Spring Break in Chicagoland on a Budget

So, let’s get honest for a second. It really sucks to scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feeds and see everyone out enjoying Spring Break on a beach while you are stuck in dreary Chicago over Spring Break. Maybe this is when someone will tell you to stop comparing yourself to other people on the Internet, but let’s get real…it’s HARD and I totally get it. We aren’t traveling for Spring Break this year due to that fact that we bought our dream home a few months ago and now we have to actually fill it with furniture (crazy, right???). But that doesn’t mean that our Spring Break is going to be a total bust…we are just going to get creative with how to stretch a dollar in terms of family fun. Are you in the same boat (don’t lie, most of us are)? Then read to on to find out how we are enjoying Spring Break in Chicagoland on a budget!

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First off, there are SO MANY FREE THINGS going on at any given day or time in Chicagoland. Don’t believe me? Here is my constantly growing list of freebies, including where kids eat free across Chicagoland. My favorite free spots are Ina Mae Tavern for brunch, and Spaghetti Sunday’s at Dutch and Doc’s, right across the street from Wrigley Field.

Another fun and free activity? Story times! Many local libraries have tons of different open story times, and you can also check out toys, books, movies, and more! Also, take note of the different free exhibits going on across Chicagoland’s libraries. The Arlington Heights Memorial Library has an amazing Chagall windows exhibit right now that is interactive and inspiring for artists of all ages.

Typically over Spring Break the weather is still pretty nasty (gloomy, cold and wet…yay!) so we spend most of our time indoors. Thankfully, some of our favorite play spaces have discounted play at least once a week. Little Beans is a favorite because of their delicious coffee and “Big Beans” course since it guarantees a solid nap for you and your little one after spending the day playing in the foam pit. If you have a Lego lover on your hand, take a trip to Lego mecca…otherwise known as Legoland Discovery Center. It is typically on the pricey side, but if you use a Living Social Deal, you can really stretch your budget.

Museums are fun any time of the year, but since they tend to get a bit crowded when kids are out of school, head over to the “off the radar” museums so you aren’t trampled by waves of stir crazy kids such as the Chicago History Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (free admission to Illinois residents on Tuesdays) and American Swedish Museum (free admission the second Tuesday of the month.

If you would like to visit the more popular museums, be sure to visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (free to Illinois residents on Thursdays), Art Institute of Chicago (Thursday evenings are free), and the Chicago Children’s Museum (free Thursday evenings and the first Sunday of the month for kids under 15 years old) during their discounted admission times. Lastly, don’t forget to use your Bank of America card for one free admission to many of the major museums on the first weekend of the month. For tips on visiting Chicago Museums on a free day, click here.

If the weather isn’t too nasty for some exploring, go for a hike to look for the first signs of Spring and learn more about our native habitats at some of Chicagoland’s free nature centers. We also love to visit our smelly friends over at Wagner Farm in Glenview and the Lincoln Park Zoo. Admission is free and it is the perfect time to see animals wake up after their long winter slumber.  Want to inject some beauty into your day? Then visit some of Chicagoland’s beautiful conservatories for some inspiration and then head to your local plant nursery to purchase some plants of your own!

There are also tons of free classes that go on throughout Chicagoland, from different free crafting classes at local art stores to musical performances such as “Navy Pier Stroller Groves” from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons, to the Juicebox Free Family Performance Series at the Chicago Cultural Center and Garfield Park Conservatory.

Lastly, if you are getting bored of the same old toys and games at home, connect with another family and do a “toy and game swap.” I don’t recommend lending out beloved toys or ones that will easily break, but it is fun to trade goodies for a bit so your family game night can be a little different than past ones. You can do the same for your family movie night as well–be sure to put these these sports themed movies on your family’s “Much Watch” list! Many libraries also have toys and games for rent, similar to books and movies.

How do you keep costs down when school is out? Would love to hear your budget friendly ideas!

Looking for other Spring fun? Check out my Spring Activity Guide!

