Start 2021 Right with Free January Fun

After a hectic (and expensive!) December, we’re all ready for fresh ideas without a price tag come January. Below, you’ll find information about free things to do with kids this month. We’ve got both indoor and outdoor places to go, as well as events running throughout January. Bundle up, have fun, and don’t worry about your budget!

Free January 2020 Fun for Kids in Chicagoland

Chicagoland Zoos with Free Admission

Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago)
Always free admission to all visitors.

Cosley Zoo (Wheaton)
If you live in Wheaton, Cosley is always free with your park district ID! Kids 17 and under are free, too; non-resident adults pay $7, or $6 for ages 55+.

Phillips Park Zoo (Aurora) – Currently Closed
Phillips Park Zoo is closed as of January 1, 2021, but check their website for updates.

Local Libraries

Libraries are always a great place for free local fun. Grab a few new titles, check out their virtual storytimes, or log into countless streaming services for home entertainment. Our handy list of Libraries in the Western Suburbs gives you a sneak peek into the different kids’ areas to check out once they are allowed to safely reopen, too.

Outdoor Fun

While some locations charge admission, there are many places that offer free ice skating. Check out our roundup of indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks.

See also
August Bucket List: 31 Ways to Celebrate the Last Month of Summer

Another wonderful outdoor activity that is free of charge? Sledding! Check out all the sledding hills in the Western suburbs for a round-up of local hills and details about what you can expect.

Stretch your legs and brains at these parks with Storybook Walks in the western suburbs. Forest Preserves of Cook County is running various story events throughout the month, including one of our favorite books, A Snowy Day.

Take part in the Glen Ellyn Scavenger Hunt, starting January 5. Walk through downtown Glen Ellyn and spy the landmarks identified by the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.

Free January Events

Farm Life in Winter (Kline Creek Farm, West Chicago)
Daily in January, 2021 | 1:30pm – 3:30pm

Bringing the Zoo to You: Facebook Live (Brookfield Zoo, Virtual)
Weekdays in January and February, 2021 | 11:00am

Winter Lights at Central Park (Oak Brook)
December 1, 2020 – February 2021 | 4:30pm – 9:30pm
Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance.

Winter Story Trail (Sand Ridge Nature Center, South Holland)
Saturdays and Sundays in January, 2021 | 9:00am – 3:00pm

Nights of Lights (Wheaton)
November 20, 2020 – January 10, 2021 | dusk – 10:00pm

Festival of Lights Winter Walk (Bolingbrook)
December 6, 2020 – January 10, 2021 | dusk – 10:00pm

Holiday Lights in Lilacia Park (Lombard)
January 1 – 3, 2021 | 4:30pm – 10:00pm

Phyllis L. Fagell: Middle School Matters: 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive and Prepare for a Changing World (Virtual)
January 12, 2021 | 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Lake View Nature Center Open House (Oakbrook Terrace)
January 23, 2021 | 12:00pm – 3:00pm

Dr. John Duffy: Workshop for Professionals: Understanding Our Student’s Stressed, Depressed, and Amazing Adolescence in the Age of Anxiety (Virtual)
January 27, 2021 | 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Dr. John Duffy: Parenting in the New Age of Anxiety: Understanding Your Child’s Stressed, Depressed and Amazing Adolescence (Virtual)
January 27, 2021 | 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Free Spots to Keep an Eye On for 2022

Many local destinations typically offer free days in January. These stops may be closed or modifying their plans due to current safety guidelines. Keep an eye out for all the fun they’ll have in store later in the year or in 2022.

See also
Kids in Sports is Coming to Naperville

You can also find lots of cozy indoor activities for the winter months in our Winter Activities Guide!

About the Author

Katie Mayle
Katie is a mother of three children, ages 7, 5, and 2. A Joliet native, she and her husband moved back to his hometown of Naperville after the birth of their second daughter. Her three kids keep her family very active, and she is grateful for the countless indoor and outdoor opportunities available to families in the western suburbs. She looks forward to sharing family-friendly fun with the parents of young children.

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