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Long summer days are ahead, and expectations are high. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of summer fun to make this summer awesome. This list of Chicago-area family fun is mostly free too! You’re welcome.

Have ideas to add? Send them our way by posting it on our Facebook page.

1. River Park: This pool is free and in the north end of Chicago, and the park and splash park are fun too (but check their weird schedule). Bring your bikes and a picnic and make a whole day of it. (See our post on splash parks for more water fun.)

2. Bowen Park: This park in Waukegan is worth the drive! It’s great for kids of all ages and unlike any park we’ve seen locally. Make it a whole day by stopping at the Jelly Belly factory for a free tour.

3. Millennium Park: Their daily kids’ fun festival is free and incredible. Live concerts, arts and crafts, books and blocks. Add to that the fountain, the symphony rehearsals and all the amenities of Millennium Park, and you’ll leave with no doubt that you live in a world class city!

4. Maggie Daley Park: If you haven’t made it to this new park, you must. The rock climbing looks incredible too, and although it’s reasonably priced, it’s not free.

5. Head for the beach: Loyola Beach is free, like all Chicago beaches, and far enough north that it’s not a bad drive from the suburbs. And with half a mile of beach front, it’s easy to find an uncrowded spot.

6. Speaking of the beach, have you made it to the Indiana Dunes lately? Only a little more than an hour away, this National Park feels like a vacation. Go for a hike through the natural sand dunes or park yourself on the beach and watch your kids (or spouse!) roll down the dunes. As long as you’re there, add berry picking at any one of the pick-your-own farms in the area.

7. Canoeing/Kayaking in Skokie Lagoons: Even if you have no idea how to canoe, if you’re up for an adventure, you’ll have a blast. Only a few minutes north on the Edens is the Chicago River Paddle on Tower Rd. Rentals are a mere $20/hour for a canoe, and an hour is plenty for most kids.

8. Garfield Park Conservatory: Join them Wednesday evenings and let your kids get a little wild! Whether inside or out, kids explore nature, get theri hands dirty and discovering new things about plants, animals and nature. In addition to dig pit and spray bottles, they invite a wild animal guest several times a month.

9. Chicago Botanic Garden features Dancin’ Sprouts Wednesday evenings from 5:30 – 7:30 through September 2.

10. Night Out in the Parks: Chicago Park District, Skokie, Willmette, Evanston and more all feature movies, concerts, plays and Shakespeare nearly every night. Stay busy enough and it just might remind you why you live in this city on the lake all they way until…er, well January?