April Chicago trip with Kid. What do?
March 15, 2019 1:45 PM   Subscribe

We are headed to Chicago second week in April with a 10 year old. I've always wanted to take him to the Field museum so that is on the list. What else is a really terrific and uniquely Chicago thing to do with a kid? Doesn't have to be ONLY for kids. I am not interested in a kids' museum, aquarium, or zoo, etc. unless it's a particularly good one - I just feel like we see plenty of those and can do that any time. I'd also love suggestions for any good, unusual, and fun restaurants that a kid might also enjoy. No car.
posted by ReluctantViking to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (26 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Everyone in our family absolutely loved the Museum of Science and Industry. It's the biggest science museum in the western hemisphere. They have an indoor tornado! We seriously got there when it opened and didn't leave until it closed.
posted by Ostara at 1:48 PM on March 15, 2019 [15 favorites]

When I was a child, my favorite Chicago museum was The Museum of Science and Industry. From what I've heard, it still holds up.
(I always liked it way better than the Field Museum, but it looks like the Field Museum has greatly improved since then.)
posted by FencingGal at 1:48 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thirding Museum of Science & Industry. If you're staying downtown, take the #10 bus, which drops you off right there. You can walk west up 57th Street to 57th Street Books, which has a good selection of children's books (mandatory disclaimer: worked at the parent store about twenty-five or twenty-six years ago).
posted by thomas j wise at 1:57 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My main memories from walking the Magnificent Mile with my pre-teen are the epic American Girl store for sightseeing and people-watching, the strangely photogenic Bean statue in the park, and the Miniature Thorne Rooms at The Art Institue. Try a couple deep dish pizza favorites and pick the best one! Little Goat Diner is Stephanie Izard's casual diner-style restaurant that serves breakfast and more all day. Sit at the counter if you can and watch the cooks. Uber or whatever works really well to get over to this area from the Magnificent Mile area.
posted by RoadScholar at 2:05 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Both the Cubs and White Sox are in town that week. A day game at Wrigley is a pretty classic Chicago experience - tickets are still available for April 8 (opening day!) and April 12. Both ballparks are super easy to get to via the L red line.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation runs a fabulous boat cruise up the Chicago river, with incredibly knowledgeable guides. This is one of the very best ways to see the city.
posted by burden at 2:19 PM on March 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

I also want to recommend the Museum of Science and Industry, yet am bothering to post as #4 because there's a great deal you need to know about if you're going both there and to the Field Museum: the ASTC Passport Program. You can very likely get a family membership at a local-to-you participant for $100-something that will then get y'all into both of those for free. Just make enroll now so you get the official card from your local place in time, because they'll understandably want to see the hardcopy. Even if you'll never go to your local children's museum or whatever, it's still totally worth it.
posted by teremala at 2:26 PM on March 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

Nthing MSI, it's magical and very kid friendly. You can drive by the Obamas old house when you are in Hyde Park, if your kid is into that.

Water Tower Place has the American girl store and the Lego store, which are showy but could run a big bill.

That's Weird, Grandma is pretty special - an hour-long sketch show written by kids but performed by adults, all supporting arts in Chicago Public Schools. For restaurants, my students like Portillo's and Ginos East, though I don't know if that makes them special.

Does your kid usually have access to Maker Spaces? Several Chicago libraries, including the downtown branch, have daily free classes on the 3d printer, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, knitting machine, etc, that are aimed at kids and they get to take the thing they make home.

Makersinchicago.org has a list of other Maker Spaces in Chicago. MSi has one, not sure how it works though.
posted by thelastpolarbear at 2:26 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

For a sweet treat, I like Do-Rite Donuts. One of the outlets sells chicken sandwiches, which are better than they have any right to be, given that they are in a donut shop.

Seconding the Little Goat - everything I’ve tried there has been amazing and fun. Not really diner prices, sadly...
posted by eirias at 3:06 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and I think the art institute has a neat dollhouse exhibit. The museum itself is overwhelming and huge, but that section might pique a kid’s interest depending on the kid.
posted by eirias at 3:09 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Take the water taxi to Chinatown! It's fun and cheap and has great views of the city, and there's all kinds of kid friendly stuff on Wentworth and in the big outdoor mall that runs parallel to Archer: toy stores, candy shops, great food. You can take the boat back, or an easy trip on the Red line train.
posted by theodolite at 3:27 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

the chicago history museum has kid friendly displays and lincoln memorabilia.
posted by brujita at 3:33 PM on March 15, 2019

My kids liked walking to the end of Navy Pier and along the beaches by Lincoln Park and by the Bean's park as this was the closest they'd yet been to a relatively infinite expanse of water. The cousins were into sports and liked walking by Wrigley Park (when does baseball start?) and the United Center with its hockey statues. I think the John Hancock galss observatin deck is still open. And of course the Bean itslef and the river cruises for when they are tired.
posted by beaning at 4:22 PM on March 15, 2019

The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of my favorite zoos (they have Diana monkeys), and it's free!
posted by ChuraChura at 4:30 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Field and Science and Industry are always tops, but a couple less obvious things: last summer I visited Chicago with my nine year old and we had a hilariously good time bowling at Southport Lanes. It’s in a bar but kids can be in there until I think 7 pm. It’s one of the last manual pin set lanes in the country, and the pin setters can very much be a part of your game if you want them to be- moving pins at the last minute, knocking over pins when your kid bowls, rolling the ball back if you’re particularly bad, etc. I imagine that if you’re good at bowling it’s still fun, but if you, like me, are not, it’s nearly slapstick comedy.

