In times like these, it is costly to drive far and pay hefty admissions. I don't like to deny my children from having experiences that help increase the amount of background knowledge that they can obtain. Like most mothers, I think it is better to shop smarter. Many activities that cost a lot throughout the week have free days or free options. Here are some of my top picks. Expose your child to everything you can; it will ultimately help them in the future!


The Chicago History Museum is a privately endowed, independent institution devoted to collecting, interpreting, and presenting the rich multicultural history of Chicago and Illinois, as well as selected areas of American history, to the public through exhibitions, programs, research collections, and publications.

Looking for free days? Every Monday is FREE!

Visit http://www.chicagohistory.org  for special events, parking information, or interesting activities for your children to learn more about history at home


The Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Pkwy
Chicago, IL 
(773) 755-5100
http://www.naturemuseum.org

Thursdays are suggested donation days


Concerts in the Park

It's winter in Chicago, come out and enjoy it. The Park District hosts a number of events throughout the winter months to keep you busy. From the Polar Adventure Days series at Northerly Island (in January & February), to outdoor happenings at the North Park Village Nature Center, there is fun to be had outside this season. If you prefer a warmer setting, visit the Garfield and Lincoln Park conservatories where there is always something going on.

We invite you and your family to join in on the fun. We hope to see you in the parks
http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/events.home.cfm


Adler Planitarium

Visit the website for latest updates: Adler Planetarium


Field Museum

Location: The Field Museum – 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605 
The Field Museum is offering 52 days a year when basic admission is FREE!

  • Target Free Second Mondays The Field Museum is pleased to announce Target Free Second Mondays. Target’s sponsorship is making it possible for The Field Museum to offer FREE basic admission on the second Monday of each month.

http://www.fieldmuseum.org/CalendarSystem/Event_home.asp


Lincoln Park Zoo

Open Every Day and Always Free!

Website: http://lpzoo.com


Museum of Science and Industry

There are always new things to do and see at the Museum of Science and Industry.  Prepare for your visit by checking out their fun and interactive exhibits and experiences. You can plan your visit by going to their website and planning your trip before you go!
http://www.msichicago.org


Metropolis

111 W. Campbell St.,
Arlington Heights, Il 60005

Not free, but fun and group discounts are available.

http://www.metropolisarts.com/index.php/content/allshows.html


Chicago Children's Museum

Target Free First Mondays - Starting May 3, 2009, Target Free First Mondays becomes Target Free First Sundays! Check back soon for details. 
CCM is proud to partner with Target to present Target Free First Mondays the first Monday of every month, when children ages 15 and younger receive free museum admission all day long. On Target Free First Mondays, CCM will offer special reading activities and performances for families—all created to connect learning to play and instill an early appreciation for reading. 
Kraft Free Family Night
Thursday evenings: 5-8pm
Free admission for everyone.

  • Chicago Children's Museum is proud to partner with Kraft Foods to present Kraft Free Family Night, every Thursday evening from 5-8pm, when families can enjoy the entire museum free of charge. Each year, more than 55,000 participants are enriched by the cultural, interactive, and family-oriented programs offered during Kraft Free Family Night

Location: Chicago Children's Museum - 700 E. Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611

Cost: Free


Barnes & Noble Booksellers (Clybourn)

A Weekly Treat for Baby Bookworms

Ongoing at Barnes & Noble Booksellers (Clybourn)

We all know you’re probably a whiz kid when it comes to narrating the classics by everyone from Laura Numeroff to Eric Carle. Nevertheless, you’re denying your tykes a Monday morning treat if you don’t take them to Picture Book Storytime for Infants at Barnes & Noble Booksellers’ Clybourn location. There’s no fee (except for your espresso and cookies), and there’s absolutely no advanced registration required.

Location: Barnes & Noble Booksellers (Clybourn) – 1441 W. Webster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614

Cost: Free Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays

Psycho Baby

Are You Psycho for Story Time?
Wednesdays. Please check the Web site for updated information.
Does the name of this venue seem to perfectly describe your progeny? Well, even if you have the sanest, saintliest of tykes on the planet, they’ll still get a kick out of Story Time with the Storybook Mom at PsychoBaby on Wednesdays. No advanced reservations are required for this free event, which features children’s storyteller Nili Yelin impressing younger crowds with her narration of board books and instruction in occasional crafts. And, after the clock strikes 11:30 and you can put away your best listening ears, spend some time browsing this trendy Damen Avenue store. PsychoBaby was created by two moms who sell a wide array of all things hip and cute in kiddie fashion, toys and accessories. Aw, heck – you’d be “psycho” not to pencil this one into your Hump Day agenda!

