Do you need a place to to cool off the kids — but you’re sticking to a budget? Of course we have our Free Indoor Playground Guide, but we’ve added some obvious and not-so-obvious additional ideas here.
Local Libraries with Play Spaces – We love our local libraries. There are plenty of fun things to do at the Urbana Free Library (think pretend area plus games, puzzles and more); and the Champaign Public Library which updated their Children’s Area spring 2018. Look at our calendar, sponsored by Busey Bank, to find free and fun indoor events at libraries going on all summer.
Free Museums – There’s never been a better time to visit local free museums including Mahomet’s Museum of the Grand Prairie, which recently opened a new temporary exhibit, on loan from the Smithsonian, all about water. The Spurlock Museum in Urbana is also open this summer, as is the Krannert Art Museum. The Giertz Gallery at Parkland College is open this summer but only Monday through Thursday.
Free Indoor Movies for Kids – While there are options for free movies all summer long in outdoor venues and indoor alike, the best bets for free indoor movies are Weekday Morning Movie Summer Series at the Savoy 16, running each weekday at 10 a.m. with up to six tickets per movie for free for members of their club, Non-members will be charged $1.00 per ticket. In July, when are temps are known to be sultry, you can also catch the free Smart Kids II Movie Series at The Art Theater Coop in Downtown Champaign. Temps still blazing in the fall? Savoy 16 traditionally offers a Weekend Morning Movie Fall Series early September- late October.
Let the kids run off energy at Lincoln Square – There isn’t a playground here, but kids can still keep busy exploring this indoor Urbana mall. Getting a free piece of fruit at Common Ground Food Co-Op is a highlight (become part of the Explorers program). Also: wide open indoor space.
Head to campus – We mentioned the museums, but one of our favorite places to explore is the Illini Union. Kids love the fish tank in the lobby. Downstairs, enjoy the bowling alley and games (and don’t miss the early bird specials or $2 Tuesday). There’s also the food court. It could be as cheap (or expensive) as you want. You could also explore inside the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Willard Airport – I remember my dad telling me he used to go to the airport in his city while growing up, and would ride the escalators. OK, so there’s only one at our airport, but my kids love that. Time it so you can watch the planes take off. This is a little tricky due to security regulations, but the airport is a public – and air-conditioned – place that can be a great field trip for little ones.
Ride the Bus – Speaking of transportation, take a trip around town on our very cool CUMTD buses. OK, this isn’t exactly free – grownups pay $1 per trip, but children who are 46 inches or shorter in height may ride free when accompanied by a fare-paying passenger. If your kids aren’t used to riding the bus, this is a great treat. Go to the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign and look at all the sculptures there; time your visit with an Amtrak train, if your kids are into that. We even have a post on making it a family date on the MTD.
Get Ice Cream– So while ice cream isn’t free, it can be a cheap and sometimes air-conditioned outing for your family, depending on which location you choose. Check out our Ice Cream Trail map and pick a fun new (indoor) location to explore as a family.
Know of any more secret spots to cool off when the temps get high? Please let us know!