Search from more than 2 million hotel deals from 100’s of travel websites including:
Compare Hotel Prices
Type the name of any city to see the best hotel deals.

Experience Chicago for Free

For those that are native Chicagoans, it is quite painful to watch naiive tourists shell out big bucks for overpriced entertainment when there’s so much good, free fun happening all around the city. If you are looking to explore Chicago, but want to stay withing a tight budget, read on to find out many fun and cheap things that will keep you entertained.


If you enjoy music and attending free concerts, make sure you book your vacation between mid-May and early October. During this time period there are many free outdoor concerts and weekend music festivals to attend. The first festival of the season is the Chicago Godpel Music Festival, which is held in early June. This festival is the official kick-off for the other bid summer downtown festivals. You’ll be able to wind through the various musical genres, from top acts in blues and country, to jazz and Celtic music. you’ll also be fortunate enough to enjoy various free indoor concerts year-round, many of them taking place at the famous Chicago Cultural Center. There are also plenty of bars and nightclubs that charge nothing for performances to accompany your drinks. Maybe you’ll like to try the late-late night drop-in jazz sessions at the historic Green Mill in uptown, or try Lee’s Unleaded Blues, which is a classic blues club that also hosts R&B and reggae music.


If you’d like to learn a new talent, Chicago Summerdance will teach free, one-hour dance lessons followed by free concerts and dancing in a different style each night. You’ll be able to try swing, country line dancing, cajun, salsa, and other dances from around the world. Most sessions are held right in the Spirit of Music Garden, on Michigan Avenue, and offered from mid-June through mid-August. If participating in dance is not your style, you can still check out a number of dance productions for free at the Chicago Cultural Center, and these are held throughout the year.


First of all, you must understnad that you’re not going to see Broadway-style productions at downtown venues like Cadillac Palace for free, but you might get the chance to see other small to medium sized productions for free. IF YOU volunteer to be an usher at a production, showing up early to hand out programs, you will get to see the play for free. Many thetres will opely welcome individual volunteers, just contact them directly to organize vonunteer opportunities on your own.


Starting in 1967, The Second City brought the world “The Second City”, which is a comedy sketch troupe that has since launched branches in Los Angeles and Toronto. Some popular Second City alumni include, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Stephen Colbert, and TIna Fey. All of these alumni have gone on to star in Saturday Night LIve, movies, or TV sitcoms. As part of your trip to Chicago, you can see the lastest up and coming star perform during free improv sets following the last performances of the night, except Friday nights, This is truly one of those little-known secrets that you will benefit from. Occasionally you might actually see almni stop in to join in the fun.

Spoken Word

If you’ve ever met a native Chicagoan, you know first hand that they are known for being talkers, so being the hosts of many poetry reading, monologue, and storytelling events should come as no surprise. Try to visit between February and March because this is when Columbia College Chicago’s annual Story Week Festival takes place. There will be events happening at the college and local libraries, bars, and cafes. Also, the Chicago Humanities Festival puts on spoken word events all throughout the year. These include book readings and performances. This type of activity is for the true literature lovers who want to diversify their genres.


You could easily shell out big bucks for a professional touring company to show you around Chicago, but why? THere are many free options to explore Chicago whithout paying the high price. For example, the Chicago Greeter Program of the city’s tourism office pairs you up with local volunteers that are more than eager to show off their favorite sites and spots to you. On these tours, you’ll either walk or ride public transit. If you’d like to really be adventurous and go it alone, you can easily download self-guided tours, including articles and interactive maps, from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. When you visit their site, you’ll see that tours are organized into themes, like architecture, historical periods, ethnicity, music, art and neighborhoods. You can also download free MP3 tours to use on your player. Sometimes it’s a lot more fun to explore unknown territory by yourself, that way you get to really know Chicago personally.


Many of Chicago’s major museums used to offer free admission one day a week, but now those free days have all been clustered together during the tourist low season, during January and February. If you can brave the cold, you’ll get a good deal to visit during these months. Throughout the rest of the yar, some corporate donors will sponsor free admission to a handful of venues. For example, the retail chain, Target, provides free entry to the Art Institute of Chicago on Thursdays from 5-8 pm, and also to the Chicago Children’s Museum the first Sunday of every month. The Comapny, Kraft, offers the same deal to the Children’s Museum, but on Thursdays from 5-8 pm.  Lastly, if you have friends or family who live in or near Chicago, they are eligible for a limited number of free museum passes from the Chicago Public Library.

City in a Garden

The maor of Chicago, Richard Daley, has set aside a lot of money for developing Chicago’s downtown parks into horticultural sights, rivaling those of Europe. But beccause they are so beautiful, they are often crowded and you may not get to see what you wanted to see. If this is the case, head south to historic Jackson Park, which boasts tranquil lagoons and an Osaka Garden. In Lincoln Park, a little bit more north on the northside of the lakefront, you’ll experience the always-free Lincoln Park Zoo and the sometimes-free Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. What’s better than getting into a great zoo for free?! Both of these outdoor oases are surrounded by bird sanctuaries, resored prairie habitats and formal gardens. This is the true nature lovers paradise. If you are visiting Chicago during the colder months, the Lincoln Park Conservatory offers a free, tropical escape to warm up your senses.

Sand and Ice

The lakefront of Lake Michigan truly belongs to the people and is nearly free for all visitors. There are a few single exceptions, but for the most part entrance to the beaches and parks that stretch along the city’s easter shore are free to enjoy. As you visit Chicago, your trip will not be complete without some quality time staring at the little stretch of the majestic Lake Michigan. In the wintertime, the Chicago Park District operates ice skating rinks at various parks. The fun of skating is free, but if you need to rent skates, you’ll have to pay between $5 and $6.


It’s no wonder that Chicago has been deemed one of the chubbiest cities in the U.S. with lots of great food surrounding you everywhere you turn. You can try some of this great food at some of the local gourmet grocery stores. Also, if you are planning on visiting some bars, take advantage of free appetizers, barbecue, and even buffets. At the Bostom Blackies near the river in Chicago’s West Loopfinancial district, offers freebies during early-evening happy hours. The Map Room in Bucktown, offers free food and cultural events to liven up your visit.

Chicago has many great things to see and do, but make sure you research enough to try and do these things for free. You spent money to travel here, so why not save money while you enjoy what the city has to offer. A little preparation beforehand will ultimately save you money and make your vacation that much sweeter.