Free Summer Fun Activities in the Chicago Suburbs

As summer kicks off, I’m excited to share not just my Ultimate Summer Bucket List, but also a list of free summer activities in the Chicago suburbs the whole family can enjoy. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking there’s nothing to do without spending a fortune. Fun doesn’t have to come with a price tag! I’ll be updating this list regularly, so be sure to bookmark this page.

Ready to dive into some summer fun? Let’s get started!

FREE ALL THE TIME

  • Find more than books at libraries. Check out their amazing play areas, programs, crafts, and more! Combine libraries with playgrounds for a fun day out.
  • Say hello to the new “baby” bison at Lords Park Zoo in Elgin. While you’re there say hi to the other animals in the zoo. 
  • Walk through a bog. What’s a bog? Learn all about it at the Volo Bog nature center then walk through yourself. While you’re there head to their unstructured nature play space. (Volo)
  • Earn a prize by trying to visit as many places as you can with the KDRMA program (various burbs)
  • Try to visit as many places as you can with the Museum Adventure Pass. Borrow the pass from your local library. (various burbs)
  • Speaking of Museum Adventure Pass (MAP)…we love visiting Cantigny Park for completely free. Climb tanks, walk around and view beautiful flowers, visit the free war museum, dip your toes in the water. All completely FREE!
  • Kids can bowl for free the entire summer! Find more info here. (Multiple places)
  • Bike the Fox River Bike Trail and explore many of the family-friendly stops like Van’s Ice Cream and Dairy Queen.
  • View fish at the aquarium and see stuffed animals (real stuffed animals) at Cabela’s. (Hoffman Estates)
  • Take a stroll around the farmer’s market. Some offer many kid-friendly activities life crafts, face painting, and more. Woodstock Farmer’s Market and Farmers Market + at the Dole Mansion are one of our favorites. 
  • Grab your blanket and watch a movie in the park under the stars (various suburbs)
  • Take a break from shopping at the play area at a mall like Woodfield (Schaumburg), Hawthorne Center (Vernon Hills), Gurnee Mills (Gurnee).
  • Find your favorite art sculpture and take a selfie with it. The Chicagoland area has plenty of FREE options for sculpture parks. Find your favorite sculpture at International Sculpture Park (Schaumburg), Mount St. Mary’s Sculpture Park (St. Charles), or Nathan Manilow Park (University Park).
  • Practice safety while biking at a Safety Town, with mini recreated villages and roads. They are the cutest! Elmhurst Safety Town (Elmhurst), Vogelei Park (Hoffman Estates).
  • See Elk at Busse Woods. Review here(Elk Grove Village)
  • Listen to music at a free outdoor concert in the park. (Various suburbs)
  • Splash around at a splash pad.  Here are a few free ones in the NW suburbs: Woods Creek, Veteran Acres, Huffman Park, Kaper Park, Sunset Park, Towne Center Park, Fountain Square Park
  • See the beautiful Umbrellas in the Sky installation in Elmhurst. Gorgeous!

  • Go fish! Catch and release fishing is available at Twin Lakes. (Palatine)
  • Watch planes land and take off. We like sitting at the picnic table at Lake in the Hills Airport. (Lake in the Hills)
  • Learn about the history of trains at the Bartlett Depot Museum. (Bartlett)
  • Watch butterflies fly all around you at Crystal Lake Butterfly House at their Nature Center. They’ve completely remodeled and is wonderful! Read all about it here. (Crystal Lake)

  • Listen to stories at a storytime at a library (Various)
  • Take photos at the picturesque Walton Island Park. (Elgin)
  • Read, read, and read. Join your local library’s reading program. Or stop into Barnes and Nobles for their “Escape Into Summer Reading” program. Just read 8 books, fill out the log, then return it anytime in between July 1st and August 31, 2024. In return, pick out a free book!
  • Go on a playground crawl to find the best new playground.  Our goal this summer is to visit at least 20 new to us or newly renovated playgrounds. Some favorites include Deicke Park, South Ridge Park, Commissioner’s Park in Streamwood, Burning Bush in Mt. Prospect.
  • Find the “secret” waterfall in South Elgin.
  • Go on a wild goose chase! Well, with the Goosechase app you can complete missions. The McHenry County Conservation District has a fun “Find Your Wild” scavenger hunt that includes libraries too!
  • Have you tried geocaching? We’ll definitely be outside more this summer and we’d like to try this. Sounds fun! Coincide geocaching with MCCD’s (see above) Find Your Wild mission for extra fun!
  • Go find murals! Who says you need to go to the city to find murals? Plenty of murals in the suburbs like Mellody Farms in Vernon Hills. 

 

  • Here is your ultimate 2021 Chicago Area Summer Bucket List. Find things to do, places to eat, and fun activities to keep the kids busy.Take a hike and see horses? Yes, please. Hike at Danada then hit up the Sensory Garden in Lisle for a fun horse-themed trip.
  • Check out a book and an exhibit at Gail Borden Library. We always look forward to their new museum quality exhibits. The last few years they had Wizard of Oz and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This year they have Storyland: A trip Through Childhood Exhibits. They highlight three children’s books: The Tale of Peter RabbitThe Snowy Day, and Where’s Spot? (Elgin)
  • Love nature play spaces? Make sure to add the newest Kuechmann Kove to your list! (Lake Zurich)
  • Embrace the calm at Soder World Wellness Center where they have an amazing garden with swans, a rock garden, and more, and a cool rainbow bridge!

  • Love cars? Check out all the cool cars at a cruise night event. You’ll find me at Cruise Night in Cary on Wednesdays!
  • Visit the petting zoo at Royal Oak Farm Orchard. While you’re here, climb the play structures at the playground. You may be tempted to buy baked goods from their Country Store and Bakery which may be totally worth it! (Harvard)
  • Find the perfect spot for a sunset. (Locations vary!)

FREE ON CERTAIN DAYS

Visit the Mascot Hall of Fame on the first Fridays of the month for free admission. While you’re here, explore the town of Whiting, Indiana which includes coffee, beach, and ice cream. A perfect day out if you ask me!

Did I miss any of your favorite activities in the Northwest burbs?