In this family-centric CityPASS Chicago review, I will unpack each of the offered attractions and how they can best be enjoyed while traveling with kids. Imagine dancing on glass-bottomed ledges 1,300 feet above the city, standing next to Van Gough’s original self-portrait, or peering into the jaws of the world’s largest t-rex. These are only a few examples of the Chicagoan wonders your family can encounter with CityPASS.
The Windy City hosts an array of enriching educational activities for all ages—including the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, 360 Chicago, Adler Planetarium, and Skydeck Chicago. With CityPASS, families can save 54% and skip most ticket lines.
CityPASS also lends some needed direction to what, in my case, might be a disorganized trip. I want to be the Audrey Hepburn of vacation planning, meaning a cool-collected-boss-mom who approaches every trip in style. But setting aside enough time for vacation planning is challenging when I’m juggling family, work, and life. Instead, I often look like this on the day we leave:
That is why I prefer packages like CityPASS that save me both money and time. With my tickets in hand, I already know exactly where we’re going and enter the airport looking more like this:
Now that you understand what Chicago CityPASS can do for you, here is a breakdown of the attractions and how they fit into your family lifestyle.
Shedd Aquarium | Suitable for ALL AGES
With 32,000 animals from around the world, the Shedd Aquarium has a fish that everyone can relate to. The scientists at Shedd also conduct research that saves endangered species throughout the world. These fish are popular, so prepare for crowds! Waiting in line to get in can take up to 2 hours if you don’t show up with your CityPASS tickets.
Tip: The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium share parking lots, so plan accordingly.
Skydeck Chicago | Suitable for ALL AGES
The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago is located on the 103 floor of the iconic Willis Tower. Visitors can stand on glass floors and view the city below. The Skydeck also houses exhibits, movies, and unique selfie opportunities. I highly recommend visiting Skydeck’s For Kids online before you visit for printable activities, scavenger hunts, and coloring pages.
The Field Museum | Suitable for ALL AGES
Home to Sue, the world’s largest, most complete T-Rex, the Field Museum boasts dozens of scientific and historical exhibits. When traveling with kids we recommend visiting Evolving Planet, The Crown Family Play Lab, and Ancient Egypt. This museum is ginormous, so wear your best walking shoes.
Museum of Science and Industry OR 360 Chicago (Select One)
Museum of Science and Industry | TWM Recommended | Best for Kids 2+
To inspire the future scientists and engineers in your family—and to geek out as adults—the Museum of Science and Industry is ideal for kids two and up. From complex robotic displays to interactive building projects, WWII submarines to a Doomsday Clock Exhibit, the museum has the unparalleled ability to stimulate young minds.
360 Chicago | Not Recommended | Suitable for ALL AGES
This attraction is very similar to Skydeck Chicago and not as impressive. The observation deck is breathtaking, but you’ve already looked down at the city from Skydeck’s glass floors. They do have an impressive rollercoaster called The Tilt, but it costs $6 extra per person with your CityPASS booklet. We highly recommend selecting the Museum of Science and Industry instead.
Adler Planetarium or Art Institute of Chicago (Select One)
Adler Planetarium | TWM Recommended | Suitable for ALL AGES
The oldest existing planetarium to date, Adler is geared specifically towards children. In fact, many adults without little ones complain that the place is “too kid friendly.” They even allow kids to touch pieces of various celestial rock from Mars, Vesta, Ceres, and the moon in the Exploring our Solar System exhibit. We recommend that you select which shows your family wants to see in advance before visiting.
Art Institute of Chicago | TWM Recommended | Suitable for ALL AGES
As this article explains, you can even take babies to this art museum. We recommend it equally to the Adler Planetarium. It just depends on your family’s preference for art or science on that day. Here you can stand next to Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait or peek into the Thorn Miniature Room.
Tip: There is tasteful female frontal nudity in the Contemporary and Modern Art Exhibits. Be proactive and consider explaining this to your children before entering the museum, so they can understand the art in the appropriate context.
Your next Chicago adventure will prove that you are, indeed, the classy travel planner you’ve always wanted to be. Remember, CityPASS has excellent customer service, so call them with your questions. Thank you for reading our CityPASS Chicago review. Have something to contribute to the conversation? We would love to hear about your personal CityPASS and Chicago experiences in the comments below.
Tanya has worked as an editor and writer for the past 12 years. Six of those years were spent living in a canvas tent in the deserts of Southern Utah. In her free time she enjoys exploring the United States with her dog and rambunctious two-year-old son.