Chicago

50+ Free Things to Do With Kids in Chicago This Summer

Given the high cost of raising kids these days, you might be surprised at just how much family-friendly summer fun in Chicago is totally FREE. Of course, the city's playgrounds and splash pads are always free, and there are free days at most museums and even a few restaurants. But in summertime, the no-cost fun ramps up all over Chicagoland. 

As you can see from the bursting-at-the-seams list below, there's literally something free and fun to do every single day of the summer—so there's no excuse for anybody to be bored. Outdoor movies, summer festivals and street fairs, concerts and performances, public art, cultural celebrations, picnics, and of course, fireworks await, and you can leave your wallet at home. (In theory, at least. There's always ice cream to buy.)

Looking for more? Our list of 100 Things to Do With Chicago Kids Before They Grow Up might do the trick, and of course you can always find more daily activities in our Chicago Event Calendar.

24 Summer Camp Snacks for Kids That Aren't Boring

Packing for summer camp means gathering up the towels, swimsuits, water bottles—labeling everything!—and finally, ensuring your kid has a healthy snack to power them through an action-packed day.

After a year of making school lunches for kids, it might feel overwhelming to come up with creative summer camp snacks, especially if you have a picky eater who turns up their nose at the likes of a cheese stick or tube of yogurt. So we came up with two dozen camp snack foods to woo both kids and parents with cooling, energizing, and (mostly) healthy snacks.

We separated the list into four handy sections: high-protein snacks, fruit snacks, no-refrigeration required, and allergy-aware and nut-free snacks for kids. Some might be more suited to a post-camp nosh but most can be packed up and sent out the door to summer camp with your kid.

Weekend Fun for Chicago Kids: Dragon Boats, Food and Music Fests, Vintage Baseball

It's a good thing the days are longer right now, since we're not sure how else to fit in all the fun happenings for families around Chicago. This weekend, the Grant Park Music Festival continues downtown, and kid-centric festivals include the Webster Kids Corridor Block Party hosted by local playspace favorites Little Beans and Bubbles Academy, as well as the Kid Market in Bridgeport, a showcase for young entrepreneurs, crafters, and makers.

On Saturday, don't miss the colorful Dragon Boat races in Chinatown, accompanied by a day of cool cultural activities and workshops. St. Pat's church in the West Loop is also hosting the World's Largest Block Party with inflatables and giveaways for kids. And on Sunday, round up the baseball fans in your house for an afternoon of old-timey fun at the Vintage Baseball Game in Elmhurst, which offers a peek at how the game was originally played back in the nineteenth century, with old-school rules, cheers, and jeers.

For even more summer fun, see our expanding event calendar and our ever-updating list of summer fairs and festivals for Chicago families.

50 Things to Do in Baltimore with Kids: Where to Eat, Play, and Stay in Charm City

Baltimore is an incredibly kid-friendly city. The walkable Baltimore Inner Harbor offers the impressive National Aquarium, family-friendly restaurants, museums and science centers, and more fun things to do.

Sports fans will find the pro-leagues Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Orioles to cheer on, and if you have a transportation lover, the city is heaven with train museums and boats galore. It’s proximity to Washington, DC, doesn’t hurt either. It’s easy to visit both cities in one trip, taking advantage of all the free admission opportunities in the nation’s capital.

Here's our list of 50 fun things to do with kids in Baltimore, Maryland, from attractions to festivals, restaurants and even a few hotel suggestions for when you're ready to crash. Check out our other City Guides for more family travel ideas.

11 Crazy Awesome Pool Floats for Kids and Babies on Amazon and Target

Long gone are the days of the boring rectangular pool float that popped almost as soon as you finally filled it with air. Today's kids can hit the pool with a fabulous float in almost any design they can imagine, from the Millennium Falcon to a giant slice of pizza to on-trend unicorn floats. The best part? Parents can order these pool toys all online at either Target.com or Amazon. Check out our list of 11 crazy awesome pool floats for babies, kids, and teens in summer 2019.

Find more ways to cool down this summer in our Beaches, Lakes, and Pools Guides.

