Summer round-up: Family-friendly art spaces

The Chicago cold has gone on long enough. At last, summer’s here! With children out of school soon and visitors coming to town, you need to up your usual planning and enjoy the many amenities this bustling and creative city has to offer.  

CGN has compiled a list of fun, family-friendly events taking place this summer that will allow you to unwind while experiencing Chicago’s vibrant arts and culture scene first-hand.  


Randolph Street Market

Dates vary, tickets from $10, 1341 W. Randolph St.

You’re never too young to admire valued antiques. Often held on the last weekend of every month, this indoor-outdoor festival is the epicenter of everything vintage.  Whether you’re charmed by artwork brimming with history, antique jewelry or classic attire, this is the perfect place to spark your family’s love for one of a kind, timeless treasures.  


57th Street Art Fair

June 2 and 3, free admission, 57th Street, between Kenwood and Woodlawn

Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, whether you’re looking for a new art piece to ‘wow’ houseguests or would like to view talent from across the country, you’ll find something to fit your fancy at this two-day event. Holding the title as Chicago’s oldest juried art fair, this event features over 200 painters, sculptors, craftsmen, jewelers, and photographers you can purchase work from directly. The outdoor fair will also host numerous arts-centric activities to encourage children to explore their ingrained creativity, courtesy of local arts organizations including Little Black Pearl, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago Public Art Group, among others.  


Millennium Art Festival

July 6, 7 and 8, free admission, Michigan Plaza

For the tenth year in a row, this award-winning festival will take place in the heart of the Loop.  Not only is all of the art featured original and sold by the artists themselves, but visitors are encouraged to interact with the more than 110 juried artists present at the festival.  Immerse your family in live music, delicious cuisine and original, handcrafted gems. Afterward, your family can make their mark on the freestanding graffiti wall. The best part -- the fun doesn’t have to end there.  The festival is located near a plethora of unique, family-friendly attractions, including “The Bean,” on Michigan Avenue, the historic Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum Campus, a nearly 15-minute drive from Michigan Plaza.


Museum of Contemporary Art

Free and open to the public, 220 E. Chicago Ave.

MCA has free admission, meaning your family can enjoy fine art even while managing a tight budget. During your trip, take a stroll through one of the unique exhibits running through the summer, including I was Raised on the Internet — a thoughtful exhibition which explores how the internet has changed the way we view the world.  From 1998 to the present, the exhibition tells a story through 100+ works of art across different mediums, including photography, sculpture and multimedia, painting, film and video. After a day of fun, if it’s a Tuesday, visit the terrace to unwind and enjoy smooth jazz performed live from internationally renowned musicians before your ride home. And you know what else?  Feel free to grab a bite at the new Marisol restaurant -- uniquely named after the artist of the same name. As the website boasts, the Marisol could be “your neighborhood coffee spot, or an art-filled destination for dinner and drinks.”


Smart Museum of Art

Free and open to the public, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

Located on Chicago’s South Side, the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art has a selection of family-friendly activities to allow young artists a creative outlet. Whether your children are eager to get their hands dirty with interactive finger, hand, and arm painting, create magnificent watercolor artwork, or craft sturdy statues -- the museum allows children to express their creativity and construct inspirational masterpieces.  


The Art Institute of Chicago  (The Artist's Studio)

Free and open to the public, Ryan Learning Center, 111 S. Michigan Ave.

In for a surprise? The Artist’s Studio holds daily classes, perfect for family fun.  Will you create art today? Meet an artist? Engage in a gallery activity? You won’t know until you get there.  

Also, on Saturday, July 21, 10:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. a Block Party takes place throughout the museum. This daylong gathering highlights the deep and lasting contributions of Chicago's creative communities. Experience a progression of events activating the museum's galleries, libraries, study rooms, gardens, and public spaces, culminating in exciting music performances, all celebrating our city's rich history and bright future. Details here


Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park

Free and open to the public, 1 University Drive, University Park, IL

Sometimes, all we really need is a calm, barefoot stroll through green pastures.  Take your family on a trip through this renowned sculpture park which features 29 beautiful, dynamic sculptures across more than 100 acres of prairie landscape.  Here, you’ll allow your family the space -- and the quiet -- to unwind, reconnect, and, most importantly, view breathtaking works of art.

On Wednesday, June 20 from 9:30 – noon the sculpture park will host a special Children's Day for ages 5-12. The cost is $12. Get outside, and get creative. Visit seven large-scale sculptures, from Field Rotationto Paul, and then learn the Japanese art of “Koinobori.” These carp streamers or carp banners decorate the landscape of Japan from April through early May, in honor of their national Children’s Day.

RSVP to Sherri Denault at by June 13. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Pre-registration required by June 13. MEET AT THE MAIN GSU ENTRANCE.