By Derrick Blakley

(CBS) — With most school systems shut down on late notice, Chicago area parents looking to occupy their kids scrambled for options.

All Chicago Public Library branches were open and available Wednesday as a safe, warm refuge for kids on a day that severe cold left schools closed, but there were plenty of other options available as well.

Alan Holtz’ three daughters and her two friends found the fish fascinating at Shedd Aquarium. Holtz simply found it a relief.

“This was a great opportunity to get out with the kids, that way they’re not at home fighting with each other,” Holtz said.


With schools closed, both parents and kids welcomed the Shedd’s one-day free admission.

“I’d rather be here because I haven’t had a field trip here in a long time,” said Maya Strong, a CPS student who spent the day at the Shedd.

About 12 students turned up at the Lakeview YMCA’s Schools Day Out program, featuring art, athletics, and pool time.

“We are prepared if Chicago Public Schools decides to close tomorrow to offer this program again,” said Dana Gleeson.

For about 25 kids at Chase Park’s Cold Camp, it was hockey, soccer and basketball. All sports, all day.

“I think its awesome cause the kids come to play and they get to enjoy, even though it’s freezing outside, they get to be active and warm the whole day,” said Cold Camp coach Nikola Lukic.

Two other free options you may want to note: The Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute. Both are offering free admission to Illinois residents on weekdays throughout the month of January.