School's Out, School's Out, Teacher let the Monkey's out! I so remember this "Chant" from my school days and it bought back memories. Now what to do with the kiddos this summer? I know for our area and many areas in Chicago Area, Day Camp at Park Districts and more are at least $120/wk per child. Our family would have to pay $360 per week for our boys to attend. That is soo not in the budget. We are going to create our own "Day Camp" and "Family Fun" this summer with FREE and Cheap activities in and around Chicago area! You all know me, I can't keep good deals to myself, so here are the FREE and Cheap activities that I am considering.
I will start with some National Programs for all:
FREE or Cheap Summer Movie Events:
Cinemark Movie Theatres will have the Summer Movie Clubhouse. Movies are shown on Wednesday at 10am. You can purchase a 10 movie Punch Card for $5 or pay $1 per show. The rates are per person.
Regal Movie Theatres have the Summer Movie Express. Movies are shown Tuesday and Wednesday at 10am. Cost is $1 per person per movie.
Classic Cinemas has Wednesday Morning Movie Series. Movies are $1 per person per movie.
Marcus Theatres has the Summer Movie Series. $2 movies on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from June 18th until August 15th.
Check here for more National Movie Theatres and their Summer Movie Programs.
Kids Bowl Free is a wonderful site that lists many "Independent" Bowling Alleys in all 50 states. Sign your child up and they get 2 FREE games a day. Shoe rental is not included, but usually inexpensive.
AMF Bowling has a FREE Bowling program for kids also. Sign your child(ren) up and they receive 2 games a day through Sept 2nd. You can also do as I did and pay $34.95 up front and get an Adults Bowling Pass. The pass allows up to 4 adults to bowl FREE along with the kids. Shoe rental is not included for neither Children or Adults at AMF, but is inexpensive.
Brunswick Bowl has a FREE Bowling Program. Sign your child(ren) up and they receive 1 FREE game each day through August. Shoe rental is Extra.
Free Roller Skating:
Kids Skate Free is still a little new, but has quite a few locations throughout the USA. You can register at the location nearest you and each facility runs the program independently.
Summer Reading Programs:
Barnes and Noble reading program: Print out the log from HERE and have your child(ren) read 8 books. The child(ren) will get a FREE book from B&N once list is complete.
Half Price Books: Feed Your Brain is the Half Price Books Reading program Children need to read at least 15 minutes a day and 300 minutes per month during June and July, turn in form and receive a $5 GC for Half Price Books. Each child can earn $5 per month.
Books A Million: Children will receive a FREE Carl Hiaasen Hoot or Chomp Backpack(while supplies last)when they read 6 books from the list BAM provides!
Check your local Library to see if they have a Reading Program going for the summer. Most libraries have a FUN program each year!
The Chicagoland area, especially the City of Chicago, have many fun and FREE or Cheap Summer Activities for both kids and families.
FREE Family Fun Festival at Millennium Park begins June 17-August 18. Check out the info and Schedule HERE. We went to this a couple summers ago and it was soo much fun! My boys LOVED it!
Lincoln Park Zoo is FREE year round, although parking can cost a "pretty penny". GREAT zoo to visit and have fun at.
Brookfield Zoo has a cost associated with it. You can visit your library in the City of Chicago and in the Suburbs and get a Pass that allows for FREE admission for a limited number of people in the family. Our family buys a yearly membership which not only allows for unlimited FREE admission but also FREE parking. We live only 5 minutes from the Zoo, so the cost is worth it because it pays for itself in 2 visits.
The Cosley Zoo is a small Zoo located in Wheaton, IL. The cost is FREE for kids 17 and under, $5 for Adults and FREE for residents of Wheaton. Check out the Cosley Zoo HERE.
Museums around the City:
Museums very rarely have FREE days in the summer. Residents of the City of Chicago can get FREE admission to most of the City Museums using the Kids Museum Passport. Each pass generally admits 4 people FREE and one must be an adult over 18. Some passes have different restrictions.
