50 Awesome Things To Do Indoors in Chicago with Kids

Children's museums are a favorite indoor activity in Chicago. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Children's Museum, located at Navy Pier
Children's museums are a favorite indoor activity in Chicago. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Children's Museum, located at Navy Pier
1/14/22 - By Siobhan Adcock

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.

There is also 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

Take advantage of Illinois resident FREE days at the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, or the Museum of Science and Industry. The Field Museum is FREE for the entire month of February!

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 Story Time

Hit one of the local story times at a library, culture center, or bookstore near you. Some park districts also host indoor story times 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 story times 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

Get messy at drop-in arts and crafts sessions at Easel Art Studio in Bucktown, The Paintbrush in Lake View, or Sunshine Arts & Crafts in Highland Park.

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

Climb the walls (literally) at Funtopia in Glenview or Naperville, or at Brooklyn Boulders in the West Loop.

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

Take a day trip to a nearby indoor water park like Great Wolf in Gurnee or Timber Ridge in Lake Geneva

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

Glide in climate-controlled comfort at an indoor skating rink at Centennial Rinks in Wilmette, McFetridge Sports Center in Irving Park, or Morgan Park Sports Center.

37. Check Out an Indoor Skate Park

Shred at kid-friendly indoor skateboard park Asylum in Skokie, or at House of Vans in the West Loop, which hosts skateboard workshops and weekly all-ages open skate nights. 

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 zip line, play arcade 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

Ride Illinois's largest indoor roller coaster at Safari Land in Villa Park or an indoor ferris wheel at Odyssey Fun World in Tinley Park.

42. Dine at a Food Hall

Munch your way through the aisles at one of Chicago's great food halls. Revival is a fun place to sample different dishes while the massive Eataly is the headquarters for all things Italian.

43. Try a Dine-In Movie Theater

Skip cooking and take the kids to a dine-in movie theater for dinner and a show—or catch cartoons and brunch at the Davis Theater every weekend.

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

Sip fancy hot chocolate worth braving the chill and making the trip for at XO Marshmallow Cafe, or Katherine Anne Confections

45. Visit a Cat Cafe

Get cuddles with your cocoa at a cat cafe or cat arcade! You can enjoy a treat while playing and getting a snuggle with live cats. 

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

Tire everyone in the family out and earn some prizes and swag at Dave and Busters.

This post is updated annually.