2018 Guide to Free Summer Fun

Posted: May 08, 2018

100 FREE Family Friendly Things to Do This Summer in Chicago and the Suburbs

Summer's almost here, and you can keep your family busy all summer long without draining your kids' college funds! We've updated our annual Guide to FREE Summer Fun with more than 100 ways for you to stay busy this summer... for free! Our Guide covers Chicago and the suburbs, and includes free festivals, activites, and special and ongoing events. Find the best free family events and activities right here!

The list is broken into DESTINATIONS, EVENTS and FESTIVALS.


The 606
Daily 6am - 11pm
Along the Bloomingdale Trail (1800N) between Ashland (1600W) and Ridgeway (3750W)
What was an abandoned rail line is now The 606! Its 2.7 miles of multi-use recreational trail and park is an alternative transportation corridor, a living work of art, and a spectacular new green space for all to enjoy. Set above city streets, this 2.7 mile path offers trails for biking, running and strolling, connecting parks, people, and communities.

Lurie Garden
Daily 6am - 11pm
Southeastern end of Millennium Park, Chicago
Lurie Garden in Millennium Park is an urban oasis. The garden’s design pays homage to Chicago’s transformation from flat marshland to innovative green city. Stroll the beautiful Lurie Garden and see the dramatically lit, 15-foot-high "shoulder" hedge, cross the hardwood footbridge, and be inspired to learn about and enjoy the natural world. Lurie Garden offers free programs for kids and families during the summer months.

Adams Water Playground
1919 N. Seminary Avenue, Chicago
Cool off on a hot day with this Lincoln Park gem that features water play with fountains and sprays that even the tiniest tots can enjoy. The shady playground offers a reprieve from the summer heat.

Garfield Park Conservatory
300 North Central Park Avenue, Chicago
The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in the nation, showcasing thousands of plant species from around the world throughout eight indoor display gardens. Year-round, visitors can enjoy the lush flora and tropical temperatures indoors, or more than 10 acres of outdoor gardens, nature play spaces for children, water lily pond, and much more. Many family programs are offered throughout the year, including free activities, cultural performances, hands-on classes, unique fundraisers, educational demonstrations, and more.

Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago
Stroll the scenic zoo and visit the local animals, and stop by on Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:15 and 10 a.m. at the Main Barn to sing along with Mr. Singer, who delights young audiences with original songs that get the wee ones ages 6 and under dancing and singing.

Skokie Lagoons
Bordered by Lake-Cook, Willow, Edens, and Forest Road
The Skokie Lagoons are a prime destination for water exploration in northern Cook County. This network of pools, channels and islands winds between Winnetka, Northfield and Glencoe. Bring the family for boat access, fishing, biking, picnic areas, hiking, kayaking, birdwatching and more.

Maggie Daley Park
337 E Randolph St, Chicago
Maggie Daley Park offers the Climbing Park with features on the wall for experts and beginners, the Play Garden, an Enchanted Forest with a mirrored maze and kaleidoscope, The Lagoon, The Sea and The Harbor play apparatus for toddlers, a Wave Lawn for recreation for all ages, and a Slide Crater with a spiral slide.

Statue Stories
Multiple Locations around Chicago
Chicago’s most celebrated writers, actors and comedians were commissioned to create monologues for some of the city’s famous statues. Pass a talking statue, look for the nearby sign, and use your smartphone to scan the sign’s QR Code or type the text in your web browser, and presto — you get a call back from John C. Reilly as Abraham Lincoln, Shonda Rhymes as Miró’s Chicago or Steve Carell as a man clutching a giant fish by the Shedd Aquarium.

Millennium Park Crown Fountain
Millennium Park, Michigan Ave. and Monroe, Chicago
Splash around in the Millennium Park Crown Fountain between the two 50-foot glass block towers that project funky facial videos. On a hot day, good luck getting your kids to leave!

Dave's Rock Shop
711 Main St., Evanston
Dave's Rock Shop has something for everyone, with more than just rocks. The shop is filled with all kinds of stones and gems, fossils, crystals, shells, jewelry and Native American finds. Kids can visit the fossil museum in the basement, and entertain themselves at the rock table while you shop for unique jewelry (that part is NOT free!)
Palmisano Park (formerly Stearns Quarry)
2700 S. Halsted St., Chicago
This former quarry offers a fishing pond, interpretive wetlands, preserved quarry walls, trails, an athletic field, a running track, and a hill with spectacular city views. Over 1.7 miles of paths, including recycled timber boardwalks, concrete walks, a crushed stone running path, and metal grating walkways traverse the park.

Emily Oaks Nature Center
4650 Brummel, Skokie
Explore this natural oasis full of native wildflowers, grasses, oak trees, a 3-acre pond and trails, and try to spot native animals like great Great Blue Herons, Coyotes, Flying Squirrels, Northern Water Snakes, Red Foxes and Cooper's Hawks. The nature center offers a variety of free programs for kids.

