Chicago Family Summer Destination Guide

Having lived in Chicago and making the short trip back there to visit many times, it is fun to now take my kids and see it through their eyes. The spring and summer are the perfect time to visit and plan a last-minute getaway. With no shortage of kid-friendly destinations and museums in Chicago, I have highlighted some of the things we have enjoyed the most and would put at the top of our list.

To Do

The Color Factory

a boy and a girl in front of an exhibit at The Color Factory in Chicago
a mom and her two kids in a ball pit at The Color Factory in Chicago

If you choose just one immersive experience, the Color Factory has a little bit of everything and endless rooms for the kids to explore. In the basement of the Willis Tower, you will find the Color Factory, a bright immersive experience that allows all of your senses to interact with color, including a macaroon tasting room, and a room full of brightly colored horns that play as you interact with them. A maze room, designed by artist Camille Walala, includes nods to Chicago architecture. The big hit is the giant ball pit that parents and kids alike will have fun diving into. Color Factory hands out local Kurimu Chicago Melona Melon ice cream as you exit the room, something to bribe the kids with to leave.


Sloomoo Institute

Step into the world of slime (and also literally step in pits of slime) at Sloomoo Institute. Learn about the science behind slime along with the different textures as you walk through this interactive experience. Antibacterial hand wipes are provided at each station, so you can sink your hands into all the slime without thinking how many others have done the same. The experience allows each guest to make and take home their own slime, choosing the texture, scent, color, and three charms to put in your take-home tub. Purchase the enhanced ticket to get slimed yourself!


Museum of Ice Cream

You can’t visit Chicago without getting a hot dog – but have you ever had ice cream that looks like a hot dog and bun with even relish lookalike topping? From the minute you enter this experience, you will be offered free ice cream at every turn, so prepare accordingly to indulge. Before entering, there is an ice cream bar with drinks adults can choose to purchase and carry with them as they walk through the museum. Kids and adults will enjoy the putt putt room along with the carnival-themed room that offers classic games to play. The well-designed spaces offer plenty of opportunities for fun photo taking as you enjoy the various ice creams. The grand finale is the famous sprinkle pool, which is just the cherry on top of a fun experience. 


In addition to the outdoor activities here, not to be missed is the Play Garden, an extensive state-of-the-art playground, set to the background of the Chicago skyline. This is walkable to the Bean, and also has an outdoor cafe serving up hot dogs, making it a great destination to spend all morning or afternoon on a nice day.

The Classics

The Shedd Aquarium


It’s not hard to see why this is arguably the most popular destination for families. While there, don’t miss one of the memorable animal spotlight shows that are at no additional charge.

Field Museum

One could spend all day here learning, but the dinosaurs are the must-see exhibit. There is also the Underground Adventure which highlights the importance of insects and offers life-size installations. Also, the Crown Family PlayLab which offers various hands on experiences for your junior scientist, including the opportunity to be a paleontologist discovering dinosaur bones.

Navy Pier

Ride the wheel and take in all kinds of entertainment at this lakeside destination.

Ohio Street Beach

Hit the beach on a summer afternoon. Take in the skyline views and great people watching as you soak up the sun on this soft sandy beach.


Ed Debevics

Make sure to get a reservation at this popular diner where the wait staff teases the patrons and also performs dances. One thing to order is “the world’s smallest sundae” that is the perfect size for young ones to finish.

RJ Grunts

This is the perfect spot to grab some lunch with the family before or after visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Superdawg Drive-in

Founded in 1948, this classic hot dog drive-in is a great place to stop before hitting the road and driving back home.


With multiple locations around the city and an emphasis on sourcing locally, Beatrix is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but they are especially great for breakfast so you can try their renowned coffees.

Summer House

If you are enjoying some time in Lincoln Park, be sure to check out Summer House, great for brunch or an early dinner. During weekdays, kids can make their own pizzas from 4-6.


The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile is a great option to stay at during the summer months. They have an expansive outdoor pool deck that offers plenty of tables and spaces should you want to get a takeout deep dish and bring it to chill at the pool. The hotel has a Starbucks cafe in the lobby, perfect for breakfast or snacks throughout the day. Another option conveniently located is the Loews, which has a “Loews loves families” program to ensure a kid-friendly stay. They offer things like complimentary cribs, gaming systems on loan, board games, and even pre-loaded iPads.
After starting a family in Manhattan, Courtney Scott convinced her East Coast-born and raised husband to move to St. Louis. Recent work includes freelance writing, PR, and marketing for various lifestyle, luxury, and consumer product goods clients. Courtney, who lives in University City, loves to play tennis, travel, and spend time with her young son and daughter finding new things to do around town.