Things for Kids in Northwest Indiana and Chicago

By Amy Sutton
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Chicago, the third largest city in the United States and the 29th largest city in the world, covers more than 227 square miles, according to the 2010 United States Census. Whether your family is looking for an activity in this bustling city or farther south -- in Indiana -- you'll find a large selection of kid-friendly options from which to choose, including trips to museums, sporting events and time spent in the great outdoors.

Educational Opportunities

The Chicago Children's Museum, located at Navy Pier, features an assortment of exhibits. WaterWays is a water play area where kids control water flow with wheels, water pipes and pulleys. Pritzker Playspace is a play area for children preschool age and younger. In Dinosaur Expedition, kids can dig for claws, teeth, skulls and bones in the excavation pit. A variety of programs is offered at the museum as well, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics; health and wellness; and art. The Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana, in Hammond, offers laser and planetarium shows, such as Earth, Moon and Sun, Cosmic Journey and Black Holes. One-hour public tours are also available, which gives visitors an opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes. During the tour, you'll see artifacts that were donated to the center by astronauts.

Animal Encounters

Shedd Aquarium is located along Lake Michigan in Chicago and is home to around 32,000 animals. Exhibits include Wild Reef, Jellies, Polar Play Zone and Oceanarium. Additional animal experiences are also available, such as Stingray Touch, aquatic shows and the Penguin Encounter. Kids can participate in camps and overnight adventures. The Lincoln Park Zoo is open 365 days a year and admission is free. Exhibits include Pritzker Family Children's Zoo, McCormick Bird House, Regenstein Macaque Forest, Farm-in-the-Zoo and Kovler Sea Lion Pool. Programs for children include Zoo Explorers, zoo camps, Sleepover with the Animals and Family Polar Party.

Water Play

At Deep River Waterpark, in Crown Point, Indiana, attractions include sand beach volleyball, tube and body slides, a wave pool and river rides. Paddles PlayZONE is an interactive water play area for kids, with water slides, waterfalls, spray features and a shallow swim area. Water Wars gives kids an opportunity to battle each other in an interactive water challenge. Alternatively, White Water Canyon Water Park, located 30 miles from Chicago, in Tinley Park, Illinois, features five acres of water fun. It has a zero-depth-entry swimming pool, water slides, a lazy river, splash buckets, water cannons and a children's water play area.

Nature Activities

The Grand Kankakee Marsh is nestled along the Kankakee River in Hebron, Indiana. This nature area is an ideal place for bird or wildlife viewing, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding and fishing. Families can also take a hayride tour of the area in the fall. North Park Village Nature Center is located in Chicago and features activities like nature center tours, day camps for children ages 5 to 14 and programs for families, preschoolers and school-age kids. Other events at the nature center include campfire storytimes, bird walks and nature hikes.

Sporting Events

Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs have Family Sundays, on which the first 1,000 children to enter the ballpark are allowed to go out onto the field and run the bases after the game. Cubs summer baseball camps are available for kids ages 5 to 13. Chicago White Sox Family Sundays feature autograph sessions and base running for kids. The Chicago Bulls have several promotional nights each year, including a night where fans under 14 get a free jersey and nights where attendees are given other goodies, such as flashlights, bobbleheads, bags and hats. Girls ages 7 to 17 are invited to be Junior Luvabulls and perform routines on the basketball court at games with the team's Luvabulls dancers. Additionally, summer basketball camps are offered to boys and girls.