The second thing is Maggie Daley Park, which has a huge playground as well as rock climbing walls and a roller blading course, which are set to open April 13. It makes a nice break from the incredible museums. Have fun!
posted by Missense Mutation at 4:46 PM on March 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

The playground at Maggie Daley park is “epic” says my 9 year old. And it’s close to the bean and Crown Fountain which are also fun for kids.
posted by Empidonax at 4:49 PM on March 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

See a music improv show! It's like regular improv, but with improvised songs added - solo songs, chorus songs, duets, all within fun scenes. Second City, IO, and The Annoyance -- and probably other places -- all have music improv shows now, and it's amazing.

Last time I saw Baby Wants Candy, they improvised a one-hour musical called "The OnLion King" (title came from the audience) complete with evil lion uncle, silly buddy characters, etc. You might be wondering if the content is OK for a 10-year-old... I _think_ so, but you might want to double check.

I'm headed to see "Jumping off a Clef" imminently.

IO's shows are Sunday, starting with a student show at 7, then a graduates/visiting group show at 8:30.

Second City has Baby Wants Candy (I think Saturdays). The Annoyance has MINt (Music Improv Night) every Tuesday at 7.
posted by amtho at 6:06 PM on March 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's no longer the world's tallest building, but going to the top of the Sears Tower is still pretty impressive. You might want to get there early and get tickets online in advance, because the line can be pretty long.
posted by Reverend John at 6:51 PM on March 15, 2019

Watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off with them, take them to the Art Institute. And Wrigley!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 7:20 PM on March 15, 2019

Holy moly guacamole, I thought Ed Debevic's was long gone. I used to go to a location in the North Shore suburbs when I was a kid visiting family, I thought it was the greatest place in the world. If it reopens in time, definitely go!

Also n'thing MSI, that's really fun.
posted by radioamy at 8:15 PM on March 15, 2019

Chicago has a ton of small theater companies that work with bare bones sets and amazing actors that are sharpening their chops.

In a past life many moons ago, I worked on a professional level with Muntu Dance Company. They currently offer drop in classes.

Another quintessential Chicago experience is listening to blues. Buddy Guy's Blues Legends has all ages shows in the afternoon. Should you have a chance to see Buddy Guy perform, he is incredible live.

I saw 57th street books was recommended. There used to be a wonderful bakery cafe near there called the Medici. If it is still there they had cinnamon rolls and croissants good enough to write home about. Another little known Hyde Park gem is the Golden Snail thai restaurant.
posted by Sequined Ballet Flats at 10:34 PM on March 15, 2019

Fun kid-friendly food stuff in Chicago: over the top churros and churro ice cream cones at Bodega del Barrio; birthday cake doughnut at Firecakes; Nutella Cafe; burgers at Au Cheval (or their spinoff Small Cheval if long lines are a turnoff); Little Goat Diner (Iron Chef winner Stephanie Izard's fun, tasty take on a diner); the "international" menu at the West Loop McDonald's.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:33 PM on March 15, 2019

If you decide to go to the MSI, consider buying the tickets online in advance. Sometimes the special exhibits sell out early. My kids love the submarine (which is a special ticket).

Water Taxi to Chinatown is a great idea. If not that, some other boat adventure on the river or lake (there are lots of different tour boats). People love the architectural cruises, though that might be a little grown-up for the kid.
posted by Mid at 12:28 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Superdawg is a bit out of the way but if you find yourself in that area it’s cute, retro, great pineapple shakes.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:16 PM on March 16, 2019

I'm not sure if it's the one eiras means, but the dollhouse I always think of is at the Museum of Science and Industry. Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle
posted by lazuli at 4:28 PM on March 16, 2019

One of my favorite pizza spots is Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. They have pizza pot pies that are delicious. Supposedly the sandwiches are good but I can never pass up the pizza. You have to get there early or you'll wait a while as the place is pretty small. It's cash only and you have to pay for soda refills. I think it's across the street from where the Valentine's day massacre occured. Also very close to Lincoln Park zoo.
posted by blairsyprofane at 7:33 PM on March 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid visiting Chicago, I think riding the L was probably the thing that impressed me the most. Think about taking the Blue Line from somewhere in the downtown area out to the Damen stop and walking around Wicker Park a little bit. That route will go from underground to up on the elevated rails, which is a lot of fun for a kid. You could even walk over to the 606 trail entrance on Damen and walk around the trail a little bit, which is fun. Tacos at Big Star (sitting outside at the picnic tables, which have no booze and therefore no wait) and you have a great afternoon. The Red Line from downtown up to Addison (Wrigley Field) would be worth looking at too, but I think there's more fun stuff around Damen.
posted by Mid at 1:58 PM on March 17, 2019

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