Happy Spring!
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  1. paula schuck says

    I have been to Chicago for a couple of conferences and LOVE it there. Such a great spot with so many things to do and it’s pretty easy for us to reach from Ontario, Canada

  2. candy says

    We have been to Chicago many, many times since the train is only a few hours away. Saves us the hassle of driving. All the museums are wonderful. You can find something for any age and interest.

  3. Jeanette says

    I have a lot of family in Chicago and I don’t think they knew about these. I won’t be telling them and hopefully when I get back up here to visit we can all go together.

  4. robin masshole mommy says

    OUr spring break is coming up in April and hopefully I will find some stuff in Boston to do. Sounds like there is lots of fun in Chicago.

  5. Tammy says

    I haven’t been to Chicago in a very long time and would love to go back and venture out more. Thanks for sharing these tips and I’m pinning for later.

  6. lisa says

    There are so many neat things to do in Chicago on a budget. Going downtown is always a fun trip and you don’t have to spend much to see a lot of what Chicago has to offer!

  7. Pam says

    I’ve been to Chicago a couple of times and never had enough to explore. I love to find insider tips (especially when they are budget friendly!) I’d love to see the zoo and the free nature centers.

  8. Annemarie LeBlanc says

    Wow. These are all fun things to do in Chicago without breaking the bank. I don’t have small children anymore, so Spring break would be just like an ordinary day. We may take a weekend off together as a family and we’ll be putting together a road trip to a nature park nearby.

  9. Emily says

    We are actually planning to go to Chicago for Spring break. Living in Wisconsin it is a short drive but a ton of different stuff to do. We are having trouble narrowing down the museums we will visit, there is so many options! This is a great list and came at the perfect time for me to plan, thank you!

  10. Paula Bendfeldt says

    I have never been to Chicago but it’s on my list of places to visit this year. These all look like great activities. We are not going anywhere for Spring Break either and I’m not even taking vacation from work so I totally agree with you that it’s hard to see everyone else having fun and taking a break. 🙂

  11. Bonnie @wemake7 says

    We just got more snow today and wondering if Spring will ever come here lol. Would love to be in Chicago instead.

  12. Shirley Wood says

    We very much enjoy exploring our local places with things to see and do. The best part is being back home in our own bed every night. We do not travel for spring break preferring instead to save that money for a full fledged vacation. There is a bright side to everything, right.

  13. Destany says

    I went to Chicago a few years ago for a convention where I met the stars of one of my favorite TV shows. It was fun, but I didn’t get to see much of Chicago while I was there.

  14. Kimberly says

    I have never been to Chicago before (I’m Canadian) but I’ve heard that it is absolutely wonderful. It’s on my list of places to go! Sounds like there is so much to do, especially for little kids. Family friendly places are a must for us! thank you so much for sharing this. Ill keep it in mind for the summer too!

  15. Lian says

    For me, Chiciago is one of the places I would love to run away to for time away from home! There is so much to see and do, with my family as well as for a romantic getaway.

    • Amanda says

      Exactly! There is something for everyone…but I must admit that cozy restaurant dates with my hubby are my favorite!

  16. candy says

    Chicago is always a fun place to visit and explore. We have been to all the places you mentioned. This is the second time I have commented on this post.

  17. Marysa says

    I haven’t been to Chicago, but it would be an interesting place to explore. I think my family would enjoy taking a trip there. I’ve heard that there is a lot of fun stuff to do.

  18. Jenn says

    These are great tips for spring break. Our daughter is graduating this year and decided to go camping with a group of friends. It’s great for a budget.

  19. Claudia Krusch says

    These are great freebies. There are tons out there for every city, you just might need to f=do some digging. I would love to go to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

  20. Rebecca Swenor says

    These are all great free things to do during spring break with the kids. Game night and a nature walk are always the best in my opinion. Thanks for sharing the tips.

  21. Mimi Green says

    I’m doing spring break on a budget as well. We are doing a weekend in NY. I got a deep discount on train tickets thanks to a holiday sale. I’ve shopped around for the best affordable hotel and everything. We will sightsee for free.

    • Amanda says

      Sounds like a great trip! We are heading to Milwaukee over Spring Break because it isn’t a long drive and there are tons of cheap and fun things to do and feel like we “got away” from Chicago for a bit!

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