Let's be honest, it rains in the spring. A lot. And I certainly don't want to go anywhere that requires a cover charge (same rule applied in college.) So I present to you the list of sometimes free but always fun indoor places to visit:
a. Art Institute's Ryan Education Center. Make some crazy ass avant-garde piece of cardboard art to throw away. I don't know. But it gets you out of the house. Plus it's close to Millennium Park if you want to deal with that business. Did I mention it's FREE? And they offer programs? WHAT?
b. Whole Foods Lincoln Park. While I can't afford to shop here, I certainly can afford to take advantage of their free samples and kids' jam sessions. Every Wed. and Thur. they host Bubbles Academy for some awkward dancing and story-time. Look out for nannies on their cell phones, annoyed patrons on their Macs with $400 triple vegan swirled kale and violet effused chais... and antisocial kids (cough cough) trying to physically burrow themselves into their caregivers. Other than that, it's lovely. Plus parking is free. Oh, and they have some healthy eating classes or something but I prefer to stay at home and eat chocolate for breakfast.
c. Peggy Notebaert Museum. I am sure I am the 100000 person to talk about this one. Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois Residents. Go kill, I mean, admire some butterflies and other stuff. Be prepared to circle the block 20 times for a street spot or splurge for the lot. Bring snacks - they have a nice little eating area.
d. The Chicago History Museum. While it is not free (I know, I know, I am breaking my own rule right now), it offers a HUGE room for kids to run themselves into a coma.
Check out the huge hot dog...
...and, um, fly? Yea. Green screen bitches, green screen. Just go. They have trains, too. Big ones.
e. Harold Washington Library. I can guess what you are thinking. Library = BORINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. Books. blah blah. Well, actually the kids' section is pretty sweet. Plus they have escalators. And a giant, sun-lit Winter Atrium ripe for the runnin'. It's such a nice spot to just stop for a quick snack while you are downtown...or head there as your primary destination.
f. The Brunk Children's Museum of Immigration in Andersonville. Hubbawhat? It's $2.00 per person (I know, once again I am breaking my rule...but they seem to max out at $6.00 no matter how many in your party), they provide historically accurate dress-up clothes (who doesn't like that?), a boat and the ability to travel from Sweden to the USA without TSA invading every body orifice. Sign. me. up. Kids can pretend to make food, garden, fish. Afterwards, you can stop next door at Ann Sather's to bribe your tiny terrorists with delicious carby coma-inducing rolls to ensure a peaceful car ride home. Game over.
g. Garfield Park Conservatory. Again you probably know this one. If you can make it through the orchid garden without your kid getting arrested for picking flowers (crap, I am probably preceded by my reputation when it comes to this place), they have a nice little children's garden replete with a kid-friendly plants and a play area. Free parking, free gardens and lots of green, CO2 loving plants.
Next up? Chicago's not-so-secret but secret to us, parks.