13 free things to do with kids in Chicago all summer long

Want to have endless fun with your kids this summer without emptying your wallet? Chicago has a ton of activities and events that are free and fun for all.

Get active and see a free concert at Millennium Park

This park hits the jackpot for free summertime events and activities. Whether it’s playing on the swings and slides at Maggie Daley Park, splashing around the Crown Fountain or watching one of the weekly music performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, this favorite spot is more than worthy of a few trips this season.

Dance along to Juice Box at the Chicago Cultural Center

Ready to get your groove on? This completely free center hosts a variety of art exhibits and theater performances, but Juice Box is a can’t-miss. Hosted every other Friday 11-11:45 a.m., this fun and educational event allows kids to simultaneously move to their own beat while they learn about music from other cultures, such as traditional Mexican and African music.

Watch the fireworks at Navy Pier

Come for walk around the Pier for a great view of the skyline and daily family fun activities, but stay for the free fireworks all summer long throughout the week either at 9:30 p.m. or 10:15 p.m. to make it the perfect family night out. Check their full schedule for more details.

Take a tour at Lurie Garden

At the Lurie Garden, you can walk around and enjoy all the flowers and plants on your own or attend one of the free guided tours to learn even more about plant life and tips for your own garden. Tours take place all summer on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Watch a movie in the park

With scenic views and quality kid-friendly movies, movie nights in the park are a great way to stay entertained and spend time in the great outdoors. Hosted by local park districts, movies run all summer throughout Chicagoland. Check your park district’s website for a complete schedule.

Take a bike ride along a nature trail

Trails are a great way to get some fresh air in addition to seeing Chicago from a whole new perspective. The Lakefront Trail downtown gives you a great view of the skyline in addition to other attractions such as parks, beaches, gardens and concession stands. The Busse Woods Loop Trail near Elk Grove Village takes you through beautiful nature paths that meander around lakes and meadows of the Ned Brown Forest Preserve. And don’t forget to check out the Waterfall Glen Trail’s gorgeous waterfall and 11 miles of limestone-lined paths.

Catch a Chicago Philharmonic Concert in the park

Love the professional orchestra concert experience but not the prices? This summer, join the Chicago Philharmonic musicians for monthly special concerts free to the public. Their various outdoor park locations allow you to bring family members of all ages for a more laid-back, family-friendly experience.

Join the Jamboree sing along at Lincoln Park Zoo

Looking for something wild to do? With tons of species from African Lions to pythons, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a must-see for animal-lovers. Visit Wednesdays and Fridays 9:15-10 a.m. to enjoy an interactive musical performance with Electric Neil that features animal songs and dances for young ones.

Splash around at Adams Playground Park

Looking for a more low-key park that still has all the fun? The Adams Playground Park in Lincoln Park not only has climbing walls and slides, but it also features a water playground. This play area — complete with a “leaky” pipe and slippery slides —  allows kids to cool off but still have a blast in a more private location.

Improve your bowling game

Interested in a sport to get into in your spare time? “Kids Bowl Free” is a summer bowling program sponsored by select bowling centers across the country to offer kids two free bowling games each day. Once you sign up on their website, check out the many locations throughout the Chicagoland area participating in the program.

Get a jump on your summer reading list at your local bookstore

There’s always a way to make reading fun with ongoing summer events at bookstores across Chicago. Join a fiction, non-fiction or mother-daughter book club at Anderson’s Bookshop in the suburbs. Or, drop by Barnes and Noble in the city on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for a free story hour for toddlers and kids. Some Saturdays even offer special activities after story hour.

Watch carnivorous plants in action at Garfield Park Conservatory

The Sensory Garden at this city gem allows you to take a closer look at how carnivorous plants catch their prey using traps, pitfalls and sticky surfaces to grab them. Other activities include learning about composting and gardening in the city or bringing your little one to the interactive Play and Grow Garden where they can make mud pies and maneuver the stump obstacle course.

Stay connected at Montrose Beach

Looking for a place to cool off in the summer heat? Located in Lincoln Park, Montrose Beach has it all, from the family-friendly atmosphere to concessions to even being able to bring your dog. This hot spot even offers free wifi to make it the complete beach experience for the whole family.

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