CityPASS Chicago Review | Affordable Adventures for Families

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:

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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:

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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.

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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 Collings

Tanya Collings

Managing Editor

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.

14 Comments

  1. We’ve gone to most of these attractions with kids but used our ASTC reciprocal membership is year of CityPass. I love that you mentioned that babies can go to art museums. My daughter was at the Art Institite at two months. She may not remember it but now at age three, she’s so comfortable in art museums and loves waking from gallery to gallery picking her favorite paintings.

    1. Babies are certainly welcome at art museums, although planning is essential. I took my son as a baby to several art gallery walks, and he was very interested in all of the colors and shapes. Now he is also three and loves to pick out his favorites too!

  2. I did not realize that “city pass” was available in different cities, that’s pretty awesome! I have never been to Chicago and it didn’t sound super enticing before but with the city pass and family friendly options it definitely has gained a few points on my list of possibilities. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’ve never been to Chicago, but I’ve always wanted to. I think the Sky Deck would be an amazing view! CityPASS sounds like it’d be the way to go when we do decide to go! 🙂

  4. We are always looking for family vacation spots. I think they are so important. We have friends out this way so I might have to check some of this out.

  5. Although you mentioned this post is more family centred, the CityPass sounds quite useful for all travelers and solo travelers like myself. I’m holding off traveling the USA as I want to do a big trip around it and Chicago is one of the first places I want to go to, so knowing about CityPass is quite useful. With the CityPass can you pick and chose where you want to go or are there certain places you have to go?

    1. Amit, CityPASS does a great job of combining some of the most popular attractions a city has to offer, but they are pre-selected with a couple of exceptions. In our article you will notice that we have a couple of headings that say this attractions OR that attraction (choose one). There are usually two to four attractions per CityPASS city where you choose which attraction you would prefer to visit between the two options they give. We try to break these down for you so that it is simple to see which attractions you are for sure are getting and which ones you have to choose between, in each of the CityPASS reviews that we do. I hope this helps. Thanks for reading!

  6. It looks like buying the citypass is a sensible decision because it gives you access to most of the things worth seeing in Chicago. I definitely want to go to the Skydeck, I’ve heard so much about it and I vantage points with lovely skyline views (and I think Chicago has one of the best skylines in the world). Thanks for the tip that 360 Chicago is not as great as the skydeck and can be skipped altogether. I can’t wait to get to Chicago!

  7. I’ve not been to Chicago yet – but I did use the CityPass when I was in New York. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the most of it as I went in January and blizzard Juno hit, so was snowed into my hotel for 2 days 🙁 I’d definitely consider getting a CityPass for another trip though, as there are great savings to be made if you use it to the max x

  8. I plan to do a bigger trip to the US someday (soon), and Chicago is a big must on that itinerary.. Looks like City Pass is useful for solo travelers as well 🙂 I would particularly love to go to SkyDeck Chicago.. Although not a big fan of heights, a girl would conquer her fears for a good view and an Instagram pic 😂😂

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