Suburban residents can visit their local library to see if they are a participant in the Museum Adventure Pass. Many different Museums are included and most passes are valid for Buy 2 get 2 FREE admissions. Check the Restrictions for the Museums HERE.
The Chicago LakeFront has many Beaches and FREE swimming available. For a listing of Chicago Beaches and locations check HERE.
The Cook County Forest Preserves have 3 Aquatic Centers. There is a small FEE for these attractions, but it is very inexpensive. Adults (12 and up) are $6, and kids 4-12 are $4, 3 and under are FREE. Check out the locations and more info HERE.
I found a really nice listing of Aquatic Centers all around Chicagoland HERE. The Aquatic Centers do have an admission price and each varies by location. The listing covers many areas of Chicagoland! Many Suburban Park Districts have turned their "Pool" into AWESOME Aquatic Centers, so check the Park District websites. Also, if you are looking for an indoor Pool fun there are a few around Chicagoland. A favorite of my family is the Oak Brook Park District Aquatic Center. My oldest has Asthma and the heat and humidity make him have Asthma attacks, so we enjoy the indoor locations for his benefit. My boys and I are like "fish in the water" and we LOVE swimming!
I grew up in the City of Chicago and moved to the Suburbs when I got married. I didn't realize until I got to the suburbs that the Forest Preserves have soo much more to offer then just "Picnic Areas". The only time I went to the Forest Preserves growing up was for Picnics. I have since discovered the Nature Centers and Programs the Forest Preserves have to offer.
Here are the websites for the different Forest Preserves in and near Chicagoland.
Cook County Forest Preserves
DuPage County Forest Preserves
Will County Forest Preserves
Kane County Forest Preserves
Lake County Forest Preserves
Forest Park Nature Center(Peoria Park District)
North Park Nature Center(Chicago)
Check them out for FREE or Frugal Family Fun for the summer.
I also discovered a couple of Nature Centers within Park Districts in the Chicago Area. Lake View Nature Center in Oak Brook Terrace and Lake Katherine in Palos Heights both have Wild Wednesdays. The events are FREE and are on a drop in basis. No registration required. Check out the websites for more details on the program. Summer Time Nature Fun is a wonderful thing!!
Library Fun: Check your local Library for FUN activities like Movie Days, Story Time, Arts and Craft time and much more. Libraries are a GREAT resource for FREE family fun, including Family Game Night a couple times a month.
More places to find ideas for Family Fun and Family Activities:
Pinterest: I tried so hard not to get pulled into Pinterest but about a year ago I get "reeled in" and I LOVE IT! I have found many great ideas on Pinterest. I even have a Summer Fun Board.
A GREAT resource for Chicagoland parents is Chicago Parent Magazine. The magazine comes out monthly in libraries in both the City and Suburbs. The magazine publishes a calendar in the back of each monthly edition with Family Fun activities all around Chicagoland. 4x a year(one for every season) they put a special edition called Going Places. It is a BIG listing of their monthly calendar of events. Check out the website and pick up a copy of the monthly magazine and the Summer Edition of Going Places for some GREAT listings of Family Fun. (not all events listed are FREE, but many are). I LOVE Chicago Parent magazine, it is a GREAT resource year round! Do a google search if you live in another state, near a BIG city. I know cities like Dallas, New York and others have a "Parent Magazine", like the sister magazine to Chicago Parent.
Chicago Kids is a GREAT online Resource to find fun and activities for Kids and Families.
Our family also loves Summer Time Fairs and Festivals. Neighborhoods, Towns, Cities and more have some fun Fairs and Festivals. We really like some of those that "take us back in time" like Old Fashioned Days, Cival War Days, etc. Make sure to check local towns, cities and neighborhoods for local Festivals and Fairs. Also, many towns and villages have "Downtown Fun" nights once a week. Check your own neighborhood for Family Fun events.
I hope you and your family have a WONDERFUL summer! The important thing is not the amount of money you spend on your children, but the amount of time spent creating memories and having fun!
HAVE A HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE!