Family Fun

From Beach Balls to Snowshoes, Here’s How to Have Fun With the Whole Fam This Winter

Plus puppet-palooza!

Photo by Evan Barr; Courtesy of the Chicago International Puppet Festival

Winter can get frigid and snowy, but there’s still plenty of ways to get out of the house and have fun with kids in Chicago. Whether you’re looking to venture outside and hit an ice rink or relax indoors with music, a movie or even kids’ yoga, here are some of the best ideas for family fun.

Photo by Noah Kalina; Courtesy of The Beach Chicago/Snarkitecture

Hit “The Beach” in Chicago
Experiential exhibits are all the rage, and the latest one at Navy Pier will be no exception. Meet “The Beach,” a giant ballroom filled with millions of recyclable plastic balls (don’t worry parents, they are also antimicrobial, but enter at your own risk). Surrounding the balls are beach-like gear—signs, lifeguard chairs, etc. Kids must be accompanied by an adult.
Details: Through February 3; free.

Husky Heroes at the Morton Arboretum
It’s not every day you see Siberian huskies pulling sleds in Chicago, but next weekend they’ll make their way to the Morton Arboretum to demonstrate their sled-pulling and skijoring skills. Families can visit with the dogs and teams and there are plenty of photo ops to be had. Dress warm, ’cause it’s all outside! Sledding demonstrations
 are at 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.
Details: January 26 and 27; Included in Arboretum admission

Chicago Restaurant Week
It’s a crazy time of year for restaurants, but it’s a good time to let kids try something that’s a little less expensive! Pick one of your favorites or something new—there’s a ton to pick from. If your kids aren’t that adventurous, pick a Restaurant Week menu and a kids’ menu item for them to enjoy.
Details: January 25-February 7

Paint the Ice at Gallagher Way
It’s nearing the end of the season for the ice skating rink at Gallagher Way, and what better way to celebrate than with a paint party on the ice! Spend a few hours skating, and then go color crazy with paint—a great farewell to the ice rink for the season.

Go Loco for Cocoa
On January 27, gather the fam for an afternoon at the Chicago Botanic Garden to learn about everything chocolate. The whole family will get to sample different kinds of chocolate and make their own sweet treat: chocolate-dipped fruit and other fun snacks.
Details: Ages 4-10 with an adult; held in the ITW Kitchen Learning Center; $24.20 for non-members

Disney on Ice Mickey’s Search Party
You’ll be hard-pressed to meet a kid who doesn’t love Disney on Ice. The latest production is filled with all new performances from beloved Disney characters, and hosted by Mickey and Minnie, of course.
Details: January 24-27 at Allstate Arena; Ticket prices vary

Young Playwrights Festival
There is something inspiring about young people seeing other young people pursue their dreams. This festival displays just that—Chicago students bringing personal one-act plays to life. Recommended for older children and teenagers.
Details: Runs through January 29 at Pegasus Theatre; Tickets: $18-30

Family Day at MCA Chicago: Magic Carpet Themed
The second Saturday of every month (i.e. January 12), the Museum of Contemporary Art is transformed by its artists into a different world—an adventurous one filled with magic carpets. Families can listen to drag queen story time, do various projects and explore the museum alongside real Chicago artists!
Details: Second Saturday of every month, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Free 

Chicago International Puppet Festival
What kid doesn’t love puppets? This annual festival, which runs through January 27, features puppets from around the world—and these puppets aren’t your typical muppets or Sesame Street characters. There are a number of family-friendly shows (and some not, so check to make sure it says family-friendly) to introduce puppetry from every continent.

Garfield Park Conservatory; Photo by Bradley Kirouac

Daniel Tiger at DuPage Children’s Museum
It’s hard to find a little kid that doesn’t love the Mr. Rogers cartoon reboot on PBS. My son certainly loves all the lessons Daniel Tiger and friends dish out. Good news! Starting January 19, Daniel and team are coming to the DuPage Children’s Museum to share all of those good tips through imaginative and interactive exhibits. There are even a few opportunities for photos with the lovable tiger.
Details: Starts January 19; $12 admission, kids under one are free

wndr museum Returns
Everyone’s favorite museum of wonder has extended its stay in Chicago and is sticking around for at least part of the winter. Challenge your senses (and your kids) at this Insta-worthy museum.

