Ready to get swept away by the charms of the windy city? Well, you won't even need your wallet for this list, because we've gathered ten fun free things to do in Chicago that won't break the bank in the this amazing city. So wether you forgot your funds before you touched down, or are pinching pennies as a budget traveler, you'll appreciate all of the below. Even if you've got money to burn, remember the best things in life are free so give these a try on your next trip to Chicago.
And remember, a home exchange is also a free way to stay when you travel! So find out more about how our HomeExchange community works before booking your next trip.Discover How HomeExchange Works
1. Stroll Along the Magnificent Mile
Take a leisurely walk along the famous Magnificent Mile, a stretch of Michigan Avenue that boasts world-class shopping, stunning architecture, and captivating street performances. Immerse yourself in the bustling energy of this iconic boulevard while admiring the architectural grandeur and soaking in the vibrant atmosphere. This is hands down one of the most quintessential activities in the windy city and one of the best free things to do in Chicago with kids, as a couple, or on your own!
2. Enjoy Art & Culture Outdoors in Millennium Park
Indulge your senses in Millennium Park, a free urban oasis that seamlessly blends art, nature, and entertainment. Marvel at the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as "The Bean," or catch a live performance at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Don't forget to explore the serene Lurie Garden, a hidden gem in the heart of the city. For art lovers, thespians, and musicians, this is one of the free things to do in Chicago to experience the vibrant local culture on days where the weather is fine in the Windy City!
3. Experience Culture at The Chicago Cultural Center
Ready to feast your eyes, ears, and minds on even more of the city's creative culture? Rain or shine, sun or snow, The Chicago Cultural Center is a great place to take in art and culture in the great indoors, no matter the weather! You'll appreciate that tip if your visiting Chicago in winter where the season is known to be freezing! The Chicago Cultural Center is a treasure trove of artistic and cultural wonders. Here you can marvel at the stunning Tiffany glass dome, catch a free music performance, or explore the rotating exhibitions that showcase the city's vibrant creative spirit.
4. Fireworks & Other Free family things to Do in Chicago at Navy Pier
Did you know that Chicago's Navy Pier is among the top 100 most visited tourist attractions in the world? It also happens to be one of the best free things to do in Chicago at night and one of the free family things to do in Chicago. Navy Pier is a hub of entertainment and also offers breathtaking waterfront views. Take a leisurely stroll along the pier, enjoy the free outdoor art installations, or be dazzled by the weekly fireworks display that lights up the night sky during the summer months. Plus, don't miss the Ferris wheel ride for panoramic vistas of the city.
5. Roam with the Animals at Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo is hands down another one of our favorite free things to do in Chicago with kids. Escape into nature here at one of the last free zoos in the country and experience wildlife in the heart of the city! From majestic lions to playful penguins, kids and adults alike will love getting up close and personal with a diverse array of animals. You can also explore the beautifully landscaped grounds and enjoy the zoo's educational programs and exhibits. Exciting and educational, we can hardly believe they don't charge and that this incredible experience remains among free family things to do in Chicago.
6. Explore the Art Institute of Chicago
As part of an effort to keep art accessible, on Thursdays the Art Institute of Chicago opens its doors for free to Illinois residents. Located in Downtown Chicago not far from Millennium Park, come here to immerse yourself in a world of artistic masterpieces, from Van Gogh's famous self-portraits to Monet's tranquil water lilies. You can lose yourself in the vast collection that spans centuries and continents in this world class art collection fitting of a city and as spectacular and cosmopolitan as Chicago is. The Art Institute of Chicago is not only one of the best free things to do in Chicago on Thursday if you're a resident, but its actually considered one of the best places to visit in the entirety of the United States!
7. Find Urban Serenity at the Riverwalk
If you need a little break from the hustle and bustle of a big city like Chicago, embark on a serene journey along the Chicago Riverwalk. This picturesque promenade offers stunning views of the city's iconic architecture as you can marvel at sky scraping masterpieces by Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Graham from afar. You can also take in the beauty of the river, enjoy the vibrant street art, or simply find a cozy spot to people-watch and soak in the city's rhythm, at your own pace of course. This 1.25 mile stretch is one of the most cherished spots in the cities for locals and visitors alike, and one of the great free things to do in Chicago. When the weather is nice, you can even get out on the water and Canoe along the river!
8. Play at Grant Park
Grant Park is a natural playground in the heart of the city. Discover peaceful gardens, meandering pathways, and the iconic Buckingham Fountain, where water dances to enchanting music during its hourly shows. Sometimes called Chicago's "front yard" here at Grant Park you can discover peaceful gardens, meandering pathways, and the iconic Buckingham Fountain, where water dances to enchanting music during its hourly shows. If you need to get the kids out of the house to run around and play, Grant Park is among the great free things to do in Chicago with kids on any given day for a breathe of Fresh air as a family!
9. Free Concerts at Millennium Park
During the summer months, Millennium Park becomes a hub of free concerts, featuring a diverse range of musical genres. From classical ensembles to local indie bands, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion comes alive with melodic tunes that fill the air, providing the perfect summer soundtrack to your Chicago experience. From 6:30Pm to 9PM admission is free making it one of the best free things to do in Chicago at night. So be sure to check out the Millenium Park Summer Concert Series programming if you're planning to visit Chicago in the summertime as this free opportunity shouldn't be missed!
10. Step Into a Tropical Oasis at Garfield Park Conservatory
Step into the lush and vibrant world of the Garfield Park Conservatory, a haven of greenery and botanical wonders. Here you can explore the various themed gardens, marvel at the towering palm trees, and immerse yourself in the tranquility of this urban oasis one wouldn't expect to find in bustling city of a Chicago. You'll also might not expect that such an attraction would be free of charge. While the conservatory is among free things to do in Chicago, you do need to make a reservation to visit so don't forget to do so before you head over to experience this landscape art under glass.
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Chicago is a city that effortlessly blends culture, architecture, and natural beauty, giving it an irresistible allure that beckons you to explore. With our guide to free things to do in Chicago you can unlock the hidden treasures of this dynamic metropolis without putting a dent in your wallet. If you're looking for another way to save to visit the Windy City? Sign up for HomeExchange and start browsing homes and hosts in Chicago. Home swapping is an affordable way to stay in Chicago and HomeExchange makes our reliable community that is the largest in the industry. So start browsing homes in the Windy City today, pack your bags, and embrace the free-spirited charm of Chicago!See homes in Chicago