago indoors, but it would make the outdoor list as well.
The mission of the Garfield Park Conservatory is to “examine, explore, experiment with, and explain our relationship with plants.” The Conservatory offers various indoor gardens, sprawled over two acres, in eight display house, including a Chidren’s garden. The conservatory also maintains twelve acres of outdoor gardens, if you are lucky enough to visit when it’s warm outside.
Although the entire Conservatory is family friendly, the Children’s Garden is particularly geared towards children. This garden has some oversized plants along with interactive displays to engage and stimulate children.
Along with its permanent gardens, the Conservatory also displays temporary exhibits and installations, click here to see current exhibits.
Alongside its gardens, the Garfield Park Conservatory offers twenty-three hours of free programming per week. They also offer lectures, cultural performances, classes, and educational demonstrations. Examples include story-time, a presentation on composting, science-based games and projects, ‘JuiceBox’ concerts for children, and a lesson on windowsill herb gardening.
Address: 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60624
7. Navy Pier
These next two are two of the most popular things to do in Chicago indoors. In fact, Navy Pier is one of the most popular tourist spots in Chicago.
Navy Pier is an iconic Chicago landmark; it juts out into Lake Michigan and offers great views of the lake. Navy Pier is completely enclosed, except for the outer walkways and beer garden, and offers many indoor activities. Navy Pier offers free programming and events, shopping, restaurants, family attractions, rides and games, cruises, fireworks, live entertainment, and art installations.
One (free) highlight of Navy Pier is Crystal Gardens. Crystal Gardens is an indoor botanical garden. The Crystal Gardens is a great place to rest, let your little ones run around, have a picnic, or watch the leaping fountains. They also offer free programs throughout the year; one recent program was ‘Stroller Grooves,’ a children’s musical performance.
A few paid, indoor, attractions are the Chicago Children’s Museum, a Funhouse Maze, a Virtual Reality experience, and Build-a-Bear.
Address: 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
8. Children’s Museum at Navy Pier
The Chicago Children’s museum is located downtown Chicago on Navy Pier. The museum boasts thirteen distinct areas including many that are suitable for toddlers. Some of the highlights are the ‘Zoom Room,’ ‘Water Ways,’ ‘Kids Town,’ and the ‘Art Studio.’
The ‘Zoom Room’ features hundreds of toy cars with more than 40 tracks. ‘Water Ways’ consists of elaborate water tables, pulleys, and pipes. ‘Kids Town’ is a mini town which includes a designated area for babies and toddlers. And the ‘Art Studio’ offers tons of programs for kids.
‘Kids Town’ and ‘Treehouse Trails’ are open to all ages; however, they are geared towards children under five. Kid’s Town also includes a semi-private area for nursing. The Pritzker Playspace is exclusively for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. The Art Studio has age-specific programming for toddlers and preschoolers.
Click here to check out the thirteen spaces and what they have to offer.
Address: Located on Navy Pier at, 700 East Grand Avenue, Suite 127, Chicago, IL 60611
9. The Harold Washington Library
Ninth on the list is the Harold Washington Library Center is the City of Chicago’s main library branch. It is located downtown Chicago on the corners of State St. and Congress Pkwy.
The newly renovated ‘Thomas Hughes Children’s Library’ caters to three different age groups through ‘neighborhoods.’ There is a neighborhood for kids under five which includes a puppet stage, a baby garden, and story area. A neighborhood for school-aged kids which focus heavily on STEAM –based activities. Lastly, there is an area for tweens, including laptops, cameras, and virtual reality tools.
Additionally, the library has weekly programming including games, crafts, story time, sensory play, tummy time, and baby time. Click here to find a current schedule of events.
Address: 400 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605
10. The Chicago Children’s Theatre
The Chicago Children’s Theater offers interactive shows and classes for children. They run shows for various age groups, including toddlers and preschoolers. Past and current plays include ‘The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party,’ ‘The World Inside Me,’ ‘The Watsons Go to Birmingham,’ and ‘Red Kite Green Mountain.’
The World Inside me is an interactive and sensory-rich play ‘engaging the body and senses,’ geared towards pre-K. Red Kite Green Mountain is designed for youth with autism or sensory sensitivities. Their shows rotate but there always something for every age group.
Check out their website here, for current and upcoming plays and events.
