Family Vacations in Illinois

Photo courtesy of the Pat Murray Collection

From teeming cities to sleepy beachfront towns, Illinois knows how to show a vacationing family a good time. Whether you're after some metropolitan shopping, award-winning cuisine, or simply a "night on the town," Illinois' busting burghs have the goods. And who says fun can't be educational? With a plethora of art museums, sculpture exhibits, zoos, and aquariums, Illinois has the ability to educate as well as delight adults and children of all ages.

Below are just a few of the attractions that make Illinois a can't-miss family vacation destination.


The Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium first opened in 1930 and now boasts a collection of more than 8,000 varieties of marine life, as well as an Oceanarium where trained animals perform dazzling shows for audiences young and old.

The Chicago International Children's Film Festival

The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, held every year in October, gives children a chance to experience kid-friendly films from across the globe, as well as participate in panel discussions on film, workshops on film making, and even judging the festival's entries.


ZooLights, held at the Lincoln Park Zoo, is a holiday-time display of lights and events for the whole family. With attractions ranging from live ice-sculpting demonstrations to family crafts activities in the Lion House, the zoo should have a place on anyone's holiday vacation itinerary.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago, which houses some of the world's most famous paintings, also contains plenty of hands-on activities for kids and stunning displays of all types of artwork.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park, stretching across Chicago's lakefront district, is home to some amazing pieces of outdoor art as well as plenty of clean grassy lawns for picnicking. An ice rink in the winter rounds out this park's attractiveness as a family vacation stop.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier, located on the shore of Lake Michigan, offers shopping, rides, history and live entertainment all in one convenient package. From the multitude of storefronts to the outdoor concert venues, Navy Pier is not to be missed when the weather's warm.

The Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the most amazing museums of its kind, and great for kids and parents alike. With a staggering amount of exhibits ranging from a World War II U-Boat to King Arthur's dining table, this vacation spot is a must-see for anyone traveling to Illinois.

Magnificent Mile

Chicago's Magnificent Mile stretches along North Michigan Avenue between Oak Street and the Chicago River. Stunning architecture and world-class shopping are just a few highlights that attract millions of visitors each year.

Chicago Blues

A great way to sample the Windy City grooves is the Chicago Blues Festival, which features a half-dozen stages and scores of blues acts. The festival takes over Grant Park for four days each June.

Wrigley Field

The "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley are known for eccentricities. Fickle winds can change the outcome of the game: Watch for home runs when the breeze blows toward Lake Michigan.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum devotes 200,000 square feet to telling Lincoln's tale. The 46,000-square-foot space devoted to permanent exhibits is twice the size of the next largest presidential library.

Continue to the next page to learn about the amazing underwater exhibits available at the Shedd Aquarium.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Chicago City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Chicago.
  • Illinois State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Illinois, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.