Our Top 10 free things to do in Chicago  (Tips from two locals to first time visitors in 2023)

Our Top 10 free things to do in Chicago (Tips from two locals to first time visitors in 2023)

Having lived in Chicago for 20 years, we came up with our list of the top 10 free things to do in Chicago when we have guests …

Welcome to Chicago, the vibrant and dynamic city that has something for everyone! Our top 10 free things to do will make your visit unforgettable. Experience the breathtaking skyline at Millennium Park and be sure to snap a selfie with the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture. Immerse yourself in culture at the Art Institute of Chicago, where world-renowned masterpieces await. Discover the inspiring history of the city on a free walking tour of the Chicago Riverwalk. Explore the stunning beauty of Grant Park and don’t miss the Buckingham Fountain’s captivating water display. Soak up the lively atmosphere at Navy Pier with its scenic views and lively entertainment. Get in touch with nature at Lincoln Park, where free zoo visits and picturesque gardens mesmerize. Wrigley Field, the beloved baseball park, offers free tours for sports enthusiasts. For a dose of tranquility, escape to the delightful Garfield Park Conservatory. Dive into history at the Chicago History Museum and delve into the city’s rich and diverse past. Finally, stroll along the beautiful Lakefront Trail and savor the breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply seeking adventure, our top 10 free things to do in Chicago will leave you with unforgettable memories. Don’t miss out on experiencing the best of the Windy City!

Welcome to “Our Top 10 free things to do in Chicago (Tips from two locals to first time visitors in 2023)”! Are you planning a trip to the Windy City and wondering how to make the most of your time without breaking the bank? Look no further! In this guide, we’ll share our favorite cost-free activities and attractions, ensuring an unforgettable experience while saving your hard-earned dollars. Let’s dive in and uncover the best free gems of Chicago!

# Our Top 10 Free Things to Do in Chicago (Tips from Two Locals to First-Time Visitors in 2023)

*Explore the Windy City without breaking the bank! Discover the best free attractions and activities that Chicago has to offer. Take advice from two knowledgeable locals and make the most of your visit to the captivating city. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, there’s something for everyone.*

## Table of Contents
1. [Millennium Park](#millennium-park)
2. [The Art Institute of Chicago](#the-art-institute-of-chicago)
3. [Navy Pier](#navy-pier)
4. [Lincoln Park Zoo](#lincoln-park-zoo)
5. [Chicago Riverwalk](#chicago-riverwalk)
6. [Garfield Park Conservatory](#garfield-park-conservatory)
7. [Museum of Contemporary Art](#museum-of-contemporary-art)
8. [Grant Park](#grant-park)
9. [Chicago Cultural Center](#chicago-cultural-center)
10. [The 606](#the-606)

## 1. Millennium Park
![Millennium Park](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1568508716078-3b7c0bf0d948)

Millennium Park is a must-visit destination that offers a variety of free activities for all ages. One of the park’s highlights is the famous Cloud Gate, also known as “The Bean.” This iconic sculpture provides unique photo opportunities with its reflective surface. You can also enjoy free concerts and events at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an architectural marvel with stunning acoustics. In the summer, don’t miss the Crown Fountain, a captivating interactive video installation that delights both children and adults.

## 2. The Art Institute of Chicago
![The Art Institute of Chicago](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1489824904134-891ab64532f4)

Immerse yourself in world-class art at the Art Institute of Chicago, which offers free admission to Illinois residents every Thursday evening. Marvel at works by renowned artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. The museum’s vast collection spans diverse artistic periods and cultures, guaranteeing an enriching experience for art enthusiasts. Explore the museum’s impressive architecture and don’t forget to take a stroll through the adjacent Millennium Park afterward.

## 3. Navy Pier
![Navy Pier](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1572449387819-dda81dff202e)

Navy Pier is a vibrant and lively destination teeming with free entertainment options. Take a leisurely stroll along the pier while enjoying breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. Catch the weekly summer fireworks displays or appreciate the numerous street performances. If you’re visiting with children, a visit to the Chicago Children’s Museum, which offers complimentary admission on Thursdays, is a must. End your day with a ride on the Ferris wheel and indulge in some tasty street food.

## 4. Lincoln Park Zoo
![Lincoln Park Zoo](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1560501609-56d1d90b4597)

Discover over 200 species of animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the United States and renowned for its conservation efforts. Admission to this world-class zoo is free year-round, providing an excellent opportunity to observe wildlife and learn about their habitats. Take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful gardens and catch fascinating animal feedings and talks throughout the day. Don’t forget to check the schedule for additional free events and concerts hosted by the zoo.

