Whoever said Chicago was ‘too expensive’ didn’t do their research. This city is chock-full of free and low-cost things to do–you just have to look. Here are some of my favorite ways to do up Chicago on the cheap:
Looking for a reason to act like a 90s kid again? Head to one of two Headquarters locations (Lakeview and River North) and play Ms. Pacman, Mortal Combat, Duck Hunt and so much more for FREE. Yep–games are totally free. Of course, their phenomenal cocktails and insane craft beer list aren’t, but for a cheap way to spend an afternoon, Headquarters is where it’s at.
Whether you’re a foodie or an art geek, there’s a street fest for you. Wander around your favorite neighborhood (or all of them–it’s a cheap ‘suggested donation’ for each!) and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of Chicago’s local vendors. Click here to see some of my favorite fests.
Who doesn’t love loud, shiny things? Head over to the lakefront on Wednesdays and Saturdays for a solid fireworks show at beautiful Navy Pier. You can’t go wrong with a warm summer night on Oak Street Beach with a 15 minute fireworks show with friends. Shows start at 9:30pm each night and weather permitting, will take place until Labor Day.
From Millennium to Wicker, summertime in Chicago means that park events are in full swing. Movies in the Park is exactly what it sounds like: A movie. In the park. Pack up some snacks, grab a box of wine (sorry, usually glass is frowned upon) and set a blanket out at one of Chicago’s beautiful parks for cheap thrills.
Have a few hours to spend outdoors? Make sure to spend it at the Lincoln Park Zoo! You’ll love seeing some great exhibits (hello red pandas!) and have a super fun time walking around the beautiful property. It’s absolutely free to go (though Brewlights and Brew at the Zoo are really fun to attend–totally worth the $30ish) You’ll see amazing views of the Chicago skyline (perfect for selfies) and gorgeous animals housed throughout the zoo. Can’t beat it!
Free Museum Days (seriously!)
Wanna be artsy? How about a marine life enthusiast? Check out the FREE admission days at each of Chicago’s museums. Click below to see when each are:
Check out one of these city-based breweries for a little education on how your favorite beer is made! These tours are all under $15 (some are FREE!) and are a guaranteed awesome time:
- 5 Rabbit Cerveceria and Taproom
- Lagunitas Brewing Company
- Begyle Brewing Company
- Goose Island
- Half Acre
- Haymarket Pub and Brewery
- Revolution Brewing
Looking for something a bit atypical? Check out Chicago’s Annual Air and Water Show on North Avenue Beach. In the past, headlining acts have included the Blue Angels, and 2016 appears to have some amazing featured performers as well, including the US Air Force Thunderbirds, the US Army Parachute Team Golden Knights, and the US Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs. Brand new this year, the Air and Water Show will include an F-35. Don’t miss enthralling tricks and techniques throughout the two-day event–it’s well-worth the trip to North Ave!
Did you know that the infamous Chicago staple, Second City, offers a FREE one-hour improv performance after all of their shows on the mainstage? I know–crazy, right?! Enjoy some of Chicago’s most entertaining performers and see if you can discover the next Steve Carell or Tina Fey. Unfortunately, the free set isn’t offered on Fridays, but hey, a little weeknight entertainment never hurt anyone, right?