Renowned for its architecture, culture, and deep-dish pizza Chicago exudes unmatched vibrancy. And you can explore this iconic city without breaking the bank!
We have meticulously curated a list of 10 attractions and experiences that will transform your trip to Chicago into an unforgettable adventure.
Regardless of your age or interests, Chicago has something for everyone. This guide takes you on a journey to fun and free things to do in Chicago with kids and adults through the bustling streets, where every corner hides an exhilarating experience.
Table of Contents
10 Free Things to Do in Chicago Today
1. Millennium Park
Start your Windy City adventure at Millennium Park, a sprawling 24.5-acre oasis located in downtown Chicago. This urban gem is famous for its mesmerizing Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as “The Bean,” and the whimsical Crown Fountain.
Take a stroll, have a picnic on the Millennium Park Chicago Great Lawn, or groove to the rhythms of free outdoor concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
2. Art Institute of Chicago
Immerse yourself in the world of art and culture at the Art Institute of Chicago, a hub of creativity. While general admission usually requires a fee, Illinois residents can enjoy free entry every Thursday evening from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This art gallery brings with it a chance to explore a collection of artworks spanning centuries and various cultures.
3. Navy Pier
Experience the atmosphere of Navy Pier, a historic landmark and a must-visit destination for tourists. While some attractions may require an admission fee, there are plenty of free activities.
Take a stroll along the pier to admire the views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline, or catch an amazing fireworks display during the summer season.
4. Lincoln Park Zoo
Immerse yourself in the wonders of nature at Lincoln Park Zoo, which happens to be one of North America’s zoos.
The best part? It’s completely free! Explore exhibits like the Regenstein African Journey, the Pritzker Family Children Zoo, and the Kovler Lion House. Get ready to encounter animals personally without spending a single penny.
5. Grant Park
Discover the charm of Grant Park affectionately known as “Chicago Front Yard”. This urban sanctuary offers mesmerizing vistas of Lake Michigan.
It is home to landmarks such as Buckingham Fountain and Millennium Park. Take a brisk walk along the park’s narrow roads or simply relax on one of its lush green lawns.
6. Garfield Park Conservatory
Indulge in a haven at the Garfield Park Conservatory, which ranks among the conservatories in the United States. This hidden gem is a paradise, boasting captivating gardens filled with rare plants from around the world.
Explore themed rooms that range from the Palm House to the tranquil Fern Room and even an otherworldly Desert House.
7. Chicago Cultural Center
Indulge in one of the best free things to do in Chicago at night, where you can experience arts and culture at the Chicago Cultural Center, a treasure that hosts an array of programs throughout the year offering boundless opportunities for cultural enrichment.
View the wonders of this masterpiece on a guided Chicago Cultural Center Tiffany Dome tour and be amazed by the stained glass domes or groove to the rhythm of one of the many free concerts or exhibitions available.
8. The 606
Discover the tranquility of The 606. A park and trail system was created from a railway line. This unique public space offers breathtaking views of Chicago’s neighborhoods and skyline.
Whether you choose to bike, stroll, or simply enjoy a walk along the alleys you will come across captivating public art installations—beautifully landscaped gardens.
The 606 Chicago map is an exceptional public space that not only offers views of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods and iconic skyline but also provides an opportunity for leisurely bike rides or walks. Enjoy captivating public art installations and beautifully landscaped gardens as you explore this oasis.
9. Museum Campus
Embark on a journey through science and natural history at Museum Campus, located along Chicago’s lakefront. While general admission usually requires a fee Illinois residents can enjoy access, on days throughout the year to explore all the marvels it has to offer.
Explore the wonders waiting for you at The Field Chicago Museum Campus delve into the secrets of the deep at Shedd Aquarium, or embark on an adventure at Adler Planetarium. Apart from museums and art galleries, Chicago is famous for its happening nightlife. Here’s our list of the best bars in Chicago that you must visit!
10. Chicago Greeter-Guided Adventures
Chicago Greeter Guided Adventures, Immerse yourself in the city alongside a local through Chicago Greeter, a program that pairs residents with visitors to provide a unique and insider introduction to the vibrant neighborhoods of the city.
Uncover hidden treasures and find yourself engaged in their rich history and culture. Receive personalized recommendations from friendly volunteers who truly love their city.
Additionally, you can take part in walking tours with Chicago Greeter to visit the city’s neighborhoods up close. These guided tours are led by locals who will show you gems, share insights about local history and culture, and offer personalized recommendations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some free things to do in Chicago for couples?
Chicago offers an array of cost-free activities for couples. Take a leisurely stroll hand in hand along the Chicago Riverwalk, where you can admire views of the city’s architectural wonders. Alternatively, surprise your loved one with a picnic amidst the enchanting Cloud Gate sculpture, in Millennium Park.
Looking to explore the free things to do in Chicago for adults?
If you’re searching for activities in Chicago today, you don’t need to look any further than the Chicago Cultural Center. Here, you can enjoy concerts and exhibitions that will enhance your day.
Another option is to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Garfield Park Conservatory, where exotic plants from all over the world thrive. If you’re in need of some air, take a short walk by the Lakefront Trail while soaking in breathtaking views of Lake Michigan.
How to take advantage of a free walking tour offered by Chicago Greeter?
Consider exploring Grant Park Bistro and Grant Park Music Festival, where you have the option to relax on the lawns or explore the picturesque spots. Don’t forget that Thursday evenings offer admission to the Art Institute of Chicago, giving you a chance to immerse yourself in art and culture.
Planning your weekend activities? Consider visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo Light for a budget-friendly experience. Admission is free, allowing you to encounter animals and enjoy a fun-filled weekend without breaking the bank.
Our Final Words
Chicago offers a range of attractions and experiences that cater to people of all ages and interests. Whether you’re someone who appreciates culture, loves nature, or enjoys exploring new places, there’s a lot to do in Chicago.
You can visit Millennium Park’s iconic Bean or walk along the picturesque Lakefront Trail—Chicago boasts a plethora of free attractions. Dive into the city’s rich history with free museum days or enjoy the lively atmosphere of Navy Pier without spending a dime.