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Best Attractions in Chicago for Young Kids

Favorite things to do in Chicago for preschoolers and younger

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Visiting Chicago with young kids can present a challenge -- while the city has some of the best attractions in the world, your 3-year-old traveling companion isn't likely going to want to stare at a Seurat painting at the Art Institute. Here are some of the best Chicago attractions for kids in the preschool and younger set.

1. Chicago Children's Museum

Chicago Children's Museum
Photo via Chicago Children's Museum

Located on the ever popular Navy Pier, little kids absolutely love the Chicago Children's Museum, which offers plenty of fun hands on exhibits. Afterward, take your tot on the pier's merry-go-round, or to the fountain with fun computerized jet streams in Gateway Park at the west entrance of the pier.

  • Navy Pier, 600 East Grand Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
  • 312-527-1000

Read more about the Chicago Children's Museum

2. Kohl Children's Museum

Kohl Children's Museum

Another option is the Kohl Children's Museum, located approximately 30 minutes from downtown Chicago in Glenview. The Kohl also has plenty of interactive exhibits, as well as a two acre nature park open in the warmer months that features climbing structres, a water wall, sensory garden, interactive sculptures and a grass maze.

  • 2100 Patriot Boulevard, Glenview, Illinois
  • 847-832-6600

Read more about the Kohl Children's Museum

3. Legoland Discovery Center Chicago - Schaumburg

Legoland Discovery Center

Is your preschooler a LEGO nut? Then head to the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg to the Legoland Discovery Center and its various LEGO-themed attractions with moving LEGO models, a LEGO build and test area, and a miniature LEGO replica of the Chicago skyline.

  • 601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg, IL
  • 866-929-8111

Read more about the Legoland Discovery Center

4. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Butterfly Haven
© Prescott Carlson

Your little one will learn a little bit about nature and the environment that surrounds them at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park, with a look at Chicago's waterways, an animal habitat play area, a year-round butterfly garden and more.

  • 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL
  • 773-755-5100

Read more about the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

5. Shedd Aquarium

The fish and other aquatic life at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium appeal to pretty much all ages from 0 to 100, especially the regular marine mammal shows in the Abbott Oceanarium.

  • 1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL
  • 312-939-2426

Read more about the Shedd Aquarium

6. Lincoln Park Zoo

© Prescott Carlson

It would be hard to find a kid that doesn't like the zoo, especially the Lincoln Park Zoo, with its historical architecture and world-class wildlife exhibits nestled among lagoons and mature trees not far from Chicago's downtown. Families traveling on a budget will appreciate the fact that the zoo is open free of charge 365 days a year.

  • Lake Shore Drive and Fullerton Parkway, Chicago, IL
  • 312-742-2000

Read more about the Lincoln Park Zoo

7. Brookfield Zoo

© Prescott Carlson

An alternative to Lincoln Park is the Brookfield Zoo, located in the nearby western suburb of (you guessed it) Brookfield. Brookfield Zoo is spread out over 200 acres and offers larger, cageless exhibits such as Tropic World, a massive indoor habitat with three distinct environments filled with primates from around the globe.

  • 1st Avenue and 31st Street, Brookfield, IL
  • 708-688-8000

Read more about Brookfield Zoo

8. Museum of Science and Industry

While the science and engineering concepts are likely to soar over your preschoolers head, the sheer amount of interactive exhibits and sights and sounds are sure to keep your toddler entertained, especially the Idea Factory exhibit in the museum's lower level which was designed specifically with them in mind.

  • 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL
  • 773-684-1414

Read more about the Museum of Science and Industry

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