Winter is oh-so long, and there are only so many blanket tents you can make. Sometimes, you've gotta get out of the house (and yes, even bring your kids). I've compiled a list of my family’s top five places to visit with kids here in Chicago- and they’re all free or low-cost activities guaranteed to combat Spring (and Cabin!) Fever:

 North Park Village Nature Center

This awesome find is truly a best-kept Chicagoland secret: 46 acres of hiking trails in a beautiful nature preserve (located inside the 155 acre North Park Village campus), all clearly mapped and marked for as long or short an outing as you’d like! The Nature Center also houses a discovery room for the kiddos’ education and entertainment, but my littles love nothing better than running amok through the Wetland Trail and spying deer on the Main Loop. And even in the quietude of winter, it’s still a gorgeous wonderland and well worth suiting up for.

5801 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago

Hours: Daily 10am-4pm

Cost: Free!

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Few afternoons are as lovely as those spent in this meticulously curated Notebaert Nature Museum, but the crown jewel for my daughters is the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven; a 2,700 sq. foot tropical greenhouse featuring 75 species of stunning butterflies flittering around their enthralled heads. Absolutely magical.

2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago

Hours: Mon- Fri, 9am-5pm

Sat- Sun, 10am-5pm

Cost: $9 for Adults, $7 for Students and Seniors (60+), $6 for Children Ages 3 – 12, Free for Children under 3 (Thursdays are “suggested donation” days for all Illinois residents!)

Museum Of Science & Industry/IMAX

Chicago’s Museum Of Science & Industry is a must-visit for residents and visitors alike (my kids could spend days in the Science Storms exhibit), but for a touch of sun and escapism the museum’s IMAX theater is a great time. Currently playing: Born To Be Wild (run time: 40 minutes), a story about the bond between humans and animals and featuring visuals of the lush Borneo rainforest and the sprawling Kenyan savanna- a far cry from the slush of Chicago’s streets! Besides, if you've never before witnessed a kid seeing an IMAX show for the first time, that’s well worth the price of admission.

57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Hours: Daily, 9:30am-4pm

Cost: March 4th is free for Chicagoans!

$15 Chicago residents, $10 Chicago kids (3-11), Under-3 is free

IMAX: $8 adults, $6 kids (3-11)

(Active duty military, Illinois POWs, Chicago firefighters, Chicago police officers and Illinois teachers receive free general admission for themselves by showing a valid occupational I.D.)

Wagner Farm

Just outside of the city in neighboring Glenview is Wagner Farm, one of the last farms in northern Cook County. Think Spring and remind those city kids where all the food comes from! Even in the winter months there’s a bunch to see and do; visit cows, pigs, draft horses, and chickens; play around in Wagner Farm’s award-winning Heritage Center; and even sign up to make a crafternoon out of it. My kids were pretty sure that milking a pretend cow and sorting farm-fresh eggs in the impressively gadgety Heritage Center was better than churned butter.

1510 Wagner Road, Glenview

Hours: Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 9am-3pm

Cost: Free! (Classes are an extra fee, usually around $12)

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Located right in the heart of Lincoln Park, the tropical Lincoln Park Conservatory greenhouse is steps from the Lincoln Park Zoo and an exceptional respite from the blustery weather. With four display houses to explore, it’s a terrific way to see not only the thousands of plants grown for use in the city’s parks, but also some wonderfully exotic stuff that your kids won’t see growing wild in our fair Midwest.

2391 N Stockton Drive, Chicago

Hours: Daily, 9am-5pm

Cost: Free!


Where are your favorite places to visit with kids in Chicago?