15 Free & Fun Summer Events for Chicago Families

6/15/2016 8:21:07 AM
15 Awesome Summer Events for Chicago Families - KidTrail Pick
Pepsi Tall Ships at Navy Pier Chicago
With summer in full swing, there is never a lack of events or places to go with kids. Chicago is known for all the amazing events, festivals and programs offered during the summer.  That is probably because the winters tend to be long and cold so we make up for it with loads of fun and activities in the summer. Here is our top pick of awesome and fun family events in the city.  Lots to choose from such as movies at the park or The Air & Water show or maybe the FREE Family Fun Festival at Millennium Park.  Take a look and hope you all have a wonderful summer! 

Family Fun Festival at Millennium Park

What: The Family Fun Festival returns offering interactive activities, music and arts and crafts for kids of all ages. You can find the Family Fun Tent in Millennium Park for most of Summer 2016.  The Family Fun Tent is a nice escape from the blistering heat.  Cool off in the tent with some fun kids activities and entertainment.

The 2016 Family Fun Festival schedule: Wiggleworms at 10 am. Join the Wiggleworms instructors from the Old Town School of Folk Music as they lead children in sing along, circle dances and more. Reading Circle at 11 am. Chill out with a story time that is sure to delight. Family Performances at 1 pm.  Enjoy a mix of live music and interactive dance performances that are sure to have you up on your feet. Each week, the Family Fun Tent will have activity zones sponsored from various partners.

Date/Time: Daily, June 20 to Aug 21, 2016 from 10 AM to 2 PM

Millennium Park, Chase Promenade North
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601

Movies at Chicago Parks

What: The 16th annual Movies in the Park series kicks off June 4th, and features more than 250 outdoor screenings of current and classic movies in parks across the city.  Bring a picnic basket, blanket, and your friends and family and enjoy a movie in the parks.  All movies begin at dusk, weather permitting.

Various Parks

Check here for Summer 2016 Movie Schedule

Toddlers, Tunes & Turtles

What: Don't miss Toddler, Tunes & Turtles, a fun outdoor event by the Chicago Park District. Each summer, the Chicago Park District offers a fun outdoor nature program for families! Families and their little kids in tow have an opportunity to enjoy the park together. The Chicago Park District makes this event fun for the whole family by providing an enriching program that includes a variety of live animals like frogs, snakes, birds and of course, turtles! In addition to live animals, live music will entertain the kiddos.  Musicians sing and dance to kid friendly music.  And best of all, nature free play provides an opportunity for children to build forts out of sticks, touch pine cones or smell a cinnamon bark. Come celebrate nature with the kiddos while providing some enrichment through music and free play!  How fun does this sound?  We say tons!

Various Chicago Parks

Check here for Movie Schedule:

Green City Farmers Market
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
1800 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL

What: Green City Market is a quintessential Lincoln Park farmers market! Green City Market provides a marketplace for purchasing sustainably grown food and connecting farmers and local producers directly to chefs and the greater Chicago community. In addition to produce, you will find bakery goods, jams, breads, cheese, pies and more!

This Lincoln Park outdoor market is loads of family fun! Grab a bike or walk to the market with the kiddos in tow. Find some fresh food to devour and kiddos can participate in Club Sprouts. At every market, kids can taste an in-season market item. Each taste test earns a stamp on their Club Sprouts membership card. Once the card is filled with 8 tastes, the child takes home a certificate of accomplishment and a special prize. The Club Sprouts table also offers fun, seasonal activities and lessons, from scavenger hunts, to hands-on recipes, so children can learn the benefits of eating fresh, healthy ingredients and supporting local farms.    

Date/Time: The market is outdoors May through October in Lincoln Park on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 AM to 1 PM. Club Sprouts for kiddos are available at the Club Sprouts tent every Wednesday and Saturday from 8 AM to 12 PM.

Cost: Free to attend. Price varies by vendor to purchase produce, pastry and other items.

Fun at Maggie Daley Park 

In addition to the beautiful playground, there is more fun to be had at Maggie Daly for both the kiddos and adults alike.

6 Brand New Tennis Courts
The six new courts, located on the east side of the park, will be available on April 1, 2016, weather permitting. The tennis courts at Maggie Daley Park are available for walk-up use at no charge. 

Court hours are Monday – Sunday, 7:00 am – 9:00 pm. Play on all courts will begin and end each hour on the hour.

For more information on the tennis courts:

City Mini Golf

What: Mini Golf at Maggie Daly Park opens on May 6, 2016. 

