10 Cheap and Free Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer!

Everyone wants to have the best summer ever with their kiddos, but it can get expensive! With the kids out of school, they are looking for more and more activities to do. Instead of letting them sit inside and play on their iPads all day, take them on an adventure! Here are 10 cheap and free adventure ideas to get you and your kids out of the house for some fun in the sun! 

       1. Live Music! 

Go check out the Loungeabout In The Roundabout in Uptown Circle in Normal! On Wednesdays and Saturdays from 6 to 8 p.m. local artists play music for anyone who will listen. Go chill out and jam with your kids on the grass in the roundabout for no price! Maybe you can pick up a treat from Emack and Bolio’s Ice Cream across the street! For more information on performances and dates click here!


       2. Go to the zoo! 

For only $4.95 per kid and $6.95 per adult, and free parking, Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington is a great place to go to get your kids interested in animals. Your kids will have the opportunity to go inside a petting zoo, ride a carousel, and even see a Sumatran tiger be fed! 

miller park zoo

     3. Get Lost in The Woods! 

We are lucky to have the beautiful Constitution Trial run right in between Bloomington and Normal. The trail is more than 45 miles long and has a wide path for the whole family. You and your kids can ride bikes or hike on the trail. Experience the beautiful nature and the recreational attractions as you explore the trail. To see a map and more information, click here! 

Constitution trail

       4. Go to The Library! 

There are public libraries in Bloomington and Normal. Go to which ever one is closest! Both libraries have a free summer reading program. The more books your kids read, the more prizes they get! It’s a great way to keep the kids engaged intellectually so they will be ready when school starts again. To access information on Bloomington Public Library’s summer reading program, click here. To access information on Normal Public Library’s summer reading program, click here. Happy Reading! *Both libraries allow library cards from Bloomington and Normal residents with a photo ID present

bloomington summer reading

       5. Go to the Farmer’s Market! 

Every Saturday morning from May to October, from 7:30 a.m. to noon, the Downtown Bloomington Association’s Farmers’ Market is held on the Museum Square in Downtown Bloomington. Local farmers sell their fresh, locally grown farm products, local vendors have different kinds of booths, a variety of musicians perform, and cooking demonstrations are regularly offered. There is also a Kids’ Zone that holds hands-on activities for all ages sponsored by local organizations and is run by volunteers. The kids will have a great time learning all about different foods and cultures. Admission is free.

farmers market

       6. Sugar Grove Nature Center! 

At Sugar Grove Nature Center in McLean, kids can adventure down 10 different trails, all leading them towards a different type of nature element. From a babbling brook to wild flowers in the prairie, there is a little something that everyone will like. There are also buildings that contain educational elements for kids including Imagination Grove where kids can explore and just be kids with a variety of different stimulating activities. Admission is free. To find out more about the center, click here! 

sugar grove

       7. Go to Children’s Discovery Museum! 

For only $7 per kid and adult (Free for ages two and under) you and your children can enjoy the day by playing in a number of exhibits full of imagination and discovery at the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal! From playing pretend to participating in hands-on activities, including an art studio, your kids will be lost in a world of imagination! The museum participates in the Blue Star Museum Program which offers free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day with a military ID shown. If you hold an EBT card or WIC card, you are eligible for the Museums for All program. The Museums for All Program is a program through the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Association of Children’s Museums that encourages increased and regular museum attendance by low-income and under-served families. Benefits include $3 general admission for up to 6 people each visit, member pricing for special events, birthday parties and education programs, a 10% discount in the Discover More! Store, and access to Member Mondays. Click here to find out more! 


       8. Run in the Sun! 

Bloomington- Normal is filled with active splash pads and parks where kids can run in different sprinkler systems, play with water toys, and jump on big puddles. After that, the kids can go play on the jungle gyms nearby! Find these splash pads at different playgrounds like Tipton Park (North and South), McGraw Spray Park, and Miller Spray Park. All splash pads and play grounds are open to the public.

splash park

       9. Go to the beach! 

F.R. Glasener Beach is a swimming beach off Lake Proper, in COMLARA County Park in Hudson. For only, $0.50 for kids six and under, $3.50 for kids ages six through 12, and $5.00 for ages 13 and up, families can swim and enjoy some summer fun! Besides playing in the sand, kids can use the diving board, play in the lazy river, play beach volley ball, and more! There are even tubes to rent. Life guards are always on duty.


       10. Go Back in Time! 

Explore the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington, home of Judge David Davis, a political partner who played a huge role in helping Abraham Lincoln become President of the United States. Visitors can explore the Victorian Mansion, watch a video about the mansion, learn about Judge Davis and his relationship with Abraham Lincoln, and play in their unique and beautiful garden. Donations are welcome. To find out more information, click here! 


For more discount offers in the community, check out these links: 

Visit Bloomington- Normal: http://www.visitbn.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2019-Visitor-Coupons.pdf 

Groupon: https://www.groupon.com/local/bloomington-il 

Student Discounts: https://studentdiscountlist.org/illinois-il-student-discount-list-restaurant-retail-grocery-travel/ 

Free Events Bloomington- Normal: https://www.eventbrite.com/d/il–bloomington/free–events/?page=1 

About the Author: 

Mimi Head Shot

Hi! I’m Mimi. I am a Public Relations major at Illinois State University and an intern at YWCA McLean County. Writing has always been a passion of mine and I want to use that passion to give a voice to whomever needs one. I’m here to say we’ve all been there and if we haven’t, let’s talk about it. 


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