Des Plaines History Center
781 Pearson Street, Des Plaines
The Des Plaines History Center offers tours of the restored 1906-07 Kinder House. Kids can learn what a stereo viewer is, how to work a boot jack, and why 1907 light fixtures used both gas and electricity. The experience during this interactive tour features hands-on objects that kids can try out for themselves. Tours are available upon request during History Center's regular open hours.

Crabtree Nature Center
3 Stover Road, Barrington
Over a thousand acres of rolling, glacier formed landscape in northwest Cook County has been set aside as Crabtree Nature Center. Teach your kids about "Birding," with more than 260 possible bird species to spot. Take in the self-guided hiking trails and spot ducks, geese and wildflowers. The Nature Center offers a variety of free family-friendly summer events.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago
Thursdays, admission is free with a suggested donation. Get up close and personal with butterflies, search for stick bugs camouflaged on a twig, see small animals and walk along the outdoor nature path.

North Park Village Nature Center
5801 North Pulaski Road, Chicago
This 46-acre nature preserve and educational facility offers trails that wind through woodland, wetland, prairie and savanna. Kids can get hands-on with nature in the discovery room, handling natural objects and learning with interactive displays.

Wildwood Nature Center
529 Forestview Avenue, Park Ridge
Visit Wildwood Nature Center and take a self-guided walk through the five acre nature haven and enjoy the two ponds and butterfly garden. Stop by the Nature Nook, a free, interactive, educational area complete with books, puzzles, puppets, games, and activities. The Animal Exhibit Room is home to over 35 animals, including Ball Python Snakes, Red Tailed Boa Constrictor Snake, Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Prairie Dogs, Soft Shelled Turtles, Aquatic Turtles, Box Turtles, Tiger Salamander, Ferret, Iquana, Tree Frogs and more.

Old Town Aquarium
1538 N Wells Street, Chicago
Little ones are easily entertained in this kid-friendly aquarium store, with dozens of tanks and displays. Kids can get up close to hundreds of beautiful fish and sea life, and see stunning corals, starfish, snails, sea cucumbers and many more exotic water residents.

Chicago Women's Park & Gardens Indoor Play Space
1802 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago
Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens honors the contributions women have made to the city throughout its history and provides a quiet respite for the community. Outside, the park offers a beautiful garden, and indoors is a playground with multi-level play apparatus, a toddler climbing wall, and more.

Kline Creek Farm
1N600 County Farm Road, West Chicago
Step back in time to experience life on a working farm in the 1890s at Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago. Stroll through restored farmstead structures and meet the historically costumed interpreters operating this living history farm using the tools and techniques of the past. Activities and events at the farm re-create the seasonal rhythms that have governed farm life for centuries.

Thorn Creek Nature Center & Preserve
247 Monee Road, Park Forest
Explore over 3 1/2 miles of trails that take you through an oak-hickory woodland, floodplain and scenic ravines and pine plantations. Trails are open daily, the nature center is open Fridays and Sundays from Noon - 4pm. Some of the free kid-friendly events taking place this summer include Insects Abound on June 30 and a Creek Walk for Kids on August 12.

Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State St., Chicago
The Harold Washington Library is an impressive building, hosting free daily events ranging from story hours to engineering and maker events to art activities and more. You'll find events for tiny kids all the way up to teens.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center
419 Trout Farm Road, Bolingbrook
Hunt for animal homes, learn the history of the land, discover items found on the site and visit the nature nook. Visitors can find bluebirds, a raccoon, snakes and many other critters while exploring the nature center lobby. Nature Center highlights include a Discovery Room, Animal Sound and Scent Wall, Habitat Tree and more.

The Oriental Institute Museum
1155 E. 58th St., Chicago
The Oriental Institute Museum on the campus of the University of Chicago is world-renowned showcase for the history, art and archaeology of the ancient Near East, spanning from Egypt to Persia. Each month the museum offers a variety of family programs - some require a small fee but many are free, including Ancient Game Day on June 2 for ages 5-12; Family Program: What's Up King Tut? on July 17 for ages 5-12; and Ubia: Land of the Bow for ages 5-12 on August 14.

Major Taylor Bike Trail
105th St. to 129th St., Chicago
This 6+ mile path was named after legendary African American cyclist Marshall "Major" Taylor, and stretches through several sections of the city and through the neighborhoods of Brainerd, Gresham, Beverly, Morgan Park, Roseland and West Pullman, as well as the Village of Riverdale.

Clark Playlot Park
3400 N. Rockwell St., Chicago
Richard Clark Park comprises nearly 19 acres of greenspace along the east bank of the Chicago River in the North Center neighborhood. At the park you'll find soccer field, the WMS Boat House, and new Kerry Wood Cubs Field. Bring your bikes to The Garden and try out a set of dirt jumps. There are 3 jump lines and a pump track with multiple routes, and terrain for all ages and skill levels.

