5 Free Things To Do In Chicago

Ava Mohtashemi

Known as the ‘Windy City,’ Chicago is filled with noteworthy art, music, food, and architecture. The Culture Trip brings you a list of five ways you can enjoy Chi-Town at no cost.

1. Lincoln Park Zoo

Zoo, Park

Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Lincoln Park Zoo houses approximately 1,100 animals of around 200 species. It was founded in 1868, making it one of the oldest zoos in the United States. Exhibits include a penguin and polar bear habitat, reptiles, mammals and much more. The zoo also holds events throughout the year such as educational programs, conservation camps, and most recently, an ‘Adults Night Out.’ Most importantly, admission to the Lincoln Park Zoo is free seven days a week.

2. Navy Pier


People walk through Navy Pier on a sunny day, with rhe Centennial Ferris Wheel looming overhead
© Gregory Tucker / Alamy Stock Photo
Navy Pier was originally built as a cargo facility for lake freighters in 1916, costing 4.6 million dollars. It is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. During the summer from Memorial day through Labor day, visitors can catch fantastic free fireworks on display Wednesday and Saturday nights. There are also several museums at Navy Pier, including the Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass, which has free admission. Walking throughout Navy Pier, you will be treated to a nice view of the city’s skyline alongside Lake Michigan. A photographer’s dream, it is a great spot for some landscape photography.

3. Millennium Park

Park, School

Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millenium Park. Chicago.
© Eitan Simanor / Alamy Stock Photo
Millennium Park sits right in Chicago’s famous ‘Loop’ and is filled with art, music, architecture and even a garden. It is home to many sculptures including Crown Fountain, an interactive piece of public art, and the infamous ‘Bean’ or Cloud Gate — Anish Kapoor’s elliptical arch that reflects and distorts the city’s skyline. Besides enjoying the wonderful scenery, the park offers a variety of free events throughout the year, including free movie screenings every Tuesday night from June 23-September 1. Free workout sessions are also offered in the park during summer along with free after-school programs for teens. Millennium Park also has free jazz and classical music festivals and concerts throughout the year.

Visit a Beach

North Shore (Rogers Park) and Montrose Beach (Uptown) are great beaches to check out on the north side of Chicago. Montrose also offers a dog beach for those furry friends of yours. Also check out Osterman beach, also known as Hollywood Beach, for some really rad nachos! Beach hours for most beaches throughout Chicago are from 11:00am-7:00pm, when a lifeguard is on duty.

Beach skyline view

4. Museum of Contemporary Photography


Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL, USA
© Jonathan Castillo / Courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Photography
Part of Columbia College Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography houses a permanent collection featuring American and international photographers from the 20th century to present time. Work on display includes well-known photographers such as Walker Evans, Ansel Adams, Irving Penn and Dorothea Lange. The museum also features a Midwest Photographers Project, which has work from regional artists. The museum also offers various events throughout the year. It is open Monday through Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm and Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm. Admission is free.

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