Chicago (and Suburbs) Staycation Ideas


What are your plans for the summer? How about taking a “staycation” in Chicago and the suburbs? Check out the free and inexpensive events and activities in the area:

Museums and Other Attractions:

– Aurora – Blackberry Farm – Illinois residents get free admission on Family Fun Days on May 19 (9:30 a.m. to noon), June 10, June 24, July 8, and August 5.

– Aurora – Red Oak Nature Center – Admission is always free.

– Aurora – Sci-Tech Museum

– Bensenville – Fischer Farm – Admission is always free.

– Chicago – Adler Planetarium – Illinois residents get complimentary general admission on June 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12. Illinois teachers (pre-K through 12) and active military personnel receive free general admission which can be applied to any admission pass.

– Chicago – Art Institute of Chicago – Illinois residents get free general admission every Thursday from 5 pm to 8 pm. Active-duty military and their families receive free admission to the museum from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Free admission is available to Illinois educators, including pre-K–12 teachers, teaching artists working in schools, pre-service teachers, and homeschool parents.

– Chicago – Chicago Botanic Garden – Admission is always free.

– Chicago – Chicago Children’s Museum

– Chicago – Chicago History Museum – Illinois residents get free admission on July 4, August 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, September 1, 2, and 3.

– Chicago – The DuSable Museum of African History – Illinois residents get free admission on Sundays. Children under 5 years old are always free.

– Chicago – The Field Museum – Illinois residents receive complimentary basic admission on June 4, 5, and 8. Illinois teachers (pre-K through 12) and active military personnel always receive free basic admission.

– Chicago – Garfield Park Conservatory – Admission is always free.

– Chicago – Millenium Park – Always free.

– Chicago – Museum of Contemporary Art – Admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays year round.

– Chicago – Museum of Science and Industry – Illinois residents receive free admission from June 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, September 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30. Active duty military, Illinois POWs, Chicago firefighters, Chicago police officers and Illinois teachers (pre-K through 12th grade) always get free admission.

– Chicago – Navy Pier – Admission is always free. You just have to pay for the activities or meals there.

– Chicago – The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois Residents. Children under 3 years old are always free.

– Chicago – Shedd Aquarium – Illinois residents receive free general admission or discounted upgraded admission on June 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, September 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29. Educators from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin can receive a complimentary Shedd Pass by registering online. Active-duty military personnel, Chicago police officers and firefighters receive a free Shedd Pass with proper ID. Guests who present a valid Bank of America/Merrill Lynch ATM, credit, or debit card, along with photo identification, will receive one free general admission on the first full weekend of every month: June 6, 7, July 4, 5, August 1, 2, September 5, 6

– Elmhurst – Elmhurst Historical Museum – Admission is always free.

– Glenview – Kohl’s Children’s Museum

– Glenview – Wagner Farm

– Libertyville – Lambs Farm

– Naperville – DuPage Children’s Museum at Fox Valley Mall – Pay as you will admission.

– Naperville – Naper Settlement – Naperville residents get free admission with proof of residency.

– Rockford – Discovery Center Museum – Free admission for children 1 years old and younger.

– Wheaton – Cantigny Park

– There are per car parking fees.

* Borrow the Museum Adventure Pass from a participating library and get free admission to select museums and attractions.


– Aurora – Movies in the Park – Paramount Theatre – Classic movies on Mondays for only $1 per ticket.

– Aurora – Movies in the Park – Phillips Park – Always free admission.

– Chicago – Movies in the Park – Always free admission.

– West Chicago – Cascade Drive-In – Bargain Sundays – only $15 per carload.

– Everywhere – Marcus Theatres – Two free passes to Kids Dream summer movies.

– Everywhere – Cinemark – Cinemark Movie Clubhouse – Movies for $1 per ticket or buy a pass for $5 for 10 movies.

– Everywhere – Classic Cinemas – Wednesday Morning Movie Series.

– Everywhere – Regal Entertainment Group – Movies for only $1 per ticket.


– Everywhere – Kids Bowl Free – Sign up to receive 2 free bowling passes per day per child.

– Everywhere – Kids Skate Free – Sign up to receive 2 free roller skating passes per week per child.

– Chicago – Chicago Cubs

– Chicago – White Sox Kids Club – Sign up for a free 2015 Kids Club Slugger Membership and receive a voucher to get free tickets to one of the following White Sox game dates: 5/18, 5/19, 5/20, 5/21, 5/22, 6/8, 6/9, 6/10, 6/17, 6/18, 7/6, 7/7, 7/8, 7/9, 8/3, 8/4, 8/10, 8/11, 8/12, 8/27, 9/8, 9/9, 9/14, 9/15, 9/16, 9/17, 9/29, 9/30, 10/1, 10/2.

– Geneva – Kane County Cougars

– Schaumburg – Schaumburg Boomers – There is a Family Sunday Deal where you’ll receive 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, and 4 sodas on any of the following dates: May 25, June 8, June 22, July 6, July 13, July 27, August 10, and August 24.

