Worth the Trip: Chicago Auto Show {McCormick Place, Chicago}

I may not know a lot about vehicles, but I do know a lot about taking kids places in them. My family loves piling into our minivan and cruising down to the city to attend the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place. This year’s show is scheduled from February 13 – 21, 2016. This show is a “must-do” in the eyes of my children, and everyone in the family enjoys the auto show.

Chicago Auto Show. McCormick Place

As soon as the auto show ads appear on the radio or TV, my kids begin to ask “when can we go?” and I understand why. The fun factor at the Chicago Auto Show is huge. There are things to see, do, experience and explore–for all age levels. We’ve taken our children as toddlers, preschoolers, tweens, and teens, without regret. With over one million square feet of floor space, there is always something of interest for everyone. And the best part is that there are no automobile sales conducted at the auto show. You are free to browse the show, sit in as many cars as time allows, and ask questions–without any pressure to buy.

What makes the Chicago Auto Show fun for the whole family? The sheer volume of cars, stages and diverse exhibits is amazing. It is a veritable wonderland of machinery in all sizes, shapes, colors and vintages.  From concept car to horseless buggy, it can be found here. Dazzling stages, and full-size, indoor test tracks mesmerize my kids. The show is also a hands-on experience for the whole family. This year there are three special days planned for the 2016 Chicago Auto Show:

  • Family Day, Monday, February 15
  • Women’s Day, Tuesday, February 16
  • Hispanic Day, Friday, February 19.

Special events and appearances are scheduled for these days, and can be found on the auto show website.


Chicago Auto Show, McCormick Place

With parental supervision, kids can sit in cars and view new technology firsthand. Displays show how cars go from concept, to clay model, and to manufacture. Kids can learn about engineering and science; environmental impact; technology as it relates to sound, weather and music; electric cars; prototypes; robotics; and everything in between. Many booths have fun, interactive games and challenges that the whole family can enjoy. There are tons of unique photo opportunities, both professional (usually free; photos are available later on a website or e-mailed) and from your own camera. This year there is even a mobile app available for the 2016 show.

The best way to enjoy the Chicago Auto Show is to plan ahead, knowing that it is a popular event. Crowds tend to be heavier on the weekends. I highly recommend bringing a stroller for young children, and a child carrier for infants. Take advantage of the coat-check on premises; it’s much easier to enjoy the show and watch your kids without bulky winter wear in tow. I like to stash a pair of comfortable shoes in a bag so I don’t have to walk around in heavy boots for the whole day. And be sure to pre-pack a few favorite snacks and drinks for the kids. There are food vendors at the show, but they usually only accept cash. There is a food court at McCormick place, but you should expect to wait in line unless you can try to grab a bite during non-peak serving hours.

Chicago Auto Show, McCormick Place

Don’t forget to bring your camera or have your smart phone easily accessible. And be prepared for handouts and tchotchkes galore. If your children are “collectors,” you may become an auto show handout sherpa to your little ones. There are both indoor and outdoor ride-and-drives at the show, but be sure to check in advance for height requirements for the test-track experiences to be sure all members of your party can participate.  Some may be best left for the grown-ups.

If you drive to the auto show, there is on-site parking at McCormick Place at various rates. Or you could try using Spothero (read about Loralie’s experience with  Spothero) to snag a space. Free shuttle buses run between the auto show from the Soldier Field parking lot every day, and from the Millennium Park Garage or East Monroe Garage on weekends only with limited hours. Shuttle buses can accommodate strollers. Be sure to check out the online resources for the Chicago Auto Show before you go.  There is a lot of information available about the show that will help you plan your day. I hope your family will enjoy a trip to the Chicago Auto Shown as much as mine does.

Chicago Auto Show
McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
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February 13 – 20, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
February 21: 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Admission: $12 for adults;
FREE admission for children 6 and younger when they accompany a paying adult (family members only);
$7 for children 7-12,  and for seniors age 62 and older.

Have you visited the Chicago Auto Show with your family? Tell us about your visit in the comments section below.

About Jennifer Johnson 52 Articles
Jennifer is mom to a teenage boy and a tween girl, and spends her time changing radio stations in her minivan while driving to band concerts, learning new texting lingo and keeping track of the latest trends in electronics and hairstyles. Jennifer spends any free time she can find trying to stay organized, testing out new recipes that everyone might eat, reading, crafting or trying to beat her own best score in SpellTower. She also serves as a managing editor at Little Lake County.

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