Free And Fun Family Things To Do
There’s family fun at every turn in the Chicago Southland, but planning an itinerary with the kiddos can get expensive. Here we offer ten fun family things to do that won’t cost you a dime.
1) Nature Centers
Take time to visit one of the area nature centers to explore the outdoors, take part in free programming, participate in physical activities and see indoor exhibits on local wildlife, natural history and ecology. Check out the nature centers in the area here!
Hundreds of festivals and events happen throughout the year in the Chicago Southland. Visit our online events calendar for the latest list of fun to be had - from fireworks to holiday celebrations to parades where you can be entertained for free.
3) Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanical Gardens
Spend some time at this 158-acre natural site highlighted by the beautiful lake, waterfall and botanical gardens. It includes part of the Calumet-Sag Canal, Navajo Creek, forested areas, prairies, an arboretum and over three miles of hiking trails.
Map out a couple days to make your way around to one of the hundreds of community parks in the Chicago Southland and peruse the playgrounds. Make it into a fun contest with the kids and let them rate the parks to find their favorite. Pack a frisbee, a soccer ball and a kite for making the most of large open green spaces.
Between the forest preserve districts, local parks and waterways in the Chicago Southland, you’ll find dozens of locations to slow down and throw a pole in the water. Pack a picnic lunch and spend a day making memories. Find a list of local fishing spots here!
6) Bike trails
Bring your bikes and spend time pedaling away with the family. Besides many scenic downtown communities that you can ride around, you’ll find miles of uninterrupted, paved paths to glide along. For a list of trails, click here. If you’re looking for some adventure riding and more challenging terrain, visit Big Marsh Bike Park.
7) See the Murals
If you love to take in public art, you’ll find murals galore throughout the region including at the Art Garden of Palos Heights, along Lincoln Highway and on the sides of various buildings and businesses. In Homewood, you can take a self-guided tour of the large Richard Haas illusion murals. Most of them can be viewed if driving by car, so it can also be done on a cold or rainy day, but they can be best appreciated by seeing them fully up-close. Find out more about murals in the area here.
8) Local Historical Museums
You can learn so much about the area by visiting a number of the local historical museums that are run by passionate volunteers and usually open to the public at no charge. You’ll find them in rooms in libraries and in historical buildings - loaded with vintage items and priceless pieces that are intertwined with settlement and the early days of area communities.
9) Family photo shoot
Pack the tripod and pull out your favorite outfits and plan a day getting family shots around the Chicago Southland. Beautiful backdrops can be found at parks, lakes, gardens, farms and nature preserves or in front of vintage buildings like the Ford Hangar in Lansing.
9) The Shrine of Christ’s Passion
Plan to spend at least a couple hours on the paths of this multimedia, interactive half-mile prayer trail that depicts the last days of Jesus Christ’s life, featuring 40 life-sized bronze sculptures and dramatic landscaped gardens that look and feel like the Holy Land.
10) Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park
You’ll marvel at the creativity shown in this collection of 30 master works of large-scale sculpture art located on the campus of Governors State Museum. This museum in the prairie is open for public viewing 365 days a year.
At a Windy City ThunderBolts baseball game, kids age 3 and under are free and if you happen to be a vet or active military your ticket is free on Wednesday. Seniors are also free on Wednesdays, so bring the grandparents along. On Tuesday nights tickets and hot dogs are just $2.