Free things to do this summer in Chicago and the suburbs

Summertime in Chicago means festivals, concerts, street fairs and just being outside. It’s a great time to experience the city as a family and, with a few helpful tips, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Summer is Chicago at its best and, with a few helpful tips, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Start the day off with a free Wiggleworms show everymorning at 10 a.m., beginning June 9 and running through Sept. 3 atMillennium Park. Organized by the Old Town School of Folk Music,the show gets kids singing and dancing to popular songs. Details

“My daughter Heidi loves going to Wiggleworms, and onreally warm days we walk over to the water area at the park and shecools down splashing around and getting sprayed at Crown Fountain,”Chicago mom Alma Treichel said. “It’s a fun, free way to staycool.”

Watch our Wiggleworms video


North Siders can also catch free live music for the littleones every Wednesday and Friday at 9:15 and 10 a.m. at Lincoln ParkZoo. Starring Mr. Singer, of Sharp Cookies fame, a local kidsmusical act with a handlebart mustache and quirky energy to match.Story time at the zoo is targeted to children 6 and under, teachingthem about the alphabet, numbers, colors and animals. There’s asuggested dollar donation.

Story Time at the Zoo

Kids looking to explore, discover and learn a thing or twoare in luck as well. Several of Chicago’s museums offer freeadmission throughout the summer. Chicago Children’s Museum at
Navy Pier is free every Thursday from 5-8 p.m. and the ChicagoHistory Museum is free every Monday. The Peggy Notebaert NatureMuseum (2430 N. Cannon Drive), is free to the general
public every Thursday and includes a butterfly exhibit kids love
and, through Aug. 7, a “Nature’s Architects” exhibit that’s worth a
morning visit.


Museums for free

To enjoy the outdoors, take advantage of the hundreds ofparks and forest preserves throughout Chicago and its surroundingcommunities. Beginning June 6, kids 8 and up can learn archery forfree at St. James Farm in Warrenville. The class is one of manyprovided by the Forest Preserve District of DuPageCounty.

Get outside!

On extremely sweltering days, those trying to beat theheat can head to any of Chicago’s public libraries for airconditioning and a number of free story time activities.

“Our summer reading program will start in the beginning ofJune and runs through the end of July,” said Leland Elder, a publicrelations representative for the library.

The program is open to kids 6-13 and additional story timesessions for toddlers and younger children are also availablethroughout the summer.

Free story hour

Or hop on Metra’s BNSF line and head west for free weeklyoutdoor concerts in the villages of Hinsdale and Burr Ridge. EveryThursday evening in Hinsdale from June 16-Aug. 18, families load uptheir strollers and head to Burlington Park for freemusic.

Hinsdale resident Precious Schultz enjoys taking her threesons.

“My husband gets off the train and meets up with us, andit’s a great place for the kids to burn off that afternoon energybefore bedtime,” she said. “They dance and run around with theirfriends.”

The Burr Ridge Village Center offers “Concerts on theGreen” from 7-8:30 p.m. Fridays, June 10-Aug. 5, at its villagecenter, 1000 Village Center Drive.

After a long day of activities that require no swiping ofthe credit card, take advantage of the hundreds of Chicago-arearestaurants that offer “kids eat free” options. From slices ofcheese pizza to stacks of waffles, a free or discounted meal forthe little ones can be found any day of the week by logging and clicking “Chicago.”

Wheaton mom Colleen Moore has often treated her daughterKeira to breakfast for dinner at IHOP on “kids eat free”night.

“They have a decent array of healthy choices and if shewants pancakes for dinner, she can have them,” Moore said. “Findingfood a 2-year-old likes to eat that is healthy and free ispriceless. It’s also nice knowing I’m not wasting $7 when she’sbeing a picky eater.”

Here’s a list of Chicagolandrestaurants with “kids eat free” specials to help you deal beforeyou dine.

Kids Eat Free

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