Visiting Chicago

Parent Q&A

  • Venue for Graduation Dinner in Chicago

    (5 replies)

    I'm organizing a celebration dinner for my niece who's graduating from college next year in Chicago. I need to find a Chicago venue for the dinner but my only leads are from Yelp, Open Table, and other impersonal websites. I would love to get a recommendation from a real person, or be able to consult a resource that's more personal. Do you have know of any good Chicago restaurants for a private dinner of about 25 people, or have a relative or friend there who I can consult, or have info on community resources like BPN where I can ask? Thanks!

    Eataly Chicago has a private back room that can be rented.  When I was there, the food was served buffet-style on the counter and it was GOOD.   It is a great space - big, tall ceilings - all windows - that would easily accommodate 25.  

    Check it out!  

    I just happen to be moving from Chicago to Oakland right now. There are lots of restaurant options just depends on what you are looking for. With that said thrillist Chicago  actually has great recommendations that you can trust. If you need a specific rec, let me know what you are looking for: neighborhood, type of food, price point. 

    Ask your niece! She's been living there, so she will know what will fit well and what she'd enjoy. Ask her for a few options and then you can research them. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Chicago With 10-Year Old

August 2009

We (mom, dad and ten year old boy) are going to Chicago for 5 days in August and I'm looking for recommendations on things to do and see. I checked the archives and the most recent posting on visiting Chicago is 5 years old. Any more recent experiences? Thanks! Chicago-bound

Famplosion is a great resource for families. Their mission is to help
families find good and interesting things to do together.  Chicago is one of
the many US cities they serve. I use it for the Bay Area all of the time. 
It's free; just go to and change the location to Chicago.

Kids love the Museum of Science and Industry on the South Side and Lincoln
Park Zoo is great. I wouldn't miss the Art Institute. The whole Grant Park
area has many things to see. Perhaps the Chicago Chamber of Commerce site
could give you some ideas. Chicago also has two baseball teams. There is
something for everyone at every age.

I'm originally from chicago, It's  a fun place to take your kids!

Milennium Park and Navy Pier are the current main attractions, and a 10 year
old would enjoy both.

If you love baseball, you're probably already planning a visit to Wrigley
Field to see the Cubs. 

Lincoln Park Zoo.  A great zoo along the lakefront, and  it's free! 

The museum of Science and Industry -- I spent 2 whole days wandering the
museum when I was 14 and my sister was exhibiting at a science fair there. 
In 2 days, I didn't see the whole museum.   I loved this place as a kid, and
still do as an adult.

The Field Museum and Shedd aquarium are good too.   Unless he's really into
Art, I'd save the Art Institute until he's older.  

Take a ride on the El train.   It's much grittier than BART, but gives you a
feel for Chicago outside the tourist stuff.

Spend a day at the beach.  Oak Street beach is pretty crowded.  The further
North you go, the less crowded and more family friendly the beaches are.

Sears Tower skydeck or the John Hancock observation decks are fun.  

I'm looking forward to other people's recommendations -- a lot has changed in
Chicago since I moved to California!

So much to do -
The Museum of Science and Industry - the original children's museum before
there was the idea for children's museums (not a boy thing but mom - don't
miss the dollhouse).
Check out Millenium Park just south of the Art Institute and its amazing
outdoor sculptures (be sure to check out the video/water piece and the piece
commonly known as the BEAN) There are always street festivals around, so go
on line and see if anything you might be interested in will be going on when
Go to the beach! Walk/rent bikes and walk/ride along the lakefront! Lincoln
Park Zoo is nice. There is a great farmers market near by.
My son always had to go to the NIKE store on Michigan Ave. but he was a brand
You can do the top of the Hancock, but rather than pay, go to the bar at the
top and have a drink and see the view. Do a boat tour.
If its raining, there are always other museums if your kid likes museums -
the Field Museum has dinosaurs (including Sue, the largest Tyranasaurus full
skeleton) and mummies, the Art Institute was just enlarged and amazing (don't
miss the Thorne rooms, even my son liked these miniture architectural
retrospective of styles through time) Get tickets to a CUBS game (have to do
it in advance now!) Depending on where you are staying, you can do all of
this from the L (subway/elevated) and its cheap! $2 from airport to downtown!
My favorite and good family restaurant is Wishbone - one is near Oprah's
studio west of the Loop, another off Lincoln near north.
Enjoy my home town! Maybe he'll get to see a good old fashioned lightning
storm, something you don't see here, and lightning bugs at nite!
Always a Chicagoan

Chicago Hotel for viewing the fireworks

April 2009

I'm looking for a well-situated hotel from which to view the fireworks in Chicago
July 3.  I can pay up to $150.

