10 Free Things to Do in Chicago Year-Round

When you see the price of admission to museums you'll be giad to know that most of our world-class museums offer free days - so check the web sites and plan your visit accordingly. 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 and the Riverwalk just keeps on getting better with art installations, live music and nooks to hang out and watch the world go by. 

Book a Chicago Greeter and let them know what you’d like to see. They’re well-versed on Chicago’s history as well as its continuous progress and are happy to share their knowledge. 

No visit to Chicago is complete without a photo at Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, an undulating, shiny lump of cheer. 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. Across the street, the Chicago Cultural Center always programs free cutting edge art exhibitions and concerts. 

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

Go to the City of Chicago's web site  and opt in for "Free, Free, Free," an e-newsletter with a monthly list of free programs, events and activities happening throughout the city in museums, cultural centers and parks. Chicago is rich in history and culture but you don't have to be Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos to enjoy it all. 



The award-winning Chicago Riverwalk is a 1.25-mile promenade with opportunities to see art, hear music and people watch - all for free. Lounge on an Adirondack chair on the riverbank, have a bite and drink in the city's distinctive architecture,...  Read More



No, it's not the University of Chicago waving its intellect at the rest of us (although it is on the campus),but rather this Hyde Park museum is named for brothers David and Alfred Smart, the original publishers of Esquire magazine. It just...  Read More



The most popular exhibit every year at The National Museum of Mexican Art is the Day of the Dead display that dazzles adults and kids with gleaming altars, whimsical sugar skull sculptures and vivid art in various media all celebrating the...  Read More



From 1897 to 1991, the magnificent building served as Chicago's first central public library dazzling visitors with access to knowledge but also two stunning stained-glass domes, intricate mosaics of Favrile glass, mother-of-pearl and colored...  Read More



The 24.5-acre Millennium Park is one of the most extraordinary public spaces in the world, a stunning showcase for the visual and performing arts and a permanent homage to the vitality of our world-class city. The centerpiece of the park is the...  Read More

Chicago Lakefront Trail
Photo courtesy of Photo by Jamie Bartosch


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 south side. Neighborhoods dot the path as well as notable cultural landmarks including the Museum of...  Read More



Designed by renowned landscape architect, Jens Jensen, in 1906, the Conservatory is one of the world's largest indoor gardens, a respite of serenity, and it's also a great place for kids of all ages, too. Since the collection is constantly...  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



Whether you've lived here since the first Mayor Daley was "the Boss" or you've just arrived from a small college to live in the big city, you'll have an enlightening time on a Chicago Greeter tour. Why did the Swedes settle in Andersonville and...  Read More



There's an eclectic mix of live music performed on the Frank Gehry designed outdoor Jay Pritzker Pavilion from cutting-edge indie rock to Pacific Afro Colombian. Lawn seating is free and don't worry about being too far from the stage. The...  Read More


Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky