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Free Things to Do In Chicago

15 Jul

Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the USA and offers spectacular skyline, world-class art museums, and many free things to do!

Chicago Skyline
Photo of Chicago Skyline © 1′UP


Photograph Buckingham Fountain

Photo of Buckingham Fountain, Chicago

Photo of Buckingham Fountain © puroticorico

Buckingham Fountain has a free water display every hour from mid-April to mid-October. The best time to go is between dusk and 10 p.m. when the fountain’s 134 spouting jets are accompanied by a music and light display.

Walk Along Navy Pier

Photo of Navy Pier, Chicago
Photo of Navy Pier © yummiec00kies

Navy Pier is a 3,000-foot-long (914-meter) playground offering many attractions—from a Ferris wheel to a winter ice-skating rink to two children’s museums. Although most of the indoor attractions charge a fee, some offer free admission, including the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. Many people enjoy walking around the pier, which doesn’t cost a thing. Also, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, visitors can watch a free fireworks display every Wednesday and Saturday night.

See Amazing Animals at Lincoln Park Zoo

Photo of a meerkat at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo of Meerkat at Lincoln Park Zoo © kthypryn

Admission to the Lincoln Park Zoo is free seven days a week.  See animals like meerkats, Bactrian camels, pygmy hippos, Malayan sun bears, and much more.  The Lincoln Park Zoo also has a large conservation program.

Experience Millennium Park

Millennium Park Chicago
Photo of Millennium Park © terren in Virginia

Millennium Park incorporates art, music, architecture, and landscape design. This 24.5-acre (9.9-hectare) sanctuary, located in downtown Chicago, boasts the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion where you can see free concerts throughout the summer (BYOB), the interactive Crown Fountain, and a popular sculpture designed by British artist Anish Kapoor. Free programs—such as Music Without Borders and Home Cooked Jazz—are held in the park throughout the year.


Chicago Contemporary Museum
Museum of Contemporary Art © pepsiline

Visit the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is free on Thursday evenings from 5-8. From photography to architecture to textiles, this museum houses a permanent collection that includes works by Eva Hesse, David Hockney, and Ellsworth Kelly.

Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is free on Tuesdays. One of the nation’s largest facilities devoted to the art of our time, the MCA offers exhibitions of the most thought-provoking art created since 1945.

Visit the Museum of Contemporaty Photography

The Museum of Contemporary Photography is always free. The Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) is the only museum in the Midwest with an exclusive commitment to the medium of photography.

Visit the Smart Museum of Art

The Smart Museumof Art at The University of Chicago is always free and has over 10,000 objects ranging from ancient Chinese artifacts to works by Francisco Goya and Henri Matisse.

Visit the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art charges no admission and displays visionary art and works by self-taught artists.


Wander through the Garfield Park Conservatory

Water lily photo
Photo of water lily, Chicago © puroticorico

Garfield Park Conservatory. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the conservatory grows thousands of plants every year. Admission is free as are the various programs and exhibits.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Lincoln Park Conservatory
Photo of Lincoln Park Conservatory © cortneymartin8

Lincoln Park Conservatory has four display houses: the Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House, and Show House.

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park Boating
Photo of Lincoln Park, Chicago © karla kaulfuss

Lincoln Park is a 1,200 acre (4.9 km², 1.875 mi²) park along Lake Michigan. The park stretches from North Avenue (1600 N) on the south to Ardmore (5900 N), just north of the Lake Shore Drive terminus at North Hollywood Avenue. It is Chicago’s largest public park. It has many recreational facilities including 15 baseball areas, 6 basketball courts, 2 softball courts, 35 tennis courts, 163 volley ball courts, field houses, and a golf course. It includes a number of harbors with boating facilities, as well as public beaches. There are landscaped gardens, a zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and a theater on the lake with regular outdoor performances during the summer.

Watch Outdoor Movies

Outdoor Movies in the Park sponsored by The Chicago Park District, shows free classic and contemporary films at dusk from June through September in parks city-wide. Grab a blanket and unwind while watching The Wizard of Oz in the fresh summer air.