Free Things to do in Chicago
So you ended up having to dump your savings for last year on your heating bill this winter, but now your family’s coming to visit. What’s worse, they haven’t stopped asking about all the cool places you’re going to take them.
“Oh god,” you realize in a panic, “I have to pay for things to do them sometimes.” You’re definitely right; you do have to pay for certain things that you want to do, especially with other people, but what if I told you things could be different?
“That’s crazy talk,” you might be thinking, but I haven’t been more lucid in my life. Why, you ask? I’ve seen the light, and it’s shining upon all the free activities you have at your fingertips in Chicago! Concerts, theatres, tours, festivals, and all types of sights to see for less than cheap.
“Where would I even start?” You nearly yell in anticipation. Calm down. Here are some places you can start.
“Oh of course you said the park. Everyone knows that’s free, stupid.” Wait, don’t leave the list yet! This park is different, I swear!
Want to see some Arts in the Dark (whatever that means)? How about a poetry workshop? Maybe a gospel music festival’s more your fancy? You’ll find it all in Millenium Park, and you’ll get it all for free! They’ve even got yoga classes & composting if that’s your idea of a good time.
There’s a lot more, too, so make sure to check the event calendar on their website.
They also boast some of the most captivating architecture in the city, with a variety of monuments & sculptures sprinkled across for your viewing pleasure.
Maybe one of your visiting cousins is one of those beer snobs who won’t stop talking about hops or whatever (we love you, beer enthusiasts, we promise). Beantown has gifts to placate them as well, with some breweries offering free tours.
If that cousin’s also started reading “Capital, Volume 1,” they’ll be delighted to stop by the public tour at Revolution Brewing. Bringing people in on a first come, first serve basis, curious revolutionaries enjoy a 30 minute tour of the brewery & its history, along with a tasting.
The website warns that things fill up especially quick on the weekends, so check the website for which tour works best for you & be sure to arrive early.
Garfield Park Conservatory
While cities like Los Angeles are known for a certain plant, Chicago’s known for a whole bunch of them, and they’re all hanging out at the Garfield Park Conservatory!
Hosting more than 10 acres of gardens both under glass & outdoors, you can find thousands of plant species from all over the world here. They even host free programs for families, including kids concerts & composting lessons.
This place is also open 365 days a year, so no matter when you have people coming by, and no matter when you just want to look at some plants yourself, Garfield Park is ready for you.
Mondays & Fridays at Empty Bottle
Whether you want to start your week off with some new tunes or say “yeehaw” to the weekend, you can do both for free at the Empty Bottle.
Starting at 5:00 PM every Friday, The Hoyle Brothers have become famous around town for bringing classic Honky-Tonk grooves to help people end their week with a two-step.
If that’s not your scene, you can drop by on Monday nights to catch all kinds of up & coming talent hit the stage without your wallet moving an inch.
There’s live music almost every night at this place, but those two should be enough to give you a good taste of the scene in the city.
The Chicago Temple
If you pounded a few too many brews with The Hoyle Brothers & need to cleanse your soul, you can do so in one of the highest chapels in the country at The Chicago Temple.
Housing the First United Methodist Church, this church has a ground floor sanctuary that can host up to 500 people, but their true crown jewel, so to speak, sits at the top.
After taking a couple of elevators and a flight of stairs, you’ll reach the appropriately named “Sky Chapel,” which sits 400 feet above the city & is adorned with stained glass and elaborate carvings across the walls.
The Walgreen family gifted the chapel to the church on Easter morning 1952, and today it’s free to the public, with tours regularly happening Tuesday-Sunday at 2:00 PM.
If you want to indulge in some more drinks & free music while taking it a bit easier, your next stop is The Whistler.
Coming correct with some quality cocktails, this bar also offers free music on the regular, with no cover charge being a standard policy. If you’re a jazz fan you’re really in luck, since that’s their speciality, but all are welcome to get in on the party.
They also host open jam sessions if you want to bring a bit of the heat yourself.
Chicago Cultural Center
Still thirsty for cultural experience after that? Wouldn’t it be great if there was, say, a whole center dedicated to all sorts of cultures? Well, the Chicago Cultural Center has some exciting news for you, along with a flurry of free activities!
With an impressive collection of exhibits being displayed on a constant basis, along with performances & concerts that go on regularly, the Cultural Center stands out as one of the most beloved institutions around for locals & visitors alike.
They even offer things to do for kids, and are accepting applications if you’d like to host a public event of your own! They’re also open to private events like weddings & other large gatherings.
They happen all throughout the year, especially during summer, and are held by public & private organizations alike. However, every free festival in Chicago shares the common trait of promoting community & cultural enrichment between everyone who decides to drop by.
There are quite a few to list off here, but if we have to name a few, the Chicago Blues Festival in Millennium Park, the Grant Park Music Festival, & SummerDance are some of our favorites.