While planning a trip to Chicago in June of 2016, we were looking forward to seeing such things as the Willis Tower, the Art Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Navy Pier, as well as a few other museums and attractions. However, we also wanted to do a few free attractions or events while soaking up the Chicago vibe. With that in mind, I did some searching and found 7 free activities that sound fun and interesting to do while in Chicago.
Chicago Cultural Center
The first one is the Chicago Cultural Center. I have actually been there once and enjoyed it quite a bit. For those of you who are not aware of this Cultural Center, it is a historical landmark that hosts hundreds of free programs year-round. The building has two unbelievable stained-glass domes, which you can see on your own or on a free building tour. The many halls regularly host free events, from weekly classical music concerts to blues, jazz, and more. Also look at the daily Cultural Center schedule for free dance performances, film screenings, seminars, and theater events. Definitely worth checking out while in the area.
Lincoln Park Zoo
The next thing on our list is the Lincoln Park Zoo. We have never been there, but have heard a lot about it. As one of only a few free zoos in the country, Lincoln Park Zoo covers over 35 acres and features tigers, polar bears, lions and more than 230 other species of animals. Today more than 3.6 million people visit the park each year. The Farm in the Zoo and Nature Boardwalk bring you up close and personal with the animal world. The Lincoln Park Zoo sounds like a blast, and how can you go wrong with free? They are located at 2400 N. Cannon Drive and are open from 1o am-5 pm as the date of this post.
Revolution Brewery Tour
According to the Revolution Brewing website, they are Illinois’ largest craft brewery. Their brewpub in Chicago’s Logan Square is a bustling, neighborhood institution where friends and families meet to enjoy the freshest beer in town. The growth of craft breweries in the U.S. has been nothing short of a revolution and they are proud to be standing tall in this new crowd. We love visiting craft breweries when we travel and trying something unique and different. I like it when the breweries list the IBU’s as well as the ABV’s. Happily, this place does, and I hope to visit on a future visit. They have a lot of IPA’s which is Gene’s favorite, so I know he will enjoy it. 🙂 Check out the Revolution Brewery website for tour times and more information. Let us know what you think if you have been here before. Thanks.
This is another place that we both really enjoyed. I had been here on a solo trip but had to make sure we went on another trip with Gene. It is such a wonderful place to hang out and relax. The Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most recognizable landmarks boasts gorgeous lakefront views. You can take a stroll and enjoy the breezes, admission is free to the pier’s boardwalk. Summer features free weekly fireworks Wednesday and Saturday evenings as well as free outdoor concerts in the LandShark Beer Garden. They also have tons of restaurants and you can see the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse from the end of the pier. Can’t wait to visit the pier again. I like lighthouses so I was quite happy to be able to see two of them. 🙂
Chicago Greeter Program
Let a friendly, knowledgeable local give you an insider’s orientation to Chicago! Register at least 10 business days in advance for a free 2-4 hour guided visit to Chicago. Greeter visits are customized based on your choice of neighborhoods, language, and interests. They have over 200 enthusiastic volunteers waiting to share their expertise and passion about the city with you! If you didn’t have time to make a reservation or came to Chicago the last minute, you can utilize the InstaGreeter. These greeters take you on a FREE hour-long guided walk of Downtown Chicago. However, they are only offered on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, but registration is not required. Check out their Greeter Website for more information. We may do this the next time we are in Chicago.
Visiting Millennium Park is also a free area that holds events that we had heard about before our first visit. It is one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions and features larger-than-life public art (I highly suggest that you don’t miss Cloud Gate (aka – the Bean) for a mirrored look at the skyline or splashing in Crown Fountain during warm weather months); a cutting edge performance stage (the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Prizker Pavilion) featuring free concerts all summer; and the all-seasons beauty Lurie Garden. Be sure to check out the Millennium Park schedule for a listing of upcoming events. We had a great time, and you will not be disappointed if you spend some time at the park.
Another thing that is fun and interesting to see is a free water display every hour at the Buckingham Fountain. They do this from mid-April to mid-October. The best time to go is between dusk and 10 p.m. when the fountain’s 133 spouting jets are accompanied by a music and light display. We did this on our first night and it was a great way to spend part of the evening and see it, as well as surrounding building light up.
Hope some of these free events/attractions interest you if you are in the Chicago area. Enjoy and please feel free to send feedback. Would love to hear from you 🙂
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One thought on “Chicago, Illinois – 7 Free Things to do in the Windy City”
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