Alternatively, is there a place to go outdoors that won't be jampacked?  I'll have
my 4-year-old with me, and he gets scared in tight crowds.

Thanks for any suggestions.
Summer, here we come!

of the places I've stayed, I'd probably recommend the Swissotel on E. Wacker
or the Sheraton on N. Water.  Either would probably be good if you got a room
facing the right direction.  I'd book over the phone.  All along the shoreline
might be pretty good but naturally it will be busy.  You'd want to find a
secluded spot and stake it out in advance to ensure enough room.

Have fun!

Years ago, my wife and I had a great time watching the fireworks from the pier
at Northwestern University, just north of downtown. You get a great view of
the fireworks out over the water, and it's not too crowded. (There's a nice
lawn there where you can take a picnic.) Jim

One week stay in Chicago with a 14 months old

Jan 2007

My husband and I are trying to arrange an easy trip to Chicago
with our 12 month old (she runs, not walks) to see our new
nephews and family.  They live in Lincoln Park.  They don't
have an extra inch of space to put us up.  Ideally we could
rent a condo or house for a week nearby.  Or perhaps you have
other ideas for traveling to a city in the dead of winter with
a one year old.  Any suggestions on how to make this effortless
and even fun would be GREATLY appreciated!  Leigh

What a great city to visit! My husband and I lived in Chicago pre-kids, but
have visited numerous times with our 3 children, now 3,7,9 years old.  Lincoln
Park is a great spot (I lived there), but you might want to consider staying
closer to downtown at this time of year, only because there is a lot of outside
space and it is great there in good weather, but if you are closer to Navy
Pier, Michigan Ave., etc ...
you might find more to do on an icky day. Plus, there is a bus (the 151
Sheridan, I
think?) that runs up Michigan Ave. for miles that will take you right into
Lincoln Park. You don't say if you will have a car, but you don't want to have
to pay to park if you stay at a hotel off of/on Michigan Ave.!

You don't say what sort of price area you are looking to stay in, but it is
difficult to find a house or condo in that area for that length of time. You
probably can, but I'm not sure how to go about it. As for hotels, we enjoyed
the House of Blues and a Sheraton in that area and they were reasonable -- you
just have to sort of shop around for deals. That part is pricey, but if you can
avoid having a car and paying to park overnight, you save a ton, so convenience
of location is what it's all about!

At Navy Pier, or near it, there is a great Children's Museum that we went to on
a freezing rainy day. We hopped on a bus and got there without trouble. At Navy
Pier there is also a great movie theatre if there are any good kids movies out,
and lots of shops, fun things to see, do and places to eat. In Water Tower
Place on Michigan Ave., my kids enjoyed the food court with everything
imaginable (everyone ate something they liked!) and the escalator that went
between the many floor of stores.
You can always do the Hancock Tower and see the whole city, or tool around on
Michigan Ave. (my girls love the American Girl store). I think they still have
ice skating in Grant Park (south on Michigan Ave.), but I'm not sure. The Art
Institute is fabulous, too, even for a 14 month old -- at least you have an
interesting view while you chase your little one! To me at that age, it's all
about letting them have a bit of fun, run them until they drop, and hopefully
get something interesting in it for you !
A tough age, but lots of fun too. Best of luck!


Chicago with Toddler

Sept 2004

We'll be travelling to Chicago with our 2 year-old for a long weekend in early November. Any recommendations for toddler friendly activities (probably indoor), hotels, restaurants, etc? Thanks! -cg

I'm a Chicago native and go back every so often with my kids, and to see my nephew.

Some key things to see:

The Museum of Science and Industry (on the south side, near the Univ. of Chicago). Great stuff that kids love, including a huge model train layout, planes, old locomotives, on and on and on...

The Field Museum of Natural History. Dinosaurs, mammoths, you name it.

There's a nice zoo (Lincoln Park), weather permitting. The Aquarium is fun, and kid-pleasing, as well.

If the weather is nice, take an architectural boat tour (assuming your child likes boats). You'll appreciate the views of Chicago and the history, and your child should just like the ride, the buildings, the bridges.

I haven't been there, but Navy Pier is a family-oriented shopping/entertainment area. I've heard everything from it's a lot of fun to it's the same as Pier 39, and I really can't judge.

