10 Free Things to Do in Chicago Year-Round

Architectural tours, brewery tours, parks and zoos…for free? In Chicago? Not only are they free, many Chicago cultural institutions, restaurants, hotels and a range of companies offer free amenities to both locals and visitors alike.

Looking for a place that offers free happy hour? Ask a local. Want to visit one of our many world-class museums? Almost all of them offer free days. Want to enjoy a scenic path for your morning run? Chicago’s Lakefront Trail can’t be beat. Ice skating is free during the winter at Millennium Park.

For those visiting Chicago, book a Chicago Greeter (for free, of course) and let them know what you’d like to see. They’re well-versed on Chicago’s history, past and present, and are happy to share their knowledge with you.

No visit to Chicago is complete without a photo with Cloud Gate, affectionately called The Bean by locals. Located at Millennium Park, the park also features free live music just east of the park at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion during the summer months.

The Lincoln Park Zoo, just a few miles north of downtown, is free 365 days a year while the Garfield Park Conservatory offers a beautiful respite just west of the Loop.

Decide what you most want to see when you visit and then use our guide to help you plan. Chicago may be rich in history but it can also be very inexpensive to enjoy.

Since 1916, Navy Pier has been home not only to the military but to scores of special attractions. Now purely commercial, the Pier offers everything from an IMAX theater to performances by a Shakespeare troupe. You can view dancing in a grand...  Read More

Want to drink some free beer? And do a free brewery tour? Revolution Brewery offers complimentary tours for those 21 and up on a first come, first serve basis, usually on Wednesday through Friday evenings and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons...  Read More

To find Ping Tom Memorial Park, which can be tricky. In fact, most Chicagoans couldn't point it on a map. Take a water taxi since Chinatown is a stop and it lets you out at Ping Tom Memorial Park. If you're driving or walking, cross the railroad...  Read More

This accredited museum in the Pilsen area is dedicated to preserving and facilitating knowledge about Latino life and history. Exhibits focus on Mexican culture as it's represented in the US and in Mexico, and the permanent collection includes...  Read More

Lurie Garden

Lurie Garden is a five-acre garden where every season is represented since it sits in the shadow the city's towering skyscrapers, Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. Visitors can pass a fifteen-foot high hedge on either side to enter and feel...  Read More

Millennium Park is Chicago's crown jewel. With the change of seasons, the park attracts thousands every day. Summertime means a stellar line-up of concerts at Jay Pritzker Pavilion (during the day, on most Tuesdays through Fridays, the Grant...  Read More

Chicago Lakefront Trail
Photo courtesy of Photo by Jamie Bartosch

The city really comes alive when the weather warms up enough for its residents to hit the Lakefront Path. Located east of Lake Shore Drive, the Lakefront Trail is an 18.5 mile linear path that stretches from the far north part of the city to the...  Read More

A serene, tranquil setting is the trademark of one of the world's largest indoor gardens but it's also a great place for kids of all ages, too. The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children's Garden is open during normal hours. As kids enter the garden...  Read More

An ape house, a birdhouse and a working model of a five-acre Midwestern farm are just a few examples of what makes this zoo special. Founded in 1868 and known as America's oldest free public zoo, the Lincoln Park Zoo still manages to charge no...  Read More

Want to explore Chicago like a local? Chicago's Greeter program pairs visitors with a free tour guide who can take you to any of the 25 city neighborhoods or 40 attractions, depending on you and your group's interests. Each guide can accommodate...  Read More


Meet Megy Karydes

Megy Karydes has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and most of her life in Chicago. While she’s traveled extensively internationally, visiting each of the 50 states is on her...  More About Megy