When it comes to free things and stuff to do, the Windy City is our kind of town, offering up all kinds of unique attractions and sights that are free.
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There are always free things to do at Millennium Park. Enjoy a concert. Marvel at the Crown Fountain with its 50-foot, glass video screen towers at either end. Just try and resist checking out your reflection in The Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as The Bean. Since 1927 the Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains in the world, has wowed the crowds as 134 jets put on a 20 minute dancing water display. Check it out at night when it’s accompanied by music and lights. Hey, look a castle. No it’s The Water Tower, one of only two buildings to survive The Great Fire which leveled the entire City of Chicago back in 1781.
Even if you’re short on cash, the Navy Pier is still worth stopping by. It’s a 3,000-foot-long playground that stretches almost a mile out into Lake Michigan. Here you’ll find theatres, museums, restaurants, shops, special events, people watching, boat watching and shoreline views. From Memorial Day to Labour Day there are free fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday nights too.
Chicago’s architecture has a long and storied past. Learn more about this stuff at the Archicenter, which is a free thing to do all week from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Top up your knowledge of energy-efficient technology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum which is made up of 17,000 square feet of rooftop gardens. Got a thing for stained glass? Head to the Navy Pier and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. It features over 150 stained glass windows and is the first museum in the U.S. devoted to stained glass. Admission is free any day of the week. For something a little different, take advantage of free admission Tuesdays and make an appointment to visit the International Museum of Surgical Science where various exhibits portray the breakthroughs and failures that shaped modern surgical science.
One of the free things you can do to get yourself oriented with the City is to take a tour. The Chicago Greeter Program gives you the chance to hang with a real, authentic Chicagoan as they take you on a tour of their favourite neighbourhoods and local spots. Got an hour to spare and want to get a complimentary guided tour of the downtown area? Instagreeter is a free, on-the-spot service that provides a great introduction to all the stuff you’ll find in downtown Chicago. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer type, you can download free audio tours from the Chicago Office of Tourism.
Looking for free things to do and a way to enjoy a little nature? Head to the Chicago Botanic Garden, a living plant museum spread over nine islands and covering over 385-acres–it’s home to all kinds of stuff including beautiful bird varieties, sculptures and plants from around the world. Feel like talking to the animals? The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the most revered in the country and free to visit 365 days a year. Birds, bears,primates, apes, lions, sea lions—they’re all here and more. A trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without hitting the Lakefront Trail, the 18-mile paved pathway that runs along Lake Michigan. There are lots of spots to stop along the way including parks, beaches, gardens and concession stands. A short jaunt north of the City is the unique Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park. Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon winding through the woodlands and past over 60 large-scale contemporary sculptures.
Melody and rhythm are free things you can enjoy and do in Chicago. Shake your stuff and learn to dance at the Chicago Summer Dance festival in Grant Park. Bust some moves by participating in a one-hour dance lesson than watch the pros perform as they put on a two-hour music and dance extravaganza. In the mood to kick back? Enjoy one of the many free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center. Or, why not stop in for a drink and the free tunes at Lee Unleaded Blues or chill to some late-night jazz at the renowned Green Mill.
The Chicago Park District is a film buffs dream, presenting 175 free classic and contemporary movies all summer long in parks throughout the City. Or spread a blanket and revel in a stirring live symphonic performance in Grant Park where free classical concerts fill the air from June through to August.
One great way to save on local fun things to do in Chicago is to peruse Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 cities. Visit the Chicago “Things to Do” Groupon page or Chicago “Food & Drink” Groupon page and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on attractions, tours, boat cruises, theatre tickets, dinner spots and accommodations. The Groupon Chicago pages are a smart place to start when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your Chicago visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.