Megy Karydes
families having fun in Grant Park Chicago

Chicago families know it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to have fun in the city. The Windy City is filled with inexpensive activities, whether your family loves art and architecture, food or visiting museums.

Here are some of fun ways to enjoy fall with your family that won't break the bank.

Bike enthusiasts

People bicycling on 606 path

Photo courtesy of Ranvestel Photographic / Choose Chicago

If your family is cycle crazy, rent a Divvy from Chicago's bike share program, or ride your own bikes along the 606 path.

Keep Moving: Designing Chicago's Bicycle Culture

If you're ready to put a pause on pedaling, check out the Keep Moving: Designing Chicago's Bicycle Culture exhibit at the Design Museum of Chicago. Beginning Oct. 27, the exhibit will explore how bicycle design in Chicago contributed to the early popularity of bicycles in America, as many Chicago-based manufacturers were producing the majority of American-made bicycles at the turn of the century.

The exhibit, which runs through March 3, 2019, will also show what's behind the bicycle's resurgence today. It will be open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m.




Photo courtesy of Spacca Napoli Pizzeria / Choose Chicago

Chicago is known for its food, from pizzas to tacos. Create your own food tour by lining up a few spots to hit up over the course of the day, and make sure to include some off-the-beaten-path spots.

Taste Chicago Food Tour

If you'd rather someone else do the work, book a Taste Chicago Food Tour. The walking tour takes visitors throughout the Loop to enjoy everything from pizza to Chicago's famous classic Italian beef sandwich.

Cooking classes

For more hands-on food experiences, take a class at The Chopping Block. Learn how to make traditional dishes or themed meals around a specific holiday.

Festivities and festivals

The holiday season is full of great festivals the whole family can enjoy.

Arts in the Dark

Kids young and old will enjoy Arts in the Dark, a relatively under-the-radar, free and lively pre-Halloween parade where local artists create stunning masks, costumes, floats, lanterns and puppets to strut along Columbus Drive in Grant Park, beginning at Balbo Drive and continuing through Monroe Street. When the parade ends, the festivities continue at nearby Maggie Daley Park with family-friendly activities.

This year's event takes place on Oct. 20, at 6 p.m.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

magnificent mile lights festival

Photo courtesy of Davis Harrison Dion / Magnificent Mile Lights Fest / Choose Chicago

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is the city's way of welcoming the holiday season. The free two-day family-friendly festival features concerts and activities with the event culminating in Saturday's popular tree lighting parade complete with fireworks over the Chicago River. Come early to snag a great spot along the parade route.

This year, the festival will take place on Nov. 16 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Nov. 17 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Photo courtesy of Adam Alexander Photography / Choose Chicago

For 24 years, thousands of families have visited ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, a one-of-a-kind experience that showcases luminous displays and seasonal activities among the glow of 2.5 million lights.

The free event begins Nov. 23 this year and continues through Jan. 6. Activities throughout the season include photos with Santa, strolling carolers and live ice-sculpture carving. The hours are 4:30 to 9 p.m.

Chicago International Children's Film Festival

Kids don't need to take a back seat during the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. The popular annual roundup of films includes entertaining and educational flicks screened throughout Chicago.

Tickets range from $6 to $10 and the festival takes place from Nov. 1 through 9.

Millennium Park ice skating

Millennium Park ice skating

Photo courtesy of Ranvestel Photographic / Choose Chicago

Weather permitting, ice skaters flock to Millennium Park to skate at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink with the Bean and Chicago skyline as the backdrop. Skating is free for those who bring their own skates and rentals are available for $12 Monday through Thursday and $14 Friday through Sunday and during holidays.

The rink normally opens mid-November and stays open until mid-March.

Header Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash



About The Author

Megy Karydes

As a Chicago-based freelance writer, Megy Karydes has covered everything from space-aged tomato seeds grown in a Chicago Public School to Chicago Blues musician Lurrie Bell. Her work has been featured in USA Today, Travel + Leisure, Midwest Living magazine and other national and regional media outlets. When she's not out exploring the city with her two children and husband, she's perfecting her air hockey technique.