What's Fun for Kids in Chicago
Our picks of the top spots for food, fitness, and fun in the Windy City.
1. LOOP DE LOOP Skip guided tours and opt for a ride on the el, or elevated train. The Brown Line loops downtown, threading through high-rises before crossing the river into the residential North Side. At any stop you can cross the tracks and, without paying again, take the train back downtown. $1.75 per adult, 85¢ for kids 7-11, free for 6 and under; 888-968-7282
2. CURTAIN CALL The city's biggest tourist attraction, Navy Pier, isn't only 10-story Ferris wheel rides and power boat tours. The beautiful Shakespeare Theater courts family audiences in the summer with abbreviated versions of classics like A Midsummer Night's Dream. After the show, enjoy a funnel cake on the pier. 800 East Grand Avenue; 312-595-5600
3. BIKE IT Sightseeing meets people-watching on the 18-mile foot/bike/skate path along the city's lakefront. Bike Chicago carries "surrey bikes" that seat the entire clan. Navy Pier or North Avenue Beach locations; 312-755-0488
4. CITY SAFARI At the free Lincoln Park Zoo, head for the new Africa exhibit to see cute pygmy hippos, hissing cockroaches, and other wonders (2001 North Clark Street; 312-742-2000). A five-minute walk leads to North Pond cafe in charming Lincoln Park, where you can have lunch in a converted skaters' warming house. 773-477-5845
5. ART DISCOVERY Experience the Art Institute of Chicago hands-on at a weekend Family Workshop. After strolling the galleries to look at skies painted by Georgia O'Keeffe or textile designs by Pablo Picasso, kids can make a project on one of the artists' themes in the museum's Kraft Education Center. 111 South Michigan Avenue; 312-443-3600
6. JAZZ BABIES Chicago is Mecca for jazz and blues lovers, and families can catch the vibe at the no-smoking, cabaret-style Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, free for kids at Sunday matinees. 59 West Grand Avenue; 312-670-2473
7. FISH FUN Amid 19,000 aquatic animals, the lakefront John G. Shedd Aquarium recently unveiled a Wild Reef shark exhibit providing a diver's-eye-view of blacktip, wobbegong, and sandbar sharks of the Philippines. Cut the lines by ordering advance tickets at www.sheddaquarium.org. 312-939-2435
8. HOME RUN The Cubs almost got to the World Series last year, but it's the charm of Wrigley Field -- a 90-year-old stadium that's almost child-size in scale relative to newer parks -- that draws crowds. The Family Section reserves part of the bleachers for teetotaling child-toters. An infield seat allows you to wander to the outdoor concession at roof level for views of the lively Wrigleyville neighborhood. 773-404-2827
9. SHOP WALK Take the commercial pulse of the city by strolling Michigan Avenue's "Magnificent Mile," including Marshall Field's and the original American Girl Place (877-247-5223). Get in line at local favorite Garrett Popcorn Shop (312-944-2630), midway up the mile, for a mixed bag of cheese, butter, and caramel corn. Don't miss the City of Chicago Store, home of artifacts like parking meters as well as Chicago puzzles and Frank Lloyd Wright books and stationery. 312-742-8811
10. FOOD FAVORITES Though Cracker Jacks, malted milkshakes, and Twinkies were invented in Chicago, deep-dish pizza defines the city. Try Lou Malnati's for a cheesy experience (312-828-9800). Slightly higher on the food chain, Lou Mitchell's serves huge omelets, hash browns in the skillet, and doughnut holes (312-939-3111). For dinner, reserve a booth at the convivial Italian eatery Scoozi (312-943-5900).