There are so many wonderful free things to do in Chicago. Head outside to nature or into a museum, watch colorful fireworks burst, or amazing music shine. No matter what you decided, this USA bucket list destination is for everyone.
So let’s head to the windy city and see what we can do for free!
Free Things To Do In Chicago
Visit The Bean At Millenium Park
The Bean is one of the most popular free things to do in Chicago. This reflective, bean-shaped sculpture was actually named “Cloud Gate” by its creator, Sir Anish Kapoor. Be sure to snap a picture or two with this iconic feature. If you’d like to see it with as few people as possible, head to The Bean early in the morning.
Window Shop Along The Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile has made a name for itself as the shopping hotspot of Chicago. If you’d like to stick to your budget, window shopping might be a good idea. Or if you have a little bit of extra cash to spare, get ready to shop until you drop at some of your favorite stores and boutiques.
Take A Free Walking Tour Of Chicago With A Chicago Greeter
One of the coolest free things to do in Chicago is take a free walking tour of the city with a Chicago Greeter. A local will guide you around the city, sharing invaluable insider tips for two to four hours. To enjoy this tour, be sure to register ten days in advance.
Wander The Pedway
The Pedway is a pathway filled with tunnels and bridges that connects parks, public buildings, and private buildings. It’s a fantastic way to just wander around Chicago and see where the paths take you!
Walk Along The Lakefront
Chicago is at the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan, which adds a nice element of nature in such a busy city. If you get too involved in the hustle and bustle of Chicago, go for a relaxing stroll along the lakefront of Lake Michigan.
Peak At The City From Promontory Point
Promontory Point is the place to go for prime views of Chicago. Located in Burnham Park, Promontory Point offers unparalleled views of beautiful Lake Michigan and the towering city buildings.
Gape In Awe At Wilmette’s Bahai Temple
If you’re looking for something under-the-radar to add to your list of free things to do in Chicago, be sure to check out Wilmette’s Bahai Temple. This stunning architectural wonder is flanked by beautiful bright green trees. Basically, this amazingly intricate building is definitely worth a stop.
Set Aside Some Time For The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum
On the first floor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is the Money Museum. This completely free activity showcases the historical evolution of U.S. currency, simulations about the jobs of federal reserve workers, and games concerning your money-saving skills.
Soak Up Some Knowledge At The DuSable Museum Of African American History
The DuSable Museum of African American History is one of the best museums in Chicago, as it is affiliated with the famous Smithsonian Museum. Through a variety of exhibits, learn about the untold stories of African Americans, such as an African American woman in the trenches of World War I or the story of Harold Washington.
Check Out The Smart Museum Of Art
Situated on the University of Chicago campus, the Smart Museum of Art focuses primarily on contemporary and modern art. One of the museum’s most notable collections is the Chicago artists collection, which includes pieces by local artists like the Chicago Imagists, the Monster Roster, and Tony Tasset.
Stroll Through Dozens of Sculptures At The Skoki Northside Sculpture Park
The Skoki Northside Sculpture Park is a two-mile-long hidden gem filled with contemporary sculptures. These artistic masterpieces have been created by dozens of artists out of a wide range of materials, including clay, steel, and even Boeing L-1011 airplane wings. The only way to fully grasp the awesome nature of these sculptures is to visit them in person.
Watch The Fireworks At The Navy Pier
Each summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day), you can watch a free firework display every Wednesday and Saturday night. This colorful show synchronized to fantastic music takes place right along the shores of Lake Michigan. Talk about a great atmosphere!
Explore Green City Market, Chicago’s Largest Farmers’ Market
One of the greatest free things to do in Chicago is explore one of the city’s many farmer’s markets. For the largest one, head to Green City Market at one of its three locations. While there, you can stock up on tons of tasty goodies from organic fruits and vegetables to fresh meats to piping hot apple cider donuts.
Enjoy Humbolt Park
Packed within the 219 acres of Humbolt Park, there is a lagoon, a beach, a historic fieldhouse, and even a café! You can easily spend an entire day in this outdoor paradise, so be sure to make use of it.
Free Events In Chicago
Enjoy Exhibitions, Lectures, and Film Screenings At The Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center is the hub of free things to do in Chicago, especially free events. This single location showcases free art exhibitions, academic lectures, and film screenings all throughout the year. Be sure to check the Chicago Cultural Center’s events calendar to stay up to date on the upcoming events.
Sway To The Music At The Chicago Blues Festival
The Chicago Blues Festival has been held every summer for nearly four decades. This event takes place in Millennium Park and showcases the best blues artists in the city from both the past and present. You may be surprised by the diversity of musical artists at this event, as blues have found its way into genres like R&B, soul, hip hop, and even rock.
Embrace Your Inner Foodie At The Taste of Chicago
The Taste of Chicago may be one of the most unique free things to do in Chicago. This summer event showcases a bunch of the diverse cuisines available at some of Chicago’s many restaurants. From gator bites to a cookie cheesecake, there’s something for everyone’s palette at this culinary event.
Listen To The Music At Rockin’ In The Park
There are tons of free concerts in Chicago, and one of the most popular is Rockin’ In The Park. This music series lasts all summer, and every Thursday, a different artist plays a full set. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the music.
Sing Praises At The Chicago Gospel Music Festival
There are a lot of free music festivals in Chicago, and all of them have their own special spin. Unlike the many other Chicago music festivals, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival is all about praise and worship. So if you want to sing praises to God with hundreds of other believers, this is definitely the place to do it.
Free Things To Do in Chicago With Kids
Enjoy The Lincoln Park Conservatory And Gardens
Housed in a Victorian-era style glass house, The Lincoln Park Conservatory and Gardens is a remarkable location. Not only is the building extraordinary, but it is home to dozens of blooming plants, including orchids, palm trees, and ferns. And the natural playscape there is perfect for younger kids!
Watch The Water Display By The Buckingham Fountain
From May to October, the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park pulses with energy. Every hour on the hour, this fountain becomes the centerpiece of a beautiful water show. Geysers shoot water into the air, lights abound, and music accompanies. As one of the largest fountains in the world, this water show at Buckingham Fountain is truly a sight to see.
Check Out All Of The Animals At The Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the only free zoos left in the country. Plus, it has some of the most exotic animals! Watch the critically endangered Jamaican iguana, waddle like an African penguin, or pretend to swing from branch to branch like De Brazza’s monkey.
Soak In The Sun At Ohio Street Beach
Most people don’t tend to think of beaches when they think of Chicago, but the Ohio Street Beach is a great activity to do with kids while in the city. Soak up the sun, do a little swimming in the waters of Lake Michigan, and just enjoy some quality family time.
Watch Family-Friendly Movies Under The Stars
Every summer, there is a whole series of free movies under the stars catered just to kids. All of the kid-friendly movies from the past couple of years are shown on a bright, big screen in the Naperville Park District. So grab a blanket and some popcorn, and settle in!
Feel Like A Child At The Chicago Kids and Kites Festival
While movies are great and all, sometimes you just want to encourage your little ones to run as fast as their little legs can carry them! The Chicago Kids and Kites Festival does just that. Every spring when the winds start to pick up in the windy city, hundreds of kids come together to take advantage of the free kite kits and try their hands at the sport of kite flying.
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