With its scenic parks, hidden-gem food options, and bustling crowds, Chicago is host to many adventures. Whether you have 30 minutes to spare or a few days of exploring to do, budget-friendly options exist for all those wanting an authentic view of the Windy City. Browse through our list of some affordable things to do in Chicago.
Take in Tropical Plants at the Garfield Park Conservatory
You don’t have to wait for summer to surround yourself with luscious green plants and tropical temperatures. Garfield Park’s free conservatory offers guests the opportunity to explore thousands of diverse plant species from around the world and offers access to lily ponds and acres of outdoor gardens. Check out their website to see some of their upcoming events and be sure to reserve your spot in advance.
Discover Contemporary Art at the Hyde Park Art Center
If plants aren’t your thing, consider spending a day at the Hyde Park Art Center. The dynamic and refreshing exhibitions within the building showcase some amazing contemporary art. This center frequently hosts free public events and tries to involve the community in its efforts. If you have a young aspiring artist at home, be sure to bring them to the Hyde Park Art Center. The art center is free and open to the public seven days a week.
Indulge in Your Imagination at Maggie Daley Park
If you have kids with active imaginations, spending a day at Maggie Daley Park is rewarding. With whimsical play structures set within a 3-acre garden, kids have tons of room to play and explore. For an additional cost, you can also access some of the park’s other fun offerings. Activities like rock climbing, ice skating, and mini golf will tire out even the most rambunctious of young adventurers. A favorite for many families, Maggie Daley Park provides hours of low-cost fun and entertainment.
In the heart of downtown Chicago, it’s also close to other fun, local spots and activities. Its central location makes it as easy to get to as it is to find a quote at American Auto Insurance.
Travel Back in Time at the Newberry Library
The Newberry Library is not like other libraries. It’s a sprawling historic building with well over a million published works. History buffs will love the library’s vast collection of maps, music, manuscripts, and frequent exhibitions. Free to the public, the Newberry Library contains over six centuries of historical documents and artifacts and is sure to have something interesting to offer just about everyone.
Find a New Perspective at Navy Pier
One of Chicago’s most popular destinations is the lakeside Navy Pier. See the city from a new angle on the Centennial Wheel, a nearly 200-foot tall ride that offers unbeatable views of the city’s towering skyscrapers and blue Lake Michigan. Walking along the pier itself is free and sure to produce some memorable times and adventures. Be sure to check out the pier’s schedule to learn more about free public events, like an annual film festival and Holi celebration.
Take a Stroll on The 606
The 606 is an iconic 2.7-mile recreational trail with access to beautiful murals, stunning gardens and observatories, and breathtaking lookouts. Joggers, bikers, and walkers can enjoy the trail for free. Built atop an abandoned rail line, the elevated trail crosses over city neighborhoods and is accessible from different spots within the city. Access the trail website’s interactive map to discover how best to incorporate this must-see activity into your plans.
Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the country’s only free zoos, and it hosts nearly 200 species of animals. The zoo is open every day of the week and contains daily experiences, attractions, and events for guests. Covering 49 acres, the zoo rests in Chicago’s neighborhood of Lincoln Park, an equally cool destination worth exploring. The zoo even has some interactive exhibits. More adventurous guests can sign up for exciting activities like hand-feeding goats and chickens or experiencing penguin encounters.
A leader in animal welfare and responsibility, the zoo strives to maintain healthy environments for all the creatures in their care. You can prioritize responsibility, too, by making sure you cover all your valuables with the right insurance.
See What Chicago Was Once Like at the Clarke House Museum
Back when the land Chicago currently stands on was mostly rural, Henry B. Clarke built his family home. Today, the house represents the oldest home in Chicago, and visitors can experience what life was like for a family in the area before the Civil War. Guests can sign up for free tours to see the historic site that sits in Chicago’s Prairie Avenue Historic District. Tours of the Clarke House Museum are on Wednesdays and Saturdays and can accommodate groups as large as eight.
Get Inspired at The Poetry Foundation
For literary enthusiasts and aspiring poets alike, Chicago’s Poetry Foundation houses a 30,000-volume collection dedicated exclusively to poetry. If you’re traveling with someone who isn’t a poetry fan, there’s still plenty to explore at The Poetry Foundation. The site is also home to a public garden, many events, and an exhibition gallery. Anyone with a love for words or architecture is bound to love this Chicago architect-designed building and its dreamy stores of expressive writing.
Explore the Magnificent Mile’s Free Art Gallery
The Magnificent Mile, a fun place to explore on its own, houses the Chicago Water Tower. Inside the tower, art enthusiasts can find a free art gallery containing the work of local artists, photographers, and creators. The tower, built between 1867 and 1869, was once was the primary source of water to the city. Viewers can still see the 135-foot standpipe used originally to regulate water pressure. As one of the few structures to survive the city’s devastating fire in 1871, the building holds important historical significance to Chicago.
Thanks for checking out some of our favorite free things to do around Chicago. With us, saving money is always a top priority. We’d love to hear about some of your favorite things to do in the city, so drop us a line and let us know what you thought of our list. We can’t wait to hear about some of your go-to Windy City activities.