If you visit the Art Institute of Chicago, or even if you don’t, you will want to visit Millennium Park. Winter or summer, it has plenty to offer. I enjoyed walking the stainless steel bordered walkway (the BP bridge), and doing a photo shoot at Cloud Gate, aka,”the bean.” In the summer, there are tons of free concerts. If you have small children, pack some extra clothes and water shoes so that they can splash in the fountains. In the winter, you’ll find Chicago’s unique skating ribbon to keep you going strong. There is a Millennium Park app available to help you plan and locate where you want to be and what you want to see — and the best part is, it’s all free!
A lot of cities have renovated their river fronts, and Chicago is no exception. What is cool about this walkway, though, is that some of it is very old. You’ll see ornate staircases where millions of shoes have tread. The McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum offer tours and talks for reasonable prices ($5 per person, under 5 free). There are many other tours available as you meander down the walkway, and lots of river cruises.
Besides viewing the river, its bridges, some awesome old buildings on the riverbanks, and boats cruising by, there are restaurants and bars along the way so that you can stop and refresh yourself before heading on to the next great adventure of the day.
Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory
The great thing about cities is that they serve their citizens in unique ways. In Chicago, the Lincoln Park Zoo is absolutely free, and the park itself includes beautiful plantings and a conservatory. It is a gardener’s dream come true. I could honestly spend the entire day here, though I doubt my family would wait patiently while I attempted to identify the flora and fauna around me.
The zoo buildings themselves date back to 1868. The Cat House looks like something out of a Victorian era children’s book. When you tire of strolling through the zoo and gardens, have a snack at The Patio at Cafe Brauer. The food is excellent, and the cafe offers lunch and dinner (seasonally), small plates, wines, cocktails, and craft beers. It is not inexpensive, however, so you may want to pack snacks for the little ones while you sip your libation and enjoy the views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline.
I have just skimmed the surface of all that Chicago has to offer. Looking back on what I’ve written, I am surprised at how much of it is free, or minimally priced. Chicago really is my kind of town!
Featured photo by Maricel
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