Free Things To Do in Chicago

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There is an amazing number of free things to do in Chicago. You'll be surprised at how many free attractions, galleries and museums there are, as well as lots of free events. Even our world-class museums - Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, etc. - offer free museum days for Illinois residents.

This is your ultimate guide to free things to do in Chicago. You can browse our favorites, and then you can search our interactive directory and find free Chicago events today and any time on our calendar. You can even save money on dining out with our Food and Drink Specials

Exploring Chicago doesn't have to cost a fortune. It can actually be cheap if you know where to look, and we're here to help you save as much money as possible while still having FUN!

TLTip: If you've got a Chicago Public Library Card, you can check out the Kids Museum Passport, which gets you into several attractions for free.

 

Free Things To Do In Chicago

Free Chicago Attractions

 

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, and one of the last remaining free zoos. It's open to all 365 days a year and features animals from every climate. It's also dedicated to conservation and science, with one of the largest programs in the country. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N Cannon Dr

Know before you go: check out our guide to Lincoln Park Zoo

 

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center was the nation's first free municipal cultural venue, and today its free programming in the arts makes it one of the most popular attractions in the city. Be sure to check out the largest Tiffany dome in the world. It's breathtaking! Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington St

Know before you go: check out our guide to the Chicago Cultural Center

Navy Pier

Navy Pier is one of Chicago's most popular attractions, and one of the most popular destinations in the Midwest. While there are fees at many of the attractions at Navy Pier, there are some that are free. One of the best reasons to visit is the view, which is (of course!) free! The Pier extends half a mile into Lake Michigan, giving you some of the best views in the city. Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave

Know before you go with our ultimate guide to Navy Pier.

Grant Park

Grant Park is Chicago-free central. Free summer festivals like Taste of Chicago, Chicago SummerDance, and more all take place in Chicago's Front Yard. Be sure to check out all of the public art year-round and the lights show at Buckingham Fountain during the summer. Grant Park, Columbus & Balbo

 

Millennium Park

Grant Park's neighbor to the North, Millennium Park is an adult playground with its collection of sculptures, the acoustically-sound Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Lurie Gardens, and other amenities. There's free ice skating in the winter and loads of free concerts and workouts in the park during the summer. It's now the #1 attraction in the Midwest, supplanting Navy Pier from the top spot. Millennium Park, 205 E Randolph St

Want to learn more? Check out our free guide to Millennium Park.

 

Maggie Daley Park

The northeast corner of Grant Park has been turned into an impressive destination. The lakefront recreation center features a climbing wall, a skating ribbon, and a giant playground. (Seriously - it's giant!) Maggie Daley Park, 337 E Randolph St

 


photo courtesy DANK HAUS

DANK HAUS German Cultural Center

While the museum itself is only open on Saturdays, the cultural center offers several events. There are cooking classes, film screenings, and a monthly "Stammtisch." This is a communal event featuring games, live music, dancing, dining, and drinking. DANK HAUS German Cultural Center, 4740 N Western Ave

 

Free Museums

 

National Museum of Mexican Art

Located in Pilsen, this is the only museum dedicated to Latino culture that's a member of the American Alliance of Museums. The museum has over 9,000 examples of Mexican art from ancient Mexico to the present as well as special exhibitions. While technically free, they do ask for a donation if you can spare it. National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W 19th St

 


Photo: Museum of Contemporary Photography, Facebook

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Founded by Columbia College Chicago in 1976, this museum presents works that reflect a wide range of aesthetics and technologies. It's the leading photography museum in the Midwest, and is continually searching for new talent to exhibit. They're particularly interested in how photography impacts society, culture, and politics. Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 S Michigan Ave

 


Photo: Chicago Design Museum

Chicago Design Museum

What began as a pop-up exhibition became a full-fledged museum in 2014 thanks to a crowdfunding campaign. The museum features exhibitions that are geared towards starting a conversation about how design can improve the human condition. Admission is free and it's open Tuesday through Saturday from 12pm to 7pm. Chicago Design Museum, Block 37, 108 N State St 3rd Fl

 


photo courtesy The Oriental Institute

The Oriental Institute

The Oriental Institute is not just a museum, but is a working research laboratory at the University of Chicago. Known as some of the premiere archaeologists of ancient Near Eastern civilizations, the objects on display were primarily uncovered during expeditions in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The Oriental Institute, 1155 E 58th St

 