Chicago Fed's Money Museum
230 S LaSalle St, Chicago
Kids can check out real historical currency and artifacts that tell the story of the United States dollar. There are treasures like a preserved pine tree shilling from colonial America and notes from the U.S. Civil War, and games and simulations that allow you to interact with the roles and responsibilities of the central bank of the United States. Daily guided visits are offered Monday - Friday at 1pm, no reservations are needed.

Wagner Farm
1510 Wagner Road, Glenview
Historic Wagner Farm is one of the last working dairy farms in Cook County. The farm provides a unique opportunity for families to learn about our farming heritage and experience first-hand "the way things used to be." Kids can see cows in the pasture as well as chickens, pigs and draft horses. They can step into an actual two-story silo and see what's going on inside!

National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W. 19th Street, Chicago
Head to Pilsen to see the 10,000-piece permanent collection showcasing Mexican art and culture. Take a gallery tour and check out the Folk Art collection, which includes Día de los Muertos items, masks, figurines, and objects made of low-fire ceramics, papier-mâché, wood and other materials; and the Textile collection which contains over 500 articles of clothing and decorative pieces made in Mexico.

Plum Creek Nature Center
27064 S. Dutton Road, Beecher
The Plum Creek Nature Center offers visitors a place to explore the natural world, with hands-on exhibits in addition to a natural playscape for outdoor educational experiences, featuring a pollinator garden, rain garden, and interactive play elements. Kids can touch feathers and rocks, see animal skulls, and watch the birds. Closed on Mondays.

River Trail Nature Center
3120 Milwaukee Ave, Northbrook
River Trail Nature Center tells the story of native plants and animals that remain in the urban environment, and visitors may walk through sugar maple woods along the river on self-guiding trails, learn of the past and present in the exhibit building, and visit a few of our native animals. Younger children will enjoy River Trail's nature discovery area, where they can climb in an eagle's nest, crawl in a fox den, create their own puppet shows, and more.

31st Street Beach (Burroughs Beach Park)
3100 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago
The 31st Street Beach offers plenty of features to keep kids busy, including a playground with rope structures, a climbing wall and a water spray area, plus slides, swings and more. The new beach house offers concessions where you can pick up hamburgers, hot dogs, salads and other treats.

Lincoln Park Conservatory
2391 N. Stockton Drive, Chicago
Visit a tropical oasis and other floral scenes at this oasis in the hear of the city, located right next to Lincoln Park Zoo. Bring a blanket and treats and enjoy a picnic, then head to the zoo afterwards for a special day.

Heller Nature Center
2821 Ridge Road, Highland Park
Oak-hickory forests, tall grass prairie, oak savanna and natural wetlands are an oasis for native plants and animals at this 97-acre preserve. Visitors can enjoy a picnic in our woodlands, visit our nature exhibit, participate in a program, explore 3 miles of trails, and play in Wander Woods. Wander Woods provides an unstructured play area limited only by the imagination.

Downers Grove Museum
831 Maple Avenue, Downers Grove
Step across the threshold of the Blodgett House for a glimpse of the past. Enter a bygone era when families rested on fainting couches instead of recliners, stored food in iceboxes instead of refrigerators, and entertained themselves with parlor games instead of cyber games. Kids will find a treasure trove of fascinating facts and fun, and can view the museum collections that include everything from buttonhooks to butter paddles, washboards to wedding dresses, and baby frocks to clocks. the Museum hosts free family-friendly events throughout the year.

Phillips Park Zoo
1000 Ray Moses Drive, Aurora
Your family can visit this zoo free and learn about the animals and their way of life. Residents include Reptiles, Bald Eagles, Farmyard anials, Gray Wolves, Cougars, Great Horned Owls, Llamas and Pygmy Goats and more. Don't miss the mastodon bones that were discovered during excavation in the 1930's!

Montrose Beach
4400 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago
Pack your blankets, picnic and frisbees - and bring your dog, too! This is a great family friendly beach where you can enjoy free parking, restroom and grills. An ADA accessible beach walk is available. A dog friendly beach is located at north end of Montrose Beach, and south of the recreational beach is a natural area that attracts migratory birds during the fall and spring seasons. A serene dune habitat has a rare panne habitat and endangered plant life thrives at this location.

Buckingham Fountain
S. Columbus Drive and E. Congress Parkway, Chicago
Through mid-October, see a water show complete with a major light and music show in sync with the water, happening every hour on the hour starting at dusk until 10:45. During the day, the fountain starts at 9am, with a water show every 20 minutes.

Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary
1111 E. Schaumburg Road, Schaumburg
Hike and birdwatch in fields, forests, marshes and streams. Spring Valley is an outdoor living museum, where visitors can learn about nature and local history. Along with exploring, discovering, observing and listening, visitors can take a walk, birdwatch, relax and learn.

