Free Chicago

A little gift for anyone who lives in or has the pleasure of traveling to my fair city: Free Chicago; a dozen great things to see and do for $0. Here are a few extra notes and links to everything on my map:


1. The 606 Trail. Runs for 2.7 miles from Ashland to Ridgeway and lets you cruise through 6 northwest side neighborhoods.
Bonus: Rent a DIVVY bike for $10 a day and ride the trail and beyond!

2. Garfield Park Conservatory. The outdoor gardens are great, too.

3. Jane Addams Hull House. I you are a Chicago resident and don’t know about this amazing woman, check it out right away. The first American woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize! Huzzah!

4. Museum of Contemporary Photography (MOCP). Part of Columbia College Chicago, so I went here a lot in my student days. The shows are always relevant and interesting.

5. Buckingham Fountain. Not as impressive in the winter, but pretty spectacular the rest of the year.
Bonus: Turn around and see the sailboats cruising out of Monroe Harbor.

6. Millennium Park. Home to the Pritzker Pavilion, Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden, and Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean.” Loads of free events and concerts in the Summer months.

7. Maggie Daley Park. My #1 pick for kids. Quite possibly the BEST PLAYGROUND IN THE WORLD! Start with Millennium and then walk over the bridge to Maggie Daley.

8. Skating Ribbon. Technically, this is a part of Maggie Daley Park, but it’s so great that I thought it deserved its own listing. Ice skating is fun again! It is 100% free if you bring your own skates, or rent for $12.

9. Chicago Cultural Center. The exhibits and free events are always fantastic, but the thing you can always see here is the interior architecture. It is home to the largest Tiffany-stained glass dome in the world, as well as incredible mosiacs and book-themed decor, as it was the original home of the Chicago Public Library.

10. The Signature Room. Skip the Willis (Sears!) and Hancock Observatory entrance fees and hop on the elevator to the 96th floor of the Hancock Center. Drinks will set you back some $, but if can, sneak a look out of the Ladies’ Restroom for the absolute best view of downtown.

11. Newberry Library. Rotating exhibitions, books galore and some of Chicago’s best architecture. Knowledge is power!
Bonus: A book bound from human skin? They may, possibly, perhaps, have one.

12. The Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s a good zoo, for a zoo. Plus, it's totally free. The classic animal-themed architecture is worth a second look and the habitats continue to improve with each new renovation.