Home Adventure 12+ Cheap Things To Do In Chicago-Budget Friendly Bliss

12+ Cheap Things To Do In Chicago-Budget Friendly Bliss

by Tayebah Malik
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Chicago, the energetic center of the Midwest, offers a wide range of attractions that are comparable to those in any big metropolis, in addition to many others. Visitors are drawn in by its dynamic energy, which guarantees that something exciting is happening at all times. Chicago is a tapestry of diversity in every way, from a world-class museum system to a particular architectural style. Despite the city’s abundance of renowned eateries, pubs, and events, exploring its marvels on a budget is still possible. While you might not be able to eat at Alinea or get front-row seats for a concert at Soldier Field, there are a ton of inexpensive activities that promise to be fun without breaking the bank. In this comprehensive guide, I am going to share cheap things to do in Chicago. Since this was my own personal experience, that’s why I thought that you too might not have to spend a massive fortune when visiting the lovely city of Chicago. 

Cheap Things To Do In Chicago-List Of Budget Friendly Activities

The city, like heaven on earth, never regrets you if you are seeking some budget-friendly possibilities, from exploring Lake Michigan as well as the Chicago River on kayaks, canoes, and additionally water taxis, to visiting some of the city’s most interesting museums. Here are some activities that you may do for free in Chicago to demonstrate that even in one of the country’s biggest cities, the best activities in life are free.

Millennium Park


Millennium Park is a popular first stop for tourists in Chicago. There are numerous art exhibitions held there every year, and it is surrounded by lush gardens and promenades with trees. Check out “The Bean,” also referred to as the Cloud Gate. Selfies taken in front of the reflection of the city’s skyscrapers in this massive stainless steel sculpture are fantastic. Grant Park, which overlooks the lake, and Maggie Daley Park, home to the city’s renowned quarter-mile ice skating ribbon, are two more outstanding public parks in Chicago.

Empty Bottle

The majority of musicians will almost certainly stop in Chicago while on tour because it is one of the biggest cities in the nation. The Empty Bottle has long been regarded as one of the best venues for seeing up-and-coming performers. Early performances by groups including The Strokes & The Mountain Goats, as well as infrequent chances for hearing artists like Jack White in a small venue, have all taken place there. Live music performances can be seen up right there on the stage of the little dive pub. Every show is 21+, and most performances have reasonable ticket prices. Plus, Monday evening performances are frequently free!

Lincoln Park Zoo


The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the nation’s earliest and the only remaining free zoos. While the entrance is free, parking is not. It has a 50-acre size and is accessible all year. Some of the visitors’ preferred attractions include the Kovler Seal Pool and the Walter Family Arctic Tundra (which has polar bears). If you want to engage with the animals directly and get close to them, go visit Farm-in-the-Zoo. Additionally, there are goats to groom and hens to feed, as well as farmyard creatures that can be observed from a distance.

Frank Lloyd Wright Tour


While Chicago’s architectural tours primarily focus on the Loop, the city has much more to offer in terms of stunning structures. Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, like the Robie House in Hyde Park, showcase the city’s architectural prowess beyond the downtown area. While touring the historic property and experiencing its ingenious Prairie School design requires a modest fee of $20, admiring the exterior is a free opportunity to appreciate the beauty of this iconic residence. Chicago’s architectural wonders extend far beyond the Loop, inviting visitors to explore the city’s rich architectural heritage.

Chicago Riverwalk


Take a leisurely stroll down the beautiful Chicago Riverwalk to fully experience the allure of Chicago’s affordable sightseeing. This picturesque waterfront promenade offers a compelling 1.25-mile journey from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street as it passes through the center of the city. Enjoy a variety of food establishments and rest areas along the road. The Riverwalk’s renowned bridges and lush green lawns make for the perfect backdrops for photos of the city’s spectacular high-rise urban landscape. Explore Chicago’s Riverwalk for a reasonable price and take in the gorgeous landscape.

Fireworks At Navy Pier

In the heart of Chicago, Navy Pier is a must-see attraction for visitors as well as residents. While there are a number of fee-based attractions like hotels, restaurants, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and the Centennial Ferris Wheel, there are also a number of free events that add to the overall enjoyment. The most notable of these is the weekly fireworks display that takes place from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Visitors can enjoy a spellbinding 15-minute show every Wednesday and Saturday that appeals to people of all ages. On July Fourth, Navy Pier also puts on a sizable fireworks display, as well as free performances and concerts that heighten the joyful mood. Discover Navy Pier’s exciting and affordable attractions for lifelong memories in the center of Chicago.