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

Social reformer Jane Addams was one of the most influential people of her time. Her work helped immigrants and to shape national and international policy. The museum preserves the Nobel laureate's legacy and helps further her vision through research, education, and social engagement. The museum is free with a $5 suggested donation, and they offer free tours on Wednesdays and Sundays at 1pm. Jane Addams Hull House Museum, 800 S Halsted

 

photo courtesy Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum

Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum

Ever wanted to see what a million dollars looks like? Or see inside a cash processing center? You can, and it's free! The Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum even offers a free guided tour every weekday at 1pm. Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum, 230 S LaSalle St


photo courtesy Cambodian American Heritage Museum

Cambodian American Heritage Museum

This museum and memorial tells the story of Khmer Rouge and the Killing Field through multimedia displays, archives, narratives, and a collection of monumental and authentic artifacts. Guided tours are available so you can learn more about what happened during the Cambodian Civil War. Cambodian American Heritage Museum, 2831 W Lawrence Ave

 

Looking for more Free Things To Do in Chicago? Browse our interactive map and directory.

 
 
2831 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
773.878.7090
The Museum & Memorial serves as the Cambodian national principal institution in Illinois for examining the implication of Civil War in Cambodia.
78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
312.744.6630
Drawn by its beauty and the fabulous free public events, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the Chicago Cultural Center every year.
Chicago Cultural Center
4740 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
773.561.9181
The DANK Haus houses DANK Chicago, a chapter of the nation-wide organization German American National Congress. 
230 S LaSalle St, Chicago, IL 60604
312.322.2400
A guided visit to the Money Museum museum, open to visitors without a reservation, lasts roughly 30 minutes and is available at 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Columbus & Balbo, Chicago, IL
312-742-7648
Proudly referred to as Chicago's "front yard," Grant Park is a public park, 319 acres located in Chicago’s central business district in the Loop Community area.
Grant Park
800 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60607
312.412.5353
How much: Free; $5 suggested donation
The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum serves as a dynamic memorial to social reformer Jane Addams
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
2200 N Cannon Dr, Chicago, IL 60614
312.742.2000
337 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601
312.742.3918
Maggie Daley Park is a lakefront recreation center featuring a climbing wall, a skating ribbon, and giant playground.
Maggie Daley Park
205 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60202
312.742.1168
In Millennium Park, you’ll find a new kind of town square – a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city and a destination for Chicagoans and visitors alike.
Millennium Park Map
600 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
312-663-5554
How much: Free
The Museum of Contemporary Photography is dedicated to a greater understanding of the cultural and political implication of the image in our world today.
Museum of Contemporary Photography
1852 W 19th St, Chicago, IL 60608
312.738.1503
Our mission is to stimulate and preserve knowledge and appreciation of Mexican culture through events and exhibitions that exemplify the rich variety of visual and performing arts.
National Museum of Mexican Art
600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
312.595.PIER
Navy Pier is the People’s Pier, Chicago’s lake front treasure, welcoming all and offering dynamic and eclectic experiences through partnerships and programs that inspire discovery and wonder.
Navy Pier Logo
1155 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637
773.702.9514
The Oriental Institute is an internationally recognized pioneer in the archaeology, philology, and history of early Near Eastern civilizations.
Oriental Institute
 

More Free Things To Do

If you're looking for free days at the Field Museum of Natural History, they're here! For the third year in a row, one of the best museums in the country is free for the entire month of February for Illinois residents.

If checking out Chicago's museums is on your list of things do in 2018, then January is the time to do it. Chicago's top museums offer several free days during the month.

The Shedd Aquarium offers free admission to Illinois residents 52 days a year. These are the dates that the Shedd Aquarium is free in 2018.

Beautiful butterfly at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago

These fantastic Chicago museums are offering free general admission days in November.

Free admission with Smithsonian's Museum Day Live! to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and other Chicago area attractions

Saturday, September 23, 2017, it's time to be a Local Tourist. Museum Day Live! returns with free admission at museums all over the country. Smithsonian magazine has partnered with Microsoft to bring you a day of education, learning, and fun, for free!

Movies in the Park

As soon as summer rolls around Chicagoans flock outside like seagulls to a busy harbor.

The Taste of Chicago is the Grand Poobah of free fests in Chicago. While it may be half as long as it was a few years ago, the city is packing quite a lot into its five days.

Carillon at Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden is an oasis in the northern Chicago suburb of Glencoe. The 385-acre attraction features over 2.5 million plants that represent nearly 10,000 varieties.

Free Outdoor Concerts

Plan your summer concert schedule with our calendar of free outdoor concerts in Chicago.