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Saving For A House? 11 Free Things To Do In Chicago

By published February 21, 2023

The Windy City is a vibrant metropolis with endless opportunities for exploration and entertainment. While living in Chicago can often be expensive, there are plenty of free things to do in Chicago that will keep you entertained without breaking the bank. From taking a stroll along the lakefront to visiting world-renowned museums, the Windy City has something for everyone. So whether you’re saving for a home in Chicago or an apartment to rent, read on for free things to do in Chicago.

1. Wander through Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park

Andy Ritter from Visit Chicago Southland recommends visiting Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. It’s located in University Park and is voted the best sculpture park by USA Today’s Readers’ Choice. This free attraction features a collection of over 30 large-scale sculptures and is the perfect place to bike, hike, stroll, picnic, or meet in the Chicago Southland.

2. Check out murals from all over the city

“Chicago’s murals and street art are among the best in the world,” says Nick Bacon from Mainstream, a virtual and hybrid event service company. “In Pilsen, you’ll find entire houses covered by murals, such as the famous Gulliver en el país de las Maravillas (Gulliver in Wonderland) by Hector Duarte. Exploring street art will introduce you to our city’s rich culture.”

3. Enjoy a lakefront concert at the Grant Park Music Festival 

Scout from DesignScout, a service design firm, encourages a visit to Grant Park Music Festival. “During the summer months, newcomers can’t miss the Grant Park Music Festival. The festival features 20 free outdoor performances at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. Pack a picnic and some wine, and check out the Grant Park Symphony and Chorus as the sun sets over one of the best skyline views in the world. The festival runs June through August and features over 20 performances.”

4. Visit the Lincoln Park Lagoon

“For a tranquil break that’s free, visit the Lincoln Park Lagoon,” says Sandy Noto, a local food and travel photographer. “Start around Café Bauer and head towards the Education Pavilion, which includes a honeycomb structure created by Gang Studio. The path is stunning at sunrise if you’re a morning person.”

5. Tour one of the many city art galleries

Eric Lee, a local Chicago artist, shares, “My favorite afternoon in Chicago is visiting the galleries in West Town. You can see museum-quality work at Gray Warehouse and Rhona Hoffman. Andrew Rafacz and Catherine Edelman always have beautiful shows. Vertical Project Space and Chicago Truborn are very approachable and show illustrative and street art-influenced contemporary art. All of them are always free to visit, quiet, and you can see what’s happening in the art world in just a couple of hours.”

6. Explore the neighborhoods of your favorite movies

Many movies have been filmed in Chicago, and Liz Hansen, a Chicago Boudoir photographer, recommends visiting some of the city’s most iconic filming locations. “You can drive by Kevin McAllister’s house in a Chicago suburb at 671 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL. The front driveway has changed since the movie was filmed, but besides that, you will recognize the “Home Alone” house immediately. It’s free to drive by the house, but stay respectful of the owners and neighbors.”

7. Visit the Chicago Cultural Center

Kevin Doerksen from Wild Onion Walks, a local tour company, says the Chicago Cultural Center is a gem hidden in plain sight. “This architectural wonder is the former main branch of the Chicago Public Library and contains the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome. Its mosaics are not to be missed. It oozes history and culture. It has also been seen in several Chicago-themed movies. There are cultural and civic organizations housed within as well. It is a refuge from the bustling world that surrounds it. Best of all? It’s free.”

8. Check out the Lincoln Park Conservatory

Debra Dobbs, a Chicago realtor from The Dobbs Group, recommends visiting the Lincoln Park Conservatory. “This Victorian-style greenhouse is home to four rooms displaying exotic plants from around the world. Rare orchids, like the Moth orchid, can be found in the Orchid room. The Formal Garden is home to beautiful sculptures and works of art. Residents and visitors worldwide love the Conservatory for its tranquil atmosphere and seasonal flower displays.”

9. Take a stroll through Lakefront Trail

Rachel MacQueen from Firmly Rooted Events encourages you to check out the Lakefront Trail as a free thing to do in Chicago. “I find the Lakefront Trail to be one of the coolest features of Chicago. I have a strong affinity to this trail because I have walked it many times. So many people use this trail for running, biking, and walking, and I think that it is a gem of an experience to be so close to Lake Michigan and see the city’s beauty.”

10. Jam out to Bluegrass Chicago

Bluegrass Chicago and the old-time music scene are worth checking out. There are plenty of ‘no cover’ events where you can catch a free show. Show your support and check out three spots where you can see live, acoustic music each week – Bluegrass Brunch at the Beat Kitchen, Banjo After Dark at Borelli’s Pizza, and Bluegrass Sundays at Sidecar Supper Club in Batavia, IL. 

11. Take a hike on the 606 Trail

For free things to do in Chicago that get you outdoors, “Enjoy a hike on the 2.7-mile elevated 606 Trail that was once the Bloomingdale train lane,” says Cait Kontalis, a travel blogger. “It has since been converted into a haven for runners, walkers, bicyclists, and art admirers. Stroll this east-west trail on Chicago’s northwest side while enjoying art installations, local views of the city, and truly getting to be with the locals.” 

Jaime Billow from Chicago Food Truck Hub agrees. “Though Chicago is arguably one of the country’s best and most well-known culinary destinations, take some time to explore what’s off the beaten path by visiting The 606. The 606 is an elevated path that is built on an old railroad track and is free and accessible every day. Chicago is also a haven for gems of neighborhoods, each with their character and vibe.”

written by Redfin Blogger Ana de Guzman



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