Chicago summer fun bucket list for families


This summer in Chicago is going to be epic. After months of being locked away at home, Chicago has reopened its doors for everyone to enjoy. This summer offers opportunities to mingle with superheroes, delve into Chicago comic book history, paddle a swan boat in a historic park and more! Bonus: many of these family events are free! So apply some sunscreen and set off for a summer packed with family fun in Chicago. Here are the events and activities not to be missed.

See a movie under the stars

The popular Millennium Park Summer Film Series is back with two free screenings this summer – The Sorcerer (noted G) on August 24 and The black Knight (rated PG-13) on August 31. Grab a blanket, snacks and relax under the Pritzker Pavilion for a night to remember with the whole family.

Plus, there are outdoor screenings all over town, including Water jets at Navy Pier and drive-in theaters are popping up around Chicago.

Feed the stingrays at the Shedd Aquarium

Want to create some unique family memories this summer? A feeding of stingrays at Hangar Aquarium is sure to delight kids of all ages. This handy exhibit allows visitors to access the underwater exhibit and feel the slippery creatures just below the surface. Guests can even help feed the stingrays, while learning how the Shedd takes care of these unique creatures. This complementary experience is offered daily from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. for $ 5 per person.

Mingle with Marvel superheroes

Spiderman at the Marvel exhibit at MSI
Photo by Christine Mitchell

Housed in the only remaining building from the 1893 World’s Fair, the Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science museum in the United States. The museum’s successful summer exhibition Marvel: the universe of superheroesCelebrates the heroes of the Marvel Universe – Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk, Captain Marvel and more – with over 300 artifacts, including original comic book pages, sculptures, interactive exhibits, costumes and props.

Have breakfast at the zoo

If your kids are animal lovers, you won’t want to miss this fun event. Go behind the scenes of Lincoln Park Zoo to learn more about the resident animals while enjoying a family breakfast pancakes, fruit, coffee, juice and more on Saturday August 21. This month’s event will focus on African Painted Dogs.

Earn a Junior Park Ranger badge in Pullman

Pullman National Monument

Explore the historic district of Pullman at Pullman National Monument, Chicago’s one and only National Monument, designated by President Barack Obama in 2015. Kids can complete fun (and educational!) activities in a provided booklet you can choose from for free at Pullman National Monument. When they share their responses with a park warden, they receive a Pullman Junior Ranger official badge!

Encourage dragon boat races

Each summer, Chicago’s Chinatown embraces a tradition dating back over 2,000 years: Dragon boat race! Cheer on over thirty dragon boat racing teams on Saturday. On August 28, as they battle it out on the South Branch of the Chicago River in beautifully decorated dragon boats, with the proceeds donating to local literacy organizations. Ping Tom Memorial Park, located along the river, will also host children’s activities, vendor stands and entertainment programs throughout the day.

Dance to the beat of pop-up performances

Marine Pier
Marine Pier

Marine Pier kicks off a new program this summer that promises you will learn some cool new dance steps: Wave wall movements, in collaboration with See Chicago Dance, will offer dance performances and workshops by rotating local dance companies every Saturday from June to September. Kids will love dancing to the music, followed by a spin on the Centennial Wheel.

See the Blue Angels soar above the city

Air and Water Show

This year, instead of the traditional Chicago Air and Water Show, the city will host a special solo demonstration by the Blue Angels of the US Navy along the lake on August 21 and 22 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. (August 20 practice runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) The best place to see them in action is along the lake from Oak Street to Fullerton Avenue.

Making art together outdoors

Art Institute of Chicago Family Drawing Activity

Looking for ways for all ages to get creative? Free Hyde Park Art Center hosts Center on Sundays the first Sunday of each month. These family events include intergenerational artistic activities, artist talks and workshops, exhibition tours, open studios, and more.

Cruise Lake Michigan aboard a super-fast speedboat

Seadog Cruise to Navy Pier

Catch a few waves as you learn about our beautiful city, which simply glows in the summer. the Seadog Extreme Thrill Rides speeds along the lake, then descends the Chicago River, making this the fastest, most kid-friendly architectural cruise. 75-minute tours depart from Navy Pier.

Get up close to the history of comics

An exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Installation view, Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now, MCA Chicago, June 19-October 3, 2021. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Chicago Comics: 1960 to Present at the Museum of Contemporary Art presents a portrait of sixty years of comic strip. The exhibit tells the story of this art form through the work of many iconic Chicago designers, as well as under-recognized and up-and-coming artists. Kids will love fun and colorful art, and you’ll love the fascinating story.

advice: If you can’t get enough of Chicago comic book history, check out CHICAGO: where comics come to life, now visible at Chicago Cultural Center.

Spend a day at the beach

Volleyball at North Avenue Beach
Photo of Adam Alexandre

Chicago’s lakeside stretches for 45 km and its beaches are always free and open to the public. AT North Avenue Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the city, you can rent a paddle board, kayak, or jet ski. Oak Street Beach, located just off the Mag Mile, offers great people watching. In Hyde Park, 57th Street BeachThe expansive expanse of sand is designed for building sandcastles, and the beachfront Tasty Grill offers a Mexican menu as well as hot dogs, perfect for a picnic. Check out our Chicago Beach Guide to find the best beach for your family.

Paddle a swan boat through Humboldt Historical Park

Photo by Lucy Hewett

Extending over more than 200 hectares, Humboldt Park is a lush oasis in the city, home to a historic boathouse, playgrounds, tennis courts, baseball diamonds and the city’s only indoor beach. Paddle a swan shaped boat is one of the best ways to explore the park. Bring your swimsuit: Humboldt Beach is a natural swimming pond where children can build castles in the sand or enjoy a refreshing swim.

Take an adventurous day trip

Photo by Jeff Anderson

Explore the greater Chicago area with a fun day trip! La Forge: Lemont Quarries is a 300 acre adventure destination with several rope courses, zipline, climbing walls, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, yoga, and more. Check Zip, rock climbing and dinner events, where you can climb to the top of one of the tallest tree climbing towers in the United States and savor a meal in the sky while taking in 360 ° views of the surrounding suburbs and Chicago skyline, then cross the picturesque career on a zip line.


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