Father's Day Weekend Fun for Chicago Families: Food and Culture Fests, Concerts, and Fun on the Lake

Chicago dads, stepdads, granddads, and father figures of all stripes have their pick of family fun this Father's Day weekend. For music-loving dads, there are live performances at street fairs and festivals all weekend, plus the Grant Park Music Festival downtown, the Grateful Rockers Father's Day Celebration in Lakeview, and a special Midsommar concert by the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. For food-loving dads, the Lincoln Park Zoo BBQ Brunch, North Center's Ribfest, Taste of Randolph Street, and Taste of Des Plaines serve up tasty eats. For nature-loving dads, there's a special Father's Day cruise on the lake, a dad's day festival at Shedd Aquarium, and family fishing at Northerly Island. Or take your favorite sports-fan dad out to the ballgame on Sunday for Family Sundays hosted by the Chicago White Sox

Because Chicago is home to so many vital cultural communities, every weekend is packed with super-cool cultural events for families, and this weekend is no exception. On Saturday, celebrate at Navy Pier's FREE Quinceanera celebration, and stay for the Latinxt Music Festival with live performances from innovative bands, or hit the colorful Mexican Folkloric Festival at Cantigny in Wheaton. This weekend also sees the Scottish Festival and Highland Games step off in Itasca, with bagpipers, dance and music, and traditional games. Finally, the DuSable Museum hosts a family celebration in honor of Juneteenth on Saturday, with films, activities, and performers.

For even more family fun around Chicagoland, see our bursting-at-the-seams event calendar. Happy Father's Day!

Build-A-Bear Has a New Pay-Your-Age Contest, without the Lines

Making a puffy, fuzzy DIY toy at Build-A-Bear is a great experience, especially for a birthday gift, but those bears are far from free. So it was no surprise last year that the company's big Pay-Your-Age Day (5 years old, get any toy for $5) resulted in lines not only out of the stores but out of the buildings—and lots of angry parents when lines were shut down. The good news? Build-A-Bear is doing the popular event again, but doing it differently this year.

Asheville with Kids: 40 Best Things to Do in Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC, is a popular destination for visitors, including families, with so many fun things to do like the Biltmore Estate, a thriving food and arts scene, a Vanderbilt mansion with extensive grounds, and its kid-friendly local breweries. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the plentiful hiking trails, waterfalls, and swimming holes. I frequently visit my sister’s family in Asheville and get to explore this charming Southern city with my young nephew, so I wanted to share the inside skinny on the best family-friendly attractions, restaurants, and what to do in Asheville with kids.

Find more family fun destinations in our Family Travel City Guides, and be sure to check our picks for North Carolina's best beaches for families.

How Can I Find Free Summer Meal Programs for Kids?

Many parents rely on the free breakfast and lunch available through the local school system to keep their kids' engines running—but what happens in the summer? Thankfully, there are still free meal programs available when school lets out.

Parents will find free breakfast, lunch, and sometimes afternoon snacks and more meals served up at certain parks, schools, community centers, hospitals, and elsewhere this summer. Many of the summer meal programs are federally funded through the USDA's Summer Food Service Program, but administered by local organizations, cities, or states. Read on for tips on how to find a free kids meal near you.

Weekend Fun for Chicago Kids: Family Fests, Campouts, Kids' Books, Slime

Summer fun in Chicago is officially on, and the good times show no sign of slowing down. For starters, this weekend brings the usual awesome onslaught of family-friendly street fairs, cultural celebrations, and art festivals. Celebrate summer Scandi-style at Andersonville's Midsommarfest, get your dirndl and wurst on at Forest Park's German Fest, rock out to performers from the School of Rock at the OK BBQ Block Party, or get the whole family moving at the Boing! Family Festival hosted by the Chicago Children's Theatre. 

Need a break from the sunshine (or the rain, as the case may be)? Hit one of the many kid-friendly performances around town this weekend, from feats of agility and artistry at the Physical Theater Festival and the Pivot Arts Festival to crime-fighting feats of derring-do at PJ Masks Live! Or take in a view of the stars from your campsite at one of two family campouts held this weekend, one at the Lincoln Park Zoo and one at Naperville's Knoch Knoll Park

Book-loving kids won't want to miss the chance to dress up as their favorite children's book characters and join the parade at the Printers' Row Lit Fest downtown on Saturday, and there's even more literary fun to be had at Drag Queen Story Hour at Women and Children First, in honor of Pride Month. But if you're feeling decidedly unliterary, there's also a giant SlimeFest going on. 

For more summer fun for Chicago families, bookmark our list of summer festivals and fairs, check out our picks for the city's top water parks and playgrounds, and keep an eye on our busy event calendar.

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