15 Awesome Things that Opened in Chicago for Kids in 2021

Chicago's Field Museum came alive with Wild Color in 2021. Photo courtesy of the museum
Chicago's Field Museum came alive with Wild Color in 2021. Photo courtesy of the museum

In 2021, Chicago saw an awesome variety of new kid-friendly exhibits, activities, restaurants, pop-ups, and more for families. Many of these new places in Chicago for kids came as unique options to give people a way to get out and enjoy time together during a trying year. If you didn’t get a chance to visit some of the great spots on this list in 2021, these are all open for business and ready for exploration in 2022. 


1. Take a Trip Down the Nile at the Art Institute Chicago

Take your kids on an amazing journey through the newly opened exhibits at the Art Institute Chicago. Several opened in the fall/winter of 2021 and will remain open into early 2022. One of the coolest spaces will take your kids to Ancient Egypt. There’s even more to explore at the new exhibit exploring the Nile opening in February of 2022. 

Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh Chicago, Facebook

2. Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Chicago

Get lost in the world of Van Gogh. Immersive Van Gogh Chicago is located in the Lighthouse ArtSpace at the Germania Club in Old Town. This incredible immersive experience for both kids and adults opened in the summer of 2021. Mirrors, screens, lights, and video help make everyone feel like they have stepped right into a Van Gogh painting. Check out our go-to guide for visiting Van Gogh with kids

Photo courtesy of Peppa Pig World of Play in Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg.

3. Peppa Pig World of Play

If you have any little Peppa Pig fans, you’ll want to stop in at the newly opened Peppa Pig World of Play at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. There are scenes from the show, play spaces, interactive exhibits, and tons of hands-on Peppa fun. 

4. JoJo’s Shake Bar Naperville 

JoJo’s Shake Bar has recently opened a new location in Naperville. This place is an awesome spot to take the kids for ice cream, dessert, and one of their iconic milkshakes. We’re talking about milkshakes stacked with full sugar cookies, s’mores, candy bars, and more. 

5. New In-Person and Virtual Productions at the Chicago Children’s Theater 

The Chicago Children’s Theater began putting on their virtual productions in 2021 to bring theater to kids even during a pandemic. You can still view their virtual productions on their website. Check out their calendar for upcoming in-person theater this year as well. 

Time for Let It Go, the live version? Frozen photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago

6. Broadway in Chicago

Broadway in Chicago brought the hit Broadway musical, Frozen to Chicago in 2021. See Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and the gang come to life in the theater. You can still grab tickets and check out this amazing Disney classic this winter 2022. 

7. Wild Color at the Field Museum 

The Field Museum came alive with Wild Color in 2021. You can still see the exhibit in 2022 and treat your kids to a vibrant, colorful, exhibit that’s sure to impress both kids and adults. Immerse yourself in all colors of the rainbow. 

8. Thingamabob at the Chicago Children’s Museum

Check out the brand-new Thingamabob at the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. This is an amazing place for kids to run, jump, play, and explore science hands-on. In 2021, the museum unveiled the Thingamabob that’s an awesome creation for every science and engineering lover to explore.  

DuPage Children’s Museum STEM lab makes learning fun. Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins.

9. STEM Lab Partnership at the DuPage Children’s Museum

In 2021, the DuPage Children’s Museum partnered with their local school district to create an amazing STEM lab. Check out the new STEM additions and other fun exhibits at the DuPage Children’s Museum. 

10. New Lion Habitat at the Lincoln Park Zoo

In the fall of 2021, the Lincoln Park Zoo unveiled their impressive new Lion Habitat. This beautiful space is great for Lions and humans to explore. Check it out in person this year and say hello to Lion’s new digs. 

11. Outdoor Igloo Dining for Kids

One bright spot in 2021 was the fact that many restaurants introduced their super fun outdoor dining igloos. If you didn’t get a chance to check one out in 2021, we have our list of favorite kid-friendly dining igloos here. 

12. Pilot Project Heated Tent Movie Night

The newly opened Pilot Project is bringing heated tent movie nights into the new year. If you missed this opening in 2021, this kid-friendly brewery should go on your list for 2022. Check out one of their kid-friendly outdoor movie nights for a fun night the whole family will enjoy.  

See baby penguins at the Shedd Aquarium. Photo courtesy of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

13. Visit the New Penguin Chick Arrivals at the Shedd

What’s cuter than a baby penguin? Three baby penguins. The Shedd Aquarium welcomed three new penguins to the squad in 2021. See how they are adapting to toddlerhood and their new Chicago home this year at the Shedd. 

14. New Additions to the Ryan Learning Center at the Art Institute Chicago

The Ryan Learning Center at the Art Institute Chicago is undergoing some major renovations that started in 2021. Check out this amazing hands-on and family-friendly place and see what’s new. 

See a magic show in 2022 if you didn't catch it in 2021. Photo courtesy of Magic Immersive

15. New Magic Immersive Show 

If you have any magic lovers in the family, the new Magic Immersive show at 360 N. State Street is sure to impress. The whole family will love this impressive display of magic and technology. 




Midnight Circus in the Parks
Chicago Parks - various times Pick
Free Days at the DuSable Museum of African American History
The DuSable Museum of African American Art - 10:00 AM
Sentrock: The Boy Who Wanted to Fly
Elmhurst Art Museum - 11:00 AM
UniverSoul Circus
Washington Park - various times
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides