The group-friendly destinations that make up the Chicago Suburbs are also family-friendly kid zones where attendees can visit with their spouses and children in tow.
From entertaining attractions and active pursuits to local hotels and resorts that offer amenities that will make both adults and kids smile, the suburbs surrounding Chicago provide pre- and post-meeting fun for the whole family.
Groups traveling with families will find plenty of off-session opportunities in Chicago’s North Shore year-round, including summertime visits to the beaches of Evanston.
“Lifeguards, snow cones and sandy beaches transform a city experience to a mini beach vacation,” said Gina Speckman, executive director for Chicago’s North Shore CVB.
Chicago Botanic Garden offers activities to engage kids all year, including wintertime’s Wonderland Express, an annual holiday extravaganza featuring model trains and meticulously crafted Chicago landmarks in miniature.
“Plus, see intricate ice carvings and hear beautiful music from carolers,” Speckman said.
She added that at Westfield Old Orchard, an outdoor shopping center where adults can hunt for bargains, the new PlaySpace area is a big hit with kids.
In Lake County, families will find everything from roller coasters to Broadway-esque theater performances, according to Jonathan S. Jones, marketing communications coordinator for Visit Lake County.
“Lake County has it all,” he said.
Gurnee-based Great Wolf Lodge is scheduled to open this summer with an 80,000-square-foot indoor waterpark across the street from Six Flags Great America amusement park.
Also in Lake County is Lincolnshire-based Marriott Theatre, which stages plays and musicals that the whole family will enjoy. At Libertyville-based Lambs Farm, there is a sheep and goat petting area plus mini-golf, a bounce house and a carousel.
Northwest of Chicago is home to Wood Dale-based Topgolf, which accommodates corporate group gatherings and has an 18-hole miniature golf course that kids love, and Busse Woods Trail, a favorite local spot for outdoor activities that the whole family will enjoy.
“Rent a kayak or canoe and explore Busse Lake, or plan on bringing your cross-country skis for a winter day,” said Alyssa Ullo, marketing manager for Meet Chicago Northwest.
Two group- and family-friendly properties located to the northwest of Chicago in Itasca are Eaglewood Resort & Spa, with amenities that include an indoor pool and bowling alley, and Westin Chicago Northwest, where families will find an indoor pool as well as the Westin Kids Club, a program including fun activities for children under 13.
Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel and Aloft Chicago O’Hare, both located in Rosemont, also have kid-friendly programs for groups traveling with their families.
Rosemont’s Parkway Bank Park entertainment district is home to fun for the whole family, including 13 eateries, iFly indoor skydiving, a candy store, bowling and more, added Alex Jakubiak, spokesperson for Village of Rosemont.
“The venues surround a great lawn that plays host to several seasonal events, including concerts, festivals and a winter ice rink,” Jakubiak said.
Additionally, there is a full calendar of live concerts and family entertainment in Rosemont, including Riverdance at the Rosemont Theatre, as well as Disney On Ice! and Chicago Wolves hockey at the Allstate Arena.
In Oak Park, The Write Inn is situated in the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District in a landmark building that combines Old-World charm with modern features. The property offers family-size rooms with extra space for lounging, according to Kevin Kilbride, marketing and social media manager for Visit Oak Park.
“Guests will find special antiques and accessories from the 1920s, making it a memorable locale unlike any place your family has stayed before,” he said.
From Oak Park, families are encouraged to visit the Brookfield Zoo, which is home to more than 3,000 animals and “immersion exhibits,” including giraffe feeding, walks with wallabies and penguin encounters that are simply thrilling for youngsters.
For a trip back in time, attendees convening in the area with their families can visit Galloping Ghost Arcade, which boasts nearly 600 games spanning from the 1970s to mid-2000s.
“This retro spot is fittingly on Brookfield’s stretch of the Historic Route 66 and is the largest video arcade in America,” Kilbride said. “Classic arcade hits like Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man let parents relive their childhoods while giving kids a look at what life was like before iPhones and touchscreens.”
A unique outing for families in the Aurora area is Batavia-based Fermilab, the U.S. Department of Energy’s most accessible site, where according to James Cardis, director of marketing for the Aurora Area CVB, an international team of scientists investigates the fundamental mysteries of the known universe.
“Its art exhibits, open atriums and facility tours cater to a diverse set of interests,” he said. “Visitors can also hike, bike or tour by car Fermilab’s 6,800-acre public natural areas, a wildlife and native plant preserve where the main attraction is a majestic herd of American bison.”
Families can also check out the schedule of Broadway-caliber performances at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre, and during the summer months they can head over to Splash Country Water Park, which features a lazy river totaling over 11 football fields in length and two flume slides.
Located 30 miles south of downtown Chicago is the 120,000-square-foot Tinley Park Convention Center, which is connected to the Holiday Inn Tinley Park and positioned amid all manner of family-friendly opportunities, according to Loren Petrakis-Mueller, communications manager for the Chicago Southland CVB.
“Tinley Park and Orland have it all for families, from all types of cuisine to fun activities,” she said. “There are plenty of outdoor things to do if you are up for hiking or biking at Lake Katherine, or check out the Tinley Park-Park District, which boasts over 40 parks.”
There is also Tinley Park-based Odyssey Fun World, which has various indoor and outdoor activities for groups and families, including a large arcade, go-karts, indoor rides, batting cages, laser tag, miniature golf and more.
Located 15 miles south of Chicago is Hilton Chicago/Oak Lawn, which resides within walking distance to restaurants, popular spots like Andy’s Frozen Custard and shops.
“The entire family can check out the Chicago Fire soccer at Toyota Park, take in a baseball game at Standard Bank Stadium featuring the Windy City Thunderbolts, or go ice skating year-round at the Oak Lawn Ice Arena,” said Petrakis-Mueller.
She added kids would have a lot of fun at the Tinley Park-based White Water Canyon Water Park, as well as at the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.
Chicago Suburbs CVB Contact Information
Aurora Area CVB
Chicago’s North Shore CVB
Chicago Southland CVB
Heritage Corridor CVB
Meet Chicago Northwest
St. Charles CVB
Village of Rosemont
Visit Lake County
Visit Oak Park