Editor’s note: We’re making every effort to provide you with the most up-to-date information. However, the situation with Covid-19 is fluid and ever-changing. We’re doing our best to keep all of our stories and calendar up to date. Stay safe, and stay home! 

Keeping a family entertained can deflate the wallet rather quickly. Teach the family the value of a dollar by exploring the free—or incredibly cheap—activities that Chicago has to offer. Our top picks add up to a whole wealth of fun. Plus, it’s easy on your pocketbook. You can thank us later.

MUSEUMS & ZOOS

photo: Todd Rosenberg Photography

Lincoln Park Zoo

While Lincoln Park Zoo is closed through March 4, they're bringing animal experiences to Chicagoans via their new YouTube series, Stay Tuned to the Zoo! Episodes will feature many of the animals you'd see on a typical zoo visit, from giraffes to meerkats, and will highlight activities families can do together related to animal care or behavior. New episodes will air every Tuesday and Thursday.

Every Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. & 2 p.m., join Lincoln Park Zoo for Facebook Live experiences. For behind-the-scenes updates and to get a glimpse of ongoing animal care, connect via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Online: lpzoo.org

photo: Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo is closed to the public until Mar. 1, but they created Family Play Programs with the help of artists, nature educators and early childhood specialists. Children learn through play with their favorite play partner. . . you!

Their Zoo to You series brings you some of the coolest and most interesting animals around while also providing informative sessions that engage and educate. 

Online: czs.org/Brookfield-ZOO

photo: National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican Art

See a colorful new world unfold at the free-admission National Museum of Mexican Art. The 10,000-piece permanent collection spans ancient Mexico to the present day, and is one of the largest in the country. (1852 W. 19th St., Pilsen)

COVID-19 INFO: During the Covid-19 crisis, the National Museum of Mexican Art is closed, but has compiled a list of their favorite activities to enjoy at home, including coloring pages, word searches, and even a tutorial on how to make papel picado

CULTURAL SITES & PARKS

Cloud Gate

Pretend you're a tourist and visit Cloud Gate, aka The Bean. It's only visible from a distance due to COVID, but it's still worthy of a look-see. (201 E. Randolph, Loop)

Baha'i Temple

The beautiful domed building of the Baha'i Temple was constructed in 1953 and designed by French Canadian Louis Bourgeois. Just a stroll around the outside wows with architectural feats (check out the intricately carved stone pillars) and surrounding manicured gardens. (100 Linden Ave., Wilmette)

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Expose kids to another culture in their own city with a walk through Chinatown. Visit Chinatown Gate, Nine Dragon Wall and Ping Tom Memorial Park, and end the trip with a stop at Legend Tasty House for rolled ice cream.

FREE RESOURCES

Chicago Public Libraries

Typically we'd tell you to spend as much time as possible at Chicago's Public Libraries because of the educational toys, engaging activities and interactive atmospheres, but right now, it's a get-in and get-out situation. Most are open, except those too small to allow for social distancing. Pay your local library a visit and bring home a stack of books to hibernate with as the weather chills.

Chicago Public Libraries has a FAQ page that covers what to expect (and expectations) during a COVID-times visit and an online resource page with activities targeting kids.

INDOOR ACTIVITIES

Nickel City

Five cents doesn’t go far these days, which is why Northbrook’s Nickel City is so refreshing. Games like Skee-Ball and Bozo Buckets take nickels instead of tokens and old-school arcade staples like Pac-Man and Mortal Kombat operate for free. (555 Waukegan Rd., Northbrook)

FAMILY GAMES

A Chicago-Themed Scavenger Hunt

Show your kids the coolness of their hometown with a Chicago-themed scavenger hunt. You'll stroll down the Chicago River to see moveable bridges (or perhaps just do a drive-by if the weather is nippy), find the Picasso installation at Daley Plaza, and intro the kids to a Chicago-style hot dog

— Maria Chambers & Wendy Altschuler

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