A family guide to a day trip to the Chicago History Museum and more


It’s the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, so of course we need to get the kids to see the Chicago History Museum’s fabulous new fire exhibit, City on Fire.

But if you give a kid a fascinating museum exhibition and an entire museum to explore, the kid will get hungry. So you need to take the child to a nearby restaurant. But when you feed the child, they need a place to run. So you take him to a new zoo show. And if you take him to a zoo exhibition …

Don’t worry, we’ve got you front and center in our guide to a fun day out in Lincoln Park with the Chicago History Museum.

A day in Lincoln Park

Midday: We decided to visit the Chicago History Museum when it opened at noon on a Sunday. It was wonderfully empty, so nobody minded when our children tormented their way through every single exhibition.

We started with the City on Fire exhibition in Chicago. It’s perfect for all ages as there are tons of interactive things: children learn about life in the 19th century by hand washing clothes; they can see toys and dolls saved from the fire; they can play with an old-fashioned fire truck; and they can even answer a few questions to see if their families would get help after the fire.

The exhibition is included in the entrance fee and it took us around 45 minutes to explore.

Other Chicago history exhibits not to be missed are the Chicago: Crossroads of America exhibit, which lets you hit a fake jazz club; Check out some baseball relics and see photos and drawings of old Chicago. My children also loved the Abraham Lincoln exhibit because they usually learn about him in kindergarten and keep talking about what they learned in school.

The nice thing about the Chicago History Museum is that you can pack a lot there in just a few hours. It’s the kind of museum you keep coming back to and discovering something new over and over again.

Details: 1601 N. Clark St. Adults are $ 19 ($ 2 off with your Chicago ID), and Illinois children under 18 are completely free. Illinois teachers, the Chicago Police, the Fire Department, and the U.S. Armed Forces are also free. There is also a free cloakroom that makes visiting so easy. We found paid on-street parking within minutes, but the museum also validates $ 10 parking.

Photo credit: Danielle Braff

1:30 p.m .: The children were hungry from all the learning and exploring they did. While the museum has its popular North & Clark Cafe with freshly made offerings, including all day Chicago-style hot dogs and breakfast, we decided to explore the neighborhood a little. We strolled to the Small Cheval (it’s a 10 minute walk from the Chicago History Museum) where you can walk straight to the counter at this time of day. Score! They have burgers, cheeseburgers, fries, shakes, and a very limited number of adult drinks. Outside there is seating with heating lamps. We were in and out in 40 minutes. Across the street is Insomnia Cookies so save space.

Details: 1345 N. Wells-St.

Photo credit: Danielle Braff

2.30: Now that you have your minds and bellies expanded, it is time to run a little to burn off some energy. Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo and check out the brand new Pepper Family Wildlife Center. We could get within six inches of the face of an African lioness, which was separated by a thick pane of glass. There is plenty of room to walk around while watching the lions from their new habitat.

Details: 2001 N. Clark St. Admission free, parking space extra.

4:30 p.m .: If you give the kids room to run, they’ll have to fall. It was clear it was time to head home, but we all agreed that a visit to a popular part of the city, especially the Chicago History Museum, makes a perfect family getaway.

Plan to see the Chicago History Museum’s new exhibit, City on Fire, at chicago1871.org.


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