Volkening Heritage Farm
201 S. Plum Grove Road, Schaumburg
Step back into the 1880s for a look at when Schaumburg was a rural German farm community. Help with seasonal farm chores, participate in family activities and games of the 1880s or simply visit the livestock and soak in the quiet. Authentically dressed interpreters welcome and guide visitors through the site. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.


Chicago Riverwalk Season Celebration
May 18-20
Downtown Chicago River, Chicago
Celebrate the start of full concession operation at the Chicago Riverwalk with three days of celebration. Friday through Sunday, enjoy a variety of activities including family-friendly fun. Activities include walking tours led by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Fishing at the Jetty led by the Chicago Park District – and a pyrotechnic display on the LaSalle Street, Clark Street, Dearborn Street and State Street bridges.

Family Fun Festival
May 18-20
Millennium Park, Chicago
Celebrate the start of full concession operation at the Chicago Riverwalk with three days of celebration. Friday through Sunday, enjoy a variety of activities inc

Chicago Memorial Day Parade
May 26
State St. from Lake St. to Van Buren, Chicago
Chicago's Memorial Day Parade honors all men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. The Wreath Laying Ceremony will begin at 11am on Daley Plaza (Dearborn and Washington Streets). The parade will then step off at noon and proceed south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street.

606 Block Party
June 23
Humboldt Boulevard between Cortland and Wabansia, Chicago
Now in its fourth year, The 606 Block Party celebrates all that is great in the community. Kick off the day with a pancake breakfast, then enjoy hands-on activities from dozens of community organizations, food, musical entertainments and dozens of community processions. As usual, the day will conclude with a DIY Illuminated Procession.

Wild Wednesdays
Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 North Central Park Avenue, Chicago
Year-round on Wednesdays, 4-7pm
From May-September, the program takes place outdoor in the Play and Grow Garden where kids can get a little wild as they climb on our tinker tree, build a fort, dig in our pebble pool and run around. Kids can also help grow the own edible garden and conduct experiments to better understand nature

Wednesdays on the Green
Wednesdays June 6 - August 22, 7pm
Next to the Library at 5125 Oakton Street, Skokie
Celebrate Downtown Skokie and enjoy some great family entertainment in the process, with 12 nights of free fun right in the heart of the village. Special family performances include Super Stolie on June 20; Animal Farm Band on July 18; and on August 15 it's Kidz Bop Dance Night with Classy Clown.

Critter Connection
Saturdays at 10:15am
Wildwood Nature Center, 529 Forestview Avenue, Park Ridge
Every Saturday at 10:15 am, get up close to a Wildwood animal. Kids will learn about the featured animal, and be able to pet it. Then take a self-guided walk through the five acre nature haven and enjoy the two ponds and butterfly garden. Stop by the Nature Nook, a free, interactive, educational area complete with books, puzzles, puppets, games, and activities.

Green City Market
1790 N. Clark, Chicago
Wednesdays and Saturdays May through October 7am to 1pm.
Bring your blanket and plan for a picnic, after shopping for fresh produce and foods - and even some ready-to-eat specialties - at this bustling market right by the zoo.

Navy Pier Fireworks
600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
Wednesdays and Saturdays May 26 - September 1
Enjoy a spectacular Fireworks display at Navy Pier every Wednesday at 9:30pm and Saturday at 10:15pm through September 1. The biweekly Aon Summer Fireworks shows occur on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Be sure to check the schedule for additional shows added throughout the year.

Storytime at Open Books
651 W. Lake St., Chicago
Thursdays and Saturdays at 10am
Join us at 10 am every Thursday and Saturday for Storytime with Ms. Nancy and friends at our Open Books West Loop location. Come for the Books and Songs stay for the Memories!

Home Depot Free Kids Workshops
Home Depot Free Kids Workshops
First Saturday of the month, 9am - noon
On the first Saturday of each month from 9pm - noon, Home Depot stores offer free workshops for kids ages 5-12. Kids will take part in fun projects like building toolboxes, fire trucks and mail organizers, learning do-it-yourself skills and tool safety. Participants receive a kid-sized orange apron and an achievement pin. Registration is suggested.

What's on the Menu?
River Trail Nature Center, 3120 Milwaukee Ave, Northbrook
Every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm, kids can stop by for the free event, "What's on the Menu?" The event takes place at feeding time, and kids can join in to learn about the display animals and their unique habits.

Summer Concert Series
Willow Stream Park, 651 Old Checker Road, Buffalo Grove
Tuesdays June 26 - August 7 (no concert July 4)
Most concerts from 7-8:30pm; special times on July 17 (6:30-8:30) and August 7 (6-8). This free outdoor concert series features a lineup including The Neverly Brothers, Billy Elton, Sway Chicago and more.

Maxwell Street Market
Sundays, 7am - 3pm
800 S. Desplaines St., Chicago
The Maxwell Street Market is a Chicago tradition of bargains and bargaining with an international flavor. The market offers an eclectic mix of merchandise—from tools to tires, plus fresh produce, furniture, clothing, rare finds and collectible - and some of the best Mexican and Latin street food in Chicago.