Web Site: http://www.psychobabyonline.com
Location: PsychoBaby – 1630 N. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 
Contact Information: 773.772.2815
Type of Event: Adult and child activit


Garfield Park Conservatory

Ongoing at Garfield Park Conservatory

It’s admittedly a tad too early to take your tots and go skipping barefoot through the grass, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get a little nature fix in the garden. Simply head to the Garfield Park Conservatory for Morning Glories for Families, a weekly drop-in event that features story time and a hands-on activity.

Location: Garfield Park Conservatory (Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden) – 300 North Central Park Avenue, Chicago, IL 60624

Cost: $1 suggested family donation


Chocolate Tours

Thank God for Cacao Beans! ($)

Mondays through Saturdays. Please check the Web site for updated information.

Did Charlie and the Chocolate Factory make you drool in your seat . . . for reasons besides Johnny Depp? If you answered yes or are simply a chocolate fanatic in general, it may be worth your while to take the 45-minute “Inside Scoop” tour of South Bend Chocolate. Yes, you’ll have to cross state lines, but the aromas, tastes and overall educational experience will make your time on the road worthwhile. The factory churns out everything from fudges and creams to coffee and cherry treats (and, of course, the scrumptious brown stuff that comes from ground cacao beans). Tours run Mondays through Saturdays and cost between $1 and $4 per person. (There’s also a more basic version of the tour that’s free, but then you won’t get to make your very own chocolate-covered spoon, visit the company chocolate museum or watch a filmstrip with an animated cacao bean!)

Web Site: http://www.web-structure.net/chocolate/tours/tours.html

Location: South Bend Chocolate – 3300 W. Sample Street, South Bend, IN 49964
Contact Information: 574.233.2577
Type of Event: Adult and child activity


Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

Take a Bow, Tweetie!

Montrose Burd SanctuaryOngoing at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

Maybe your kids have seen crows digging into the trash cans in front of your house, but don’t you want to expand their definition of “birdwatching” just a teensy bit? Luckily for you, the Windy City is home to avian residents that range from barn owls to snowy egrets, and the Montrose Point Area is surefire choice when it comes to observing a wide variety of feathered friends.

Location: Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary – 4400 N. Montrose Avenue, Chicago, IL 60639
Cost: Free


Chicago Cultural Center

Take a Chance on Some Free Chamber Music!
Mondays are free.

Ongoing at The Chicago Cultural Center
Everyone loves a little good, old-fashioned chamber music concert, but there’s usually not a bevy of free, time-efficient opportunities out there. The Chicago Cultural Center offers one of the few exceptions to that rule with its First Monday Series, which treats you to some lunchtime musical indulgence from 12:15 P.M. to 1:00 P.M.

Location: The Chicago Cultural Center – 78 E. Washington Street, Chicago, IL 60602
Cost: Free

Outdoor Concert

tdoor Concert (aka a Summer Staple)

Ah, the outdoor concert is as much a summer pastime as lemonade and wading pools, and the Evanston Starlight Concert Series takes the cake as far as this seasonal delicacy goes. Tonight’s free offering at Harbert Park features the stylings of Bob Stroger, a famed Chicago bassist who doles out the genius of Chicago blues artists Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers.  Free Tuesdays and Thursdays

Web Site: http://www.cityofevanston.org/departments/parks/starlight.shtml

Location:Harbert Park – East of the Canal between Main and Dempster streets, Evanston, IL 60201

Cost: Free


Kline Creek Farm

Think outside “Old MacDonald” for a Second . . .

Kline FarmTired of hearing your darlings balk about unloading the dishwasher and tossing the trash? Take them to Children’s Farm Chores at Kline Creek Farm and return to the simpler (or maybe not simpler, depending on how you look at it) days of the 1890s every Monday and Thursday until August 28. Kids will help with chores such as doing barn carpentry and beating rugs as part of this free program.

Web Site: http://www.dupageforest.com/events/events.html
Location: Kline Creek Farm – 600 S. County Farm Road, Wheaton, IL 60187

Cost: Free