Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 North Cannon Drive
Hours: Open every day, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
A great place to take dad is the (free entry!) Lincoln Park Zoo, where you can get up close and personal with the gorillas, waddle right along with the penguins, and watch a lazy lion nap with just a bit of Plexiglas separating the two of you. This fun zoo warrants a full morning or afternoon of exploring. The Children’s Zoo features a fun climbing tree and a window into the world of playful otters. My kids simply can’t leave the zoo without a ride on the animals via the Merry-Go-Round, located on the east end of the zoo. Our family also makes a traditional pit-stop at the historic, in-zoo Café Brauer for some ice cream at tables overlooking the newly restored pond and Nature Boardwalk. For the littlest tots in your family, be sure to pop into the Farm in the Zoo exhibit on the South end (look for the big red barn), where kids can see and sometimes even pet beloved farm animals. Every kid will get a kick out of seeing where their milk really comes from, so check with zoo information upon entry and try to catch a cow milking demo.
1919 N. Seminary Ave.
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
I almost don’t want to reveal this little gem of a water park—Adam’s Playground—located in the heart of Lincoln Park (1919 N. Seminary Ave.), just off Armitage Ave. (where you’ll find some fun boutiques including my all-time favorite shoe store, Lori’s Shoes). It’s just the right size for smaller tots: with just enough slides, swings, spouts and sprinklers to splash around in and yet it’s small enough so that you can easily keep your eye on everything. There is no swimming pool here – just splash and play equipment – so it’s ideal for the non-swimmer. Best of all—it’s free—just walk up and enjoy! For more info and hours, head to Chicagoparkdistrict.com.
Chicago History Museum
1601 North Clark Street
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sundays, Noon – 5; extended hours on Thursdays to 8 p.m.
Seniors (65+): $12
Students (13-22): $12
Ages 12 and under: Free
The Chicago History Museum is a great place to introduce your kids to a little bit of Chicago history. The Sensing Chicago exhibit is a hands-on, kid-friendly romp through what makes our city great: kids can catch a fly ball at Comiskey Park, hear the great Chicago Fire, explore Chicago via a smell map, and feel what it’s like to be a Vienna wiener. Our family never tires of hopping aboard the fancy old CTA trolley car and dinging the bells.
Green City Market
Located at the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (approximately 1790 N. Clark)
Hours: Open every Wednesday and Saturday, May – October, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Green City Market sets up shop midway between the zoo and the history museum. I’m a foodie, so I always go to the Green City Market website (greencitymarket.org) beforehand to check out what cooking demos and classes (led by some of the city’s top chefs!) are scheduled. Since it’s informal, I bring a blanket and some toys and books for the kids to play beside me as I watch. Grab the freshest organic fruits and veggies around or even lunch: the food vendors change but you’ll always find something to satisfy kid and adult palates. It’s the perfect spot for an impromptu picnic!
Peggy Notebaert Museum
2430 North Cannon Drive
Hours: Weekdays 9 a.m. -4:30 p.m.; Weekends 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Students and Seniors (60+): $7
Ages 3-12: $6
Directly north of the zoo lies the Peggy Notebaert Museum, a collection of all things outdoors that helps kids connect with nature. The butterfly haven—where kids can mingle with colorful butterflies—is a treat for even the tiniest tots; My 19-month old daughter almost bursts with joy whenever a butterfly lands on her (as they often do – great photo op!) in the haven. Volunteers are on hand to introduce kids to turtles, lizards, and all sorts of creatures (even snakes!). Check out the Notebaert’s website (www.naturemuseum.org) where you’ll find a schedule of awesome activities for kids and adults of all ages.