Without a doubt, the city of Chicago, Illinois, is a family-friendly destination to visit, with impressive attractions like the Field Museum, Millennium Park and the Navy Pier. However, if you've "been there, done that," look to the greater Chicago area suburbs, collectively known as Chicagoland, which also has a wide range of educational, entertaining and family-friendly attractions, including children's museums in the western suburbs, an amusement park in the far north side and a water park in the south suburbs. Many Chicagoland suburbs are no more than an hour or so from downtown Chicago, allowing you to still visit the big city if you choose.
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Museums in the 'Burbs
The Dupage Children's Museum in the west suburb of Naperville is a whimsical, entirely hands-on museum that emphasizes learning through play. The museum is divided into pint-sized neighborhoods, such as AWEsome Electricity, where kids can test conductivity of different materials and create giant kinetic sculptures, and AirWorks, where kids can stand in a wind tunnel and see how the wind affects different objects. Family-Friendly hotels near the museum include Baymont Inn & Suites, which offers free hot breakfast. The Kohl Children's Museum of Greater Chicago is another children's museum in Glenview, in the far north suburbs, featuring miniature community places such as the grocery store, a veterinary office, sandwich shop and homes for the little ones to pretend and explore. Staybridge Suites - Glenview is close to the museum and also includes complimentary breakfast.
Big Suburban Thrills
Kids of all ages are sure to have a blast at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, about 45 miles north of downtown Chicago. Older kids can ride heart-pounding roller coaster rides such as the Batman and Superman. For younger kids, Kidzopolis features kiddie-sized coasters and other gentle rides. The Holiday Inn is just two miles from Six Flags and kids eat free at the hotel's restaurant. In Tinley Park in the south suburbs, visit White Water Canyon Park on a hot summer day, which includes a beach entry pool, water slides, a lazy river that takes an adventurous turn and an interactive sprayground. The Comfort Inn and Suites nearby has a heated pool and a hot complimentary breakfast. Also in Schaumburg is the Legoland Discovery Center, where your kids can build and test Lego race cars and giant Lego buildings. The center also includes an interactive laser ride and a 4D Lego movie experience. Closest hotels include the Quality Inn, which offers a full breakfast and heated pool.
Wild about Wildlife
Spend a day with your kids at the Brookfield Zoo in the western Chicago suburb of Brookfield. The zoo is home to animals from every region of the world and also includes an aquarium featuring dolphins, sharks and a wide variety of fish. In the children's play zoo, kids can pretend to be zoologists and also explore plant life. Among the nearest family-friendly hotels is Holiday Inn Express, which includes an indoor pool. To see local wildlife up close, the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in the western suburb of Glen Ellyn is the place to go. The center rehabilitates and cares for injured animals of the region, such as eagles, raccoons, foxes and turtles. Inside the center, kids can view baby animals in the nursery and participate in guided activities. Outside, explore the butterfly garden and follow a nature trail through 40 acres of wetlands, prairie, forest and savannah ecosystems. DoubleTree Suites, a couple miles from Willowbrook, includes spacious suites and welcomes guests with chocolate chip cookies.
Some hotels and resorts in the far Chicago suburbs offer their own family-friendly attractions, making them ideal for a staycation. Key Lime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee features a 65,000-square-foot indoor water park that features colorful giant tube slides, an interactive water play fort, a wave pool and a separate kiddie pool area. In addition, there is also a giant arcade, a kids spa and a variety of room accommodations for up to eight guests. Another resort, about 90 minutes southwest of downtown Chicago is Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort, a log cabin-themed resort with a 36,000-square-foot water park. Highlights include a beach-style entry, a variety of slides and a lazy river. Grizzly Jack's also has an indoor amusement park with carnival-style rides, laser tag, a zip line and an arcade. Outdoor activities include miniature golf, a castle-themed playground, biking, or go canoeing on the Illinois River. Accommodations at the resort include Kid Cabin suites with bunk beds, deluxe family suites and spacious villas for large groups.