An eclectic combination of historical and hip sets the South Loop neighborhood apart from its fellows. The once barely inhabited industrial section of the city is now densely populated with a vibrant, young community of professionals, students and families.
In its former heyday—circa mid 1800s—wealthy businessmen and architects put their heads together to oversee the building of impressive manses, townhomes and sprawling green spaces in the fashionable area, mainly because it had been spared by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.
Prairie Avenue District now marks one of the trendiest corners of the community and is home to various historic landmarks and attractions, providing endless possibilities of days spent with friends and family. Here are some of the highlights.
Chicago’s Museum Campus
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Weekdays: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Weekends: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Shedd Pass (includes several major exhibits): Adults: $28.95, Children (3-11) $19.95
General Admission: Adults $8, Children $6
$3 Discounts for Chicago Residents
Travel under the sea right in the heart of Chi-Town – the Shedd Aquarium has over 32,000 different animals living on their grounds! Toddlers will love to search for “Nemo” clownfish – while others will be amazed and frightened to get up close and personal with over 20 pointy-toothed sharks! There is an amazing FantaSea show overlooking Lake Michigan—the penguins delight folks of all ages—plus the Shedd offers never-ending educational programs. It will definitely take you more than just one visit to see all the wonders the largest aquarium in the world has to offer. For much more info take a look at our Best of Guide to the Shedd Aquarium.
1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Last admission is at 4 p.m.
Adult: $13 Children (3-11): $8
Students (with ID): $10 Seniors (65+): $10
Non-Residents add $2
Open every day except Dec 25.
Check the website for their extended hours and early closings on certain days.
The Field Museum is the absolute perfect family stop. From Daily story times to interpretive Stations where kids can learn what their name looks like in hieroglyphics – this place has is all. Don’t miss the Crown Family PlayLab where your little ones can dress up, dig in and explore creative play. It’s open Thursdays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And Dozin’ with the Dinos cannot be missed – sleep over with Sue the T-Rex. For more info check out our Best of Chicago Guide to the Field Museum.
1300 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Weekdays: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Weekends: 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Children: (3-11) $22
Under 3: Free
Built in 1930, this marked the founding of the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere and it is the oldest in existence today. Despite it’s age, there’s tons of things to explore for family members of all ages. The museum houses three theaters, space science exhibits and you can get up close to rudimentary astronomical instruments from years gone by. And if you’re on a budget, check out the website for discount days (weekday free admission!). There’s also plenty of “space” to unpack lunch, but if you’d rather not bring your own, you can get snacks from various vending machines or dine-in at the museum’s restaurant: Café Galileo.
1410 S. Museum Campus Dr.
South Loop, Chicago 60605
Tours: $15 Adults, $10 Students (10 and up), $7 Seniors, $4 Children (9-4), 3 and Under Free
Tours: Monday – Friday 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
You may have already spent many a cold day cheering on The Bears here in Soldier Field. But have you ever checked out what goes on behind the scenes? The stadium offers back stage passes where you will actually have field access, visit the Doughboy Statue, the Grand Concourse and go into the visitor’s locker room and the Skyline Suite. There may not be any gridiron action going on, but unlike on game day, the cost of taking your family won’t break the bank. And you can take plenty of photos. Tours last about an hour, but times are subject to change. There are no tours held on game days or during special events.
CBS Chicago Insider Tip: Make a reservation for your tour in advance, but you don’t have to pay until you get there.
For much more information check out our Best of Guide to Soldier Field.
Manny’s Coffee Shop
1141 S. Jefferson St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Monday – Saturday: 6:00am – 8:00pm
This quintessential Jewish Deli has been a South Loop staple for decades. With its dining room walls splattered with news clippings, photos and reviews it’s more like an historical museum with great food. There is something on the menu for every member of the family from Matzoh ball soup and potato pancakes, to hot sandwiches and kid faves like French fries and hot dogs. Plus, how many spots can you afford to take your brood and tell them a living president has eaten there?
The Bongo Room
1152 S. Wabash Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Monday – Friday 8 a.m.to 2 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday only 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If you’re looking for a more upscale but very family friendly breakfast, brunch or lunch in South Loop, The Bongo Room is the place to be. The fresh seasonal food will certainly please a more sophisticated palate, while offerings like the Chocolate Tower French Toast and Red Velvet Pancakes will thrill and give a serious sugar rush for your little ones. Okay, let’s face it you you’ll adore the sweet treats too! Be prepared for a long wait on weekends if you don’t get here early enough ‘cause many families are already taking advantage of this South Loop treasure.
LA Fitness – Kids Klub
1101 South Canal Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Cost: $10 per month
Mon – Fri 8 a.m. – noon and 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. – Noon
Ages: 3 months – 12 Years
Now if you feel like working off all that delicious food,and you desperately need your kids to expend energy, there’s a massive LA Fitness Kids Klub with over 1,200 square feet of childhood fantasies. Your children can run around a jungle gym maze, listen to stories or even play video games while you take a swim or hit the treadmill.
337 E. Randolph St.
The infamous 320 acre Grant Park, also known as, Chicago’s “front yard,” is a fabulous place to spend the day with everyone – including your furry family members. You can pack a picnic, take a City Segway Tour, and even let your kids loose in the playground or on their skateboards and scooters in the skate park. You can also let Fido off the leash at Grant Bark Park.
Grant Bark Park
900 S. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
The bark park is an off leash pooch paradise. It’s over 18,000 square feet, fully fenced in and double gated. And it’s not only huge, it’s very well maintained. They even provide plastic bags for pick-up. There are benches for their humans to sit on and the people (who travel from all over the city) are really friendly. There’s also a dog-only water fountain for when your pooch gets parched.
South Loop has so many other things to offer – here are a few other ideas.
* Museum of Contemporary Photography: Free and open to the public, the museum’s collections illustrate the diversity of regional, national, and international photography
* John Glessner House Museum: Designed and built in 1887 by Boston architect H. H. Richardson, the house and is considered a masterpiece of 19th century residential
* National Veterans Art Museum: The museum collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans.
Clarke House Museum: Built in 1836, this is Chicago’s oldest home.
*Old St. Mary’s Church: Originally known as Saint Mary of the Assumption, the parish began its story in April 1833.
*Quinn Chapel: This church houses Chicago’s oldest African American congregation, which traces its origins back to 1844.
*Second Presbyterian: Designed by James Renwick in 1874, the Gothic Revival-style church boasts rich Arts and Crafts details and stained glass by artists Louis C. Tiffany, Healy and Millet, and Edward Burne-Jones. Free tours available.
Historical/Architect Significant Sites
*Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University: This not-for-profit corporation had its beginnings as a vibrant opera house.
*Marshall Field’s former home: The pioneer of modern retailing practices lived at 1905 S. Prairie Avenue, now distinguished by a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction.
*Design It is furnished with an important collection of English and American arts and crafts furnishings assembled by the Glessner family over a period of more than 50 years.
*Motor Row District: Considered to be the largest early “automobile row” in the U.S., this area was home to as many as 116 different makers of automobiles including Ford, Buick, Fiat and Cadillac.
*Columbia College Chicago: With more than 120 academic programs and nearly 12,000 students, this is the largest and most diverse private arts and media college in the Midwest.