10 Unique Experiences to Keep Your Kids Entertained This Summer

It’s day two of summer break and I already heard the terrifying words no parent wants to hear: “I’m bored.” How do you keep the dreaded summer boredom at bay? Pushing the kids to play outside, scheduling playdates, and planning trips to the movies can only go so far — sometimes it helps to have something extra fun in your back pocket. So, put away those iPads and surprise your kids with our list of 10 unique adventures in the Chicago area this summer.

1. Chicago Magic Lounge


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Tucked away in Andersonville is an unassuming laundromat that is, in fact, not a laundromat. It’s the Chicago Magic Lounge, where your family can take in an afternoon full of wonder and surprises.

2. Blue Man Group

Family Activities: Blue Man Group
Photo by Justin Barbin.

Enjoy some family-bonding time at two iconic Chicago attractions in one day: the amazing Blue Man Group show and Navy Pier’s Centennial Ferris Wheel. All summer long, Blue Man Group is offering a free ride for every full-price ticket purchased. Take advantage of the promotion here.

Even better, enter to win a family Blue Man Group VIP Experience, including premium tickets, a three-course meal at Drew’s on Halsted and a meet-and-greet with the performers themselves!

3. Volunteer at Phil’s Friends

Show the kids how good giving back can feel and organize a playdate at Phil’s Friends Hope Center. Kids can volunteer to create cards and pack care packages for cancer patients and their families.

4. U.S. Mailboat Tour

Family Activities: U.S. Mailboat Tour
Photo courtesy of Lake Geneva Cruise Line.

Take the quick road trip north to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for a few hours on the scenic U.S. Mailboat Tour. The truly unique part of this trip is that the boat is one of the few to still deliver mail by water to the homes on the lake. What makes it even more interesting is that the boat does not stop, so mail carriers have to be quick!

5. Volo Car Museum


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Hidden in the northwest suburbs is the Volo Car Museum that houses more than 33 unique exhibits, and it’s not just cars. Exhibits include trains and aviation, a Disney gallery, cars from film and tv (Batman!) and even vintage campers.

6. Art on theMART


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After a day downtown, head to the Merchandise Mart just before sunset for the 15-minute Art on theMART digital art projection show. It’s the world’s largest! For even more fun, take a boat ride or water taxi for a great view of the show.

7. Ducky Derby

There’s nothing like seeing thousands of rubber duckies floating on the Chicago River. On Aug. 8, cheer on your duckies to the finish line, all in the name of the Special Olympics.

8. Camping at Lincoln Park Zoo

You’ve never camped like this! Spend a night in your very own tent surrounded by the sounds of the animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo. There will even be a campfire and s’mores! Multiple dates are available.

9. Bristol Renaissance Fair


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For a truly unique experience, visit the Bristol Renaissance Fair in Kenosha, Wisconsin (just over the Illinois border). It’s everything you’d expect from a Renaissance Fair, including knights, monsters, magic, queens, and more fun. Check out their special events, including cosplay weekends!

10. Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond at Kohl Children’s Museum

Family Activity: Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond at Kohl Children’s Museum
Photo courtesy of WTTW/Ken Carl.

Tally ho! Nature Cat, which is created in Evanston, is headed to Kohl Children’s Museum for some “backyard adventures” starting July 30. The exhibit will bring the animated show to life, and there may even be a chance to spot Nature Cat and his friends!

Macaire Douglas lives in Chicago with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Share Our Spare, a local nonprofit that collects goods for children in need.