Especially around the holidays, money gets tight. Yet, you have time off and want to do fun things with your family. Well, guess what, there are actually some very great things to do for $10 or less. Read on for 12 suggestions.
1. Lincoln Park Zoo
Who says you can only go to the zoo when it's warm and you pack a picnic lunch? Take a walk in the FREE Lincoln Park Zoo. It might be the best time of year to see it with all of the holiday lights. Kids and adults will be enchanted.
2. Chicago Botanic Garden
Aren't all plants dead in winter? Actually, no. And Chicago Botanic Garden isn't located totally outdoors. There are plenty of things in bloom to see, and you can stroll this beautiful landscape and take in winter. Oh, and it's free.
3. Monticello Railway Museum
Are you a train nut? Then this is definitely the place for you. I've been to the National Railroad Museum, and I have to say, this museum in Monticello is just very well run. You will love the artifacts and the trains, of course. This time of year, hop onto the Polar Express and even splurge and let the kids have lunch with Santa on the train.
4. Cahokia Mounds
We can't say enough about how awesome the Cahokia Mounds site truly is. Called by some the Stonehenge of the Midwest, it is a remarkable site. Unless you spring for the $1 map, admission is free.
5. Super Museum
Okay, you absolutely cannot go to Metropolis and skip the Super Museum. There are THOUSANDS of items here, from when Superman was first "born" through today. At just $5 for people 5 years of age and older, it's a bargain.
6. Illinois State Military Museum
If you're a fan of military history, you will have an absolute ball at the Illinois State Military Museum. You can see all sorts of supplies used by Illinois soldiers in various wars, which can show you how warfare has really advanced. Throw in some real gems like Santa Ana's captured leg, and it is well worth a visit.
7. Shawnee National Forest
Hard to believe it, but this view is free. With how far south it is, the weather is a little warmer, but a nip in the air will still give you that brisk, wonderful walk through nature that you desire. There are plenty of absolutely amazing features within Shawnee National Forest, and, indeed, many incredible things in the surrounding area that are totally free.
8. Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site
This isn't a home made out of Lincoln logs; this is actually the cabin where the father and stepmother of Abraham Lincoln lived. It helps to show you rural life during that time in history. This is the perfect time to come out as it is decorated for Christmas. Today (December 5), they are actually serving wassail, making crafts, and singing carols, of course!
9. The Morton Arboretum
During winter, admission is reduced to under $10 for adults. But while the trees do not have leaves, it still is incredibly beautiful to walk through. And, for a little bit more, you can witness their "Illumination" event, featuring intense color and fun sounds that capture this wonderful time of year.
10. Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens
This museum is a 20 room home that was built in 1865, and this house has been maintained to really showcase its beauty. Right now, it is decorated for the holidays, making it even more attractive. Admission is just $7, but that includes a 60-90 minute guided tour. Like many historic sites, it is in need of funds, so visits or donations or sharing this post to help these folks out would be much appreciated by them.
11. Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home
For just $5, you can see where President Ronald Reagan grew up. This is a lot more than just a boyhood home. It's a glimpse into the past of what Illinois was like in the 1920s. You will be pleasantly surprised, and even the kids will like it.
12. Chicago Cultural Center
This is probably the most underrated museum in Chicago, with all sorts of rotating exhibits. The architecture in the building alone is worth a visit. There are often free musical or other artistic events. Oh, and did I mention that it is totally FREE?
What are your favorite fun but cheap things to do in Illinois? Let us know in the comments.