5 Free activities for kids & families in Illinois

Who says you need to spend a lot of money to have fun with the family? These five activities and locales will engage all ages — and the best part is, they’re free!

Illinois - Cloud Gate

1Millennium Park

Your whole family will have a blast at Millennium Park. Year-round, discover the Cloud Gate sculpture (known affectionately as “the bean”), where you can see the reflection of skyline views – and yourself. In the winter, skating around the Park’s outdoor ice rink is always a treat. Springtime starts outdoor concerts by a variety of music acts, and getting sprayed by the many faces in the multimedia, interactive Crown Fountain is the perfect way to cool off in summer. Take a stroll through the Lurie Garden, walk across the Millennium Park bridge, or grab a bite to eat at Park Grill.

More about Millenium Park

Address: Bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the North and Monroe Street to the South

Website: milleniumpark.org

2Green City Market

Once you visit Green City Market, you may not have to sneak veggies into your kids’ food again. The largest Farmer’s Market in Chicago features a variety of locally-grown, farm-to-table food with plenty of free samples to try. Fresh dairy, fruits, vegetables, homemade bread, and you get to meet the farmers. A great way to get your kids to try new foods is by enrolling them in Club Sprouts. At every market, kids can sample something special, like an herb or vegetable, and then receive a stamp on their Club Sprouts membership card, and a certificate of accomplishment when it’s full. Chef demos and cooking classes for children are offered on Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. during the summer.

More about Green City Market

Address: 1750 N. Clark St, Chicago, Illinois, 60614

Website: greencitymarket.org

3Lincoln Park Zoo

Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! In the middle of Chicago, no less. Take a leisurely stroll through the zoo where you can see gorillas, birds, amphibians, penguins, reptiles, sea lions, zebras, the aforementioned lions, tigers and bears and more. Lincoln Park Zoo also has a children’s petting zoo, cow milking demonstrations and during the holiday season, Zoo Lights, when the zoo is decorated with Christmas lights and has ice sculptures, Santa’s Village and other winter activities in addition to enjoying the animals.

More about the Lincoln Park Zoo

Address: Lincoln Park, Fullerton Pkwy Exit off Lake Shore Drive

Phone: 312.742.2000

Website: lpzoo.org

4Chicago Botanic Garden

Conservation and caring for the environment have never been more important than now. A great way for families to learn more about – and gain appreciation for – plants and the natural world is to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden. The Garden features plant collections, native habitats and display gardens. Drop-in activities for kids include nature story time, seed planting in the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden, and “Dancin Sprouts” for the little ones. Stroll through the garden on your own, or take a guided tram tour to learn more about everything Chicago Botanic Garden has to offer.

More about the Chicago Botanic Garden

Address: 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, Illinois 60022

Phone: 847.835.5440

Website: chicagobotanic.org

5Chicago Architecture Foundation

Whether you simply enjoy gazing at Chicago’s amazing architecture or there’s a budding architect in the family, Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Chicago Model City exhibition has something for everyone. If you’ve seen the famous downtown skyline, now you can see it in a totally new way in a 320 square foot model. In addition to models of modern architecture, this exhibit also includes a model of the CTA Blue Line and Eisenhower Expressway from the 1950s, a model of how the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is going green, and more. Kids will also enjoy special activities during CAFamily Studio Sundays, held on the third Sunday of the month.

More about the Chicago Architecture Foundation

Address: 224 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60604

Phone: 312.922.3432

Website: caf.architecture.org

More family fun in Chicago

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Best family campgrounds in Illinois

5 Local parks in Chicago, Illinois

Cloud Gate photo by laffy4k


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