The Chicago Way

Chicago is renowned for its deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs, which are fortunately affordable. Head down to Portillo’s for a cheap and delectable alternative when it comes to hot dogs. Giordano’s and Pizzeria Uno, both conveniently located downtown, provide delectable options for pizza. A group can save money by splitting a pizza since most people are usually satisfied with one or two slices. Plan your meals in accordance with your budget because Chicago has a wide variety of delectable cuisine. Restaurants directly on Michigan Avenue should be avoided because they are frequently more expensive. Enjoy the famous Chicago food without breaking the bank.

Chicago Cultural Center


The Chicago Cultural Center is just up the street from Millennium Park. The structure was formerly the city’s library and a G.A.R. memorial, and it is now a neglected free attraction. The city did not skimp on the construction materials, and marble is all prominently featured. The largest Tiffany dome in the world stands on the façade of the library and was beautifully repaired in 2008. If there are any special activities taking place during your stay, such as performances, seminars, or exhibitions, check the website.

Maggie Daley Park


Chicagoans sometimes dread the idea of leaving their houses during the severe, merciless winters. However, it need not be entirely negative. Reservations are required for visits to the well-liked downtown rink, and while renting skates is a cheap activity, the savings rise if you take your own skates. It’s also free, so make sure you reserve early. This inexpensive Chicago pastime can even be enjoyable, particularly if you devote some time to ice skating at Maggie Daley Park’s Ice Skating Ribbon.

Centennial Week 

The latest Navy Pier attraction, which debuted in 2016, is a technological wonder. The wheel offers a year-round experience and has enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas. It provides passengers with stunning vistas of Navy Pier and the city’s recognizable skyline as it soars 200 feet above the ground. While the Centennial Wheel may not have the same historical significance as the original Ferris wheel, which made its premiere at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, it nonetheless perfectly encapsulates Chicago’s fascination with these alluring monuments. Don’t pass up the chance to enjoy the amazing panorama of Lake Michigan from this amazing site.

North Avenue Beach


North Avenue Beach is a beautiful open area in Chicago where you may take in the beauty of the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. It is situated along North Lake Shore Drive. Feel the silky sand under your toes as you unwind in the warm summer sun and take in the sight of kids playing by the water. North Avenue Beach provides a gorgeous environment for easy walks and breathtaking views of the lake, even when the water may be too chilly for swimming. Escape to this serene haven and take in all the beauty of nature that Chicago’s beaches have to offer.

LaSalle St

Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root, a renowned architectural team, created the Rookery Building, a historic architectural wonder in Chicago, in 1888. It stands as a tribute to Chicago’s rich historic buildings with its remarkable high-rise construction and a lobby that was later renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago museum is a small but fascinating site that provides shelter from the elements and is located only across LaSalle Street. The classic view of the Art Deco Chicago Board of Trade Building will definitely capture your attention as you wander along LaSalle Street. The Untouchables, The Dark Knight, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon are just a few of the movies that used this well-known street scene. Experience the architectural and cinematic fascination of Chicago by exploring this historic area. 

Crown Fountain


The Crown Fountain, a stunning interactive monument in Millennium Park that enchants visitors of all ages, is situated on the corner of The Art Institute. This unusual fountain has two 50-foot glass block towers at either end of a 232-foot-long shallow reflecting pool. LED displays projected moving images of Chicago residents behind these buildings, turning them into digital gargoyles that mockingly spout water from their mouths. The water component of the fountain operates from mid-spring to mid-fall, offering a pleasant refuge for families and visitors seeking relief from the hot and muggy Chicago days. The fascinating photographs are on show all year round.

Trader Todd’s Karaoke

Bring out your inner rockstar at the vibrant Trader Todd’s in Lakeview. Sing your heart out to your favorite songs on their stage, where nightly karaoke sessions create a lively and distinctive atmosphere. Even if the karaoke session is free, it’s always fun to sip on a tropical-themed beverage to enhance your performance. You can choose from a variety of flavors for the $9 house margarita, such as jalapeno or passion fruit, or you can order the $12 shark kiss, which is prepared with rum, the house sour mix, blue Curacao, and an additional of grenadine. To complete the experience, Trader Todd’s also offers a choice of beverages to quench your thirst. So grab a microphone, sip on your preferred beverage, and enjoy Trader Todd’s karaoke magic.


Bottom Line 

In conclusion, Chicago is a vibrant city that offers an abundance of affordable and memorable experiences. From exploring renowned attractions to savoring mouthwatering street food, there are countless cheap things to do in Chicago that won’t put a strain on your wallet. Whether it’s wandering through the lively Navy Pier, immersing yourself in the rich culture of the Art Institute of Chicago, or soaking in the beauty of Millennium Park, you’ll find budget-friendly delights around every corner. So, pack your sense of adventure and embark on a journey through the lively streets of Chicago, where affordable thrills and cherished memories await.

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