Sprawling over 385 acres, the Chicago Botanic Garden has more than a million visitors annually. The gardens have a large variety of plants housed in its 27 gardens. It is quite well known for its collection on Bonsais. It is a living museum and is a center for conservation. It is a beautiful place to visit and establishes a connection between human beings and the natural environment. Admission to the botanic garden is free of cost. Events like tree lighting, art exhibitions, sculptures, and private events like weddings also take place in the garden.
Address: 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022, United States
Timings: 8:00 am- 5:00 pm( Monday to Sunday)
Maxwell Street Market is located in downtown Chicago and is famed for its unconventional market. The market grew with people selling anything from basic amenities to luxury goods. It is known for its street food and birthplace of a dish called Maxwell Street Polish. The Maxwell Street Market is a culturally diverse market and has provided incentives to immigrants too. Live music also happens here and it is said that Chicago Blues, a type of blues genre of music developed here. The admission to the street is free of cost and a stroll along the street showcases a different cultural atmosphere.
Address: 800 S. Desplaines St.Chicago, IL 60607
Timings: 9:00 am- 4:00 pm(Monday to Saturday) 7:00 am- 2:00 pm( Sunday)
You can learn more about the history of Chicago through the photographs and art collection at the City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower. The photographs and artwork displayed are by locals and a tour of the collection will help you in knowing more about the city. The whole visit is free of cost. The Water Tower is a Chicago landmark and now is used as the City gallery. It was built with the intention to draw water from Lake Michigan in 1869 making it one of the oldest water towers in the entire country. There is no admission fee to the gallery.
Address: 806 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States
Timings: 10:00 am- 7:00 pm( Monday to Friday) 10:00 am- 5:00 pm( Saturday and Sunday)
Chicago lies on the shores of Lake Michigan with a number of beaches along the shoreline. The Ohio Street Beach and North Avenue Beach are beaches which don’t have admission cost and are free to visit in Chicago. Both the beaches are quite popular among locals as well as tourists who relax, sunbathe, swim, do adventure sports and enjoy the restaurants near it. The beaches have stone sidewalks and lawns surrounding them. North Avenue is more popular because of its proximity to Lincoln Park and is the central place for the Chicago Air and Water Show.
Beach: North Avenue Beach, Ohio Street Beach
Timings for both Beaches: 11:00 am-7:00 pm(Monday to Sunday)
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There are 167 craft breweries in Chicago. If you are above 21 years of age, visiting these craft breweries in Chicago is a great experience. Along with this some breweries and brewing companies provide free tours of the whole brewery to the people though you have registered in advance. Upcoming breweries like Revolution Brewery and well-established ones like Lagunitas Brewery offer these free tours.
Brewery: Revolution Brewery( tour free Wednesday to Sunday), Lagunitas Brewing Company(tour free Monday to Sunday), Lake Effect Brewing Company (tour free Saturday and Sunday).
First United Methodist Church of Chicago is located on the Chicago Temple building making it one of the tallest churches in the world. The church occupies the bottom and top floor of the Temple building with other small chapels like Dixon Chapel on other floors. The church helps in feeding the homeless, providing counseling and works towards the inclusion of all types of people to the society alongside hosting events like weekly sermons and weddings. Admission to the Church is free of cost.
Address:77 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602, United States"
Chicago has beautiful majestic libraries. These libraries are filled with rare books, manuscripts, and also hold exhibitions. The Chicago public library or Harold Washington library has 9 floors filled with books and a private garden. The top floor also has a skyline with a beautiful view of Chicago. Newberry Library is a research library focusing on knowing more about indigenous culture and the history of Chicago. Both the libraries charge no admission fee and are free of cost.
Timings: Newberry Library 12:00 pm- 4:00 pm(Tuesday to Saturday) Harold Washington Library Center 9:00 am- 8:00 pm (Monday to Thursday), 9:00 am- 5:00 pm( Friday and Saturday), 1:00 pm- 5:00 pm(Sunday)"
Located on the popular Hancock Tower, The Signature Room at the 95th® is a restaurant and cocktail bar. Though the reservation fee to the restaurant is quite expensive the 360-degree view that the restaurant’s Signature Lounge provides is completely free of cost. You can visit the lounge and get an impressive view of the whole city of Chicago.
