The Naperville Riverwalk is a perfect for a summer stroll. Wide,
smooth and stroller-friendly, it's welcoming for even the smallest
of amblers. Plus there are carrillon concerts, children's lunch
hour entertainment, Centennial Beach for cooling off, and a large
It's not exactly a hidden gem; everyone knows the Lincoln Park
Zoo and most Chicagolanders have been there. But few of us really
take the time to appreciate what a gift it is to the city: a
world-class zoo, open 365 days a year, completely free? Almost too
good to be true. The zoo is always good for a casual walk-through,
especially the Farm at the Zoo, with its familiar barnyard animals
and farm landscape.
Give your city kid a look at farm life and let them try their
hand at farm chores. You never know - after an hour baling hay,
picking up their toys might not seem like such a drag.
One of the kid favorites (this will surprise most moms and dads)
is the farm chores programs, says Keith McClow, education site
manager for Kline Creek.
"One of our biggest ones is the laundry process. They want to do
it again and again with the scrub board and the soap," McClow says.
Mom's farm chores are highlighted on Mondays; dad's are featured on
Thursdays. During dad's farm chores programs, kids erect a
scaled-down version of a timber-framed farmhouse.
"It's small enough for kids
to lift the pieces and assemble, and then they can climb up on it
and see how sturdy it is," McClow says. Kids also like collecting
the eggs from the chicken coop or listening to stories from that
Garfield Park Conservatory is one of Chicago's hidden treasures
- beautiful, historical and packed with free activities for the
budding horticulturalist (or bored kiddie). Kids love the Elizabeth
Morse Children's Garden, with free drop-in activities all summer
The Family Fun Festival returns to Millennium Park this
summer. Every day, from July 2 - Sept. 2 between 10
a.m. and 3 p.m., family performances and hands-on activities will
take place in the Family Fun Tent, located on the Park's Chase
Promenade North. The Wiggleworms, from Chicago's Old Town School of
Folk Music, perform at kids' show at 10 a.m., reading circle is at
11 a.m. and family performances are at 1 p.m. Plus, take part in
hands-on art projects and garden activities with some of the
region's most popular museums and cultural organizations daily in
the Family Fun Activity Zone from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Not that we balk at the regular admission price (at $9 for
adults, $6 for kids 3-12, and free admission for kids under 3, it's
among the best bang for the buck when it comes to Chicago's
museums), but you can't beat free. And Thursday is free/suggested
donation day at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which is truly the
gem of Chicago's emerald necklace.
Related: Check out our complete list of Chicago
museum free days
There's something supremely quite like walking out of a sticky
Chicago summer day and into the air-conditioned air and 1980s decor
of a bowling alley, knowing that you've bought at least two hours
of fun for just a few dollars, plus some quarters for the
And for the fourth summer in a row, kids will bowl free at more
than 30 Chicagoland alleys. Kids Bowl Free is a national initiative
with more than 850 participating centers that provide kids with two
free games of bowling every day, all day, from Memorial Day to late
This is a great place to bike, jog or walk, even with a stroller
or a few kids on training wheels in tow. Two miles of landscaped
park are studded with more than 60 sculptures. Kids will enjoy the
life-size, brightly colored horses or the many other giant
sculptures. Visit the website before you visit and download a
family guide filled with clues, questions and information that
serves as an interactive introduction to the sculptures.
Take a docent-led tour (get the schedule here) or download the Family Guide for clues, questions,
information, and suggestions for at-home activities.
Step back in time and learn what life was like during Civil War
Days or take a peek at the great model railroad setup. It's
especially a great place for train-crazy kids: the HO model
railroad, which includes over 2,000 feet of track, will elicit
squeals when it zips into action with the push of a button. Don't
miss the Train
Fest, Aug. 20-21.
Best for the 4-and-under set, Phillips Park Zoo has reptiles,
wolves, cougars, otters, llamas and lots of other animals. Plus
there's a great big playground, a beautiful lake with a walking
path around it, and a visitor center with real mastodon bones.