Overview - Chicago Children's Museum (and Navy Pier)

There are a variety of children’s museums around Chicago, but Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) at Navy Pier is by far my favorite. It has many rooms that are creative and engaging, and invite kids to be imaginative and just have fun. CCM keeps its exhibits far more physical than electronic, which I’m a huge fan of. And many of the rooms have a single entrance, which allows me to give a little more space and freedom to my kids when they’re ready for it. CCM is especially great for kids in the 2-6 age range, but it’s still good well outside that range on both ends. And there are good options to care for babies while older siblings play.

The one downside is major for many people, though: crowds. It gets busy. Much of the groups are school groups, so this is one museum where weekends are often better than weekdays. Fall tends to have fewer groups since school just started, spring near the end of school tends to have the most. Summer brings lots of camps, so it’s often as busy as spring, and seems to have even older kids than usual who are less closely supervised. Check out the page on handling crowds for more advice.

To list favorites is to nearly list the entire museum, but Water Ways, Kids Town, and Treehouse Trails lead the pack. The rotating temporary exhibit on the second floor is usually great as well, and I really like Dinosaur Expedition and Play It Safe (the fire truck) as well. Kids 5 and up will enjoy the Climbing Schooner and Skyline is especially good for that age. I encourage you to bring dry clothes—if you go to Water Ways, there’s a good chance the kids will get wet.

Of all museums, my advice to let kids set the pace of switching rooms may apply the most to Chicago Children’s Museum. Do your best to let them choose when they’re done with one room. Kids learn so much through repetitive and imaginative play; let them get tired of one activity and figure out on their own how to do something new in the same room.