Although Illinois might not be the first place you think of when you’re trying to decide where to take your family on vacation, it’s an excellent choice for families with children of all ages. Illinois is home to a wide variety of attractions, from renowned museums and aquariums to expansive state parks and exciting outdoor activities.
Finding things to do as a family is essential for every vacation with kids. The good news is that Illinois is packed with exciting and entertaining options for people of all ages. This article features the greatest outdoor activities, state parks, and other attractions in Illinois that are suitable for families. These are the kinds of things that can be done with the family, whether you’re going away for the weekend or staying for a while. Get the family set to enjoy the many attractions that Illinois has to offer.
Top Family-Friendly Attractions in Illinois
From exciting theme parks and animal encounters to world-class museums, Illinois has some of the top family-friendly attractions in the country. When visiting Illinois, here are some of the best places for families to go:
Navy Pier in Chicago
Families visiting Chicago should not miss out on a trip to Navy Pier. This well-known monument features numerous activities for kids of all ages, such as a Ferris wheel, carousel, miniature golf course, and a museum. You may enjoy seasonal activities like fireworks performances and outdoor movies, and there are many restaurants and shops to peruse.
Tips for families visiting Navy Pier: If you plan on visiting many attractions while in Chicago, such as Navy Pier, consider getting a Chicago CityPASS. If you want to dodge the crowds, your best bet is to go very early or very late.
Shedd Aquarium in Chicago
The Shedd Aquarium is a top destination for families in Chicago and one of the best aquariums in the world. Thousands of marine species, including as beluga whales, dolphins, and sharks, are on display for guests to observe. In addition to tours and animal encounters, there are also hands-on displays and events suitable for visitors of all ages.
Tips for families visiting the Shedd Aquarium: Avoid waiting in large queues by buying tickets in advance. The schedule contains daily presentations and interactions with animals.
Adler Planetarium in Chicago
If your family enjoys learning about space and astronomy, you should definitely check out the Adler Planetarium. The Grainger Sky Theater provides visitors with a 360-degree panorama of the night sky, and there are other exhibitions and programs to enjoy as well. There are also special events, exhibitions, and interactive exhibits suitable for visitors of all ages.
Tips for families visiting the Adler Planetarium: If you plan on visiting numerous attractions while in Chicago, including the Adler Planetarium, you may want to consider obtaining a Chicago CityPASS. Learn about the daily events by checking the schedule.
Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield
The Brookfield Zoo in Chicago is widely regarded as one of the top zoos in the United States. Lions, tigers, and bears are just a few of the hundreds of animal species on display for guests. There are also special events, exhibitions, and interactive exhibits suitable for visitors of all ages.
Tips for families visiting Brookfield Zoo: The zoo is quite extensive, so make sure to wear shoes and clothes that are suitable for walking. The schedule contains daily presentations and interactions with animals.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield
Families with an interest in history and politics should not miss the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. History of the United States during Lincoln’s administration and his personal life are both on display for curious tourists. There are also special events, exhibitions, and interactive exhibits suitable for visitors of all ages.
Tips for families visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: To prevent waiting in huge lines, it is recommended to get tickets in advance. The schedule lists daily activities and presentations.
Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby
Starved Rock State Park is a wonderful place for families who enjoy hiking and the outdoors. There are beautiful waterfalls, canyons, and wildlife to be seen on the paths that visitors can explore. For those planning to spend longer time in the park with their family, there are picnic places and campsites available.
Tips for families visiting Starved Rock State Park: Bring lots of water and food, and make sure to wear appropriate footwear for hiking. The trails may become dangerously slick or muddy after rain, so it’s important to check the forecast before making the trip.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville
To learn more about Native American history and archaeology, family should visit Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Mounds created by the Mississippian culture over a millennium ago are visible to visitors at the site of the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico. Mississippian culture and history are also highlighted through various displays and events.
Tips for families visiting Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site: There will be a lot of walking involved, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Tours and other activities are included daily on the agenda.
Six Flags Great America in Gurnee
Six Flags Great America is a well-known amusement park with rides and activities suitable for guests of all ages. In addition to seasonal shows and activities, guests can enjoy rides on roller coasters, water rides, and other thrill rides. There are many places to eat and shop, and a water park is available for families.
Tips for families visiting Six Flags Great America: Get your tickets ahead of time to save money and time. Find out what’s going on each day by looking at the schedule.
These are some of the best places in Illinois to take the kids. You may satisfy your thirst for knowledge, exploration, and adventure in Illinois. Make plans now to see what this fantastic state has to offer with the kids.
Outdoor Activities for Families in Illinois
Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages will find enough to do in Illinois’ diverse landscape. Activities range from walking and riding bicycles to swimming and camping. Some of the best outdoor activities in Illinois for families are as follows:
There are many magnificent state parks and natural reserves in Illinois, including routes for hikers of all experience levels. Oglesby’s Starved Rock State Park is a favorite hiking destination for Illinoisans. There are more than 13 miles of paths throughout the park, and they all lead to breathtaking vistas. The Chicago Lakefront Trail, Shawnee National Forest, and Matthiessen State Park are some fantastic places to go hiking in the area.
