The Best Amusement Parks Near Chicago for Families

Ride high on Maxx Force at Six Flags Great America.
Ride high on Maxx Force at Six Flags Great America.
5/14/23 - By Maureen Wilkey

With so many great amusement parks near Chicago, you can skip the trip to Orlando or Los Angeles this summer and save it for when you need to beat the cold. There are plenty of places to get a day of rides, games, and greasy foods right near Chicago. Whether your kids are thrill-seekers looking for big roller coaster drops or beginners just learning about going on rides, the Chicago area has the perfect amusement park for everyone in the family.

If your family is looking for more thrills and rides in the great outdoors, try zipping through the trees at one of Chicago's aerial adventure parks or riding down the Chicago River on a power or paddle boat. And be sure to keep an eye on our event calendar, which is rapidly filling up with more events every day.


The Biggest Amusement Parks near Chicago

1. Six Flags Great America - Gurnee, Illinois

This is the biggest and most adventurous of the amusement parks for Chicago area families. It features 45 rides and attractions, including 17 thrilling roller coasters. Grown-ups remember the classics (American Eagle was featured on the opening credits of Step by Step) and there are also newer coasters like Maxx Force or The Joker. Several water rides like Logger's Run provide relief from the heat on hot summer days, while rides like spinning teacups, miniature airplanes, bumper cars, and a carousel are fun for the under 42-inch crowd. Midway games and traditional fairground foods like funnel cakes, turkey legs, pizza, cotton candy, and Dippin' Dots round out a fun day. Some parts of the park feature live shows. 

2. Santa's Village Amusement & Water Park - East Dundee, Illinois

It's Christmas in July at this theme park in the Northwest Suburbs. Thrill-seeking families may enjoy The Blizzard and the Tri-Nado, which spins and lifts, or Xtreme Elevation, a fast free fall ride. Younger kids enjoy the balloon ride, carousel, bumper cars, or riding in Kringle's Convoy in individual miniature semi-trucks. A new water park called Santa's Springs opens this summer, featuring water slides, a zero-depth pool, and an interactive water playground. Animal attractions include a petting zoo and koi pond, or kids can play carnival games like Duck Pond or Water Racers. Several dining options include Mrs. Claus' Kitchen, which serves up pizza and sandwiches, the Route 66 Grill, and the Gingerbread Ice Cream Shop.

  Best Amusement Parks in the Chicago Area for Families: Santa's Village Azoosment & Water Park wide shot
Santa's Village Amusement & Water Park is a theme park, water park & zoo all rolled into one!

3. Indiana BeachMonticello, Indiana

This lakeside amusement park has more than 40 rides, including roller coasters like the Steel Hawg, Cornball Express, and Hoosier Hurricane. Families can slow down with a soothing boat ride or enjoy family-friendly rides such as Cap 'n' Crow's Bumper Boats, Rocky's Round Up Carousel, and the giant Gondola Wheel. Indiana Beach also has its own water park with water slides, a lazy river, and a splash pad. Heartland favorite foods that are available include corn dogs, pork sandwiches, polish sausages, pizza, ice cream, elephant ears, and more. Live entertainment and fireworks are also worth checking out during your visit. Indiana Beach also has lodging—cabins, tent campgrounds, and RV camping sites are available. 

Best Amusement Parks in the Chicago Area for Families: kids on an amusement park ride
Little swashbucklers will find plenty of fun at Pirates Cove Children's Theme Park.

Smaller (But Mighty) Amusement Parks near Chicago

4. Pirates' Cove Children's Theme Park - Elk Grove Village, Illinois

If you have preschoolers and/or are looking for Theme Parks 101, Elk Grove Village's Pirates' Cove is the place for you. Closer to the city than many of the places on our list, this nautical-themed park has miniature boats for kids to pedal at Pebble Pond, a Captain's Carousel, Soaring Schooners pirate ship ride, a safari train, Pirate's Plunge giant slide, and a climbing wall. Kids less interested in rides enjoy playing on the Camelot's Castle Playground or seeing a show at the Swashbuckler Wharf Fun Stage. Bring a picnic lunch or buy lunch from the Buccaneer Bites concession stand. 

5. Haunted Trails Burbank - Burbank, Illinois

Go-karts galore make this Southwest Suburban theme park worth the trip. There's a go-kart raceway for kids over 54 inches and a junior speedway for those 42-53 inches. Miner Mike's Coaster also makes a good first thrill ride experience for kids three and up. Laser tag, miniature golf, a game room, and crazy cabs round out the fun. After working up an appetite, families can grab pizza, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, or salads at Charmin' Charley's. Outdoor attractions are open daily, weather permitting.

Best Amusement Parks in the Chicago Area for Families: kids driving go-karts
Go-karts, mini golf, and batting cages are all part of the fun at Haunted Trails Joliet. 

6. Haunted Trails JolietJoliet, Illinois

There aren't any roller coasters here, but little thrill-seekers will love the Monster Hop free-fall ride, Tornado Ride, and Bone Shaker spinning tea cup attraction. Three go-kart tracks appeal to kids of different sizes and ages, while mini golf, laser tag, and a game room provide fun for the whole family. Like its sister park, it is home to a Charmin' Charley's restaurant where kids can find family-friendly fare. Outdoor attractions are open, weather permitting.

Best Amusement Parks in the Chicago Area for Families: little girl feeding goats
Meet goats, bunnies, cows, pigs, sheep, and more at the petting zoo at Nelis' Dutch Village. 

7. Nelis' Dutch Village - Holland, Michigan

This Dutch-themed park offers a mix of culture, history, and fun with an Old World twist. If you're looking for rides, the Zweefmolen (Dutch swing chair ride), Draaimolen (carousel), Kinder Baan (plasma cars), and windmill ride are fun—and not too scary for little kids. A petting farm gives kids the chance to meet goats, bunnies, cows, pigs, sheep, llamas, and alpacas. Old-timey fun and games include a giant wooden shoe slide, water pump races, Het Klim Kasteel (the climbing castle), and Sjoelen (a Dutch shuffleboard game). The park also has amazing Dutch cultural demonstrations. Kids will be able to watch shoe carving, stroopwafel making, cheese making, and dance demos. The Hungry Dutchman offers traditional Dutch dishes like Saucijzebroodjes (pork sausage in pastry), Erwtensoep (pea soup), and Banket (almond pastry). 

8. Grady's Family Fun Park - Bloomington, Illinois

Head down to Bloomington for classic carnival rides any weekend this summer. Big kids and adults like the Tilt-a-Whirl, Round-Up, Sizzler, Tornado Wheel, or Swinger, while smaller kids have fun on the Dragon Wagon, Junior Ferris Wheel, Super Slide, or Bumper Cars. Mini golf, go-karts, and batting cages add to the fun. Ice cream and carnival foods are available at a concession stand or visit nearby Grady's Pizza for a full lunch. 

And One Indoor Amusement Park in Chicago

9. Safari Land - Villa Park, Illinois

This 62,000-square-foot indoor fun center appeals to kids 10 and under on summer rainy days (or when it's too hot to bake in the sun at an outdoor amusement center). Kids can enjoy the Merry Go Round, Monkey Jump, Tilt-a-Whirl, Tiger Terror roller coaster, or Snake Pit bumper cars. A Maxflight simulator and bowling alley appeal to bigger kids, while little ones like the Lion's Den soft play area. Atlantis Restaurant offers pizza, pasta, burgers, and chicken parm for kids who are extra hungry after a day of play.

Photos courtesy of the parks

Places featured in this article: