If you’re looking for a kid-friendly getaway for winter break, look to Chicago. The Windy City offers some of the nation’s best museums for kids and families. Chicago is home to the Museum of Science and Industry, the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the Art Institute of Chicago and Shedd Aquarium. And that’s just the short list of Chicago museums and attractions you can visit during your stay.
One reason to choose Chicago this year is so that kids, and kids at heart, can enjoy the Treasures of Walt Disney’s Archive exhibit currently at the Museum of Science and Industry. After exploring 90 years’ worth of Disney artifacts –which only a few have ever seen before – you can try your hand at movie making. Record sound effects, learn to draw Mickey or your favorite Disney character, and check out the multiplane film camera that allowed Disney to create realistic movies like Snow White.
The three-year-old Science Storms permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry has quickly become a favorite. It shows you the science behind lightning, fire, tornados, avalanches, tsunamis, sunlight and atoms, and you can try more than 50 experiments stretching over 26,000 feet and two floors.
One thing you’ll notice on a map of Chicago is that most of the museums are near one another, making it easy to go from one hot spot to another. Making it even easier is the Go Chicago card, providing admission to 25 attractions for one price and free use of the hop-on, hop-off trolley to get around town without having to drive or fret over parking. You can also take advantage of a number of other similar offers, such as the Chicago City Pass. Another benefit of purchasing cards and passes in advance is you don’t have to stand in line for tickets. If you don’t purchase a pass, you can still buy tickets to individual attractions online in advance to avoid long lines. Most people choose to hit two to three attractions per day, and the cards allow you to customize your trip based on the number of people in your family, the length of your stay and where you want to go.
With kids, the Chicago Children’s Museum will be on your list of places to go. While there, make sure you check out the Tinkering Lab. It’s a DIY maker-space for families. The Chicago Children’s Museum provides the space and resources, and you decide what to do with them. Not sure what to do? No worries. The staff and Tool Bar will help you get started and provide any assistance you need. There’s even an Early Learning Nook for babies and preschoolers so the whole family gets in on the fun. Through January 5, you’ll have Snow Much Fun at the exhibit that allows kids to do some winter activities, such as “ice” skating and snowball fights, without the cold, wet mess.
Exhibits highlighting the holidays are a must-see at the Art Institute of Chicago. Everyone in the family will love the 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms built at a scale of 1 inch to 1 foot and featured on the Today show. Children and adults will be fascinated by the details packed into such tiny spaces ranging from the 1500s to the 1930s. Another attraction is the 18th-century Neapolitan crèche with more than 200 figures. Gather around one of the two bronze lions outside for a family photo.
You’ll be snapping even more photos at Shedd Aquarium. No matter what your interest – the Amazon, Great Lakes or the Caribbean Reef – you’ll learn about the creatures and environments of the Waters of the World. Shedd’s created a Polar Play Zone just for kids and you’ll find the seats provide a 4D experience, immersing the entire family in the onscreen fun of the Ice Age and Sea Monsters movies.
A great spot to wrap up any day of fun and learning in the Windy City is the Adler Planetarium. Winter Sky Live uses digital graphics technology to showcase the planets, stars and constellations in the winter night sky. The Aurora Borealis show will take your breath away. It’ll be something the whole family talks about while getting ready for bedtime to catch some shuteye before starting another day of fun in Chicago.