Like many families, we find ourselves spending more in December than any other month. Buying gifts, dining out, holiday experiences for our family . . . it all adds up, so we like to start the new year with a clean slate. We’ve rounded up family-friendly (and budget-friendly) ways to spend time together in January. Below you’ll find indoor, outdoor, structured and open-ended ways to have fun without the worry of the price-tag. It’s all free!
Free January 2022 Fun for Kids in Chicagoland
Chicagoland Zoos with Free Admission
Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago)
Always free admission to all visitors.
Phillips Park Zoo (Aurora)
Phillips Park Zoo is also always free to visitors. There is a huge playground area next to the zoo to add to your visit.
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+.
Libraries are always a great place for free local fun. Grab a few new titles, check out their storytimes and regular programming, 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, too.
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.
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 for the the book Over and Under the Snow. You can also find a Martin Luther King, Jr Storywalk happening January 17-21, 2022.
Various Holiday Walks will also continue into January. Search for over 100 plush penguins in Elmhurst, find reindeer on parade in Wheaton, and more!
While most of the holiday lights turn off after the start of the new year, Nights of Lights in Adams Park in Wheaton, and Winter Lights at Central Park in Oak Brook will continue until January 9, 2022.
The Chicago-area is full of incredible museums, many of which offer free days throughout the year. Find details about all the Museum Free Days happening in January.
Nearly all of the nature centers in our area are free to visitors. Pop in to learn more about native animals.
Many families find time to give back during the holiday season, but the needs in our communities don’t end after the new year. Use our Volunteering Guide to find a way to make an impact with your family.
While your entire bill won’t be free, these Kids Eat Free deals will certainly minimize your restaurant tab.
Free January Events
Events may change, and some require prior registration. Please check directly with the hosting organization before you make plans!
Farm Life in Winter (Kline Creek Farm, West Chicago)
Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in January, 2022 | 1:30pm – 3:30pm
Sunday Makebreak (Michaels Craft Stores)
Sundays in January, 2022 | 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Free Day at The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago)
Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays in January, 2022 | 11:00am – 6:00pm
Illinois residents must reserve tickets online in advance.
Free Admission for Illinois Residents (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago)
Tuesdays in January, 2022 | 10:00am – 9:00pm
Field Museum Illinois Resident Free Day (Chicago)
Wednesdays in January, 2022 | 9:00am – 5:00pm
Open Nature Play Day (Dan Ryan Woods, Chicago)
Wednesdays in January, 2022 | 10:00am – 1:00pm
Take and Make Fridays (Brookfield Public Library)
Fridays in January, 2022 | 10:00am – 6:00pm
New Year’s Joy Hike (St. Charles)
January 1, 2022 | 9:00am – 10:00am
Pokémon Go Community Day Meetup (Downers Grove)
January 1, 2022 | 11:00am – 2:00pm
Family Game Night (Naperville Public Library)
January 3, 2022 | 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Volunteer Restoration Workday (Glen Ellyn Park District)
January 8, 2022 | 9:00am – 11:00am
Wee Wonders Series (Sand Ridge Nature Center, South Holland)
January 12, 2022 | 10:00am – 11:00am
Frozen Fest (Glen Ellyn)
January 15, 2022 | 10:00am – 12:00pm
National Nothing Day (Montgomery)
January 16, 2022 | all day
Family Winter Scavenger Hunt and Campfire (Trailside Museum of Natural History, River Forest)
January 16, 2022 | 1:00pm – 2:30pm
Everyone At Play (Kohl Children’s Museum, Glenview)
January 16, 2022 | 2:00pm – 5:00pm
MLK Day of Service (Sand Ridge Nature Center, South Holland)
January 17, 2022 | 10:00am – 2:00pm
Moon Walk (Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, Willow Springs)
January 18, 2022 | 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Library Storytime (The Museums at Lisle Station Park)
January 18, 2022 | 6:00pm – 6:30pm
Preschool Open House (Geneva)
January 20, 2022 | 5:30pm – 7:00pm
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star Night Hike (Willow Springs)
January 21, 2022 | 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Take It Tuesday (Clarendon Hills Public Library)
January 25, 2022 | 10:00am – 8:00pm
Festival of Lights: Lunar New Year (Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien)
January 26, 2022 | 6:00pm – 7:00pm
Lunar New Year Celebration (Glen Ellyn Public Library)
January 27, 2022 | 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Fabulous Friday: Animal Quest (Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien)
January 28, 2022 | 6:00pm – 7:00pm
Nature Center Open House (Oakbrook Terrace)
January 29, 2022 | 12:00pm – 3:00pm
It’s Your January Birthday Storytime (Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien)
January 30, 2022 | 3:00pm – 4:00pm
You can also find lots of cozy indoor activities for the winter months in our Winter Activities Guide!