Most city guides restrict you to stuffy indoor activities. Sometimes that’s a great option and not necessarily out of the question for cities with bursts of inclement weather like Chicago. However the great outdoors should be explored when it can be in major cities. Chicago has plenty of outdoor monuments, parks, and sites that are just begging to be visited. The best part is that most of them are free. You also get some exercise in walking around and just generally from being outside so there’s not much to lose. Here’s some outdoor things to do in Chicago with children.
The Riverwalk is a relatively new installation to the city. It extends along the south bank of the main branch of the Chicago river and goes from lake shore drive to lake street. It’s a little over a mile long walk but it’s a great one. Ferries and other boats leisurely pass by as you walk along the river. There’s a handful of restaurants and coffee places along the way that provide for great pit stops to just stop and take in the view. It’s a great way to observe some of the famous architecture of the city as well as get a feel for the river, a distinct part of what makes Chicago unique.
Millenium Park/”The Bean”
If you’re heading East on the Riverwalk you can get off at Michigan Avenue and continue walking until you get to Millenium Park. The park is bustling with activity and often has the feel of a local farmers market when there is something going on. There are often local events along with a massive amphitheater which hosts musical or performance events. The real catch or “touristy” part of the park is the Cloud Gate sculpture also more intuitively known as “The Bean”. It’s the famous silver and reflective sculpture that looks like a bean. You can see your reflection as well as the city skyline in a surreal experience that is great for kids!
A short walk from Millenium Park is Grant Park which has the Buckingham Fountain located in its center. The fountain was created from a $1,000,000 donation from Kate Buckingham to commemorate her brother in the 1920’s. It still remains a staple in the outdoor things to do in Chicago. The fountain itself has an ornate feeling to it and is multilayered in a way that is similar to a wedding cake. There are a handful of smaller jetstreams pouring into the fountain as well as a water show that occurs every hour on the hour for 20 minutes where a massive fountain from the center shoots into the air. It’s composed of 1.5 million gallons of water and after sunset the shows are accompanied with lighting and music. Overall a great activity and has a large, open surrounding area that enables kids to run around and play.
There are other activities to do as well but these all flow well into each other for a day’s worth of fun. Another recommendation would be to visit Lincoln Park for its open spaces and foliage. Look around and see if there’s anything else that you think would be interesting for you and your family. There are often food events throughout the city that take place outdoors so be on the lookout for those. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the city and find something that you and your party can enjoy!