Let’s be honest…we all totally blew through our budget for the holidays this year. I mean, if you were able to leave Target without spending at least $100, you are my personal hero. But for us mere mortals who spent way too much on eating out and last minute gifts the past couple of weeks, the bills are piling up…and winter break just started! So if you are looking for a way to stretch your dollar this winter break, here are my top picks for how to spend your winter break in Chicago on a budget with these free and discounted activities:
There are so many delicious restaurants that are not only family friendly, but also cater to kids through unique children’s menus and “kids eat free” programs like this. My personal favorite? Enjoy a relaxing and delicious Sunday brunch at this hot spot since kids eat free and are easily entertained with the bowling and bocce options! City and Suburbs
CRAFT FOR FREE
Kill two birds with one stone and bring the kids along when you grocery shop at both Whole Foods and Mariano’s. These retailers offer free kids’ crafts so you have a way to keep them in line while you are pushing that massive taxi cart up and down every aisle. Check your local Whole Foods for craft and story times, and simply stop by your local Mariano’s for crafts and activities Saturday and Sunday mornings. City and Suburbs
Both the Home Depot and Lowe’s offer kids’ construction activities the first Saturday of each month at no cost. Simply sign up online to be enrolled in the program and your child will not only receive a work apron, but also commemorative pins and a unique construction project to bring home once completed. City and Suburbs
All Lakeshore Learning locations host a free crafting session every Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Simply stop in to learn and create…no appointment or sign up is necessary! City and Suburbs
PLAY FOR FREE
Libraries are so often overlooked as being simply a place to pick up books. Man oh man have things changed. There are now library programs such as interactive story times, performances by local artists, craft sessions, and some of the coolest toys you have ever seen. I mean, a GIANT LITE BRITE? Yes please!!! Here are our favorite libraries in the Chicagoland area.
Nature centers are such a great way to escape the house and see how the local wildlife adapts to winter. Our favorite spots to bond with a furry friend are the Wildwood Nature Center in Park Ridge (Wednesday mornings you can help feed the animals!), the River Trails Nature Center in Northbrook, and the Spring Valley Nature Center (check out the adjacent Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground if the weather allows, too!). For other awesome and free nature center options, check out this list.
Lastly, don’t forget that there are always opportunities for discounted play at some of your favorite local play spaces and museums! And if you need any ideas for a “Special Day Out with Mom,” here are our tried and true favorite ways to make wonderful memories.