Having fun and enjoying new experiences doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg or anything at all. Glenview, Illinois, and its surrounding areas have plenty of exciting opportunities to get out of the house, learn, and explore without spending money on admissions. Here are eight free things to do in and around Glenview.

Chicago Botanic Garden

One of the tropical greenhouses that grace the lawns of the Chicago Botanical Garden near Glenview, IL.

Image via Flickr by jonkriz

Just 20 minutes north of Glenview in Glencoe, Illinois, the Chicago Botanic Garden welcomes guests free of charge. You can walk through 27 different gardens and four natural areas to see what’s in bloom and enjoy regularly changing exhibits. The garden will be different almost every time you visit as plants go in and out of season, traveling exhibitions come by, and holiday displays take over.

During the holiday season from November to January, guests can tour the Lightscape display of lights throughout the garden after dark. During the summer months, the garden regularly hosts outdoor music events and yoga classes. Something is going on at the Chicago Botanic Garden during every season, so don’t miss out. The gardens are open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily, and the Garden Cafe holds the same hours in case you get hungry.

Allison Woods

Right in Glenview, Allison Woods is a nature center that welcomes visitors any day of the week from dawn to dusk to walk along the self-guided trails. The River Trail Nature Center is home to some animals native to the area and has an interesting history. Check for events at the center, and maybe you’ll get to meet an owl or learn to make maple syrup. The Des Plaines River Trail loops through the woods — perfect for runners and walkers alike. Get out on the Des Plaines River for some kayaking, or bring a picnic to enjoy in the picnic grove area.

American Toby Jug Museum

On Chicago Avenue in Evanston, just 20 minutes from Glenview, the American Toby Jug Museum has a collection of more than 8,000 jugs. Displayed in 97 glass cabinets, these Toby and Character Jugs come from a long history of this unique drinkware. The museum is free and open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.

This is a great place to visit and walk through while visiting Evanston for lunch or dinner. You’ll see jugs that date all the way back to the 18th century as well as German jugs, French pitchers, and the smallest and largest Toby Jugs in the world.

Skokie Lagoons

Head to Skokie Lagoons, 20 minutes northeast of Glenview, to explore 894 acres of hiking trails, water, and woodlands. Bring your boots and splash around in the shallow waters while searching for slithery critters, fish, and unique plants. There are several boat launch areas throughout the lagoons for kayaking, fishing, and canoeing. Scope out the picnic areas for a place to enjoy a packed lunch or dinner, and bring your bikes to enjoy some time on the North Branch Trail System, which runs through the lagoons. This nature area is open daily from dawn until dusk.

Harms Flatwoods

Just a few minutes outside of Glenview, Harms Flatwoods (also called Harms Woods) is a great spot for bird watchers. Locals have reported spotting Cooper’s hawks, great crested flycatchers, and chestnut-sided warblers. Unpaved nature trails weave throughout the 107 acres of woods filled with wildflowers, native animals, and butterflies. You may even see some minks and beavers along the water. Chicago’s North Branch Trail also runs through this area, offering a paved place to ride bikes, run, or walk. During the winter, this is a great place to go cross-country skiing.

Millennium Park

About 45 minutes away in the heart of Chicago, Millennium Park is a must-visit spot. Check out the famous Bean, tour the Millennium Monument, play in Crown Fountain, walk through Lurie Garden, and keep an eye out for free concerts and festivals at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The Boeing Galleries features year-round outdoor art by famous artists. The Chicago Cultural Center is also free and a great place to visit to learn more about the city’s culture and history. There’s so much to do in Millennium Park, it’s easy to make a day of it.

Maggie Daley Park

Also in Downtown Chicago, Maggie Daley Park is an exciting spot for all ages with free things to do and a few options that will cost a couple of dollars. The free activities include the Play Garden for kids under 12 years old, the Cancer Survivor’s Garden, and several public art sculptures and interactive installations like the Out of Sight installation. During warm weather seasons, there’s a climbing wall, mini-golf, scooter rentals, and more, but these all have admission fees.

It can also be fun to simply walk through the park and watch skaters take on the various challenges at the skate park. There’s a cafe offering food and drink for hungry walkers, and the lakefront trail is nearby to continue your relaxing stroll in the Windy City.

Lincoln Park Zoo

About 30 to 45 minutes from Glenview, depending on the time of day and traffic, the Lincoln Park Zoo is free and definitely worth a visit. Within the zoo, you’ll have the opportunity to walk through numerous habitats with animals from all over the world, including gorillas, lions, bears, reptiles, and so much more. Penguin Cove is one of the favorite spots in the zoo for kids, as is the Children’s Zoo. Don’t forget to walk through the Lincoln Park Conservatory and along the Nature Boardwalk.

So, now that you’ve seen Crème de la Crème of Glenview, AZ top picks for free activities in the Glenview and northern Chicago areas. Find time to check out a few or all of these attractions with the whole family or perhaps for an inexpensive date night. Send us a message to let us know which is your favorite or if we missed one of your favorite free local attractions. We might even add your pick to our list.