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Dubbed the “Windy City” Chicago is full of adventure. If you are headed there soon it doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out my list of the top 25 free things to do in Chicago so you and your family can get the most value out of your trip! Hopefully with this list you can travel and not have money hold you back from having fun. Comment below with your own ideas!
1. Skoki Northside Sculpture Park
Our first stop on the list is an adventure into a park filled with interesting sculptures, over 60 in all! It would be a fun filled afternoon trying to find them all.
2. Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center puts on free visual art exhibits and performances all summer long! Check the website, find an event you and the family find interesting, and enjoy the free show.
We are back in the Cultural Center for this fun, free time. Weird Friday is a mid day dance party with different DJ’s and music each week. They are on the first and third Fridays of every month. Go to the one that suits your music taste best!
4. Chicago Summer Dance
Need to learn a few dance moves before you take on Freaky Friday? Well Summer Dance has got your back. Located in Grant Park, every Friday through Sunday, Summer Dance will teach you how to dance and then let you join in on the free live music! It’s a different style each week so check it out.
5. Maggie Daley Park
This 20 acre park is immediately east of Millineum Park and designed in the same direction of Alice in Wonderland and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It has its own mini lighthouse, life-size ship, a skating ribbon and an enchanted garden with upside-down trees.
6. Lake Michigan
Chicago sits right on the shores of one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. Head here to enjoy swimming and walking along the shore without the saltiness of ocean water. There are usually fun activities and it’s right next to downtown.
Chicago Greeter pairs you with people who love Chicago and are willing to give you FREE tours. Get a 2-4 hour guided tour with an experienced guide and get to see the city like you have never seen it before.
8. Chicago Children’s Museum
Thanks to Target, every Thursday is Family Free night. This is a great place to take the kids for fun, interactive learning while on vacation.
9. Movies in the Park
Thanks to Chicago’s Park District they are putting on 250 movies at night throughout the summer in all of Chicago’s parks. Grab a blanket and enjoy a nice summer night with the family.
10. Family Fun in the Park
Chicago’s Park District is back at it. This time offering over 330 family fun events. From family yoga lessons to Midnight Circuses at the parks. Just look at the schedule on the site!
11. Chicago Lakefront Path
This Lakefront Path has been given amazing reviews and is one of Chicago’s prettiest trails. It is a fun place to walk, bike, and even run. The view of the water is amazing too. Be sure to check it out!
12. City Gallery
An old water tower turned art exhibit the City Gallery is a fun, free place to visit. The exhibits are from local artists and they must be about Chicago.
13.The National Museum of Mexican Art
This museum is free to the public and celebrates the rich Latino culture that is in Chicago. It is a good place to teach children all about Latino arts and see some really interesting pieces of art. Check the website for cool exhibits to check out.
14.Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain
This fountain is not like any ordinary fountain. It is one of the largest in the world and has 3 powerful pumps the largest of which pumps 7,000 gallons of water a minute with 250 horsepower! The fountain puts shows on daily that display its power.
15. The Navy Pier
The Navy Pier is a lakefront playground with a ton of fun attractions. Some of them you have to pay for but there are free attractions as well. Just walking around is a fun time in itself with over 50 acres of parks, promenades and gardens.
16. Lincoln Park Zoo
This zoo is 100% free and open 365 days a year! Zoos are amazing places to bring your kids to educate them all about the animal kingdom. Come see exotic birds, an African lion, black bears, leopards, and tons more!
17. Millennium Park
Millennium Park is filled with things to do. They usually put on fun shows and have amazing architecture to look at. It even has a 5 acre garden with lush plants. Be sure to check this place out. It is also home to the world famous “Bean” sculpture.
18. The Oriental Institute
This is a great place to teach your kids about the ancient Near East including their art, history, and archaeology. This museum has tons of artifacts and runs exhibits year round. Its completely free but donations are accepted.
19. Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
Visit Chicago’s first social settlement with goals of sharing art. They opened in 1889 and are now a museum. Also you can see Jane Addams’ home, Jane Addams was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
20. Theater in the Parks
The third installment of fun events in Chicago’s Park System expresses love for the theater. Showing off the talent of many Chicago acting troupes, Theater in the Parks is a great place to catch fun shows for free. A Midsummer Nights Dream is classic that is performed all summer along with lots of other plays.
21. Museum of Contemporary Photography
Founded in 1976 by Columbia College of Chicago, this museum is home to lovely contemporary pieces of photography. They are visually pleasing to the eye and the best part is that it is free for all ages.
22. Smart Museum of Art
The Smart Museum of Art, founded in 1974, is The University of Chicago’s own museum. They constantly have new exhibits coming in and going so be sure to check the site out for ones that interest you best!
23. The DuSable
The DuSable is Chicago’s premier museum African American history and heritage. The museum offers FREE admission every Sunday. This is a great place to take the kids and learn about African American culture.
24. Chicago Botanic Gardens
Bustling with plants and trees this garden is an amazing place to visit. I love flowers and having them surround you is amazing. The garden had over 1 million visitors last year and is quite the popular stop.
25. Chicago Architecture Foundation
Rated the #1 thing to do in Chicago by the US News and World Report the CAF is the final stop on our list. The CAF offers tons of free exhibits and tours that show off the beautiful architecture of the city.