I can't offer much advice on hotels or restaurants. Have fun! Michael

I grew up in Chicago, and visit occasionally with my now-2. Shedd Aquarium is great, as is the Field Museum. Skip Lincoln Park Zoo, it's an old-style zoo which I've found very depressing: cages and very small exhibits. My daughter likes the Art Institute: we play a ''game'' my mother would play with me when I was little and go to the gift shop and have her pick out 1 or 2 postcards of something on display at the museum (painting, sculpture) and then walk through the museum to find the piece. Very cool. Children's Museum on Navy Pier is geared older, but mine likes the Museum of Science and Industry quite a bit -- lots of buttons to push, ice cream parlor, submarine and a new kids play area that she could spend hours in. Lisa

We took our daughter to Chicago when when she was about 2 1/2 years old, (and her six month old brother.) The fun family outing we had there was to the Shedd Aquarium where you can see a kind of educational dolfin show, see penguins etc. My daughter still talks and draws the Baby Beluga whales she saw there. I think it was the Raffi song that made her edgar to see them. The whole place is amazing from the old tanks that make you feel like you are in a museum from 100 years ago to the modern wing that becomes one with the water. Be prepared for the amusement park like prices. I think an adult admission was $30.

The new Mellenium Park near the Art Institute is not to be missed (depending on the temperature.) It's full of shiny metal, ramps and a spitting sculpture that adults and kids will appreciate.

I loved eating noodles in Chicago, like Penny's noodles in Bucktown and High Ricky in Wicker Park. The food comes fast but I haven't been either of those places in a few years. Karen

There are several Rain Forest Cafes in Chicago. My kids love them. The food is so-so but it's very fun for kids because they have robotic animals such as gorillas. The simulate a rain storm, etc. Beware of retail opportunities there! If the weather is good the Lincoln Park Zoo is fabulous. Mary

We spent a few days in Chicago with a then 21 month old in November 2002. (The timing was because of a family wedding.) Although it was too late for the ''harvest festival'' type activities and too early for the Christmas lights, and it was a bit cold and wet some of the time we were there, we really enjoyed the trip and loved the city.

There is a lot to do indoors -- mostly some really great museums, which doesn't sound like it would appeal to toddlers, but our son enjoyed the Field Museum (if yours is more into animals and dinosaurs than trains and trucks, s/he'll like the Field even more) and the Shedd Aquarium. We didn't attempt the Art Institute.

The Childrens' Museum at Navy Pier is excellent. And there were some kiddie rides and stores that were interesting to our son in the shopping mall there.

The Museum of Science and Industry, in the university area rather than downtown, is also great fun for kids. Check out tractors (which kids can get in and pretend to drive), a real airplane, chicks hatching...lots of good stuff.

Marshall Field's department store has a fountain for thowing pennies, and a large upstairs room with some historical exhibits where we could peek down into the space where workers were setting up an elaborate holiday village and train display.

If the weather's not too dismal, the waterfront park that stretches from the museum campus where the Field, the Shedd and a planetarium is located up to the Navy Pier area is a great place to just run around. We didn't find a kiddie playground, but here are some big fountains, climbable sculptures, and geese to chase.

I've forgotten the name of our hotel (it was an older one, south of the Loop and near the lakeshore) and don't remember clearly any of the restaurants we ate in, so I can't help you with that! But it wasn't difficult to find child-friendly places. Have fun! Holly

Fun for 13 year old in Chicago?

June 2003

My almost 13 year old daughter and I will be traveling to Michigan by train in late July and stopping over for 3 days in Chicago. Any suggestions about how we can entertain ourselves? I was there many years ago for a conference and just enjoyed walking around and going out to dinner/music, but this trip needs to be geared at least somewhat to her interests. She's into animals, music, fashion, art (we'll probably go to the Art Institute, but I don't know how well she'll take to the museum scene). Also, any suggestions about where to stay? A reasonably priced bed and breakfast not far from the train station would be ideal, but not knowing the geography, that might be too much to ask. If you're from there or visited before, any and all ideas would appreciated. Thanks much Nancy