Millennium Park Summer Music Series
Most Mondays and Thursdays at 6:30pm, June 18 - August 16
Pritzker Pavilion, Michigan Avenue between Randolph/Monroe, Chicago
Pack a picnic and head to this popular music series that features a wide variety of genre-defying music from top local, national and international artists - both established and emerging.

Smart Museum of Art Family Days
5550 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago
First Saturdays from 1-4pm
Drop in for a free hands-on art activity this summer on first Saturdays between 1 and 4pm, with programs that encourage children and parents to engage in some creative looking. This summer's programs include Finger Painting on June 2; Wacky Waterworks on July 7; and Little Statues, Big Fun on August 4.

Chicago SummerDance
Thursdays - Sundays, June 28 - August 25 at Grant Park and neighborhood parks throughout the city
Come join us this summer as the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park blossoms into an urban dance space. Dance to the sounds of 48 different live bands + DJs and get into step with dance lessons beforehand. Glide across the restored 4,900-square-foot, 100 percent recycled, open-air dance floor designed by Chicago artist Dan Peterman.

Free Family Night at Chicago Children's Museum
Thursday Evenings 5pm – 8pm and First Sundays
Navy Pier - 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
Target Free Family Nights offer free admission for all visitors from 5-8pm. Free First Sundays offers free admission for visitors 15 and under. Check out exhibits like the Dinosaur Exhibition, WaterWays and the Tinkering Lab.

Crafty Sundays at Cat and Mouse Game Store
Sundays 10am - noon
1112 W. Madison, Chicago
Cat & Mouse's West Loop location offers a free drop-in craft event on Sundays from 10am – 12pm. Kids ages 3-8 and their parents can stop in to make something fun together. Details on each week's activity are available on the Facebook page.

Summer Nights Classic Car Show
Fridays May 25 - August 31
Curtiss Street and Main Street, Downers Grove
Each Friday night from 6 - 9pm, see a different selection of pre-1985 classic cars that will line Main Street from Maple to Franklin. Families can view the cars, and enjoy live entertainment at the Main Street Train Station.

Kidical Mass Family Bike Rides
Multiple dates, multiple neighborhoods
Kidical Mass is a national movement to encourage families to ride bicycles for transportation, exercise and fun, with festive dress and decorations encouraged! Locations take place in multiple locations in the Chicago area, see the web site for details and schedules.

Highwood Wednesday Evening Gourmet Markets
Wednesdays June 6 - August 29 4:30-9:30 pm
Everts Park, 130 Highwood Ave., Highwood
This family and pet friendly event features live music, dancing under the stars, freshly prepared delicacies from local restaurants and food trucks, and creative cocktails. Attendees can shop for locally made artisan breads, sauces, cheeses, pastas and sweets in addition to handmade jewelry, fashion and art.

Summer Film Series
Tuesdays, June 5 - August 21 at 6:30pm
Millennium Park Jay Pritzker Pavilion
On Tuesdays, June 5-August 21 at 6:30pm, film lovers can take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or spread out a blanket on the Great lawn to watch your favorite films on a state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen. The series is co-curated by DCASE and the Millennium Park Foundation. Before each feature film, the ChicagoMade Shorts program will screen an original work by a locally-based filmmaker.

Cantigny Park Kids' Concerts
1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton
Family concerts take place select Sundays, with this year's performances including Miss Jamie's Farm at 11am on June 10 and ScribbleMonster on July 1. Concerts are free but parking fee applies ($10)

Lurie Garden Free Programs
Millennium Park's Lurie Garden, 280 E. Monroe, Chicago
Some all ages, drop-in events include Raptors! on June 12, July 10 and August 14; Wildlife! on June 26 and July 24; and Fruit Bats and More on August 28. And "Art in the Garden" program takes place on several dates, for families with children ages 2-8, showing them how to capture the beauty of nature through art.

Make Music Chicago
June 21
Various locations
Take part in this global music-making festival on the Summer Solstice, where musicians of all ages and skill levels can join in these neighborhood celebrations, taking place all around the city. People of all ages can play together all day long, for free. Learn more on the website.

Play Days at the Farm
Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10am - noon
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago
Early learners and join Play Assistants for hands-on nature play activities at the Farm-in-the-Zoo. From sorting pinecones to digging in smooth seeds, 1-5 year olds and their caregivers can explore the sights, smells and textures that nature has to offer in a free, open-ended experience. Take in a tall tale at story time, get messy at the process art station, and sift and scoop at the sensory bin.

Wicker Park Farmers Market
Sundays 8am - 2pm, June 3 - October 28
Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen Ave., Chicago
Local vendors will be offering all the best in handmade and homegrown, with fresh fruits and veggies, baked goods, meats, cheeses, and flowers. Kids and adults can learn about the food we eat from the farm to our table, straight from the farmer’s mouth.

