Being the third largest city in America, Chicago can be expensive. Luckily for visitors, there are plenty of free activities to do in the Windy City: from river walks to night clubs. Check out the top ten picks below!
Lake Shore Trail
Running 18.2 miles along Lake Michigan, the Lake Shore Trail is great for jogs, bicycling, or just strolling along the lake. Perspectives of the city’s skyline are so unique from each vantage point and along the way you’ll find plentiful points of interest. My favorite spots include Lincoln Park’s North Avenue Beach and Oakwood Beach.
Humboldt Park is one of the largest parks in Chicago which has another great view of the skyline, as well as baseball fields, a small inland beach, and the 606 trail nearby. The 606 trail was once a train railway that has been converted into a pedestrian pathway. Humboldt Park is perfect for relaxing on a weekend or getting some exercise with neat views.
Chicago has a great selection of museums not far from the heart of downtown – the best part is they’re in a concentrated area. You can walk from the Field Museum to Shedd Aquarium to Adler Planetarium. Some other museums that aren’t “on campus” include Museum of Contemporary Art as well as Museum of Science & Industry.
Unfortunately, free days are few and far between but each of these museums do offer free days throughout the year.
The main attraction of Millennium Park is Cloud Gate – an art installation commonly coined as “The Bean” – it is a frequented stop for Chicago visitors. A few steps away, Pritzker Pavilion hosts free movie nights in the summer every Tuesday. Pritzker Pavilion is also aesthetically incredible. Not unlike Cloud Gate, it is constructed of metal-looking materials and is a sight in itself, regardless of if you’re seeing a movie there or not.
While Chicago is home to countless bars, there are a few that are always crowded. Just off the Belmont red line, Berlin nightclub is a late night bar open until as late as 5am on the weekends. Drag shows, DJ’s, and talent shows are ever occurring at this one of a kind nightclub. I’ve spent many nights dancing my life away – you never know what’s going to happen at Berlin.
Being able to walk along the river, the Riverwalk is a calming activity Chicagoans are able to do during their lunch break. If you’re visiting for the first time, something to consider is taking an Architecture Tour via boat – you’re actually able to ride the boat through Chicago’s rivers and learn about all the various architecture. The free alternative is to walk the Riverwalk and admire the city’s skyscrapers.
Lincoln Park offers various attractions such as butterfly gardens at Peggy Notebaert museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, and a nature sanctuary. It’s a great stop while in Chicago, if for anything, to get away from the busy-ness of downtown for a little while. Crossing over Lake Shore Drive, North Avenue Beach is arguably one of the better beaches in Chicago. Not unlike Oak Street Beach, it is still heavily frequented but feels less congested with a better view of the skyline.
Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza, and Blues Fest all reside in Grant Park – a nice break of trees and grass away from the towering skyline behind it. Parallel to Lake Michigan, Grant Park offers a number of free attractions. With Maggy Daley Park at one end, and Museum Campus on the other, Buckingham Fountain (pictured above) is the centerpiece.
The Magnificent Mile
Michigan Avenue is notorious for being Chicago’s premiere shopping district. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, you name it. A day can be filled just by browsing through all the shops on Michigan Avenue. In addition, the Art Institute, John Hancock, Water Tower, and Museum of Contemporary Art are all part of the Magnificent Mile as well.
Perhaps the quintessential destination for Chicago is Navy Pier. Still a location for boats to dock, the pier has proven to be a great tourist attraction for Chicago. With a Ferris wheel, art museum, plenty of bars, and various ongoing events what is there to miss? My favorite is during the summer months, when every Wednesday and Saturday evening there are fireworks displays.
The Top Ten Free Activities in Chicago was written by guest blogger Steven Wind who owns Windy Pictures, he is a Chicago based travel blogger. Steven has been all over the world and he wants to help you plan your next trip! You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.