If you’re like most Illinois parents, any family-friendly activity you can find for free is a treasure. That’s why Crème de la Crème put together this list of six things you can do near the small town of Warrenville that won’t cost you a dime.

Take a Walk at Cantigny Park

Image via Flickr by Franklin Park Library Licensed CC BY 2.0

Cantigny Park is Warrenville’s most popular destination for nature lovers. Spreading over 500 stunning acres off Winfield Road, it features the founder’s immaculately kept gardens, a large picnic area, and a fantastic playground for children. The unpaved, 2.25-mile nature trail that circles the park is the perfect place for an active family outing after school. Cantigny Park admission is always free, and parking is free the first Wednesday of every month, between March and December.

The site also boasts three museums, including First Division Museum, the McCormick House, and the Museums for All. Any family that qualifies for state food assistance and has an EBT or WIC card gets free admission for up to eight guests. In addition, everyone gets complimentary access to the museums on special “free days,” including the free Wednesdays mentioned above, as well as the following:

  • Armed Forces Day (May 15)
  • Constitution Day (September 17)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)

Check Out Cosley Zoo’s Festival of Lights

The Cosley Zoo’s Festival of Lights runs roughly the month of December each year. The zoo, which is situated on 5 acres in nearby Wheaton, is open to all with free admission during the event. Make it your family’s new holiday tradition and stroll past more than 20,000 twinkling lights and whimsical illuminated animal shapes. The event starts at 3 p.m. and transforms the zoo into a sparkling winter wonderland.

A variety of reptiles, birds, farm animals, and native Illinois wildlife call this sanctuary home. The kids will enjoy seeing 200 animals representing over 50 species in 20 different exhibits, such as curious red foxes, playful raccoons, and adorable goats. The Cosley Zoo is free to all children from infants to age 17 every day of the year and free to Wheaton Park District residents with a Universal Resident ID card. Find it on North Gary Avenue.

Discover the William L. Gregg House Museum

If you have a budding history or architecture buff in the family, head to the William L. Gregg House Museum. The son of a prominent local brickmaker, Mr. Gregg erected this historic Victorian mansion in the Second Empire style in 1872 at its original location on Cass Avenue. Over its long history, it has served several purposes:

  • Farmhouse
  • Restaurant
  • Speakeasy
  • Funeral home
  • Recreation center
  • Boarding house for the Holy Trinity Catholic Parish

Today, the house sits one block away on South Linden Avenue, thanks to preservation efforts by the Westmont Area Historical Society, which saved the building from demolition in 1976. The extensively renovated museum features displays of various collections that depict typical life during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. The house is open for tours Wednesday and Sunday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Admission is free.

See Something Amazing at the MCA

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is free for Illinois residents every Tuesday. If you’re a teacher, active or veteran military member, police, or firefighter, you get free admission every day with ID. Visitors with disabilities and their caregivers also receive free access.

Curators of this destination didn’t fill its hall with pieces from the past. Instead, it’s a place to see something new. The Chicago location on East Chicago Avenue is one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world. Since it opened its doors in 1967, it has brought fresh and experimental work and ambitious learning programs to area residents.

MCA’s collection has grown to include thousands of innovative and compelling works by living artists in all types of media. Past exhibits such as Dan Peterman’s “Sulfur Cycle 2.0” and Orkideh Torabi’s contribution to the museum’s atrium, “Peach House’s 5 Bucks Morning Special,” challenge traditional concepts in unexpected ways.

Explore Garfield Park Conservatory

Uncover nature within the bustling city of Chicago at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Wander through 10 acres of lush outdoor gardens, then stroll through the Palm House. It’s the largest indoor exhibit at the park at 65 feet tall and 90 feet wide. Inside, you’ll encounter a tropical landscape featuring dozens of graceful palm trees. The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden is the ideal place to introduce your little ones to the love of plants. Other attractions include:

  • The Fern Room
  • Sugar from the Sun
  • The Desert House
  • The Aroid House
  • The Show House
  • The Horticulture Hall

Admission to the Garfield Park Conservatory is free, and walk-ups are welcome. However, staff strongly recommend you make advanced reservations to ensure you don’t have to wait for space. You can quickly sign up a family or group up to nine people online. Parking is also free in the visitor’s lot, south of the Conservatory entrance on North Central Park Avenue.

Tour Chicago

The town of Warrenville, Illinois, is less than an hour from one of the country’s most vibrant cities. Getting to know this exciting neighbor is a must-do for every local. Chicago Greeters is a volunteer-led walking tour of some of the Windy City’s most interesting neighborhoods and other destinations.

You can get an insider’s orientation to everything that makes Chicago a world-class destination — and it’s so close to home! Choose a two- or four-hour trek and see a selection of Chicago’s areas of interest that are customized based on your choices, or take the free one-hour-long guided downtown walk. Visit other hidden gems, including historic landmarks, unique shops, ethnic eateries, and public art installations.

There you have it! Crème de la Crème of Warrenville, Illinois, just presented you with these six ideas of things to check out when you’re looking for free activities for kids close to home. Did we miss your family’s favorite — and free — local activity? Let us know so we can add your recommendation to our list.