Family Sundays
Sundays 2pm - 2pm
National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 West 19th Street, Chicago
The Museum’s Education Department offers year-round family days for every exhibition. Families participate in gallery tours and create art together during these fun and engaging sessions.

Jelly Belly Warehouse Tour
Daily, every 15 minutes
10100 Jelly Belly Lane, Pleasant Prairie, WI
Not quite in Chicago, but not too far of a drive! Take a free group tour of the Jelly Belly Warehouse. No reservations necessary, tours take place every 10-15 minutes. Kids can take a ride on the Jelly Belly Express to learn how Jelly Belly jelly beans are made; and experience a stop at Jelly Belly Station, an all new interactive area with games, sampling, exhibits, and videos to show you some of the company’s history. Fun for all ages, and of course there are free samples!

Night Observation
Dearborn Observatory, 2131 Tech Drive, Evanston
The Dearborn Observatory is open for public observing with the historic 18.5" refracting telescope every Friday night from 9-11pm. Tours book up well in advance, so plan ahead - or from 10-11pm, walk-ins are welcome. Please note that the observatory is not ADA accessible, and also does not have heat or AC, so plan accordingly.

Monthly LEGO Mini Build
The LEGO Store at Water Tower, 835 N Michigan Ave #3000, Chicago
This is a free event for LEGO VIP members, for kids ages 6-14. It is free to become a VIP! Every month, you can register for a time slot to create a different model that you can keep. The mini model must be completely built in store. Registration starts the 15th of the prior month, and space is limited, so sign up early!

The Poetry Foundation, 61 West Superior Street, Chicago
Every Wednesday from 10-10:30 AM, the Poetry Foundation Library welcomes children ages two to five to a weekly storytime event that introduces poetry through fun, interactive readings and crafts.

Saturday Jams
Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 West Armitage Avenue, Chicago
Held Saturdays from 12:00 – 1:00 PM in the Concert Hall. Jam with students and teachers from the Kids Music Program! All instruments, voices, and levels of players are welcome and encouraged. This jam is great for teaching and learning with folks of all ages. The Saturday Jam is a comfortable space for young folks discovering new instruments, songs, and styles. Come share your tunes, sing, and dance with us.


Long Grove Chocolate Fest
May 18-20
Old McHenry Rd & Robert Parker Coffin Rd, Long Grove
Historic Downtown Long Grove’s quintessential festival kicks off the season each year with three days dedicated to old-world charms, family frills and delicious chocolate. Children can roam the village in search of chocolate treasures (during the Chocolate Scavenger Hunt), and at the Kid Zone they can enjoy throwback fun with activities like pie-eating contests, potato sack races, dancing and a bubble show. Admission is free for kids 12 and under; $5 for age 13 and up.

Lincoln Park Greek Fest
June 1-3
2701 N. Sheffield, Chicago
Authentic Greek cuisine, music, dance performances, kids' activities and, of course, Hellenic culture and pride are celebrated at this lively annual happening on Sheffield Avenue outside of St. George Greek Orthodox Church. 5:00-11:00 p.m. on Friday; Noon-11:00 p.m. on Saturday; Noon-10:00 p.m. on Sunday. Kids 12 and under are free/not asked for a donation. Donations benefit St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

Andersonville Midsommarfest
June 8-10; Friday, 5-10 pm; Saturday & Sunday, 11 am-10 pm
Andersonville, 5200-5500 N. Clark St., Chicago
Midsommarfest is the annual street festival along Clark Street between Foster and Catalpa for two days and three nights of music, dancing, kids’ entertainment, and delicious food. Vendors from around the region sell their wares to passersby, local shops and restaurants welcome the warm season with specials and sales, and dance troupes, DJs, and longtime favorite bands keep the party going. Free for kids ages 12 and under, with a suggested donation is $10 for ages 13 and up.

34th Annual Chicago Blues Festival
June 8-10
Millennium Park, Chicago
The Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world and remains the largest of Chicago's Music Festivals. During three days on four stages, blues fans enjoy free live music in the "Blues Capital of the World." Past performers include Bonnie Raitt, the late Ray Charles, the late B.B. King, the late Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, the late Koko Taylor, Shemekia Copeland, Gary Clark Jr, Rhiannon Giddens, Lil Ed and the Imperials and Bobby Rush.

Wells Street Art Festival
June 10-11
Wells Street between North Avenue and Division, Chicago
This early summer art extravaganza is recognized as one of Chicago's most popular art fairs, attracting artists and art aficionados from the Midwest and beyond. There is a Childrens' Play Area, a fun, interactive space for kids to do arts & craft, participate in a performance, or just goof off! The children's play area is located at the corner of Wells Street and Evergreen Street. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday; 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. on Sunday. $10 donation benefits the Old Town Merchants & Residents Association. Kids 12 and under are free/not asked for a donation.

