Next door to (and run by) Lincoln Park Zoo, Farm-in-the-Zoo offers hands-on experiences that young children will enjoy. Milking demonstrations, cow feedings, butter churning, and of course, animal petting are just some of the fun activities that take place inside this old-fashioned red barn.
2001 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614. Hours: April–May: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Memorial Day–Labor Day: weekdays 10 a.m.–5 p.m., weekends 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m. September–October: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. November–March: 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; Admission: Free.
Just a block or so from Farm-in-the-Zoo, you’ll find the Notebaert Nature Center. Here, young kids and their parents can get back to nature. Check out the beautiful insects at Butterfly Haven, take the Wilderness Walk through three different Midwestern environments, learn about energy conservation and much more. The activities and displays were created with little kids in mind, though older children and adults will still enjoy themselves.
2430 N Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614. Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Admission: Adults: $9; children ages 3-12: $6; children under 3: free.
Located in Oak Park, Wonder Work is a combination of a children’s museum and indoor play space that is perfect for birthday parties and other events. It is geared toward preschoolers and other children up to age 10. Kids can pick pretend apples in the “Farm to Market” exhibit; dress up, sing, dance and act on the “Lights, Camera, Action” stage; use construction tools and blocks in “Build It” and much more.
6445 W North Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302. Hours: Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.; Admission: $5 per person; babies under age one are free.
Pirates’ Cove Children’s Theme Park
This small amusement park is located in Elk Grove Village. preschoolers and young kids love riding the train, the Safari Express, as well as running around the Castle of Camelot playground. Additionally, there are numerous kiddie rides, shows, activities and theme days designed just for your little ones. Eat a picnic on the large pirate ship and enjoy a view of the park below.
901 Leicester, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m-4 p.m.; Sunday Noon-4 p.m.; Open May-September – see website for details; Children’s admission: Resident: $7; Non-resident: $9. Adults always free.