Go Outside for Polar Adventure Days
Embrace winter and head to Northerly Island for an afternoon of outdoor adventure. See wild animals like Siberian huskies and birds of prey, sip hot chocolate, snowshoe if weather permits and munch on some snacks.

Details: January 26, 12-4 p.m.; free 

Jam Out at the Concert for Kids Winterfest at Beat Kitchen
Let your kids shake their Sunday sillies out at the ultimate family concert. Four “kindie” bands will be in attendance, including Ben Tatar, Tunes with Tim, Ice Cream Vendors and Future Hits. Kids can rock out all morning long and stay out of the expected cold stretch!
Details: January 27, 11 a.m.; $10

Catch a Bulls Game with the Family
Yes, we know the Bulls are having a terrible season, but it’ll still fun to watch them take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 27, because it’s a family game! What does that mean? For $25 a person, you get a seat at the game plus a hot dog, chips and a drink. It’s also a kids’ day game, so expect other surprises as well and maybe a visit from Benny the Bull.
Details: January 27, 2:30 p.m. at the United Center; use code “FAMILY”

Check Out the New Experiential Show X Marks the Spot
The latest Chicago children’s theater production is a full sensory explosion encouraging you to experience this production beyond just your eyes (blindfolds encouraged!). The show demonstrates what it’s like to be visually impaired and the need to rely on your other senses. It’s not only a unique and creative show, but also a great teaching experience.
Details: Through February 24; $35-40

Visit the Marshmallow Café
What kid doesn’t love marshmallows? This cute café is totally centered around the fluffy treat. Whether it’s s’mores or hot chocolate or their signature dream bars (aka homemade Rice Krispie Treats), there is a lot to love here.

Photo by Michelle Cox Photography; Courtesy of XO Marshmallow

Children’s Museum Play Late Thursdays
Kids love night adventures, which will make a visit to the Children’s Museum on a Thursday night even more special. From 4-8 p.m. on Thursdays, it’s $14.95 for the whole family (it’s usually $14.95 per person), and it’s the perfect way to tucker them out before bedtime.

Juice Box Concerts at the Garfield Park Conservatory
The weather outside may be frightful (or totally not that bad, depending on the day), but regardless, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a great place to warm up with the entire family. On the first and third Saturday of the month, they host free concerts from 11-11:45 a.m., aimed towards smaller kids but enjoyable for all. If a concert isn’t happening, there’s still plenty to see and do—a children’s garden with interactive displays, a tropical landscape in the palm house and beautiful rotating flower shows. Admission is free, donations welcome.

Jump to New Heights at Altitude Trampoline Park
With winter officially in full swing, finding places to burn energy is key! This brand-new spot is the perfect place to do that with jumping galore—trampolines, ultimate dodgeball, trampoline basketball and more. Plus, there are different interactive climbing walls. Buy tickets in advance on the website; we suspect you won’t be the only ones with this great idea.

Say Om!
Especially in the winter months, when kids are too often cooped up indoors, it’s important to have an arsenal of things to do during the week. Bloom Yoga Studio offers a sense of calm for rowdy kids with yoga offered after school on Wednesdays from 4:30-5:30 p.m. There’s also monthly family yoga, parent-and-tot yoga and tween yoga. Details on their website. Drop in fee: $20, packages available.

Photo courtesy of American Writers Museum

American Writers Museum
Kids love to read, and the American Writers Museum helps foster that love of reading (and writing!). They have a fantastic Children’s Literature gallery full of beautifully illustrated murals, places to cozy up and read and exhibits about classic children’s books.
Details: Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Adults are $12 and kids 12 and under are free

Story Town at Stage 773
Let’s call this “kidprov,” where improv comedy meets a kid-friendly audience. Kids are active participants in this one-hour show that they help guide. With plenty of music, laughs and other special surprises, the hour will fly by!
Details: Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.; $10