I lived in Chicago for 5 years, and if the weather had been better, I would probably not have returned to California. But, the summer is great and has a lot of fun things to do for adults and teen-agers. I am not aware of any bed and breakfast type accomodations near the train station or in the city, so if you really want that type of accomodation, the closest place to look would be in Lincoln Park (about 3 miles north of downtown). However, with only 3 days, I would recommend paying a bit more for a room in the Loop area, as you will then be perfectly situated to walk to most points of interest and won't have to incur cab fare/time to get to these places (most are a short walk or bus/el ride away). Here's a few things that may interest both you and your daughter:
- The Art Institute of Chicago can be overwhelming, but if you do go, don't miss the unusual paper-weight exhibit and miniatures room downstairs near the Kraft gallery - your daughter may find this more interesting than Impressionist paintings
- I highly recommend taking the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Riverboat Cruise, as it gives a spectacular overview of the city's history and architecture - while taking you up and down the Chicago river and out onto Lake Michigan. It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny.
- Marshall Fields on State Street is an entire block of shopping, and is one of the original departments stores noted for it's architecture. There is a recently renovated food court on the top floor which has great food, and is very convenient.
- The Magnificent Mile is the main shopping area (think Rodeo Drive quality) on Michigan Avenue between Oak Street and Wacker Drive.
- The Museum Campus, just SE of the AIC has the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum of Natural History, and Adler Planetarium, all in a single cluster. If you go out to the tip of the Planetarium, you get a great view back to the city.
- Lincoln Park is a nice little neighborhood with funky shops and restaurants, and the free Lincoln Park Zoo. You can also go for a stroll on the path near Lakeshore Drive.
- Navy Pier is very touristy and expensive, so I would avoid it and spend my time elsewhere
- The Theatre District in the Loop may have some good shows, and you can get half-price day-of tickets at Hot Tix
- If you are an architecture buff, you can go to Oak Park (western suburb of Chicago) and do the Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour Have fun! Anon

My family visited Chicago last fall and had a lot of fun. Although there were no teens in our party, I think some of the stuff we did would appeal to your daughter. The Navy Pier is a great place to just wander. It is touristy but still nice, and the stained glass exhibits are wonderful. If your daughter likes the American Girls stuff, definitely pay a visit to the factory. And the Museum of Science and Industry (easy bus ride from downtown) has a lot of cool interactive exhibits that should be fun for that age. The Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour in Oak Park is great, and the architectural society boat tours were thoroughly enjoyed by my parents (though I didn't go because I was at the Children's Museum with my then-21-month- old!) Monday and Tuesday, admission at most museums is free (though special exhibits cost extra); if those aren't the days you'll be there, you can get a CityPass which gets you discounted admission to the Art Institute, the Field Museum, etc. and is a good choice if you plan to hit several museums.

We stayed in an old hotel near the big fountain -- I'm afraid I can't recall the name of either, but it's closer to the Field Museum than to Navy Pier -- which was significantly less expensive than the newer hotels in the downtown business/shopping district, but still within walking distance of almost everything we wanted to see, and the rooms, though smallish, were quite nice. Have fun! Holly

Try Navy Pier. It has tons of shops, rides, food and during the summer months, fireworks on Wednesday evenings. You can also see the fireworks from the lakefront by the Planetarium. Lincoln Park Zoo is right in downtown. My favorite zoo is the Brookfield Zoo, but that's a bit of a drive from Chicago. R.L.

I just got back from a week in Chicago. It's a wonderful city, and my 15 year old son has had a good time on several relatively recent visits. (The best time, of course, when he went alone to visit his sister, a college student there.)

The train station is downtown, not a noticeable bed-and-breakfast area, but I found (on various internet sites) great prices on good downtown hotels. (I'm a fan of old hotels, with architectural character.) Kids seem to like Navy Pier which is just north of the Loop (extensive exhibit of stained glass along with all the amusements, people watching, etc.). The Chicago Architectural Foundation (offices and gift shop across Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute)has great walking tours (and a boat tour): Chicago architecture is dramatic. The Art Institute (I just spent a whole day there) has plenty of stuff that would intrigue kids: there's a couple of rooms of period furniture miniatures, my son loved the armor, there's a room of Renaissance jewels. And, of course, the Impressionist paintings are breathtaking. My son was completely occupied by exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry (in Hyde Park). You can walk forever looking in funky stores on north side streets (Clark Street, Belmont Avenue, for example). There's a zoo in Lincoln Park (north side),close to the lake and stylish neighborhoods. And, a great time was had by all generations doing something I never thought I'd ever recommend going to the top of the Sears Tower.

Used to hate Chicago, but now I love it

Chicago is great in the Summer. A 13 year old girl interested in animals would like the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's on the North Side in Lincoln Park and across from Lake Michigan. If you hit some warm weather, you may want to spend some time at the Beach. The Art Institute is great. There is also a museum of Contemporary Art behind Water Tower Place. Chicago is a city full of museums of interest and you may want to invest in a multi museum visitor's pass so you can save money on the admissions cost. If I recall, The Art Institute is Free on Tuesdays. If she's into shopping Water Tower and the Magnificent Mile (North Michigan Ave) are great. Make sure to go to Navy Pier as well. You can't miss the huge ferris wheel.

