Freedom and summer go hand in hand. But finding the “free” in that freedom can be quite a task. Even a staycation can be expensive. Too often it costs to play.

For those in search of summer fun that does not strain the budget, the RoundTable has extracted some suggestions from the listings in our regular calendar. We have grouped them by theme. Exact dates and times, along with details about each activity, are available on the websites as listed.

Listen for free under the stars at the City’s Starlight Concerts, Tuesday and Thursday nights this year at a park near you: James, Dawes, Harbert, Twiggs, Bent and Brummel parks, with artists TBA at

Pack a picnic and enjoy an evening there or at one of a series of band, jazz, bluegrass or Hawaiian music concerts on the grounds of the Ridgeville Park District house, listings at

Look for free at an art exhibit at Noyes Cultural Arts Center or puzzle over an installation on the front lawn of the Evanston Arts Center. Sneak a peek at the artists displayed in the gallery on the fourth floor of City Hall.

Watch for free: Movies in the Park (titles and sites TBA), Aug. 10-Sept. 10. Further information at;

Theater at Ridgeville: Shakespeare in the Park, “The Merry Wives of Windsor”; teen improvisational comedy troupes; Evanston School of Rock (children 7-18 performing classic rock and roll hits); further information at; and

“Weekend Family Films” at the Evanston Public Library, first and third weekend of the month; Reeltime movies free at the EPL,

Dance for free on Thursday nights, when 909 Davis plaza becomes a dance floor amid the high-rise buildings of downtown Evanston; instruction is followed by free dancing.

Bicycle for free on over seven miles of bike paths throughout Evanston; on City streets, by the lakefront, through parks or along the trail in the Ladd Arboretum.

Learn for free (number of passes depends on the museum – some charge for parking) at Chicago museums – Brookfield Zoo, Chicago Botanic Garden, Bronzeville Children’s Museum and many more. The EPL has four passes per museum, expiring seven days after redemption, for people with an EPL card.

Read for free at the EPL. Kids can win a paperback by logging reading time for Take Flight, the summer reading game; teens in grades 7-12 can score by reading, then talking with staff or posting comments online for the Midsummer Loft’s Dream. Adults can join one of the library’s adult book groups.

Lunch for free (income-eligible children 18 or younger) at Robert Crown, Mason, Fleetwook-Jourdain and James parks.

Swim for free at Evanston beaches with a one-week pass checked out from the EPL with a library card. From July 11-Aug. 29, the Clark Street Beach is free on Mondays.