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Best family-friendly attractions in Illinois

From riding roller coasters to rolling up your sleeves in a garden, here are 5 great attractions that families with kids of all ages will enjoy.


LEGOLAND DiscoveryCenter

If your child loves to play with legos at home, imagine what he’ll be able to create at LEGOLAND DiscoveryCenter.
Who doesn’t love Legos? In addition to over 2 million LEGO® bricks – just at the Schaumburg, IL location alone – LEGOLAND DiscoveryCenter offers much more. Kids will enjoy the Dragon Ride, where they can journey through a medieval castle, ride a Techicycle, participate in a 4D movie adventure and even learn how to build amazing creations from a LEGO Master Model Builder. Small children can start to learn how to build in the DUPLO® village, where larger blocks – even soft ones for the youngest in the family – are available. You can even “build” a fantastic birthday celebration in one of the party rooms.
601 N. Martindale Road, Schaumburg, IL 60173; Hours: Weekdays 12pm-7pm, Weekends and Holidays 10am-7pm, last admission is at 5pm every day; Admission: Adults: $15; Children: $12.

Morton Arboretum

If your family is trying to “go green,” Morton Arboretum is the place for you! Spend the day admiring and learning about the thousands of trees, shrubs and plants in the Arboretum’s collection, as well as rivers, ponds, woodlands and more. There’s tons to do in the award-winning The Children’s Garden, with special exhibits and events throughout the year, like mud painting, worms rule!, the shapes of nature and water cycle wonders. You can also enjoy outdoor concerts, take a hike or ski depending on the season. And, if you have questions about buying – and caring for – the perfect plant at home, a visit to the Plant Clinic may be just what you need.
4100 Illinois Route 53 in Lisle, IL; Hours: Open 9:30amto 5:00pm (March-October) and 9:30amto 4:00pm (November-February); open until 6:30pm on Thursdays (May-September); Admission: Adults: $11; Seniors (65+): $10; Children (2-17): $8.

Navy Pier

City living doesn’t always include a backyard, which is just one of the many reasons to enjoy a day at “Chicago’s lakefront playground,” Navy Pier.
One of the many things I love about Navy Pier is that families can decide to make a free day out of it by packing lunch and eating inside the crystal garden or outside on the pier at Lake Michigan, then enjoy free entertainment like juggling, a pirate show or watching sailboats go by. There are also plenty of restaurants to fit any budget, as well as paid attractions like a 15-story tall Ferris wheel, carousel, boat cruises, IMAX® theater and more. I’ve been bringing my kids to Navy Pier since they were babies, and now that they’re 8 and 12, it’s still one of their favorite places to go.
600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago IL 60611; Current Hours*: Monday – Thursday: 10:00am- 8:00pm, Friday & Saturday: 10:00am- 10:00pm, Sunday: 10:00am- 7:00pm; Admission: Free. Some rides and attractions charge a fee.
Navy Pier is open year-round* and hours vary depending on the season. Following are general vendor hours for these seasons (subject to change):
Winter (November 1 – March 31): Monday – Thursday: 10:00am- 8:00pm; Friday & Saturday: 10:00am- 10:00pm; Sunday: 10:00am- 7:00pm
Spring (April 1 – The Thursday before Memorial Day): Sunday – Thursday: 10:00am- 8:00pm; Friday & Saturday: 10:00am- 10:00pm
Summer (Friday before Memorial Day – Labor Day): Sunday – Thursday: 10:00am- 10:00pm; Friday & Saturday: 10:00am- 12:00 midnight
Fall (Tuesday following Labor Day through October): Sunday – Thursday: 10:00am- 8:00pm; Friday & Saturday: 10:00am- 10:00pm

Shedd Aquarium

There is so much to see at Shedd Aquarium, it’s hard to do it in just one day! From penguins to polar bears, otters to an octopus, jellyfish to starfish, families can observe and learn about nearly 22,000 aquatic animals from around the world. Check out the new Oceanarium where you can watch dolphins, belugas, penguins and more in the new show Fantasea. Visit Wild Reef where you can see a variety of fish, even sharks. The Shedd is also committed to conservation and endangered species, and educational programs are available throughout the year.
Adults $24.95
Children (3-11) $17.95
Address: 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605; Hours: April 12 through May 28, 2010 Weekdays 9am– 5pm Weekends 9am– 6pm, May 29 through Sept. 7, 2010 9am– 6pm, Sept. 8 through Dec. 23, 2010 Weekdays 9am– 5pm Weekends 9am– 6pm; Admission: Adults: $24.95; Children(3-11): $17.95

Six Flags Great America

At Six Flags Great America, there’s something for everyone in the family. A day at Six Flags includes rides, games, entertainment, parades, restaurants and more — roller coasters and other thrill rides for the adventurous, WigglesWorld™ and special rides for the youngest kids. And, Hurricane Harbor water park is included in the price of admission which is a fantastic way to cool off on hot summer days Food can get expensive, and while you can’t bring food into the park, many families “tailgate” in the parking lot which is really fun. Six Flags’ motto is “more flags, more fun” and my kids agree!
Address: 1 Great America Parkway Gurnee, IL 60031; Hours: Weekdays 10am-9pm; Weekends 10am-10pm; Admission: Adults: $54.99; Children (under 48′ tall): $34.99; Children (2 & under) : Free.

Brookfield Zoo

If you think the only animals at the zoo are lions, tigers and gorillas, you haven’t been to Brookfield Zoo! Brown bears, wolves, African wild dogs, kangaroos and bottle nose dolphins are just a small sample of the creatures you can “meet” here. How about petting stingrays at Stingray Bay? Or watching hundreds of butterflies? There’s so much more to do than simply observe animals – families can interact with them, too. They can check out a cow milking, wool-spinning presentation, play at the Children’s zoo, and even pretend to be a zoo director, animal keeper, or veterinarian at the Hamill Family Play Zoo.
Address: 3300 Golf Rd., Brookfield, IL 60513; Hours: Weekdays 10:00am-5:00pm, Weekends 10:00am-6:00pm; Admission: Adults: $13.50, Children 3-11 and Seniors 65+: $9.50. (*certain exhibits may have additional fee)

Willis Tower/Sky Deck Observatory

The Chicago skyline is always a wonder to behold, whether by car, plane or even walking through the city. But have you checked out the view from 1,353 feet high? You can at Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower.) The Ledge – opened in 2009 —  a series of glass bays that extend from the building’s 103rd floor that reaches out more than four feet from the Skydeck
In addition to enjoying spectacular views of Chicago, visitors can participate in interactive displays to learn more about everything Chicago – it’s history, fun facts, attractions and more.
Directions: 233 S. Wacker, Chicago IL 60606; Hours: Daily April-September 9am until 10pm and October-March 10am until 8pm. Last entry 30 minutes prior to closing; Admission: Adult: $15.95, Children(3-11): $11.00.

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