I don't know of any B near the train station. You may want to pick up a The Chicago Magazine and other local publications as soon as you arrive. Enjoy some real Chicago pizza while you're there. Have fun!

WOW -- what a fun place for a 13 year old girl! First of all, Michigan Ave. has some of the best shopping around, with amazing stores one right after the other ! o if she likes to shop, you're in luck. Also, Navy Pier is a lot of fun day or night, with great restaurants (fun theme-related places), games, rides, boat tours, ice cream, etc ... a fun place for all ages. There is also a great architectural boat tour that travels up the Chicago River and points out all of the great architectural points of interest, along with some history (if she likes that type of thing). Needless to say, Wrigley Field is a fabulous place to catch a ball game. For pizza lovers, you can't beat the stuffed pizza in Chicago, especially My Pies (Fullerton and N. Clark?) or Gino's East. Hope this helps!

Kid-friendly places in Ann Arbor and Chicago

May 2002

Going to Ann Arbor and Chicago. Any recommendations on kid-friendly places to visit or to eat at? We're taking our 6 year old and 4 year old. Mucho thanks. Traveling Mom

Navy Pier in Chicago is great for kids of all ages. There are rides, shops, restaurants, and my favorite is The Childrens Discovery Museum. For great sandwiches or a ''pot pie'' pizza try Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders. I think it's on Clark Street, not far from downtown. Renne

Ann Arbor has lots of great places to take kids. The Hands- On museum, downtown near Main St., is good. Since it is free, the Natural History Museum on campus is even better. It has dinosaurs, and slightly funky dioramas. Very few places aren't kid friendly, but a good (and often not too crowded) place to eat near campus is Seva (on Liberty St.), a vegetarian restaurant. Molly

We just took a 2 week trip to Chicago while my husband was there for work. We have lived there in the past (pre-kids). There are lots of great places to take them, even when the weather isn't great! You did not say where you are staying, but from right downtown, there is a free shuttle that will take you out to Navy Pier. On a nice day, you could spend much of the day here! We went on a very rainy, ugly day and took in the Children's Museum (that easily takes a couple of hours), then to see Beauty & the Beast at the theatre there. The museum had a folk singer and the kids and I sat and sang songs while she played guitar. If it's nice, there is a huge ferris wheel there that brings you up so high that you can see all over the city, and there are lots of other rides (carousel, etc ..). Therre are a couple of casual, fun restaurants there for lunch, too. In the suburbs, in Barrington, was a great museum called ''The Children's Health Museum'', where the kids could get their hands on things that taught them about how their bodies work, the community, and the environment. My kids didn't want to leave! You'd need a car to get to that, though. You can also pay $1.50 (under 5 free) and take the bus from downtown to the aquarium or Museum of Natural History. The kids loved both of those as well! Also in the suburbs is the fabulous Brookfield Zoo. You can get all around the city on the ''El'' quite easily with kids and mine liked trying ''a new train'' as they called it! Good luck and have fun! trish

I lived in Chicago for many years, great place to visit. I recommend, along with the tons of museums, a boat tour along the Chicago river. It's worth it, great way to see incredible architecture. Also, lots of great beaches along the lake and the Lincoln Park Zoo not to be missed. Suburbs are far away, not worth the trips out there. ''Near North'' side has all the restaurants. Chicago transplant

Someplace fun with 5-year-old

December 1999

I am returning home to Green Bay, Wisconsin for Christmas and am stopping in Chicago for a day or so, on the way. It has been so long since I have been back, that I am left unsure of where to go. I would like to take my five-year old son to someplace fun! I thought about visiting the Sears Tower with him in Chicago, but that is about it. As for Wisconsin I have come up with driving to Door County, but I am not sure as I have never been there in winter, and don't know what they have to offer. Any ideas would be great, even of nice cozy places to stay for a few days, especially in Wisconsin.

The Chicago Children's Museum ( is perfect for five-year-olds. (It's free if you're a member of Lawrence Hall of Science or any of a number of other Bay Area museums). The museum is at Navy Pier (, which has a free ice skating rink (you can rent skates inexpensively), a carousel, a Ferris wheel (yes, even in the winter -- dress warmly!), and free rides in horse-drawn sleighs.

The classic free activity in Chicago in December, one I remember fondly from my own childhood, is walking around Marshall Field's State Street store, where the lavishly-decorated street-level windows, if you follow them in sequence, tell a story.