Nine summer Chicago activities for preschoolers

After a long Chicago winter, nothing is better than hearing chirping birds, smelling newy blooming flowers, and seeing green grass for the first time in months. Now is the time to end our annual Windy City hibernation and again head outside confident that summer is almost here.

Summer in Chicago can’t be beat. The weather is beautiful and there is so much to do. It is especially great for the parents of young kids. No longer confined indoors, parents (and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends) of young kids can take their little ones exploring all over this amazing city.

Chicago activities for preschoolers what to do in Chicago with kids!

While the simple act of walking down a Chicago street can keep a youngster fascinated for very long periods,  A Second City summer provides plenty of kid-friendly places to visit and activities to do. Here are nine fun summer activities for preschoolers in Chicago.       

Chicago activities for preschoolers:

1. Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo is a classic kid-friendly locale.  This zoo has been thrilling visitors of all ages for more than 130 years and it’s still free! The zoo is located on 35 acres right in the middle of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. It houses over 1,000 animals and has a wide array of exhibits to visit.  So no matter what your child’s favorite members of the animal kingdom are it is very likely they can all be found here. You can check out such different areas as the African Journey, Arctic Tundra, Birds of Prey, Penguin Cove, Primate House, Birds of Prey, and Swan Pond. The Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo is specially created for little ones so make sure to hit that along the way.

2. Navy Pier 

Few things you can do feel more “Chicago” than taking a trip to Navy Pier in the summer. Just strolling down the pier that juts out into Lake Michigan is quite stimulating for kids and, if you want a little more fun, you can take them on a ride around the famous Centennial Ferris Wheel.  Bbe on the lookout for the free public events Navy Pier hosts throughout the summer such as free movies on their large, outdoor screen. These activities are great on your wallet and a true Chicago experience.

3. Chicago Children’s Museum

While you are at Navy Pier, if you want a little extra brain stimulation for your preschooler, you both will absolutely love the Chicago Children’s Museum. This museum, designed specifically for kids, encourages hands-on, creative play. For almost 40 years, the museum has provided a place that stimulates kids’ imaginations while teaching them about art, science, math, technology, and more. It is truly a special place that the kids of Chicago are lucky to have so close by. 

4. Millennium Park

On a sweltering summer day in Chicago, take your preschooler to Millennium Park to cool down. Crown Fountain, with its shallow pool and water-spouting art feature, is a great place to let your child splash around in the middle of the city. When you’ve beat the heat, you can walk over to the iconic Chicago landmark, The Bean (officially known as Cloud Gate), or to the Lurie Garden with its self-guided scavenger hunt that you and your kids can do together.

5. Maggie Daley Park

A short walk over a bridge from Millennium Park is probably the best park for kids in the entire city. Maggie Daley Park was built in 2014 and offers children of all ages some amazing play options. The rock climbing walls and mini-golf course will be fun as your kids get older, but plenty of other options welcome preschoolers. The park has six distinct play areas; The Wave Lawn, The Harbor, The Watering Hole, The Slide Crater, The Enchanted Forest, and The Sea. Exploring them all and seeing which your child likes best can easily occupy several hours. Chances are, though, they will love them all.

6. Margie’s Candies

You actually might want to hit Margie’s right before you go to Maggie’s so your preschooler can work off some of the sugar high they’ll get at this Chicago treasure. Your kids won’t likely be impressed that the original Bucktown location was a favorite haunt of Al Capone or was once taken over by the Beatles after they played Comiskey Park, but they absolutely will be impressed when they see their first Atomic Sundae. This giant ice cream monstrosity is every kid’s dream and to a little kid, it will seem even more enormous than it already is. 

7. Shedd Aquarium

If your preschooler liked checking out the land-based animals at Lincoln Park Zoo, they’ll love taking a tour beneath the sea at the Shedd Aquarium. Here they will find aquatic creatures from all around the world. There are big fish, little fish, colorful fish, scary fish, funny fish, and puffins!. If they are really into this underwater world, you can take them on the shark feeding tour or give them a chance to get in a tank with some stingrays.


8. White Sox Family Sunday

Even though preschoolers are probably a bit too young to sit through a whole baseball game, you can still take in a summer baseball game on the South Side on a Sunday. The White Sox have special Family Sunday games throughout the season with specially priced tickets and activities for the kids. Children even get an opportunity to get on the field and run the bases. It is a great way to solidify your child’s love of Chicago sports at a young age. 

9. The 606 Trail 

Take your kids on an urban hike down this converted elevated train line. There are art installations and plenty of things to look at along the way. The best part is the several playgrounds below in different spots so if your preschooler gets bored, you can hop off the trail and spend some time climbing, swinging, and sliding. It is a great place to get outside in the summer to let your kids stretch their legs and burn off some energy. 

Author Bio

Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. Interesting article. I will take note of the places that you recommend to visit for preschoolers. But I am sure that adults will have fun there too. For example, I really like to spend time in zoos and parks. Summer is a great opportunity to relax, because when the learning process begins, there will be no time left for rest.

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