Custer Fair
June 16-17
600 Main St., Evanston
From the historic Main St. and Chicago Ave. store buildings to the tree lined Washington St. residential area you can find places to please. Over 300 local and regional artists, craftspeople, and commercial vendors come together over Father's Day weekend to exhibit and sell paintings, ceramics, pottery, photographs, jewelry, graphic arts, wearable art, country and home craft, antiques and collectables. The entertainment at Custer Fair amazes and delights on three stages, and the Arena Stage features theatre, music, and novelty performers from Chicagoland.

Swedish Days Festival
June 19-24
S. Third Street & W. State Street (Route 38), Geneva
Come fest at one of the Best of the West - Swedish Days, Geneva's Midsommar Festival! The whole family will enjoy fabulous food, carnival rides, live music & entertainment nightly, plus Sweden Väst, our tent that's everything Swedish. Free admission, fees for some activities.

Long Grove Strawberry Fest
June 22-24
Old McHenry Rd & Robert Parker Coffin Rd, Long Grove
Savor strawberry inspired treats and enjoy live music and fun-filled family activities including pony rides, face painting, kiddie rides and more. Rides may require ticket purchase. Admission is free for kids 12 and under; $5 for age 13 and up.

Evanston Chamber Artisan SummerFest
June 23-24
Church & Sherman, Downtown Evanston
An eclectic mix of art is the centerpiece of this late June happening that also happens to be the North Shore’s oldest fine arts fair. It showcases the works of more than 100 juried artists. The fest also features craft beers, food, smile-inducing street musicians and performers, and fun activities for both kids and families. Kids 12 and under are free/not asked for a donation.

Windy City Ribfest in Uptown
June 29-July 1
Lawrence & Broadway (Uptown), Chicago
It’s a saucy summer happening! From tasty slabs (and sides) to a smokin’ music lineup, this pre-Fourth of July party in the eclectic Uptown neighborhood brings its A-game on when it returns for its 10th anniversary year. Beyond the flavorful offerings of top local and national ribbers and cool summer tunes, this popular three-day fest also features arts & crafts plus an activity area for kids and families. Kids 12 and under are free/not asked for a donation.

Glenview Summerfest
June 30
Lehigh Avenue and Jackman Park
Featuring live music, great sales, and fun activities, Glenview’s annual Summer Fest welcomes families and friends to Lehigh Avenue and Jackman Park in Glenview. Crowd favorites include Hackney’s, Scandinavian Ski Shop and Katy Boldt Jewelry, as well as the Glenview Fire Department’s fire pole and special entertainment and kid friendly activities. You’ll also find balloons, crafts, and maybe even puppies. 9:00am - 3:30pm.

Roscoe Village Burger Fest
July 14-15
Belmont & Damen, Chicago
More than a dozen local restaurants will be throwing the tastiest party around when Roscoe Village BurgerFest returns for its 10th mouth watering anniversary. The Fun Filled Kids' Zone features a large arts and craft tent with activities as an instruments petting zoo, stamping/stenciling, face paintings, fish bowl collages, tote decorating and tattoos. For the older kids there will be outdoor basketball hoops, rock climbing, yoga, miniture golf, jousting, a 35 foot slide, and hockey and soccer workshops. Kids 12 and under are free/not asked for a donation.

Chinatown Summer Fair
July 15
2200-2400 S. Wentworth Avenue, Chicago
This iconic event is one of the most ethnically unique outdoor events in Chicago and the Midwest. Attracting more than 40,000 people from throughout the region, Chinatown Summer Fair is a true celebration of Far East beauty and culture including food, art and music. This neighborhood street festival will open with a lion dance procession at 12:30 p.m., a welcome at 1 p.m. on the main stage, followed by Asian performances, kung fu demonstrations, samplings from Chinatown’s restaurants & unique gift shops, arts & crafts exhibits, street vendors with an array of merchandise, a children’s area with pony rides and petting zoo.

North Shore Taco Fest & Highwood Days
July 19-22
Highwood Metra Station | 317 Green Bay Rd., Highwood
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Highwood’s oldest festival. Complete with carnival rides, funnel cakes, live music and tons of food from local vendors. The region’s best taco-centric restaurants, caterers and food trucks will offer a wide range of mouth-watering taco creations. Additional fee for carnival rides. Thursday 4-10pm, Friday 4-11pm, Saturday 1pm-11pm, and Sunday 1pm-9pm.

Sheffield Music Festival & Garden Walk
July 21-22
2200 N. Sheffield Avenue, Chicago
In addition to live music, more than 100 of the neighborhood's lush residential gardens will be open for the public to explore. There are both self-guided garden tours, and guided architecture tours. The weekend also includes food and, for children and families, the Kids' Corner with entertainment and activities. Admission to Kids' Corner is free, but attractions are fee-based. Kids 12 and under are free/not asked for a donation. Noon-10:00 p.m. both days.

