50 Awesome Things To Do Indoors in Chicago with Kids
A little bit of winter weather never stopped a true Chicagoan from getting out there and enjoying the city…except when the city is in the grip of a polar vortex. Or when just getting outside also involves putting boots and five layers of winter gear on a troop of small people.
Sometimes it can be hard to get motivated to head out into the cold for all the kid-friendly events happening in Chicago. But to help, we've compiled a list of awesome places for kids to run, jump, bounce, learn, create, and get cultured indoors this winter.
If you're taking a break from public spaces right now, there's plenty to do on our list of indoor activities you can do at home and our mega-guide of 40 Indoor Snow Day Boredom Busters. Or, check out the outdoor options in our Winter Activities Guide.
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Head to the Smart Museum of Art for Family Days. Photo courtesy of the museum
1. Visit a Museum
Visit of one Chicago’s many always-FREE museums, such as the Smart Museum of Art or the National Museum of Mexican Art. Kids under 14 are always free at the Art Institute of Chicago, and kids under 18 are always free at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
2. Check Out Free Chicago Days for Residents
3. Visit a Children's Museum
Spend the day at one of the top-notch children's museums in Chicago: There’s the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, of course, but don’t forget the Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview, the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, the Bronzeville Children’s Museum, the KidsWork Children’s Museum in Frankfort, WonderWorks in Oak Park, and the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.
Photo courtesy of the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art
4. Try Somewhere New and Unique
Explore a slightly off-the-beaten-path museum like the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Elmhurst, full of unusual treasures.
5. Morton Arboretum Library
While the majority of the Morton Arboretum is outdoors, you can explore the indoor library to learn more about horticulture, plants, and trees.
6. John Hancock Center Observatory
Play tourist at the Chicago 360 observation deck in the John Hancock Center.
7. Be a Book Worm
Settle in for a good read at one of Chicago’s independent bookstores. Women and Children First is currently offering free curbside pick-up and Volumes Book Cafe is especially welcoming to young visitors and readers.
8. Visit a Storytime
Hit one of the local storytimes at a library, culture center, or bookstore near you. Some park districts also host indoor storytimes during the winter.
9. Check Out a Children's Library
Don’t forget the library! The massive Thomas Hughes Children's Library at the main branch of the Chicago Public Library has a puppet stage and interactive play-and-learning zones, plus regular storytimes and workshops. The Chinatown branch is also beloved for its award-winning design and bright, action-packed children's center.
Drop-in to the Art Studio for Kids, photo courtesy of artic.edu
10. Art Institute of Chicago
Drop-in to the daily, art studio for kids at the Art Institute of Chicago.
11. Take a Drop-In Art Class
12. Drop-Off Art Class
Drop off your young artist (age 3 and up) at the Young Art studio in Northbrook Court: While kids paint, draw, and create, grownups can get shopping or errands done.
13. Visit Gather in Evanston
Get the best of all worlds—an open art studio, an imaginative play zone for kids, and a comfy lounge for diving into a good book—rolled into one space at Gather in Evanston.
14. Try a Music Class
Shake off the winter blues and get down with some tunes at the Old Town School of Music.
Visit the Serenity Garden at the Garfield Park Conservatory, photo courtesy of the Conservatory
15. Visit the Garfield Park Conservatory
Visit the Garfield Park Conservatory to see some beautiful blooms indoors no matter how cold it gets outside.
16. Go to an Indoor Play Space
Climb, slide, dress up, make-believe, or play at one of the city’s best indoor play spaces.
17. Bounce at a Bounce House
Bounce into an open play session at an indoor bounce house.
18. Visit a Trampoline Park
Get some big air at the indoor trampoline park at their various locations around Chicagoland.
19. Try an Indoor Obstacle Course
Test your junior ninja warrior’s skills at a kid-friendly indoor obstacle course.
20. Go Bowling
Take the family to bowl a few frames at a kid-friendly bowling alley—Pinstripes has locations throughout Chicago and the suburbs, and on the North Side, Waveland Bowl is fun for all ages, with a free kids' movie theater if kids get tired of throwing gutters.