Water Parks:

– Aurora – Splash Country Water Park – There are Twilight discount admissions.

– Des Plaines – Mystic Waters Family Aquatic Center

– Gurnee – Hurricane Harbor

– Gurnee – Magic Waters Waterpark – There are many special packages, which include waterpark admission.

– Rockford – Magic Waters Waterpark

– Yorkville – Raging Waves – Children 2 years old and under are always free.


– Aurora – Phillips Park

– Brookfield – Brookfield Zoo

– Chicago – Lincoln Park Zoo

– Wheaton – Cosley Zoo – Free admission for birth to 17 years old.

* We’ll continue to add more to this list as we find more events and attractions in the Chicago-area to help you have a wonderful staycation! Check back often for our updates. Leave a comment for us if you have any ideas on what to add to our list.

If you are looking for staycation ideas in other areas of the country, check out the city nearest you:

A – D

Phoenix, Arizona — Saving For Someday
Fresno, California — Living A Frugal Life
Orange County, California — More With Less Today
San Diego, California — Southern Cali Saver
Denver, Colorado — Bargain Blessings
Washington, District of Columbia — Kidventurous

F – I

Disney World, Florida — The Happy Housewife
Jacksonville, Florida — Saving The Family Money
Orlando, Florida — Coupon Mamacita
St Augustine, Florida — Simply St. Augustine
Tallahasse, Florida — SwagGrabber
Tampa Bay, Florida —
Atlanta, Georgia — Pretty Frugal Diva
Dahlonega, Georgia — Kathys Cluttered Mind
Savannah, Georgia — This Mommy Saves Money
Aurora/Chicago, Illinois — A Savings WOW!
Chicago, Illinois — Entertaining Chicago
Indianapolis, Indiana — Chaos Is Bliss

K – P

Lexington, Kentucky — Homeschool Village
Louisville, Kentucky — The Kennedy Adventures
Northern Kentucky, Kentucky — Simply Sherryl
Carroll County, Maryland — Looking at life CreativLEI
Boston, Massachusetts — Maven of Savin
Battle Creek, Michigan — Pichea Place
Grand Rapids, Michigan — Give Me Neither
Metro Detroit, Michigan — Saving Dollars and Sense
Kansas City Area, Missouri/Kansas — Redefined Mom
Omaha, Nebraska — Family Fun in Omaha
Central, New Jersey — Our Good Life
Cincinnati, Ohio — Adventure Mom
Cleveland, Ohio — Kosher on a Budget
Columbus, Ohio — Cleverly Simple
Dayton, Ohio — Savings Lifestyle
Mansfield & Richland County, Ohio — The Traveling Praters
Miami County, Ohio — Something 2 Offer
Northeast, Ohio — Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring
Portland, Oregon — Frugal Living NW
Harrisburg/Central, PA — Family Balance Sheet
Erie, Pennsylvania — Growing Kids Ministry
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Moms Need To Know
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — The Coupon High

R – W

Arlington, Texas — Grocery Shop For FREE
Fort Worth, Texas — Coupons and Freebies Mom
Houston, Texas — Melissa’s Bargains
Katy, Texas — Moms Confession
San Antonio, Texas — How to Homeschool My Child
Tyler, Texas — iLoveMy5Kids
Charlottesville, Virgina — How to Have it All
Norfolk, Virgina — The Talking Suitcase
Richmond, Virgina — Vacation Maybe
Seattle, Washington — Thrifty NW Mom
Tacoma/South Puget Sound, Washington — Queen Bee Coupons
Oshkosh, Wisconsin — A Little Bit of This and That

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for more information.

Free Smart Shopping Workshop 4/23/15 at 11:00 AM

This deal has ended.

Smart Shopping Workshop

As part of Money Smart Week, I am teaching a Smart Shopping Workshop and you’re invited to attend for free! Learn how to shop smarter and save at least half off your grocery budget each month! Plus, learn tips to save money every day.

When: Thursday, April 23, 2015 from 11 am to 1 pm
Where: Fox Valley Chamber of Commerce
600 North Commons Drive, Suite 102
Aurora, IL 60504

There is no need to register. Feel free to bring guests. You are also welcome to bring your own lunch.

Are you planning to attend? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for more information.

Main Event Entertainment $25 FUNcard Giveaway (Ends 10/13/14 at 11:59 pm CST)

This deal has ended.

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. I was invited to attend the preview event, which included complimentary food and attractions. However, all opinions are my own honest opinions.


We had the opportunity to visit the new Main Event Entertainment location in Warrenville, IL this weekend during their grand opening. My entire family had a great time. Read my review here to find out the different activities we did!