Address: 875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States
Timings: 11:00 am–2:30 pm and 5:00 pm–10:00 pm (Monday to Sunday)
Cloud Gate is a sculpture located in Millennium Park. Designed by Sir Anish Kapoor in 2004, 168 plates of stainless steel and measures 33 by 66 by 42 feet, weighing 110 short tons. Its design is inspired by liquid mercury, and its surface reflects, giving a distorted view of Chicago's skyline. It has become a popular tourist place as it is like a fun-house mirror that distorts people's reflection. It is one was the central attractions of Millennium Park, and it is free of cost to visit the Cloud Gate.
Address: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602, United States"
Buckingham Fountain or the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain lies in the center of Grant Park. It is considered a landmark of Chicago and is included in the largest Fountains list in the country. The fountain is built like a three-tier cake. It hosts events like water shows, light shows, and winter festive lights. A free one-hour water show is held from mid-April to mid-October at the Fountain. The fountain is a great place to relax in Grant Park.
Address: 301 S Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States
Timings: 8:00 am- 11:00 pm( Monday to Sunday)"
Located on Lake Michigan's shore, the Navy Pier is a popular tourist spot visited by around 2 million people every year. Stretching to over 33 thousand feet, this pier is a host to several restaurants, gardens, shops, and exhibition areas. The pier also has outdoor activities like Carousels, Ride to the Lighthouse and Maze to name a few. A botanical garden called Crystal Garden is located on the pier, which hosts a lot of events. It has the Chicago Children’s Museum and Chicago Shakespeare Theater on it too. Cruises, boat rides, and water taxis are also present on the pier. The events on the pier include festivals, firework shows, and you can also view the Air and Water Show from the pier. The admission to the pier is completely free of cost through the attractions present on the pier may have a cost.
Address: 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States"
Chicago has a very vibrant history of art culture. With inhabitants from all over the world, Chicago is home to diverse artists who've contributed to the city's art culture. This is the reason why there are so many museums in Chicago. Interestingly, most of these museums don’t have admission fees and are free of cost, letting visitors explore the culturally diverse city. Museums in Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, National Museum of Mexican Art, Oriental Institute Museum, Museum of Contemporary Photography, DePaul University Art Museum, Chicago Children’s Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, Federal Reserve Bank Museum, National Cambodian Heritage Museum and Killing fields memorial, National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts And Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Hyde Park Art Center."
Chicago Air And Water Show started in 1959 making it the oldest and largest exhibition in Chicago. The exhibition showcases impressive stunts on the air and water above Lake Michigan. It is a two-day event that happens annually at the waterfront. The beaches around the Lake are occupied as the spectators see spectacular performances by the boats, aircraft, divers and parachutes. The show can also be viewed at the Navy Pier, Show Club, water cruises, or skylines. However, the Beaches and Navy pier offer the view free of cost.
Address: 90 W LaSalle Dr, Chicago, IL 60614, United States"
Chicago hosts numerous festivals throughout the year. The festivals range from music to comedy to literary to even food festivals. Festivals act as a perfect place for people to gather and enjoy the finest talents Chicago has to offer. There are some festivals that happen for free without any admission fee. These festivals are mostly related to music and take place in the majestic parks of Chicago like Grant Park and Millennium Park.
Festivals: Chicago Blues Festival, SummerDance, Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, Taste of Chicago, Chicago Gospel Music Festival, Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
16th Street Murals, located in the railroad embankment of 16th Street in Chicago, has become the home to Chicago’s street artists. It began with some murals being made along the embankment, but soon it became an initiative to create Art in public places. Some street artists who have presented their work on the two-mile embankment are Chris Silva, Hebru Brantley, Amuse, and Sam Kirk. Even some international artists like Roa, The York, and Gaia have represented themselves through art in the 16th Street Murals. You can visit this street for free and check out the amazing artwork and murals by local and international artists.
