Chicago is a beautiful city that my boyfriend and I both love; so much so that after visiting four times in about a year we have decided to move there. One of our favorite things about the city is all the wonderful things that there are to do that are free or cheap; so, I have decided to make a webpage dedicated to some of our favorite free and cheap things (under $15) to do in Chicago. At the bottom of the list I included one more expensive must-see attraction, Shedd Aquarium. Following that at the very bottom of the page I have included a few tips for visiting Chicago.
Web-site: chicagochinatown.org and chicagochinatown.com
Location: Get off at the Cermark/Chinatown stop on the Red Line train
Extra info: Chinatown is a large collection of individual shops, a mall, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. Two of my favorite things to do in Chinatown is admire the architectural elements throughout the area (Nine Dragon Wall, various buildings, statues, etc.), and browse all the cool items that the stores carry.
Location: 600 East Grand Avenue
Extra info: The Navy Pier offers plenty of shopping, food vendors, boat tours, etc. (all for cost, of course); however it is also a great place to just sit back and take in the views of the lake and skyline. During the warmer months they have fireworks shows and various performances on the Pepsi Skyline stage. You can view a visitor map of the Navy Pier here which shows some of the many things that the Navy Pier offers.
Sears Tower Skydeck
Cost: $17 for a basic adult admission*
Location: 233 S. Wacker Dr. (enter Skydeck on Jackson Blvd)
Extra info: This choice is obvious. A few facts from their web-site: the Skydeck is 1,353 feet high, you can see 40–50 miles on a clear day, you can see four states (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin). They also now have glass ledges that you can walk out onto to get a better view; you can read more about the glass ledges here.
Location: Roughly bordered by North Michigan Ave, E Randolph Street, N Columbus Drive, and E/ Monroe Street
Extra info: Millennium Park is a huge park with a lot of things to offer including the Cloud Gate sculpture, Crown Fountain, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, BP Pedestrian Bridge, and Lurie Garden.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Location: 2001 North Clark Street
Extra info: The Lincoln Park Zoo offers as much as most pay-zoos; they have bears, birds, penguins, lions, tigers, sea lions, swans, reptiles, flamingos, antelopes, zebras, farm animals, and much more.
Location: Corner of Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway in Grant Park
Extra info: The Buckingham fountain has a spectacular twenty minute water show every hour on the hour from 8:00am-10:00pm every day during the warmer months (usually April to mid-October). There is music, lights, and 134 water jets with the center jet shooting 150 feet into the air. The fountain was featured in the opening to the television show "Married With Children".
Web-site: (I could not find an official web-site)
Location: Intersection of N. McClurg Ct and East River Drive
Extra info: This fountain looks a LOT better from the south side than it does from East River Drive, so, make sure you walk around the fountain to view it from the other side. The fountain has two main parts: a waterfall fountain and a water cannon that shoots a large jet of water across the Chicago river. For more information about when the fountain and water cannon operate, you can find more information at the thechicagotraveler.com, however, please be aware that the map link is not accurate as the fountain is farther south than it shows.
Any water taxi
Web-site: (See below)
Location: (See below)
Extra info: If you want a cheap alterative to a sight-seeing boat tour, I recommend taking a water taxi ride. The prices start at $2 for an adult fare depending on what water taxi company you choose, where you decide to get on the taxi, and where you want to get off. Keep in mind that the water taxis do not run all year round. You can find some of the various water taxi companies by simply searching "Chicago water taxis" on your preferred search engine, or here are links to the fare prices for two water taxi companies to get you started:
(To clarify, the first photo is of a water taxi, and the other three photos were taken from a water taxi.)
And finally a more expensive must-see:
Cost: $28.95 for a basic adult admission*
Location: 1200 South Lake Shore Drive
Extra info: The Shedd Aquarium has an amazing amount of animals; according to their web-site there are 32,500 different animals. There are turtles, octopus, whales, dolphins, sharks, otters, sea lions, penguins, frogs, toads, eels, rays, tarantulas, iguanas, anacondas, sea stars, various fishes and corals, and a lot more! My favorite part was the amazing dolphin performance (first photo below). We spent a couple hours there, and had to rush at the end since we had other things to do that day; I recommend setting aside at least half a day if you can, so, you can get your money's worth.
A few tips for visiting Chicago:
Parking at most places in Chicago, especially popular places, can be rather expensive. I recommend finding 24 hour parking, and using public transportation while in Chicago; this, of course, has the added benefit of you not having to deal with the crazy traffic. Some of the CTA train stations offer 24 hour parking, and they are some of the cheapest parking that I have seen in Chicago. You can find the stations that offer park and ride, and their rates on the CTA web-site.
Google Maps has a public transportation option which can be extremely helpful if you think you may have trouble reading the transit maps that you can find at the train stations; Google allows you to put in any two locations, select public transportation, and it will tell you what trains and buses you need to take to get from Point A to Point B.
For a list of free events occurring during your trip, I recommend checking out metromix.com.
*Please keep in mind that places periodically change their prices, therefore, be sure to check their web-site to ensure that their admission prices have not increased from what is shown here.