Date/Time: Open daily from 10 AM to 9 PM

Cost: Pricing per 18 holes is $10.

For more information:

Climbing Wall

What: At the center of the Skating Ribbon sits two stunning rock-climbing structures that form Chicago’s first and only Climbing Park. These custom-designed sculptural rocks and boulders provide a unique outdoor recreational experience for beginners and experts alike, supported with instruction and supervision by park staff.

Cost: $15 per person

For more information on the climbing wall:

Adams Park Water Playground

What: Tucked away in Lincoln Park, Adams Playground is truly a treasure in the community and welcomes neighbors into the park year-round. The water playground is a hit with parents and kiddos alike. During warmer days, the water playground does get pretty busy with kiddos and parents.  So, make sure you arrive early to claim your stake in the shaded areas. Lots of fun people watching and opportunity to make new mom friends! 

Cost: FREE

Adams Playground Park
Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
1919 N. Seminary Ave.   
Chicago, IL 60614

MP Summer Concert & Film Series

Chicago summers is what Chicagoans wait for all year! Not only for the warm weather after months of Chicago cold but really for all the fun and exciting events the city has to offer! Literally every Summer weekend in Chicago is filled with festivals, family events, street fests, concerts and more! Specifically, we love all the happenings at Millennium Park for family fun. And, we are excited to share the schedule for the Millennium Park Summer Film Series as well as the Concert Series! 

Both the Film and Concert series take place at the outdoor Pritzker Pavilion offering FREE entertainment. Make it a fun family event by bringing a blanket, picnic dinner and maybe some wine for the adults! Lots of fun memories will be made under the Chicago stars!

Millennium Park Summer Music Series

Eighteen FREE outdoor concerts are planned for the 2016 Millennium Park Summer Music Series! It is an exciting line up of FREE concerts every Monday and Thursday, June 6 – August 25, 2016 (except where noted). The concerts will take place at the beautiful Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The concert series features a wide variety of genre from top local, national and international artists.

For more information on the Summer Music Series:

Millennium Park Summer Film Series

The Summer Film Series is such a fun part of Chicago summers. Some of the films showing are rated R and obviously not appropriate for kids.  But, you do not want to miss Finding Nemo with the kiddos or maybe a couple of the PG rated films. All films are FREE. The outdoor movies returns to Millennium Park, Tuesdays, June 21 – August 30, at 6:30pm. Come early, bring a blanket, a picnic dinner and enjoy! All movies are presented on a state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen.

For more information on Summer Film series and schedule:

Southport Art & Music Fest

What: Southport Corridor blooms to life this summer when Southport Art Festival takes over Waveland and Southport on July 16 & 17, 2016. Featured in Time Out Chicago as one of the “Best Festivals in Town,” the event will feature an assorted mix of fine art by day and bumpin’ music at night, setting the environment for a picture-perfect Chicago neighborhood street festival.

Kid Friendliness: Families will have the opportunity to bring their children, and enjoy all that Southport Art Festival has to offer. A special Kid’s area has been designed with interactive games and activities that will make for an unforgettable time. 

Date/Time: Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17, 2016. Saturday: 10am-10pm (Art ends at 5pm), Sunday: 10am-9pm (Art ends at 5pm). 

For more information:

The 606 Bloomingdale Trail

What: The 606 is a rails-to-trails project that is redefining what it means to go to the park. The City of Chicago has turned an unused rail line into a lush, green playground. This mix of an elevated trail and neighborhood parks takes you right where Chicago lives. In 2.7 miles, you’ll experience six local parks and the cultures of four distinct neighborhoods. The 606 connects parks and people all along the way. An observatory, skate park, art installations and family education programs will mean new places to gather and room to roam. The railroad embankment that used to physically separate communities now draw them together. Imagine block after block of uninterrupted trails. Kids are learning to ride their bikes here, commuters are finding a new shortcut to work, and neighbors are making new friends. 

The 606 connects four ethnically and economically diverse Chicago neighborhoods: Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square. Join the party a decade in the making. C'mon up!

This park and trail system runs along Bloomingdale Ave (1800 N), from Ridgeway Ave (3750 W) on the west to Ashland Ave (1600 W) on the east.

For more information:

Loyola Beach

What: The ultimate kid friendly beach, Loyola Beach is also the largest in the city stretching eight blocks long. Located in the East Rogers Park neighborhood, the location offers swimming, a jungle gym for kiddos, tennis court, baseball field, volleyball net and basketball court.  There is literally lots to do here. It also has a 2/3 mile walking trail along beautiful Lake Michigan.