Illinois hiking advice for families: Bring plenty of water and snacks and sneakers made for trekking. Don’t go hiking without first checking the forecast and the trail’s condition.
There are several beautiful bike paths in Illinois that are great for families. Northern Illinois is home to the beautiful Fox River Trail, which spans over 40 miles of paved paths through charming communities and rural areas. The Illinois Prairie Path is another well-traveled route that stretches for more than 60 miles through beautiful grasslands and forests.
Tips for families hiking in Illinois: If you don’t have bikes, you can rent them from a store in the area. Keep to the trail restrictions and traffic regulations, and always wear a helmet.
Lakes and rivers in Illinois are great places to go canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The state’s eastern boundary is formed by Lake Michigan, which is a popular spot for water sports like swimming, boating, and fishing. Boating and fishing are also available on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.
Tips for families enjoying water sports in Illinois: Always use life jackets and observe all safety procedures. Before setting out, be sure to check the forecast and the water’s temperature.
Getting out of the city and into the great outdoors as a family may be done easily through camping in Illinois. Over sixty of the state’s parks and leisure areas have campsites suitable for families. Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen State Forest, and Shawnee National Forest are all great places to pitch a tent.
Tips for families camping in Illinois: Camping spots, especially during the high season, should be reserved in advance. You should pack the essentials for a camping trip, including a tent, sleeping bags, and food.
Fishing spots in Illinois can be found in its many lakes and rivers. Several fish species, such as bass, trout, and catfish, call this state home. Lake Michigan, the Illinois River, and the Fox River are three of the most fished waters in the state.
Tips for families fishing in Illinois: Get your hands on a fishing license first. Find out what the catch restrictions are in your area.
Many different kinds of wildlife can be seen in their native settings in Illinois. There are many places to go wildlife watching in this state, including wildlife refuges and conservation zones. Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, and Shawnee National Forest are among the most visited areas.
Tips for families watching wildlife in Illinois: Keep your distance from dangerous wildlife by using binoculars. Please observe the wildlife viewing regulations.
These are but a handful of the many family-friendly outdoor pursuits available in the Prairie State. Everyone can find something to do in this state, from sightseeing to water activities to wildlife watching. Make today the day you start planning your Illinois family’s outdoor trip.
Family-Friendly Events and Festivals in Illinois
There are many annual festivals and celebrations in Illinois that are perfect for bringing the whole family together. Illinois hosts a plethora of annual events, from music and cuisine festivals to cultural celebrations and seasonal parties. The best Illinois festivals and events for families include:
Taste of Chicago
In the summer, Grant Park hosts the annual Taste of Chicago food festival, which is quite the attraction. Over 70 restaurants will be providing food, and there will also be live music, cooking demos, and fun for the whole family. The kids’ section of Kids Eat Chicago features fun activities and nutritious food options.
Tips for families attending Taste of Chicago: Get your tickets ahead of time to save money and time. On sunny summer days, be sure to pack plenty of drink, a hat, and sunscreen.
Illinois State Fair
Every year in August, Springfield, Illinois hosts the Illinois State Fair, a festival that celebrates agriculture, cuisine, and entertainment. Attractions at the fair include a midway, musical performances, displays of livestock, and numerous food stands. A petting zoo and an activity tent for youngsters are also available at no cost.
Tips for families attending the Illinois State Fair: Find out what’s going on each day by looking at the schedule. You’ll need money for the rides and the food.
Chicago Air and Water Show
Every summer, Chicago’s lakefront hosts the free Chicago Air and Water Show. Both military and civilian aircraft will be demonstrating their capabilities and executing aerial feats during the display. Parachute teams, boat demonstrations, and several food sellers are all part of the festivities.
Tips for families attending the Chicago Air and Water Show: Get there early to secure a prime viewing location. On sunny summer days, be sure to pack plenty of drink, a hat, and sunscreen.
Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic
Each year in December, the Brookfield Zoo hosts a special holiday celebration called “Holiday Magic.” Over a million lights, a talking tree that stands at 41 feet, and a host of other holiday-themed performances are all part of the spectacle. Santa and his reindeer will also be there for families to meet.
Tips for families attending Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic: Avoid waiting in large queues by buying tickets in advance. Wear warm clothing and shoes that are suitable for walking.
Every year in April, Champaign-Urbana hosts the Illinois Marathon, an event that encourages healthy lifestyles and exercise among all ages. There will be races for kids of all ages and a family fun zone at this marathon.
Tips for families attending the Illinois Marathon: Sign up ahead of time and get to the starting line early on race day. Don’t forget to fuel up on water and food before and after the race.
These are just a handful of the many festivals and celebrations in Illinois that are appropriate for the whole family. Everyone can find something that they enjoy, whether it be culinary, recreational, or physical. Get the family together and head to Illinois ASAP to take part in all the fun and excitement that the state’s events and festivals have to offer!
