Free Things To Do In Chicago

There is a never ending list of activities to do in The Windy City, but they often come at a price. Whether you’re looking for a free stay-cation idea, or just want to venture out and check out something new this weekend, we’ve got you covered.

We spoke with Beth LaBrosse, Concierge Manager for Reside Living, for her expert advice on cheap thrills in Chicago. Here are her recommendations:


Chicago’s museums offer an unforgettable experience for visitors and are a proud symbol of cultural pride for locals. As an added bonus, many of these institutions offer free or discounted admission days.

The Art Institute of Chicago
Admission is free to Illinois residents every Thursday evening from 5-8pm.
Additionally children under age 14 are always free and the public can enjoy the following museum areas free of charge:
The Ryan Education Center in the Modern Wing, as well as all programs for families and children within the center
The North and South Gardens
The Nichols Bridgeway connecting the museum to Millennium Park
The Bluhm Family Terrace on the 3rd floor of the west pavilion of the Modern Wing

The Museum of Science and Industry
Free general admission for Illinois residents on the following 2015 dates.

The Field Museum
Free general admission for Illinois residents in the month of February.

Chicago History Museum
Free admission for Illinois residents only on the following dates:
January (weekends)
February (every weekday of the month)
March 4 (Chicago’s birthday)
July 4 (Independence Day)

Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier
Free admission for visitors age 15 and under on Free First Sundays, offered the first Sunday of each month. Additionally there is free admission for all visitors on Target Free Family Night, offered Thursday evenings 5-8pm.

Museum of Contemporary Art
Admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays year round.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois residents year round.

Dusable Museum of African American History
Admission is free to all on each Sunday of the year.

Loyola University Museum of Art
Admission is free for all visitors every Tuesday, year round.

Swedish American Museum
Admission is free for all visitors on the second Tuesday of the month, year round.

Events & Festivals

Chicagoans know how to throw a party – so much so, that there are free festivals throughout the city’s neighborhoods all year long.

You can find this year’s list at the Choose Chicago Website.

Parks & Zoos

These Chicago parks and zoos are absolutely free and open to visitors 365 days a year!

Lincoln Park Zoo

Millennium Park
Includes Jay Pritzker Pavilion, “Cloud Gate” aka “The Bean”, Crown Fountains, free concerts in the summer, and ice skating in the winter.

Grant Park
Known as Chicago’s “front yard”, this park is home to Maggie Daley Park, Buckingham Fountain, and plays host to free festivals during the summer. There is even a new climbing park opening in Summer 2015!

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