Get your climb on at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Boulders
21. Indoor Climbing
22. Play and Shop
Team up with another parent and take turns shopping while the kids have a ball at an innovative mall play space, like the new Northbrook Court, the Yu Kids Island at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, or PLAY at Yorktown Mall in Lombard.
23. Escape the Room
See if you can survive an Escape the Room challenge with your older children.
24. Get Your Arcade On
Play arcade games and let kids loose in the play zone at Razzmatazz.
Legoland Discovery Center has a whole range of activities for all ages. Photo courtesy of Legoland Discovery Center
25. Legoland Discovery Center
Build a brick masterpiece, captain a pirate ship, ride the mini-rides, and advance your master builder skills at Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg.
26. Visit the Chicago Architecture Center
Examine the works of real-world master builders at the Chicago Architecture Center, which also hosts family building workshops.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Park District, Facebook
27. Try a New Class
Try a new activity or class at the Chicago Park District or a local park district near you. Try a gymnastics class, STEM class, dance, basketball, and more.
28. Indoor Fun at Navy Pier
Be a tourist and walk through indoor spaces and the Children's Museum at Navy Pier.
29. Visit the Pritzker Family Children's Center
Climb the treehouse-like structure, burrow in a play forest, and scramble on play logs in the Pritzker Family Children's Center at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
30. Explore the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens
Conquer the play structure and climbing wall at the indoor playground at the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens.
31. Movie in a Tent Night
See a movie in a heated tent with your family at Lottie's Tentflix and Chill.
Photo courtesy of Cat n' Mouse Games, Facebook
32. Visit a Local Toy Store
Stay and play at one of Chicago's independent toy stores, like Cat n' Mouse Games, which hosts frequent game nights and game-play events for families.
33. Take a Dip
Splash into one of the city’s indoor swimming pools. The Chicago Park District operates 44 indoor pools in neighborhoods across the city, at park district centers with plenty of indoor activities both wet and dry. There's also the indoor water playground at Water Works in Schaumburg, and the indoor waterslides and sprays at the massive Pelican Harbor in Bolingbrook.
34. Visit an Indoor Water Park
Photo courtesy of Strike Zone, Facebook
35. Try an Indoor Batting Cage
Get your swing ready for summer at an indoor batting cage.
36. Go to an Indoor Skate Rink
37. Check Out an Indoor Skate Park
38. Family and Kid-Friendly Yoga
Breathe and stretch together in a parent-child yoga class at Ahimsa Yoga Studios in LaGrange, Elmhurst, Berwyn, or Oak Park, Bloom Yoga in Lincoln Park, Sweet Pea's Studio in Lakeview, or Tula Yoga in Logan Square.
39. Soar on a Zip Line
Fly on an indoor zipline, play aracde games, win some prizes, and more at Gizmo's Fun and Games.
40. Take an Indoor Skydive
For a taste of what it means to literally fly, kids as young as four can try indoor skydiving.
TigerTerror Roller Coaster is a great indoor thrill ride at Safari Land. Photo courtesy of the park
41. Head to an Indoor Amusement Park
42. Dine at a Food Hall
43. Try a Dine-In Movie Theater
Nothing like a lavender white hot cocoa to get you through this chilly winter at XO Marshmallow Cafe. Photo courtesy of the cafe
44. Treat Yourself to a Fancy Hot Chocolate
45. Visit a Cat Cafe
46. Try a New Play Cafe
If cats aren't your thing, kids can still play while you enjoy some coffee at a play café.
47. Enroll the Kids in a STEM Class
Take kids to a STEM class at Snapology in the South/Western Chicago suburbs.
Bring out your inner scientist at The Exploritorium. Photo courtesy of the Exploritorium
48. Check Out the Exploritorium
Make waves, light up a giant "light bright" wall, try engineering experiments, and bring out your inner scientist at the indoor "imagination playground" The Exploritorium.
49. Try a Coding Class
Encourage kids to learn coding skills with a class at Code Ninjas. Classes are available for coders as young as five. No reading is required.
50. Win Big at Dave and Busters
This post is updated annually.