## 5. Chicago Riverwalk
![Chicago Riverwalk](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1568105849353-33bf95c19703)

Indulge in the scenic beauty of the Chicago Riverwalk, a charming waterfront promenade that stretches for 1.25 miles. Take a relaxing stroll along the river while admiring the architectural splendor of the city’s skyline. Along the way, you’ll find various cafes, bars, and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat or sip a refreshing drink. The Riverwalk also hosts free events such as concerts, yoga classes, and art installations, making it a delightful destination for both locals and tourists.

## 6. Garfield Park Conservatory
![Garfield Park Conservatory](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1527491893000-fff41f37e2cd)

Escape into a lush oasis at the Garfield Park Conservatory, a free haven of exotic plants and flowers. Explore the conservatory’s diverse collections, including the Palm House, Desert House, and Aroid House. Revel in the beauty of the outdoor gardens, which feature stunning landscapes and serene walking paths. The conservatory often hosts special events and exhibitions, providing a unique and educational experience for plant enthusiasts and nature lovers.

## 7. Museum of Contemporary Art
![Museum of Contemporary Art](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1583346876808-d3fa64edd151)

Experience cutting-edge contemporary art at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), which offers free admission on Tuesdays for Illinois residents. Discover thought-provoking exhibitions showcasing works by renowned artists from around the world. The museum’s collection encompasses a wide range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, video art, and performance art. Don’t forget to explore the MCA’s outdoor sculpture garden, featuring captivating installations amidst a peaceful setting.

## 8. Grant Park
![Grant Park](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1611645020521-d263072a2e91)

Visit Grant Park, often referred to as “Chicago’s Front Yard,” and delight in its expansive green spaces and vibrant atmosphere. Take a relaxing stroll through the park’s picturesque gardens and enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline. Grant Park is home to several notable landmarks, including Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Maggie Daley Park. Pack a picnic, unwind by the waterfront, or participate in one of the many free events and festivals that take place throughout the year.

## 9. Chicago Cultural Center
![Chicago Cultural Center](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1613289332913-06853b31822e)

Discover the cultural heart of Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center, a free public space dedicated to arts and culture. Take a self-guided tour of the building’s stunning architecture, including the breathtaking Tiffany stained glass dome. The Cultural Center hosts a variety of free events, including exhibitions, live music performances, and lectures. Check the schedule to see what’s happening during your visit and immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant artistic scene.

## 10. The 606
![The 606](https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1516609878293-84da8adf7860)

Explore the unique urban oasis of The 606, an elevated park built on a former rail line. This recreational space offers visitors a chance to walk, run, bike, or skate along its scenic trails. The 2.7-mile trail winds through several Chicago neighborhoods while showcasing public art installations and providing stunning views of the city. Additionally, The 606 hosts various free events, including fitness classes, art workshops, and live performances, making it a dynamic and engaging destination.

## FAQ’s

### Q: Can you suggest some family-friendly free attractions in Chicago?
A: Absolutely! Some family-friendly free attractions in Chicago include Millennium Park, where kids can have fun at the Crown Fountain, and the Lincoln Park Zoo, which offers free admission year-round and features animal feedings and educational programs.

### Q: Are any of the suggested attractions open during winter?
A: Yes, several of the mentioned attractions remain open during winter. Millennium Park is accessible year-round, and during the winter months, you can often enjoy ice skating at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. The Art Institute of Chicago, Navy Pier (excluding the Ferris wheel), and many cultural institutions, such as the Garfield Park Conservatory and the Museum of Contemporary Art, also remain open throughout the winter season.

### Q: Are there any free tours available in Chicago?
A: While most official tours in Chicago require payment, there are some free alternatives. The Chicago Greeter program offers free guided tours led by enthusiastic locals who are passionate about the city. These tours can be customized based on your interests, providing an authentic and personalized experience of Chicago.

### Q: Are there any budget-friendly options for dining in Chicago?
A: Certainly! Chicago is known for its diverse and affordable food scene. You can find delicious and budget-friendly meals at local food joints, food trucks, and ethnic eateries throughout the city. Don’t forget to try the famous Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza, which are iconic local specialties and reasonably priced.

### Q: What is the best way to get around the city for free or at a low cost?
A: Chicago offers several options for cost-effective transportation. The city’s extensive public transportation system, including buses and trains, is an affordable way to navigate Chicago. Additionally, consider using the city’s bike-sharing program or taking advantage of free trolley services, such as the Navy Pier Trolley and the Millennium Park Shuttle, which operate during specific times and seasons. Walking is also an excellent option, as many of Chicago’s attractions are within a reasonable distance of one another.

Now armed with this list of top free attractions and insider tips from locals, you can maximize your experience in Chicago without straining your budget. Uncover the vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and natural beauty that make the Windy City an irresistible destination. Enjoy your visit to Chicago, and may it be filled with unforgettable memories!

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