Are you getting ready for a family trip and planning to visit Illinois? Great choice! The state has so many family-friendly activities. Truly, there is something for every age in Illinois. And while our biggest city is amazing, don’t count out the other areas of the state. I’m here to tell you all about all the fun family activities available in Illinois.
Illinois is the state that I grew up in so it will always have a special place in my heart. But, when I talk to others that aren’t from the state, I realize how much people are missing out on.
Most people know about Chicago, but have very little knowledge of all the other great areas in Illinois. So, I’m going to share many things for families to do in Illinois. From the more popular to the hidden gems, I’ll tell you about it all!
Things to Do In Chicago
Obviously, most people know about Chicago. Which makes it the perfect place to start this list. Chicago has a ton of activities for families. Whether you are traveling with a baby, a teen or anything in between, you’ll find something fun to do. Of all the things to do in Chicago, I’ll share my top suggestions for various ages.
If you have a baby or toddler, the Shedd Aquarium is a perfect place to visit. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s great for every age. It’s still one of my favorite places to visit as an adult. But your baby or toddler will love looking at all the sea creatures. This aquarium truly has the best variety of marine life I’ve ever seen in one place.
For a school-age child, I highly recommend checking out a sporting event while you are in the city. This is especially great if you have a sports fanatic, but honestly, the environment will make it fun for any child. I’m definitely biased toward a cubs game as I’m a lifelong fan (and hey, they are actually good now!) but any game will be a cool experience.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago has some very cool stadiums and fields that are worth checking out. The Lincoln Park Zoo is another great option. The zoo has a great variety of animals. Plus, there is something cool about seeing all those animals in the middle of a large city.
Have a pre-teen? Especially a girl, check out the magnificent mile. So many stores all in one place. Your child may actually be impressed with you for this suggestion. You can also take boat rides on the rivers in Chicago or go on a boat in lake Michigan. Both are amazing and would be perfect for any pre-teen.
Oh teenagers, obviously shopping in our many stores is still going to be a great bet for a lot of teenagers. But, here’s a fun and unique suggestion. Check out Ed Debevic’s. It’s a diner in the city with a retro theme. And here’s the extra unique part, all of the staff are told to be snarky with their customers.
The last time I was there, one waiter was hiding behind various pieces of furniture and shooting straw wrappers back and forth with a child. The staff has just the right level of sarcasm and sass to speak the language of teenagers. Trust me, they’ll have a good time.
Looking for more fun activities in Chicago? Don’t miss my list of the Top Activities To Do With Kids In Chicago!
Things to Do In Springfield
Springfield is the capital of Illinois and it has a surprising amount of fun activities for families. A lot of the activities are centered around Abraham Lincoln. I know historical activities aren’t always the most entertaining for small children. But, these are an exception. They truly are family friendly.
Abraham Lincoln Home National Historic Site
I’ve been to Springfield multiple times but I remember visiting as a young child and loving the trip. I recommend checking out The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.
The star of the museum for young kids may be Mrs. Lincoln’s attic where kids are free to play dress up and play with a dollhouse made to look like Lincoln’s home. The grounds of the home are large which allow children to run around and use up some of that never-ending energy in between checking out the many buildings at the site.
The Illinois State Capitol Building is impressive. It is definitely worth taking a tour of especially if your family is interested in history or architecture.
If your family enjoys plays, don’t miss out on an opportunity to check out The Muni. It’s an outdoor theater that puts on 4 shows each season. Going to a play outside is a cool experience for kids and adults alike.
If you are looking for an outdoor adventure, look no further than Southwind Park. This park is gigantic with plenty of room for kids to run. Plus, it features a playhouse, a light-up sunflower, a splash pad along with typical playground equipment. Not to mention, there is a lake at the park that allows for fishing. The park is a fantastic way to enjoy the outdoors with your family.
Things to Do In Oregon
While Chicago and Springfield are well known areas in Illinois, Oregon certainly is not. But, it must be included on the list because it has attractions that are worth checking out.
Lowden State Park and the Blackhawk Statue
The first is Lowden State Park and the Blackhawk Statue. I still vividly remember seeing the Blackhawk Statue as a young child. Why? Because it’s gigantic. Which is very impressive to a small child. The statue is almost 50 feet tall and was dedicated to Native Americans.
Lowden State Park is a great place to go hiking, have a picnic, or fish and boat on the river. Plus, the views of the river from the park are spectacular.
For me, no trip to Oregon is complete without a visit to Jay’s Drive-In. It is an authentic drive-in with decor from the 50’s and 60’s. You can eat inside with your kids and let them check out all the items from the past. Or, opt to stay in your car and have your food brought out to you by a car hop. Either way, it’s a fun and unique experience for your kids.
Things to Do In Oglesby
There is a strong reason to visit Oglesby and it is Starved Rock State Park. Starved Rock has some of the most picturesque scenery I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. The park has several waterfalls and 13 miles of trails to explore. Plus, there is a lodge and cabins so you can stay right inside the park.
If you are looking to truly unplug and enjoy quality time with your family, Starved Rock is a great option. The scenery just can’t be beat.
Things to Do In DeKalb
About an hour outside of Chicago, this cute town is home to the Ellwood House. Known for developing barbed wire, the Elwoods lived in a mansion in the town that is now a museum with tours available. The house is amazing to see and there is a beautiful child’s playhouse in the backyard that your kids will love.
If you make it to DeKalb/Sycamore, don’t miss out on a visit to Ollie’s Frozen Custard. A true town gem, this frozen custard shop is run out of a small building with no seating. Customers simply walk up to the window to place their order.
The building might be small, but on any given day, there is a line around the place (yes, even in rain or snow!). People from many surrounding towns are known to make the trip just for some of the delicious custard.
Things to Do In The Suburbs
This is a general term for all the towns surrounding Chicago. When you visit Illinois, you will definitely hear this term used by the locals. While there are a lot of great places to visit in the suburbs, three top the list for activities with kids.
The Brookfield Zoo is located in the suburb of Brookfield (clever, huh?). The zoo is large with around 450 species of animals. There is so much to see, you will easily spend a full day exploring with your kids and enjoying all the animals.
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Discovery Center Museum
Discovery Center Museum is located in the suburb of Rockford. It is full of fun hands-on exhibits for your kids to explore. You can easily spend all day at the museum enjoying all the exhibits with your family. Also, make sure to check for special events and programs. The museum regularly has added events that you won’t want to miss.
Arlington International Racecourse
If you have a horse lover in the family, a visit to the Arlington International Racecourse is a sure winner. Go to the track in Arlington Heights for a full day of horse races and fun with your family. Be sure to check for themed family days available at the race track.
The track regularly plans days specifically for families that are a lot of fun. For example, they will be doing a large (30,000 egg) Easter egg hunt and breakfast with the Easter bunny this April.
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Illinois is a state full of activities for families with kids of all ages. If you are from the state, you’ll constantly find new hidden gems to enjoy with your family. And if you are visiting, it is easy to plan a trip because you will have no problem finding something everyone in the family will enjoy. So, check out all these fabulous options for family activities in Illinois. Then, go have a awesome time with your family!
This article feature is written by Alyssa Jensen from penlightstopacifiers.com
Alyssa is a mom to a toddler boy and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Alyssa loves to share tips with other parents on her blog, penlightstopacifiers.com. She loves the water and can often be found swimming with her son. She also loves to be silly with her toddler and travel with her family. She doesn’t think there is anything cooler than experiencing the world through her child’s eyes. You can also find Alyssa on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.