Address: 100 South Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60607
11. Lincoln Park Conservatory
The Lincoln Park Conservatory is housed in an impressive, reflective, Victorian glass house. It features exotic and domestic plants scattered throughout four display houses and as a bonus admission is free. The four display houses are named the Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House, and Show House, to give you an idea of the type of plants on display. The Show House features the Conservatory’s annual flower shows.
Address: 2391 N. Stockton Dr., Chicago, IL 60614
12. Go Bowling!
Bowling is always a great family fun activity, and there are three options located in downtown Chicago:
PinStripes: Pinstripes offers bowling and bocce ball.
- Website: https://pinstripes.com/
- Address: 435 East Illinois Street, Chicago, IL 60611
10 Pin Chicago: 10 Pin offers bowling, pool, and ping pong.
- Website: https://10pinchicago.com/
- Address: 330 N State St Chicago IL 60654
Lucky Strike: Lucky Strike offers bowling, pool, and ping pong.
- Address: 322 e. Illinois., Chicago, IL 60611
13. Get Pizza
One of the best things that you can do in Chicago indoors, is eat pizza. The dual for who has the best Chicago deep dish pizza is between Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s. Two recommendations, not downtown are Piece Brewery & Pizzeria and Pequod’s Pizza.
Lou Malnati ’s: Malnati’s is known for its deep dish pizza. (I love their thin crust pizza too).
- Website: https://www.loumalnatis.com/
- Address: Lou’s has multiple locations, including three downtown locations. The one closest to the loop is at 805 s. State Street., Chicago, IL 60605.
Giordanos: Giordano’s is known for its deep dish, stuffed pizza.
- Website: https://giordanos.com/
- Address: Giordano’s has six locations downtown. There is one near Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile, Central Loop, South Loop, Navy Pier, and Greektown.
Piece Brewery & Pizzeria: Piece is known for its thin crust, New-Haven style pizzas. (This is one of my favorite places in Chicago—they also have great beer).
- Website: http://www.piecechicago.com/
- Address: Located in the Wicker Park neighborhood at 1927 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL 60622.
Pequod’s Pizza: Pequod’s is known for its pan pizza with a caramelized crust.
- Website: https://pequodspizza.com/
- Address: Located in the west Lincoln Park neighborhood at 2207 n. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, IL 60614.
14. Shopping at Macy’s
This one may not seem like the most exciting thing to do in Chicago indoors, but most people enjoy a little retail therapy, right?
When I was little, my mother used to take me to Marshall Field’s on Sundays after church. We’d get ice cream. I grew to love the Marshall Field’s department store, and the building it was housed in. In 2006 Marshall Field’s became Macy’s. Macy’s is a great place to shop and let little ones stretch their legs. In the lower level, they have a gourmet candy shop and a food court. On the 7th floor is the Walnut Room and you can grab your kiddo an ice cream.
Around the holidays Macy’s does festive cheer flawlessly. They develop intricately decorated windows, and the interior of the store is impeccably decorated. You’ll have to step outside to check out the windows, but kids love them!
Address: 111 n. State St., Chicago, IL 60602
15. Legoland Discovery Center
Last but not least, Legoland Discovery Center is designed for children ages 3-10. It offers 12 attractions and activities, including a Lego Miniland (built with over 1.5 million Legos), a 4D movie experience, two rides, a Lego character meet and greet, Duplo Village (for smaller children), and a Jungle Adventure, to name a few. You can also talk to Lego Master builders for tips and tricks on building with Legos.
They also run temporary events. Current and past events have included Lego movies, seasonal activities, events geared towards smaller children, and events geared towards children with disabilities. Events are not typically included with admission and will incur an additional fee. Check here for a list of current events.
Additionally, Legoland has a coffee shop offering meal deals, sandwiches, snacks, and beverages. The facility is stroller friendly and has family bathrooms with changing stations.
This attraction is located in Schaumburg, Illinois, approximately 45 minutes Northwest, by car. You can also get there via public transportation, which will take you about an hour and a half.
Address: 601 N. Martingale Rd., Suite 130, Schaumburg, IL 60173
There are tons of things to do in Chicago indoors!!
Whether it’s a rainy day, the dead of winter, or a sweltering summer day, there are many reasons that you may be looking for things to do indoors. Next time you are looking for things to do in Chicago, indoors with kids, I hope that you’ll try one of the activities on this list. If you do please stop back and let me know what you thought! Also, if you have any ideas for things to do in Chicago, indoors, that I have missed, please leave me a comment!
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