One of the greatest things about having kids is that they encourage you to get out of the house and be a kid yourself! And Chicago certainly delivers when it comes to having things to do outside with kids. So if you’re wondering, “what are some family friendly activities near me?” check out these suggestions to have a rocking good time!
Kid-Friendly Outdoor Activities in Chicago
Experience Chicago on Bike
Touring Chicago by bike (or by foot) is an amazing way to experience the city, and Bobby’s Bike Hike offers the best family-friendly tour – the Ultimate Family Food & Bike Tour. The active, but never strenuous, biking nature engages kids, teens, and adults alike. Tours include a bike and helmet. You can choose from a number of bike sizes and types for your tour. There are kids bikes, junior bikes, comfort bikes, e-bikes, tag-a-longs, and even child seats and trailers that can be hooked up so even the youngest members of the family can join!
If you go on a food tour of Chicago, don’t eat beforehand; they serve enough food that even a growing teen will feel full and satisfied!
Bobby’s Bike Hike is Trip Advisor’s top-rated food & drink tour provider in Chicago with over 3,000 five star reviews.
Take A Lake Day! Kayak on Lake Michigan and Enjoy the Beaches
There’s nothing like getting out on the lake during the summer months with the kids. With Chicago’s Lakefront access downtown and family-friendly beaches, a day on the water is accessible for all! From building sand castles to getting a bit more adventurous with kayaking on Lake Michigan, there’s plenty of kid-friendly activities at the lake.
Bring your own kayak, or rent a kayak from us! Paddle in a single kayak, or paddle together in a tandem kayak. If you’d prefer a guided kayak tour of the waterfront with paddling instructions, check out a family-friendly kayak tour.
Visit Your Neighborhood Park
Chicago has 570 official parks, which means there are always outdoor venues for kid activities near me, you, and everyone. The activity could be as simple as flying a kite and playing catch in the grass (never too early to train the next Jake Arrieta), or you can find a park that has tennis courts, outdoor volleyball courts, playgrounds, and even Wizard of Oz statues! Parks are a great way to get in some movement and exercise without it feeling like a chore. On the Chicago Park District website, you can search the parks by name, location, or amenity to find the perfect spot!
Do All the Things at Maggie Daley Park
Yes, I just wrote about takings kids to various Chicago neighborhood parks, but Maggie Daley Park is special enough to warrant its own shoutout. It is the ULTIMATE family park in Chicago. Located in the center of downtown just minutes away from Cloud Gate (The Bean), Maggie Daley Park offers a 40 foot climbing wall, mini golf, bungee jumping, and more. Some of these attractions need to be reserved in advance and may have varying costs. This family friendly park is a great place for your kid to meet other children their age from across the city.
Hunt for Buried Treasure at the Beach
How many cities are lucky enough to have 26 miles of coastline and no-fee beach access? Even if the water is too cold for swimming, the beaches provide a great terrain for kid-friendly outdoor activities in Chicago. One game that’s sure to delight older kids and adults alike is Spikeball, which can get quite intense! Younger kids might enjoy going on “archaeological digs.” Distract them with a picnic while someone else buries treasure in the sand. Then, equipped with plastic spoon “shovels,” your young Indiana Joneses must find and dig up the buried treasure! The Chicago Park District offers a list of all the beaches in Chicago.
Taste Food at its Freshest from an Outdoor Farmers Market
I mentioned having a picnic at the beach with the kids, but before you head off to the local grocery store, check to see if there’s a Farmers Market happening nearby. The Farmers Market is a great way to support local Chicagoans, nosh on freshly-baked goods, and purchase high quality fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the Farmers Market is an amazing learning opportunity for children. By meeting the person who grew/prepared the food, children gain understanding of the real human labor that goes into producing the goods they consume.
Embark on a Swashbuckling Adventure at the Pirates’ Cove Theme Park
Legends speak of a summer gathering spot for young pirates in Elk Grove, a village just beyond the confines of Chicago (a short drive west of O’Hare). At this Pirates’ Cove Theme Park, burgeoning corsairs can climb rock walls, sail paddle boats, ride carousels, and watch outdoor performances. Its attractions are recommended for buccaneers between the ages of 2-9 and costs $13 of loot per child ($9 if a resident of Elk Grove). Adults are free.
Bike Your Way to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Or the Zoo. Or an Ice Cream Shop!
There are so many fun outdoor activities for kids in Chicago, and even if you’ve got your heart set on a family adventure that’s far from home, no problem! Biking teaches kids that the journey can be just as fun as the destination. Plus, once you arrive, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment because you biked! If your kid outgrew their bike or you have a child that can’t yet ride, Bobby’s Bike Hike has bike rentals for the entire family— kid bikes, tag-a-longs, trailers, and child seats to fit any family’s needs— along with electric bikes, comfort and road bikes for adults.
If you’re looking for a sweet treat to cool down with, I’d recommend Black Dog Gelato (located in Logan Square, West Loop, and Ukrainian Village). Their goat cheese cashew caramel is a perennial favorite, and they also experiment with innovative flavors-of-the-month like cantaloupe elderberry sorbet!
This was just a smattering of suggestions for outdoor family activities in Chicago. If you’ve tried any of these, or if you have other recommendations, please share them in the comments below!
Written by Justin Shannin, Bobby’s Bike Hike Tour Guide
I’ve been a tour guide with Bobby’s Bike Hike since 2019, and I often lead the Chicago Favorites Walking & Food Tour. My favorite neighborhood is Uptown/Edgewater because of the independent eateries, proximity to the beach, and cultural diversity. (Try Sun Wah BBQ’s off-menu Beijing DuckDinner, it’s perfection). My favorite part about being a tour guide is introducing people to this wonderful Windy City, which inspires me to learn more about Chicago every day!