About Main Event Entertainment:

Main Event Entertainment is a state-of-the-art entertainment destination that packs in tons of fun for everyone, all under one roof with cutting-edge bowling, multi-level laser tag, Gravity ropes, games, billiards and more. Main Event is the fastest growing family entertainment center in the U.S. The new Warrenville center located at 28248 Diehl Road is the 17th location nationwide and the first location in Illinois. Main Event’s dining options include a pizza restaurant with hand tossed pizzas and gelato as well as American casual dining with classic sandwiches, burgers and entrees and a full bar. Main Event is open on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight, Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The prize:

Main Event Entertainment $25 FUNcard

Enter to win:

Disclaimer: We were not compensated for this post. We are not associated with the company named above. No purchase is necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law. The odds of winning are based on the number of entries received. The sponsor(s) will be responsible for product shipment to winner(s) of this giveaway. My blog is not responsible for product shipment/delivery. This event is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by, or associated with, Facebook and/or Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Instagram or Klout. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements. It is at the sole discretion of the admin of the giveaway if the winner has met the rules or not.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for more information.

Free Bra Fitting and Bra Donation – Vanity Fair LiftTour with Dress for Success

Disclosure: I received a complimentary Vanity Fair bra while attending the #LiftTour Blogger Event. However, all opinions are my own, honest opinions.

Vanity Fair #LiftTour #WomenWhoDo

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Vanity Fair LiftTOUR at their stop at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, IL. I’m very inspired by their mission to help women with their partnership with Dress for Success. Watch this video to find out more about their mission:

When you visit a stop during the LiftTOUR, you will have the opportunity to get a free bra fitting. Just for stopping in for your free bra fitting, Vanity Fair will donate a brand-new bra to the local Dress for Success affiliate. The beautiful thing is that you will be able to write a note of inspiration and encouragement to the person receiving the donated bra. Here’s what I wrote:

Donated Bra

It was so easy to get fitted for a bra and in all honesty, a little less intrusive than the last time I was fitted for a bra. The Vanity Fair Fit Experts are very knowledgeable and can help you with making sure you have the correct size so that you can be comfortable in your bra. There are also comfortable seats on the bus so if you have to wait for your turn, it is a pleasant wait.

#LiftTOUR #WomenWhoDo

Bra Fitting

What inspires me most about this initiative is hearing from the women that will benefit the most from us taking the time out of our busy schedules to get a free bra fitting (which we should do anyway), so please take a few minutes to watch this video to learn more about just one of the women you’ll impact:

Here are the additional stops they have in the Chicago area:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
2920 S. Finley Road
Downers Grove, IL 60515
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Thursday, September 11, 2014
1001 75th Street
Woodridge, IL 60517
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Friday, September 12, 2014
3 Orland Square Drive
Orland Park, IL 60462
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

If you are not in the Chicago area, the LiftTour also has stops in Detroit, MI, New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Cleveland, OH, Atlanta, GA, and Miami, FL. See the dates and locations of those stops on the Vanity Fair LiftTOUR website.

Check out my store matchups before heading out to the stores this week:

Store Matchups

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for more information.

Welcome FOX Good Day Chicago Viewers! ~ Back to School Shopping Savings Tips

Thanks for tuning in to watch me on FOX’s Good Day Chicago this morning. I truly enjoyed speaking with Melody Mendez about the different ways you can save money on buying your back to school supplies! Watch the video of the full segment here:

Here are some ways to save money on your back to school shopping:

Take inventory of what you have. If your kids are like mine, they probably came home with some extra unused supplies at the end of last school year. You may have also grabbed an extra supply or two over the years. You can always turn something old into something new just by getting creative. Using decorative Duct Tape and washi tape are easy ways to turn something into a work of art. Even drawing with Sharpies can make something look interesting.

Download the free Favado app.  Sign up for the Favado app here and download it on your smartphone.  This is the best time and money saver because you are able to find the best deals at many stores, including ones for back to school, like Office Depot/Office Max, Staples, Target, Walmart, and more. Use the search feature to find what you still need – you can search by product (ex: crayons, pens, index cards) or by brand (ex: Crayola, Bic, Sharpie). You can even create your shopping list right on the app.


Start early. Even if your kids have already started school, now is still the best time to shop for back to school supplies. Stock up for when they start running out of supplies during the year because at that point, it will cost 2-3 times as much as it does right now. You can find many supplies on sale for $1 or less.

Use rewards programs. My favorite rewards program is the Shop Your Way Rewards program for Sears and Kmart because you can earn points on your purchases to use towards future purchases. You can use it to buy clothes and other school supplies. The Children’s Place also has a free rewards program called My Place Rewards where you can earn points from your purchases towards certificates to be used on future purchases. Let’s face it – every little bit helps!


Use printable and online coupons. Using sites like to search for coupon codes before you shop will help you save even more money. Right now, is the only one that has Crayola coupons available. You can print them out here:

Printable grocery coupons powered by

Printable grocery coupons powered by

While you’re here, check out our store matchups before you head out to do your shopping:

Store Matchups

What are some other tips you have to help us save money on back to school supplies?

Thank you for reading A Savings WOW! and don’t forget to check out our check out our Coupon Database for lots of money-saving coupons!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for more information.