Money-saving tips for summer family fun: Explore Chicago area libraries, zoos, and discount days

While most kids are excited about the school year ending soon, many parents might not be. That's because summer fun for you and your family can sometimes be hard to find and afford.

In a FOX 32 special Money Saver report, we've got some ideas on how to do both.

When Conway Bennett needs to find a quick way to entertain his 2-year-old son Wells and his 4-year-old daughter Josie, his go-to plan is to go to a local library in La Grange.

"It's a great way to entertain the kids. There's so much for them to do here. They love the books. They love the tablets," Bennett said.

Annie Tandy, founder of, agrees. She and her team of local moms have checked out libraries across the western suburbs to see what else they have to offer kids besides books.

"There are children's areas at all the libraries that don't just have books or media. They have play areas. Imaginative play. Fish tanks and light walls. Play areas, and those are all free," Tandy said.


Believe it or not, a trip to your local library can be your ticket to a summer full of adventure in more ways than one.

"While you're at the library, you can check out the Museum Adventure Pass. That gives you free admission to Brookfield Zoo and also buy one, get one free discounts at places like Naper Settlement," Tandy said.

That's just two of the many options the Chicago area has to offer through a Museum Adventure Pass.

If you can't get your hands on one, look for summer discount days instead at your favorite fun spot.

"These deals are usually limited to mid-week or in the afternoons when the crowds are less. It's even a better time to go because you don't have to worry about it being overcrowded," said Andrea Woroch, consumer finance expert.

Woroch says it not only pays to check an attraction's website for discount days but also discounts on tickets, especially if you buy them in advance.

"It could be cheaper than buying it at the ticket window, and of course, you don't have to wait in any long lines," Woroch said.

If museums aren't your thing, you still have plenty of options to choose from.

"There are so many splash pads and playgrounds that are really cool in the Chicago area, like Heritage Park in Homer Glen. Huge playground with a ninja park for older kids," Tandy said.

"We all know and love Brookfield Zoo, but there are also smaller zoos like Phillip's Park Zoo in Aurora that is free. There's also Mastadon Island Park in that area as well with a splash pad, so you can make a day of it," she added.

When it comes to surprisingly affordable fun options, Tandy says check out Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

"It's only $5 per car during the weekdays, and they have a museum there, grounds to enjoy with gardens. They have a really cool playground there and a tank park, which is really unique," Tandy said.

Wait, we're not done yet.

"There's another website you can go to - This will tell you if there are any bowling alleys in your area that are giving free admission to kids under 15," Woroch said.

"A lot of movie theaters will offer discount passes on Tuesday or Wednesdays," she added. "You could get passes for as little as $5, knowing the going average is $9 to $10 per ticket."

When all else fails, don't forget to just take a look around your house.

"The reality is kids don't care what you give them. They love the opportunity to be creative and use their imagination, and you can come up with some really fun projects without spending any money," Woroch said.

When it comes to sending your kids to camp this summer, Woroch says you can find affordable rates through your local park district or YMCA.