Address: 922 W. 16th St., Chicago, IL 60608
It is quite overwhelming to explore a new city for tourists. The Chicago Greeter is an organization run by volunteers who provide you information and take you around Chicago. The local volunteers make you aware of the various things the city offers and all the services are provided for free. Anyone can volunteer at this organization and provide a lot of help to the people who have just arrived in the city. This initiative gives you a local and diverse experience with passionate local people. You need to have a 10-day advance registration and the walking tour goes on for two to four hours.
Address: 72 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, United States
Jay Pritzker Pavilion is located in Millennium Park and is free to visit with no admission fees. The pavilion is made like a musical bandshell and was designed by famous architect Frank Gehry who is known for his contemporary architecture. Grant park music festival happens annually, it is free to attend along with many other free musical concerts and events. This is an outdoor amphitheater and is quite a popular tourist attraction in Chicago. Around eleven thousand people can sit in this pavilion and enjoy the fresh breeze and the cultural performances.
Address: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, United States
Lincoln Park Zoo acts as a safe haven for wildlife in a city that is surrounded by skyscrapers. It tries to re-establish the connection of nature with children and adults making them aware of its importance. It provides high priority to the zoo creatures and runs the largest conservation program based in the zoo in the USA. It houses more than two hundred unique variety of animal species including the black rhinos that are endangered and the Jamaican Iguana which was believed to be extinct. Admission to the zoo is free making it the only zoo in the USA which is privately owned to have no admission fee.
Address: 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, United States
Timings: 10:00 am- 5:00 pm(Monday to Sunday)"
Stony Island Arts Bank is a multipurpose structure that is used as a gallery, library, archive, and community center. It has the Rebuilds Archive and houses many other collections like Frankie Knuckles Vinyl Records, Negrobilia collection of Edward J Williams, Glass Lantern Slides of University of Chicago and Archives of Johnson publishing company to name a few. Built as a bank in 1923 and designed by William Gibbons Uffendell, the building later converted into a community center. It showcases films followed by a discussion for free and collaborates with locals to display their artworks.
Address: 6760 S Stony Island Ave, Chicago, IL 60649, United States
Timing: 10:00am- 4:00pm(Sunday)
There are a lot of parks in Chicago. Filled with gardens, trails, trees, ice rinks, greenhouses, picnic spots, public art, and other architectural places like Cloud Gate, these parks offer a lot to people and without any cost. The people go for Picnics, strolls, movie nights, music festivals, and exhibitions in these parks where the admission fee is free. They provide an oasis of nature to the fast-paced city dwellers. They act as hosts for cultural activities and fun-filled day out.
Parks: Garfield Park Conservatory, Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, Hyde Park, Humboldt Park, Jackson Park, Grant Park, Promontory Point, Dunbar Park, The 606"
Chicago Cultural Center is a landmark of the city. It acts as the official venue for receiving leaders and diplomats by the Mayor. The Center has elements of the Renaissance era with a little neoclassical touch. It also houses the largest stained glass in the world, known as Tiffany Dome. It is a popular spot for various events like exhibitions, theatre, weddings, and dances, which happen throughout the year. The Center organized an event once a year where musicians and artists perform for free to make people aware of the art and culture present in the city. The best thing about this is that the whole center is free of cost with no admission fee.
Address:78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602, United States
Timings: 10:00 am- 7:00 pm( Monday to Friday) 10:00 am- 5:00 pm( Saturday and Sunday) Closed on holidays"
Chicago houses many trails that connect the major attractions in the city. These picturesque trails are lined with trees and surrounded by public art and beautiful architecture. The trails in Chicago are popular spots for tourists and locals who walk, jog, roam or stroll along it enjoying the city and beautiful Lake Michigan or the Chicago River. You can enjoy the spectacular view or take a boat ride along the water bodies exploring the city without spending a dime because the admission fee is free of cost.
Trails: Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago Lakefront Trail
Did you find our list of free things to do in Chicago helpful? Do tell us in the comments.
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