Kids are expensive. Between all the gear they need, food they eat and how quickly they grow, there is no shortage of spending on the little ones. Luckily Chicago offers tons of free things to do with kids this summer. From free museum admissions to lively outdoor concerts, here are our favorites around town.
With a car-free place to toddle, plenty of parks and playgrounds to monkey around in, and tons of programming for the whole family, the new Chicago park space is a little one’s dream. The formerly abandoned stretch of elevated railway track that runs through Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown found new life in June when it reopened as the 606.
While it may be next to impossible for you to get out of the market without dropping some cash on produce, your kids can have all of the fun they want for free. Sit on the lawn and listen to the bongo drum man, who brings instruments for the kiddos as well. Club Sprouts always has a fun little “cooking” project for your pint-sized chefs too. Check it out on summer Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7am–1pm.
This may be a kid’s haven for music classes throughout the year, but this summer the venue is taking the show on the road. Head to The Roosevelt Collection plaza (inside if it rains) on Tuesdays and Saturdays at noon this summer to jam out with all of your favorite teachers and eat free snacks.
With 46 acres of preserved nature and an education center, this Chicago Park District facility has plenty for kids and adults to do. Check out the hands-on discovery tables and interactive displays. The nature center also offers workshops and camps throughout the year.
You’ll probably spend most of your summer at this park anyway, what with its spitting water at Crown Fountain, The Target Family Festival and more must-experience activities. But you’ll also want to check out the various shows (some without kids, but most with) like the Lang Lang Foundation International Music Summit Concert with Midwest Young Artists, featuring stellar young pianists from around the globe.
The children’s museum is always fun for kids, but it's even more fun for mom and dad when it’s free. Admission on Thursday nights from 5-8pm is always free. And the new summertime exhibit “Boats” will make your little shipmates feel like they are sailing the high seas of Lake Michigan.
Parents with kids of all ages will enjoy the free days at this contemporary art museum, which provides popular guided morning tours for moms and dads with strollers in tow. There are also themed family days throughout the year with different crafts and projects. The MCA is open until 8pm every Tuesday, when the museum hosts special evening programs. Programs are free with museum admission (admission is always free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays).
You can always find something for the kids to do here, from classes like Morning Glories (which includes planting and soil-digging projects) on Mondays from 10am–noon to the new Play and Grow Garden, featuring mud pie-making in the soil kitchen and building a fort out of fabric and natural materials.
Chicago fire stations
In case you haven’t heard, kids love fire trucks. So what could be better than getting to see one up close and personal at your neighborhood fire station? Most stations welcome kids during the day, and firefighters are often amenable to tours and photos on the truck—if they aren’t out fightin’ fires, of course.