The café serves plenty of kid friendly items such as grilled cheese and nuggets.

Amenities: Beach house, restrooms, café and a playground.

1230 W Greenleaf Ave
Greenleaf Avenue and Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL

Millennium Park Crown Fountain

What: Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park is a major addition to the city's world-renowned public art collection. The fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water, a symbol of life, to flow out.
The fountain’s water features operate during the year between mid-spring and mid-fall, while the images remain on view year-round. It is a great area for kiddos to run and play in the water.  Many kids wear their swimsuit and enjoy some water fun under the sun!

201 E. Randolph St., between Michigan Ave and Columbus Ave 
Chicago, IL 60602

Tall Ships Chicago at Navy Pier

What: One of Navy Pier's most recognized events, PEPSI TALL SHIPS returns July of 2016. Navy Pier anticipates being host to 14+ majestic vessels. The five-day festival kicks off at Navy Pier with a spectacular Parade of Sail on Wednesday, July 27. The remaining days of the festival (Thursday-Sunday) allow visitors the chance to get up close and personal with the vessels. Guests have the opportunity to walk the grounds, board the ships and sail out to sea on one or more of the tall ships.

Schedule of Events:

Wednesday, July 27 
Parade of Sail: 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm 

Opening Ceremony: 4:00 pm 
Aon Summer Fireworks display: 9:30 pm 

Thursday, July 28 
Festival Grounds: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm 
Fireworks display: 9:30 pm 

Friday, July 29 
Festival Grounds: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm 
Fireworks display: 9:30 pm 

Saturday, July 30 
Festival Grounds: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm 
Aon Summer Fireworks display: 9:30 pm 

Sunday, July 31 
Festival Grounds: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Navy Pier

Chicago Air & Water Show

What: The Chicago Air and Water Show presented by Shell Oil Products U.S. and the City of Chicago is the largest FREE show of its kind in the United States. Enjoy aviation’s finest civilian and military pilots as they thrill millions along Chicago's lakefront. 

Headliners: U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, U.S. Army Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs

Date/Time: August 20 & 21, 2016, 10 AM to 3 PM

Cost: FREE

The show can be viewed along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach as the focal point.

Navy Pier Fireworks

What: Navy Pier is the destination for spectacular fireworks perfectly synchronized to music on Lake Michigan. Its biweekly Aon Summer Fireworks shows occur on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Be sure to check the schedule for additional shows added throughout the year.

Date/Time: Every Saturday at 10:15 PM. Every Wednesday at 9:30 PM. From Memorial Day to Labor Day. Check website for additional days.

Navy Pier

Garfield Park Conservatory

What: The Garfield Park Conservatory opened to the public in April 1908, and has been dazzling visitors with its extensive plant collection ever since. Garfield Park Conservatory is a fantastic place to bring family members of all ages. Something’s always growing, and there’s always something new to discover! To make your “growing” experience even more enjoyable, they offer a number of special educational opportunities FREE for kids and families! Check website for FREE family programs. Visit the Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden, which is open during normal Conservatory hours, the Play and Grow Garden, which is open Noon to 4:30 pm daily from March 15 to November 15, or visit during a scheduled activity time.

The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden

The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children's Garden is located inside the Garfield Park Conservatory, and is open every day of the year to all visitors! Inside this botanical wonderland, a gigantic vine beckons children to trace it from root to blossom, while a 7-foot-tall seed waits to be climbed. Here, the curious can unravel the many mysteries of plant life, and the adventurous can hunt for some of the most unusual specimens found in the Garfield Park Conservatory. Young explorers will encounter the Sensitive Plant, so shy that it cringes when touched, and the Balsa Tree, which emits a hollow sound when the trunk is tapped. 

Up on the mezzanine, children can ride down the twirling stem of a green slide. Young toddlers and babies are invited to explore the colors and textures of soft-form blocks and play rings in the special permanent Crawling Area.

Play & Grow Garden
The Play & Grow Garden is now open! Families with children ages 0-8 are invited to visit the garden during its open hours to build, imagine, and challenge themselves. Kids can experiment with pebbles, make mud pies, walk the stump obstacle course, or make music on a wooden xylophone. Play & Grow is outside: exit through Sugar from the Sun and turn right; it’s just past the labyrinth. Children should be supervised at all times in the Play & Grow Garden.

Cost: FREE

Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N Central Park Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624

Photo Credit: Pepsi Tall Ships



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