10 FREE Fun Things to do in Chicago

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Outdoor movie nights, museums, beaches and even a zoo- just some of the things on our 10 FREE Fun Things to do in Chicago with Kids! Go out and explore!

Chicago is an interesting city that is full of amazing activities for families to enjoy. Outdoor movie nights, museums, beaches and even a zoo- just some of the things on our 10 FREE Fun Things to do in Chicago with Kids!

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#1. Chicago Botanic Garden

Just 20 minutes outside Chicago, Chicago Botanic Garden is a gorgeous place to spend a few hours with lots of different year-round activities for families like:

  • Free music concerts and storytelling.
  • Kite-making workshops .
  • Canoe Adventures.
  • Butterflies and Blooms.
  • Family walking and nature trails.

The highlight for the kids though has to be the cute Model Railway Garden with 18 garden-scale trains traveling over 26 bridges and around 50 miniature American landmarks.

#2. 31st Street Beach Fun

Outdoor movie nights, museums, beaches and even a zoo- just some of the things on our 10 FREE Fun Things to do in Chicago with Kids! Go out and explore!

One of the best places to be on a glorious sunny day, 31st Street Beach also features a stunning Seuss-like playground with lots of wavy, curvy lines and things to climb and slide on. Pack a family picnic (and your camera) and enjoy the amazing views of the Chicago skyline!

#3. Chicago’s Biggest Farmers Market

If stocking up for a picnic lunch for one of Chicago’s super beaches or parks, this is a great place to stop. Green City Market is the largest farmers market in Chicago and is held Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7am–1pm during the outdoor season and 8am-1pm on Saturdays during the winter. Enjoy plenty of

  • live events,
  • chef demos,
  • food-tastings,
  • workshops and more.

The market opens in Lincoln Park for the outdoor season on May 2, 2015.

#4. Lincoln Park Zoo

Outdoor movie nights, museums, beaches and even a zoo- just some of the things on our 10 FREE Fun Things to do in Chicago with Kids! Go out and explore!

Wow! A free zoo? Yes! Lincoln Park Zoo has an amazing range of animals and a superb lay-out! The Ape House is particularly good and they recently welcomed a new baby gorilla here – the kids can look forward to spotting her! The zoo is situated in the heart of Chicago making it easy to combine it with a beach walk or some shopping. Donations are welcome to keep it free.

For more family fun ideas in Chicago, see 10 Best Things to do in Chicago with Kids!

#5. Chicago History Museum

Free for kids aged 12 and under, the Chicago History Museum is an interesting and fun way to learn a little bit about the Windy City. The latest exhibits include Sensing Chicago, where kids can

  • catch a fly ball at The Cell,
  • be a Chicago-style hot dog
  • or ride a high-wheel bicycle!

#6. Movies in Chicago’s Parks

A super summertime treat to enjoy from June through to September! 150 of Chicago’s parks get a big screen for a night or two and show 250+ films ranging from old classics to new releases! All movies begin at dusk so bring blankets, cushions and snuggle up beneath the stars! See chicagoparkdistrict.com for the full schedule.

#7. Chicago’s Cool Nature Museum

Outdoor movie nights, museums, beaches and even a zoo- just some of the things on our 10 FREE Fun Things to do in Chicago with Kids! Go out and explore!

Great for rainy days and sunny ones, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has lots of hands-on interactive displays and fun activities to engage the kids! Outside there’s a nature trail around the marsh and river ecosystems while inside, the butterfly sanctuary features thousands of colourful butterflies and birds. Thursdays are free and it’s always free for kids aged 3 and under.

#8. Millennium Park

There’s lots of fun activities in the heart of Chicago at Millennium Park. The kids will love capturing their reflection in The Bean, a giant, bean-shaped silver sculpture in the middle of the park and you will often find live music and dance performances to enjoy. Watch out for the Family Fun Festival that runs from June to August and includes art activities, story time and other great free events.

#9. A Chicago Gem

Outdoor movie nights, museums, beaches and even a zoo- just some of the things on our 10 FREE Fun Things to do in Chicago with Kids! Go out and explore!

Enjoy the fantastic 20-minute water display every hour at the Buckingham Fountain from mid-April to mid-October. One of the largest in the world, it is located in Grant Park and is truly spectacular! The best time to view it is between dusk and 10 p.m. (if the little ones can stay up) as this is when the fountain’s 133 spouting jets are accompanied by music and a stunning light display.

#10. Starved Rock State Park

Breath-taking views and an entertaining mix of hiking trails to suit all abilities await you at Starved Rock State Park. Signage is good with large maps at every intersection so you won’t get lost as you explore the spectacular waterfalls and canyons. This is an entertaining day out with the kids in the fresh open-air with a lovely Visitor Centre and Lodge.

Have you and your family tried any of these super fun things to do in Chicago? Please let us know in the comments below!

If you’re visiting other US cities, you’ll find more great family ideas: