Top 5 Free Places In Chicago For A Budget Traveler

Top 5 Free Places In Chicago For A Budget Traveler
Adelheid Bethanny
Adelheid Bethanny

Chicago, the windy city in the state of Illinois, is widely known for its architecture, art, history and culture. Surely, a budget traveler traveling in the United States of America would consider this as one of the must-visit-cities in the Midwest. Taking a boat tour, visiting The Ledge at the Willis Tower and riding the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel are some recommended activities, but they are also the activities that will drain your wallet in a flash. However, worry not! There are plenty of other things to do in Chicago, and the best part is: they’re free.

1. Take the (Secret) Intercontinental Hotel Tour (from USD 239)

The Intercontinental Hotel, Chicago, USA

The Intercontinental Hotel on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago is known as one of the most luxurious hotels in the city with the splash of history and architecture. To share all that, the concierge at the hotel actually offers a free audio-guide tour for both guests and non-guests. To participate in this tour, just walk in and head up to concierge to ask for the audio-guide tour. You will be given your audio device, which will lead and guide you around the hotel for about an hour.

The main factor that makes this tour exciting is that it is actually a secret; the hotel does not promote this tour online and it has become something more of a word-of-mouth information. When entering the hotel, there are no signs indicating that there is such a tour being offered. All one can do is to sum up your courage and ask the concierge. Take note that the tour won’t be available if there are guests in the rooms that are on the tour route, but you will still be allowed to visit the swimming pool, which is pretty much what most people want to see.

InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, an IHG Hotel

Wifi Available

Address: 505 North Michigan Avenue
Accommodates: 6

Restaurant Pets allowed Room service Meeting/banquet facilities Bar 24-hour front desk Fitness centre Golf course (within 3 km)

2. Visit the Chicago Cultural Center

The beautiful designs at the Chicago Cultural Center

Located just across Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center is not your average cultural center. This specific building is not only beautiful on the outside, but also magnificent inside. Once you open the doors, you will be greeted by complex architectural details that you can imagine seeing only in cities like Rome. Built in 1897, this building first served as Chicago’s first central public library, and was officially established as the Chicago Cultural Center in 1991. This building is basically a giant architectural showcase, consisting of exquisite materials such as rare marbles, polished brass, mosaics of Favrile glass, etc.

Every year, the Chicago Cultural Center features many free exhibitions such as dance, music, films and art exhibition. However, aside from housing these exhibitions, the Chicago Cultural Center also houses the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world, which consists of about 30.000 pieces of glass. If you would like to witness this beautiful building, step right in and ask for information at the front desk. They will give you recommendations on the exhibitions and also a map to explore the whole building.

3. People watching and fun events at Millennium Park

A lovely day at the Millennium Park

When talking about Chicago, the famous Cloud Gate, or commonly known as The Bean, is most likely to be mentioned. However, aside from taking pictures of and with The Bean, why not spend some time to sit down at Millennium Park to watch people and capture candid moments? The park is 24.5 acres in total, and people from all ages come to visit the park every single day. People watching and photo hunting are a few examples of things to do if you love photography or just need time to be in the moment.

Since Millennium Park is open throughout the year and numerous people come to visit everyday, it is not strange that many events and festivals are held there, especially during the summer time. Many well-known music events such as The Grant Park Music Festival and Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are held in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the centerpiece of Millennium Park designed by Frank Gehry. This pavilion is also known to be the venue of theatre and dance performances, concerts and also fitness activities such as yoga; rehearsals are also open to public. So, don’t forget to stop by at Millennium Park and there might be a chance to participate in one of the events for free!

4. Enjoy the view at the Lakefront Trail

A glimpse of the Chicago skyline

Boat tours are very popular in Chicago because they offer a glimpse of city through the canals and a view of the Chicago skyline. The downside is these tours do cost quite a fortune. Nevertheless, there is a good alternative to get a good view of the lake and the skyline: The Chicago Lakefront Trail. This is perfect for budget traveler since it will cost you nothing but a good sense of adventure.

The Chicago Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile trail that extends from Ardmore Street on North Side to 71st Street on South Side. The trail has beaches, volleyball courts, playgrounds, tennis courts and many other facilities to accommodate everyone. There are plenty of people going for a bike, a run, or maybe just a simple walk with the waters of Lake Michigan. However, do take note that even though the trail is available all year, the beaches only open during the beach season, which is around the month of May.

5. Say ‘hi’ to the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo

An oasis in the midst of the many skyscrapers

In the center of Lincoln Park stands the Lincoln Park Zoo, a zoo that opens everyday and is one of the few free entrance zoo in the country. Lincoln Park Zoo covers about 35 acres of land in Lincoln Park, and was founded in 1868, which makes it one of the oldest zoos in the United States. The Lincoln Park Zoo is currently housing more than 1000 animals from about 200 different species, including big cats, reptiles, gorillas, penguins, bears, etc. The zoo also hosts a variety of events from time to time.

For many years now, the Lincoln Park Zoo has become one of the most visited places in the city. The zoo is basically an oasis for people who want to get out of their routines and are looking for something more than life between the skyscrapers. People from different ages come to visit the zoo, which makes this another great place for any traveler to witness the locals and the lifestyle in Chicago. So, if you’re traveling in Chicago and want a different kind of destination, then this zoo might be perfect for you!

Chicago can offer more!

Traveling to a famous city such as Chicago can indeed be challenging when it comes to planning your budget, but it’s not impossible. All the examples above are only a glimpse of what Chicago can offer; there are more free things to do in the city than meets the eye. Obviously, the windy city can offer more than the usual, it’s just up to us to really embrace it! So, ready to be blown away?

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our privacy policy for more information on how we use your data

Hi! I’m Beth. I’m a 22-year-old Indonesian student who loves to travel the world. I am currently studying Spanish in a language university in Taiwan, and I hope to graduate in 2016 with the...Read more

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore Chicago
Looking for accommodation?
Good things are meant to be shared!