Chicago Things to Do for Mostly Free

Driving down Lake Shore Drive on Friday afternoon, it was unbelievable to me how sparkling turquoise the lake looks. 

There is more to this city than decoration that makes it warm and comfortable. It is the people.

Sure, you will always have the busy A-types who won’t hold doors or stop for slower pedestrians. You have the cabbies for whom stressful encounters with other cars actually seems to be their stress release. But outnumbering them five to one are the clerks who patiently wait while you try to recall your cell phone number; The waiters who bring extra napkins, and ice water, and appetizer plates without being asked; the young men who give up their train seats for the struggling moms.

If America’s largest cities have turned you off, Chicago is definitely worth a visit. Forget the bad press; this is a city that  offers all of the urban amenities plus the warmth and hospitality of an ethnic base.  Chicago values nature, and culture, and it values people.

Chicago Visitors Have Lots of Options

There are a multitude of things to do in Chicago, and as many neighborhoods to explore. Previously, I posted about a fun day we had in Old Town being food tourists. Here are a few more adventures we’ve had in the Windy City.

Magnificent Mile

It’s free to window shop! The Magnificent Mile is definitely the place to be when it comes to retail shopping. You’ll find all of your usual favorites, but they are still worth a look because the selections are large and so are the sales.

When you are getting tired, stop at Garrett’s Popcorn shop at North Michigan Avenue and Ontario Street. Get the Garrett’s Mix — trust me. Warning: the entrance is actually on Ontario Street. See, I’ve already saved you the time that I spent walking back and forth trying to find 625 North Michigan Avenue.


photo credit: Wesley Fryer

Navy Pier

It’s a big shopping mall, but so pretty sitting out on beautiful Lake Michigan. Plus, you’ll get some awesome photos and see all of the day cruises on the pier. If the weather’s right, you may want to take a boat tour. The Pier also has modest size convention facilities, so be sure to check the Navy Pier Calendar of Events for upcoming attractions.

navy pier

photo credit: Bernt Rostad

There are no trains that run directly to the pier, but buses provide public transportation to Navy Pier. You may also be lucky enough to catch a Navy Pier Free Trolley, so definitely check out that schedule.

Art Institute of Chicago

This huge facility would easily devour your entire long weekend. It’s got everything from a complete reconstruction of the original Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room to a room full of dazzling glass paperweights. Don’t miss the miniature rooms display, and get there early! This is one of the most popular displays.


Arthur Rubloff Paperweight collection

Ancient art, American arts and crafts, modern art — this museum has it all.

Plan to spend hours here, or download the Art Institute Chicago museum map , or the App, and target your visit. You can always come back. If it’s a nice day, you’ll want to stroll through adjacent Millennium Park, so plan ahead and wear sneakers.

Want more ideas for things to do in Chicago? Check out this post.

featured photo credit: Tony The Tiger at English Wikipedia 

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3 comments on “Chicago Things to Do for Mostly Free”
  1. I hope you’re getting a kick back from the Chicago Tourist Board!

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