Family Friendly Accommodations in Illinois
There is no shortage of family-friendly hotels in Illinois, which is great news for vacationers. There are several lodging options that are suitable for families, from hotels to vacation rentals. Listed below are some of Illinois’ most kid- and pet-friendly hotels:
- The Embassy Suites by Hilton Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile can be found in the middle of the city, close to the famous shopping and sightseeing district. The hotel provides complimentary breakfast, evening receptions with complimentary beverages and snacks, and big suites with full kitchens. There is also a business center, an indoor pool, and a fitness facility.
- Another fantastic hotel for Chicago families is the Hilton’s Palmer House. Hotel guests can take advantage of the hotel’s convenient location on the Magnificent Mile and its many family-friendly features, such as the pool, the game room, and the children’s activity center. In addition to the several dining options, there is also a fitness center and a business center.
- The Hyatt Regency Chicago is ideally situated in the downtown area and features breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline. The hotel has a pool, a game area, and an activity center specifically designed for kids. In addition to the several dining options, there is also a fitness center and a business center.
- The Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago’s downtown district is a landmark building. The hotel has a pool, a game area, and an activity center specifically designed for kids. In addition to the several dining options, there is also a fitness center and a business center.
- The Hyatt Place in the Chicago suburbs of Lombard and Oak Brook provides a free breakfast buffet, free wireless Internet access, and a fitness center, making it ideal for families. There are also a number of dining options and a business center.
- Family-friendly features of the SpringHill Suites Chicago O’Hare by Marriott include a complimentary breakfast buffet, free Wi-Fi, and a fitness center. The hotel is located near O’Hare International Airport. There are also a number of dining options and a business center.
- Great Wolf Lodge: The Gurnee and Chicago sites of Great Wolf Lodge are among the most frequented of their kind. The hotels offer facilities suitable for families, such as indoor water parks, arcades, and other amusements. There are plenty of comfortable sleeping options, including bunk beds, in the roomy accommodations.
- Eaglewood Resort and Spa: The Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca, Illinois is a great place to stay with the kids. There is a movie night and s’mores roasting, as well as a golf course and an indoor pool, at this resort. The rooms are large and provide conveniences like microwaves and mini-fridges.
- Starved Rock Lodge: Utica is home to the historic Starved Rock Lodge, which is conveniently placed close to the park of the same name. Family-friendly pursuits including hiking, horseback riding, and trolley trips are available at the lodge. Fireplaces and private balconies are just two of the many homy touches found in each room.
- The Drake Hotel: Chicago’s downtown is home to the iconic Drake Hotel. The hotel has many attractions that are great for families, such as a pool and a tea room. The rooms are large, and there are facilities like cribs and rollaway beds available.
- Vacation Rentals: For those looking for a home away from home, a vacation rental is a fantastic choice. In Illinois, you may find a wide range of vacation rentals on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, from rustic cabins to luxury apartments. Because of the availability of services like full kitchens and laundry rooms, vacation rentals are a great choice for families.
There are plenty of other places to stay in Illinois with kids. You can choose the ideal accommodation for your next family holiday from the wide range of options available.
Additional Suggestions for Organizing a Family Trip to Illinois
- If you plan on going at a popular time of year, make your hotel reservations early.
- Think about reserving a vacation property or a temporary residence.
- Families with young children may benefit from this as it offers both additional space and privacy.
- Make sure to bring plenty of books, games, and snacks for the kids.
- Benefit from Illinois’ abundance of places to visit and things to do with the kids.
- Take it easy and relish your family’s company.
In sum, Illinois is an excellent vacation spot for families seeking exciting activities and attractions. Illinois is home to a wide variety of attractions, from outdoor pursuits to kid-friendly festivals. Be sure to take into account the top family-friendly sites and lodgings we’ve featured in this piece when making your travel plans. By using our tips, you may make your trip to Illinois a time that your loved ones will always remember. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler; you’ll always remember your time in Illinois and wish you could return.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time of year to visit Illinois with a family?
The best time to visit Illinois with a family depends on your interests and preferences. Summer is a popular time for outdoor activities and festivals, while fall offers beautiful foliage and harvest festivals. Winter offers holiday festivities and winter sports, while spring offers blooming flowers and milder weather.
What are some popular outdoor activities for families in Illinois?
Some popular outdoor activities for families in Illinois include hiking in Starved Rock State Park, visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo, exploring Millennium Park, and riding the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
What are some family-friendly events and festivals in Illinois?
Some popular family-friendly events and festivals in Illinois include the Chicago Air and Water Show, the Illinois State Fair, the Taste of Chicago, and the Chicago Jazz Festival.
What are some family-friendly accommodations in Illinois?
Some of the best family-friendly accommodations in Illinois include the Great Wolf Lodge, Eaglewood Resort and Spa, Starved Rock Lodge, The Drake Hotel, and vacation rentals available through websites such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
What are some free or low-cost family-friendly activities in Illinois?
Some free or low-cost family-friendly activities in Illinois include visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo, exploring Millennium Park, hiking in local parks, and attending free concerts and festivals in Chicago. Many museums also offer free admission days throughout the year.