50th Anniversary Sugar Grove Corn Boil
July 26-29
Volunteer Park, 85 S. Main St, Sugar Grove
This festival features a carnival with fun and thrills for all ages, live music, a 5k Walk, Corn Boil Cooking Challenge, Medallion Hunt and more. The Carnival runs all four days and requires additional ticket purchase.

Taste of Lincoln Avenue
July 28-29
North Lincoln Avenue between Fullerton & Wrightwood, Chicago
The Kids' Carnival at the Taste of Lincoln Avenue is a block-long fest within the street festival that provides fun for families with children toddler age to elementary age. From noon to six on Saturday and Sunday, kids can enjoy a range of activities that include inflatable slides or jumpy houses, face painting, games (and prizes!) and much more. There is also a stage full of live kid-friendly entertainment where a variety of acts – from singers, to magicians, to puppeteers – perform all afternoon long. Admission to the Kids’ area is free from Halsted street only, if you decide to go through the other entrances, a donation will be requested.

Jeff Fest
August 3-5
Jefferson Memorial Park, 4900 Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Get down to great tunes, tasty foods, family fun and more at the 18th annual summer happening that is Jeff Fest. Beyond music and food, the Kids’ Zone area on the north side of the park features a ton of cool activities for families. It’s also where one will find the fest’s groovin’ “Community Stage” with eclectic acts ranging from Polynesian dancers and Irish cloggers to local bands and more. 5-10pm Friday, 2-10pm Saturday, 2-9pm Sunday. $5 gate donation; Kids 12 and under are free/not asked for a donation.

Art at the Glen Town Center
August 4-5, 10am - 5pm
Along Patriot Blvd, Glenview
The Glen Town Center will transform into an outdoor cultural experience for people to enjoy original art, an array of shopping and dining options as well as live performances by the renowned Marriott Theater. Kids can enjoy a special area designated just for them with interactive games and activities, including art scavenger hunts throughout the weekend.

Ginza Holiday 2018
August 10-12
Midwest Buddhist Temple, 435 W. Menomonee St., Chicago
Ginza Holiday Festival is a summer event featuring Japanese food, culture and entertainment. Ginza visitors will enjoy delicious food including our famous Chicken Teriyaki and experience performances of cultural arts such as Japanese Folk dance as well as Taiko drumming. A truly special feature of Ginza is the Waza, an organization of Japanese artisans who have mastered traditional crafts handed down through generations dating back to Japan’s Edo period. (Admission info for 2018 is not yet posted, but in past years there has been a $5 donation for adults, and children under 12 are free)

Family Kite Festival
August 11
Berens Park, 493 Oaklawn Ave., Elmhurst
From 11am - 2pm, soar to new heights at this year's Kite Fest! Free kids' kite building, a family fun fly, candy drop and stunts and tricks by professional flyers will keep your eyes on the skies. Sponsored by Edward-Elmhurst Health and Courts Plus.

Chicago Air & Water Show
August 18-19
North Avenue Beach, Chicago
The Chicago Air and Water Show presented by Shell Oil Products U.S. and the City of Chicago is the largest FREE show of its kind in the United States. The show can be viewed along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach as the focal point. 10am - 3pm.

Port Clinton Art Festival and Taste of Highland Park
August 30 - September 2
Central Ave. between First and Second Streets
This year's 12th Annual Taste of Highland Park will run in conjunction with the 35th Port Clinton Art Festival in the heart of Downtown Highland Park. This event will feature local Highland Park restaurants, live entertainment all day long, and 300 artists selling original work in the Port Clinton Art Festival. Taste dozens of different cuisine, groove to your favorite songs, and be enlightened by the original art of artists from around the world. Friday 5-10pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-6pm.

Chicago Jazz Festival
August 30-September 2
Millennium Park, Chicago
Known for its artistic creativity, the Chicago Jazz Festival is a favorite Labor Day Weekend tradition. It promotes awareness and appreciation for all forms of jazz through free, quality live musical performance. Since 1979, the festival's mission is to showcase Chicago's vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educate a jazz audience of all ages.

Festival de La Villita
September 7-9
Plaza Garabaldi, 2700 W. 26th Street, Chicago
The fest coincides with the Fiestas Patrias family of patriotic holidays held each year in Mexico. More specifically, this wildly popular family-friendly happening celebrates Mexico’s independence from Spanish rule in September of 1810. Festival de La Villita (aka Little Village Fest) offers something for everyone: top local and regional music acts and entertainment, the fantastic food of neighborhood eateries, carnival rides and more.

Lakeview Taco Fest
September 15-16
Southport and Addison, Chicago
The glorious taco will again be celebrated (along with seasonal brews) at wildly popular happening in the bustling Southport Corridor. More than a dozen restaurants will be selling both traditional and imaginatively stuffed tortillas. Also features beer and taco pairings, two music stages, lucha libre (Mexican wrestlers), a kids' activity area and artisans. $10 suggested donation, kids 12 and under free. 11am - 10pm.