10 free or cheap ideas for summer fun in Lake County

I don’t know about you, but I’m approaching one month (four looong weeks!) of summer vacation. The only thing more exhausted than me, is my wallet. Four kids home all day, everyday, leaves a lot of time to hear “Can we go … ?” “ Can we do … ?” over and over again. Somedays I think it would be cheaper to send them to camp! So here we go, 10 free or cheap things to do this summer in Lake County.  


Yep, I said golf. Kids can golf with mom or dad for free at Lake County Forest Preserve Golf Courses.  


Just about every city has some kind of summer concert series. It’s a great way to introduce kids to all kinds of music and pretend you’re at Ravinia. Little kids even get their own series in Deerfield. Eat to the Beat is a kids concert series in Jewett Park which is a great park for kids of all ages.  

Car shows

Car shows are free fun for your little gear heads. Even my girls, who are not huge car fans, enjoy seeing all the different colors and weird cars. Try Car fun on 21 in MainStreet Libertyville on the third Wednesday of every month.  

Hike it

The Lake County Forest Preserves are good for more than free golf, they are also full of adventure and are free every day! Many have playgrounds or other features that make them interesting to kids of all ages. So far this summer we’ve visited Nippersink, Van Patten Woods and Wright Woods.  

Movies in the park 

Watching movies outside is one of the best activities of summer. Slather on the bug spray and bring a blanket to your favorite park. Buffalo Grove, Lindenhurst, Wheeling, Lake Forest and Vernon Hills all have movies in June.  


Volunteering doesn’t cost you anything and leaves you feeling like you won a million bucks! My preschooler and I recently volunteered at Bernie’s Book Bank and it was a ton of fun and easy for him to participate.  

Splash pads 

Water fun that doesn’t require me to take out a loan! Our favorite is the Grayslake Central Spray park because it’s fenced in and free! When the big kids are home we head to the Mundelein Spray Park which is only $1 and has more options for them.  

Art festivals

Festival season is in full swing, but when you add in the cost of food and ride wristbands you may as well head to Disney. Get a festival experience for less by checking out an Art fair. I like to play Eye Spy with my kids to get them looking for different features. The Art Center’s Festival of Fine Arts is this weekend in Highland Park.  

Chalk art

Take your chalk art to the next level by challenging the kids. We look for library books with modern or pop artists (Charley Harper is a good one) and try to copy the pictures on our sidewalk.  

Elawa Farm

Explore the historic farm in Lake Forest and hike around the trails of Middlefork Savanna. While there, visit the always free Wildlife Discovery Center and see some of the native reptiles and animals of our area.

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