Summer breaks

With our list of kidtastic things to do for $10 or less, your family can forget all about words like "economic downturn" and start saying these instead: Best. Summer. Ever.

Photo: Jimmy Fishbein; Models, from left: Mark Balyasny, Emmet Kelly/Ford, Silvio St Michael/BMG, Kendal Ewell/Ford

FREE Take time to SHELebrate
An eclectic array of artists, including country singers Bobby Bare Sr., Bobby Bare Jr., Jon Langford and Sally Timms join SHELebration: A Tribute to Shel Silverstein (6:30pm, Jul 13) honoring the work of the late children’s author/poet/illustrator. This hoedown is part of the summer-long Millennium Park Family Fun Festival (Jun 10–Sept 4, 10am–3pm), which features performers and activities daily. Highlights include Circus Carnival Week (Jul 6–12) and Rock ’n’ Roll Week (Aug 3–9). Visit for info. Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan Ave and Randolph Dr.

Play with a friend
Have all the fun at half the price. Time Out Chicago Kids readers who visit South Loop indoor play space Room2Play on Fridays from June 1–August 31 get 50 percent off admission (normally $12) when you bring a friend. 2255 S Michigan Ave (312-225-9000,

FREE Tune in, hang out
Toddlers, Tunes and Turtles introduces wee ones to nature through activities such as inspecting leaves through a magnifying glass and live critter meet ’n’ greets. Pack a picnic and stay on for the jams—the South Shore Cultural Center event (7059 S South Shore Dr, 773-256-0149; Jun 3, 5–7pm), for example, features live music from the Old Town School of Folk Music. Check and the Kids section in at for other dates and locations.

Photo: Daniel Alvarez

Kick it
Your tiny dancer can bust a new move with capoeira, a dance/martial-arts fusion set to Portuguese music that teaches kicks, “escapes” (a.k.a. skillful ducking) and acrobatics similar to cartwheels. Gingarte Capoeira, 2056 W 18th St (773-443-3220, Beginners’ class, Mon–Thu 6–7pm. $10, kids $5.

FREE Chalk it up
Take your budding artist to Chalk Festival 2009 to watch pros create cool sidewalk murals on 6-by-6-foot squares. Kids can get their own square-foot concrete canvas for $10 (chalk provided) or try their hand at arts and crafts ($2–$4 depending on activity). Oz Park, 2021 N Burling St ( Jun 6, 9:30am–3pm. Free for viewing.

FREE Plan an American Girls’ day out
A trip to the American Girl store doesn’t have to automatically cost an arm and a leg. Take advantage of the store’s historical character activity days (Jun 6, 7, 15, 17; Jul 1, 8; Aug 12, 19) and craft sessions (Jul 4, Aug 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 15, 23), when fans of the dolls can make and take goodies free of charge. Water Tower Place, 835 N Michigan Ave (877-247-5223,

Take a cheap cruise
Bypass expensive river cruises with a 10-minute Chicago Water Taxi ride, between 2 North Riverside Plaza (Madison Street stop), 325 North LaSalle Street (LaSalle/Clark) and 400 North Michigan Avenue (6:30am–6:30pm weekdays; 9:45am–6:06pm Saturdays; 10:45am–4:45pm Sundays, $2). Or take a 25-minute ride from Michigan Avenue to Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown (10am–6pm Saturdays; 11am–5pm Sundays, $4). (312-337-1446,

FREE Find a hidden treasure
Let your kids borrow the handheld GPS for some high-tech scavenger hunting, a.k.a. geocaching. Geocachers of Northern Illinois has hidden caches all over the area so anyone who wants to can go on a hunt. GONIL placed a Time Out Chicago Kids cache at N 42° 00.204 W 087° 46.817. Find the box and exchange one of its small treasures for your own. No GPS? Check out low-tech letterboxing at

Open up and say arggh
Everyone’s a pirate for a day at Pirates’ Cove Children’s Theme Park, an amusement park designed for kids ages 2–9 with a castle maze, Smugglers’ Crag climbing wall, restored 1950s carousel and roaming pirate characters. 901 Leicester Rd, Elk Grove Village (847-439-2683; Adults and under 2 free; 10 and under $9 (residents $7). Also try neighboring Jumps n Jiggles, an indoor play room with a maze of tunnels, spiral slide, a ball pit and an indoor carousel. 1000 Wellington Ave, Elk Grove Village (847-437-9494, Adults and under 1 free, kids $3.

FREE Strut your stuff
The Chicago Park District’s Stroller Struts teach tykes 5 and under to use their senses by feeling plant textures, smelling pine needles and looking for wildlife from the safe vantage point of their stroller seats. Jun 6 at South Shore Cultural Center (7059 S South Shore Dr, 773-256-0149). Check the Kids section at for other dates throughout the summer. Call 312-742-5039 to pre-register.

FREE Get your geek on
Fermilab hosts family-friendly “Ask a Scientist” discussions on the first Sunday of most months open to anyone ages 10 and up at their site (Wilson and Kirk Rds, Batavia, 630-840-8258). Topics this summer include future accelerators (Jun 7) and magnets (Jul 12). These talks fill up fast; register at

FREE Show them the money
Take your picture with a suitcase filled with $1 million, see the shredded remains of rejected dollars (pictured, right) and try to detect counterfeit cash during a free 45-minute guided tour and short movie at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum. Tours available at 1pm Monday–Friday or by appointment. 230 S LaSalle St (312-322-2400,

Bet on a sure thing
Horse racing cleans up its act every Sunday for Family Day at Arlington Park, featuring themes such as Legos (Jun 7) or make a Father’s Day craft (Jun 21). Kids can also visit a petting zoo and take (slow) pony rides. 2200 W Euclid Ave, Arlington Heights (847-385-7500, $7 (Father’s Day $10), under 18 free. Buy tickets online for $1 off.

FREE Cycle Safely
REI’s Youth Bike Rodeo (Jun 7, 10am–2pm) is a BYOB(ike) on Lincoln Park Whole Foods’ freshly minted rooftop event space. This clinic rolls out cones and obstacles to teach kids about safe cycling essentials, such as making hand signals and looking for traffic. Whole Foods Market, 1550 N Kingsbury St (312-587-0648,

FREE Get carded
Your Chicago Public Library card is good for more than juicy summer reads. Use it to download audio books for summer road trips, borrow movies and check out museum passports good for free admission to a dozen area cultural venues. Nine branches will even loan you fishing poles. Details at

FREE Wish upon a star
Northwestern University’s Dearborn Observatory is open to the public for free stargazing Fridays from 9–11pm. Reserve time to use the 18.5-inch refractory telescope from 9–10pm; or drop in to take your chances elbowing for time with the crowds. 2131 Tech Drive, Evanston (847-491-7650,


Summer breaks | Take your kids to Chicago-area beaches | Check out a new neighborhood


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