By Meghan Johnson
Meghan is a pediatric social worker and mother of two (soon to be three) children. Despite being avid travelers, she and her family are most content being tourists in their hometown of Chicago; specifically, exploring outdoors and enjoying the city’s delicious food scene.
Love the Garfield Park Conservatory. At this stage, we’re looking to go places where our boys can run around without safety concerns and explore without big, annoying crowds. Garfield is much bigger than the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Admission is donation-based, and they always have family programming and lots of hands-on experiences for children: spray bottles to help water plants, snakes and other animals on display, a slide and designated kids’ areas. 300 N. Central Park Ave. GarfieldParkConservatory.org
Kids can even help in the edible garden at Lincoln Park Zoo’s farm — my boys love grabbing the rakes and shovels to work and fix things. It’s so interactive, and the volunteers are great.
The Farm-in-the-Zoo portion at the Lincoln Park Zoo is the perfect spot if you don’t have the time to hit the entire zoo. “Mr. Singer” plays music and has a sing-a-long on Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:15 and 10 a.m. And what I love is you can just do the farm, and it’s not as overwhelming as a sprawling zoo can be. Watch the cows get milked, pick strawberries and vegetables, climb on the tractors, see the baby chicks hatch. Kids can even help in the edible garden — my boys love grabbing the rakes and shovels to work and fix things. It’s so interactive, and the volunteers are great. They’ll even send you home with plants or food from the garden. If you’re limited on time and want to be in and out in an hour or so, but still give them “the animal carnival,” as my son calls it, it’s ideal. 2001 N. Clark. LPZoo.com
After the farm (or the zoo), you can walk across the street and enjoy the Green City Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Listen to musicians, snag some healthy food and snacks, and sit on the grass and hang out.
Any of the farmers markets around town are great, and the Wicker Park one is our favorite because it’s close and easy to our home. There is a huge open grassy area to run and play, a water area, food like fruit popsicles, little breakfast burritos, fresh coffee, etc. Definitely something for everyone.
Looking to get in out of the sun for a bit? An underrated spot for children downtown is the Harold Washington Library, not only to check out the wide variety of books, but because the newly revamped kids’ section is so expansive (can you say puppet shows?). 400 S. State. ChiPubLib.org
We’re actually members at the Chicago Children’s Museum on Navy Pier because my boys get so much out of it. Between the fire truck exhibit, sending boats down rivers or digging for dinosaur bones, you have it all. And every few months, they switch out a few exhibits to keep things fresh and entertaining. You can pack a lunch and eat in the atrium inside Navy Pier or check out the boats and the Ferris wheel outside after hitting the museum to make it a complete day. 600 E. Grand. ChicagoChildrensMuseum.org
The Morton Arboretum is just good, wholesome fun where the kids can take off and be themselves and the parents can even sip some wine. Feels like a little vacation right here in Chicago.
The Morton Arboretum is a little drive from the city, but worth the trip. We go twice a month, sometimes more, to rent bikes, picnic, look for beavers near the dam in the lake and explore their kids’ section. Just good, wholesome fun where the kids can take off and be themselves and the parents can even sip some wine. Feels like a little vacation right here in Chicago. 4100 Illinois Route 53 in Lisle. MortonArb.org
The Museum of Science and Industry is the kind of place where you can get lost for an entire day. More, actually. My boys love the train exhibit, and in the basement they have a kids waterworks playground, tractors and more. Lots of learning to be had here, no matter what age your children are. 5700 S. Lake Shore. MSIChicago.org
A few times per summer, we have to make it down to Millennium Park for Movies in the Park, free concerts and more. Our kids enjoy running through the fountains, looking at themselves in the bean and getting to Maggie Daley Park early to hit the playground. MillenniumPark.org
For a bite to eat, we like the Walnut Room at Macy’s for the view. Feels a little bit fancy, but it’s really not. Great for after shows. Also, Little Goat from the wonderful Stephanie Izard. The diner atmosphere is relaxed with great food and shakes.