The third largest city in America, Chicago is a place where there is lots to discover for visitors of all ages. Starting out as a trading post and then becoming home to an ill-fated fort, it grew rapidly because of its superb location and was incorporated as a city in 1837. The Illinois & Michigan Canal and the railroads, brought it further prosperity, and the opening of Chicago O’Hare Airport made it an international hub. Despite its suffering in the Great Fire of 1871 and the depression of the 1930s, it is a city that has gone from strength to strength, and its fascinating history is written into its streets and museums today.
Things to see
Chicago is home to the tallest building in America, the Sears Tower, and a trip up to the top offers the chance to look out across the whole city. Sailing trips on the lake are another great way to get an unusual perspective, and the Tall Ship Windy takes regular trips out from Navy Pier, where there is also an amusement park that the kids will love. There are festivals in the city all year round and on summer days it’s usually possible to catch a concert in Grant Park or Millennium Park.
Places to visit
A must for any family visiting Chicago is the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, where there are lots of interactive exhibits and fun activities to join in with. Kids can see octopuses and whales in Shedd Aquarium or marvel at a perfect night sky in Adler Planetarium. The Field museum features Sue, the world’s largest T-Rex, and keen explorers will also love the Museum of Science and Industry.
Younger children will enjoy seeing the colorful butterflies released at the Notebaert Nature Museum, which also has great environmental displays, and the Chicago History Museum is a great place to learn about the city’s dynamic past.
Things to consider
It’s worth taking the time to explore child-friendly Chicago hotels before booking as there are various options available, from family suites to hotels with babysitting services.
Although the city can look beautiful in winter the snow can make getting around difficult and might disrupt travel plans. Spring is a comfortable temperature but rainy, and there is a risk of disrupted travel due to high winds. Summer is warm but can be very humid. The best time to visit is in the fall, when the weather is sunny and temperate, perfect for strolling in the parks or along the lakefront.
Flights to Chicago can be found at most major airports, given its hub status. Once there, the easiest way to get around is to purchase a Transit Card or an Unlimited Ride Pass for use on the L trains and buses. Taxis are fairly cheap and easy to find but most are not designed to accommodate wheelchairs, so some travelers may need to book ahead. Water taxis are useful for hopping between tourist destinations and riding in them is a great way to cool down on hot days. Whatever your choice of travel, there’s no shortage of places to go in Chicago.