click to enlarge Affordable family outings
Knight's Action Park offers various admission discounts on weekdays.

From outdoor festivals to a night out under the lights, having a fun-filled summer in the capital city doesn't have to break the bank. Mark these free events on your calendar and take advantage of discounted activities for both kids and grownups.

The 2024 Levitt AMP Springfield Music Series kicks off May 30. Located across from the Governor's Mansion at Fourth and Jackson streets, this free event happens every Thursday night from 6:00-9:30 p.m. Folks are invited to picnic on the lawn or grab dinner from one of the various food trucks. There's even a free book program for kids, courtesy of Central Baptist Church. Keep an eye on Tom Irwin's column, Now Playing, to learn more about the artists playing each week.

The Springfield community is fortunate to have a multitude of beautiful parks that offer something for just about everyone, whether it's birdwatching for eagles in Carpenter Park, tail-sliding at the recently built Iles Skatepark or cooling off in one of the splash pads at Southwind or Comer Cox parks.

The Springfield Park District also has several free events scheduled this summer. The 69th International Carillon Festival runs June 6-9 with daily concerts at Washington Park starting at 6 p.m. One of the largest carillons in the world, the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon boasts 67 cast bronze bells which will be played by an international lineup of award-winning carillonneurs. The ever-popular fireworks display will start at dusk on Friday, June 7.

Next up on June 22 is the Great Lawn Kite Festival at Southwind Park. This free event lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature professional kite flyers, bounce houses and yard games as well as food trucks and kite merchandise for sale. Also happening that day at Southwind Park is Hopeapalooza from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with more food trucks, tram rides around the park, face painting, a petting zoo and live DJ. Scouting America will also be there with the Vortex STREAM Machine Mobile Laboratory.

There are only a few spaces remaining for the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum's Heroes Camp for kids in 4th-6th grade. Made possible through funding from the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln and the Lumpkin Family Foundation, this free, week-long camp runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes breakfast, lunch and snacks.

The camp is focused on Springfield's local heroes and history, explained camp director Erica Austin. "Our goal is for the kids to learn about these great heroes and help them understand our history and be proud of it," she said.

Open to campers of all backgrounds, the camp includes field trips to the Lincoln Home sites, arts and crafts and activities like writing letters to their future selves to be put into a time capsule. Week one runs from June 3-7 and week two runs from June 10-14. For more information and to register, go to

Keep an eye out for discount days when planning an outing. Henson Robinson Zoo has two free admission days coming up on June 15 and 19, and dads get in free on Father's Day. Knight's Action Park has various specials on weekdays. Moms get in free on Mondays with a paid child's admission, and on Tuesdays all waterpark passes are discounted to the kid rate. Action Splash Passes are buy-one-get-one free with a County Market receipt on Wednesday, and on Thursdays dads, grandparents and heroes (active duty and retired military, firefighters and police) get in free.

The Kidzeum of Health and Science will debut a new mural by artist Jane Kim in its courtyard this summer. The Monarch Migrating Mural will be free for the public to enjoy and ties in with the museum's newest exhibit: Wheels Up – The Science of Flight, opening June 1. The museum offers a number of discounts daily and memberships, which allow unlimited visits for a year in addition to other perks, are 15% off through May 31. Families that are enrolled in Link or WIC qualify for a deeply discounted membership. On Saturday, July 20, all visitors get in free to celebrate Kidzeum's sixth birthday. Plus, Kidzeum will be open seven days a week during the summer, beginning June 1.

You don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy a Springfield Lucky Horseshoes game at Robin Roberts Stadium. There are loads of activities for all ages, all at a fraction of the price of an MLB ticket. Kids 12 and under are eligible to join the Pony Shoes Kids Club that includes tickets to every Sunday game as well as a shirt and discounts on merchandise, along with other perks. Every Sunday, the team will sign autographs and kiddos will have the opportunity to run the bases.

The stadium has recently received a face-lift including installation of the largest video board in central Illinois, and this year it will also feature an area with four large inflatables at every home game of the season. Admission to the inflatables area is an additional $5, but is included for Pony Shoes Members. There's a variety of special dates on the Shoes' calendar, including six fireworks nights, kids-eat-free night, sensory-friendly night with reduced volume and available quiet room, and themed games including Star Wars night and Taylor and Travis night. For more information visit

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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