July 3, 2015 by Tatanisha 4 Comments Chicago is top on my list of places to visit here in the Midwest.
A nice mix of art, architecture, and music, Millenium Park is a must visit for locals and tourists alike. Millenium Park is nearly 25 acres, right in downtown Chicago, and has something for everyone. Even if you’re a local, you can take a free two-hour tour with a Chicago Greeter, to learn the ins ans outs of our amazing city. Visit Garfield Park Conservatory: indoor garden offering programming  and activities for families with children at every age. Check out the Art Institute of Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago is a world class museum that has made sure it includes its youngest guests in all of its exhibits and programing.
Chicago Cultural Center has quite a few free exhibits and performances happening all year long. Head to Buckingham Foundation for a free water display that happens every hour (April to October). Head over to Naperville to check out the free concerts happening 6 weeks during the summer. Your kids will love playing on the tanks and other military vehicles at Cantigny Park’s First Division Museum.
Take the kids to Green City Market, Chicago’s Biggest Farmers Market to check out all of the fresh veggies and the Sprout Tent for kids. It's no wonder Frank Sinatra paid tribute to Chicago in his ubiquitous song "My Kind of Town." The city has plenty of what he called razzmatazz, from legendary stories about Al "Scarface" Capone to groundbreaking architecture to a vibrant soul and jazz scene. Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is one of the great free things to do in Chicago and is only minutes away from downtown. Several Chicago museums are free to the public year round such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography, National Museum of Mexican Art, and exhibits at the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago Cultural Center.
Chicago boasts one of the most impressive collections of public art in the country, no admission fees required. During the summer months, Millennium Park hosts wonderful free classical and contemporary music concerts, known as the Downtown Sound, every Monday and Thursday evening at 6:30 pm.
Conveniently located for city visitors staying downtown, Millennium Park features its Summer Film Series every Tuesday evening at 6:30 pm from mid-June through mid-August at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion.
The Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park, known for its remarkable design and great acoustics, serves as Chicago’s outdoor venue for wide range of music events and performances.
Note that all of these are easy to access for out-of-town visitors who are staying downtown. Chicago stretches out along 30 miles of lakefront and has many great beaches, all of which are free to the public.
View of Chicago’s Oak Street and North Avenue Beaches as seen from the Hancock Tower.
You can enjoy spectacular views of the city from the Willis Tower (formerly Sears), the Hancock Building, or from many of the lake cruises originating from Navy Pier, but they all come with steep fees.
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Navy Pier – This bustling 1.5 mile boardwalk is truly one of the summer’s best attractions. Whether you’re into art, having a picnic on the lawn, or checking out a free 45-minute tour of the architecture and art in the park, Millenium Park has you covered! You can buy seating tickets for the concerts, and obviously you’ll probably want to purchase some food, but just visiting is free. On your visit, you’ll see visual art from local artists dating back to 1945, all the way through the present.
One of the original settlement houses in the US, this is definitely one for the history books! Here's a list of free, year-round art, music, theater, dance, and walks that will keep you singing Sinatra for days.ArtFrom photography and architecture to textiles, the Art Institute of Chicago houses a permanent collection that includes works by Eva Hesse, Ivan Albright, and Ellsworth Kelly. These two to four-hour guided tours, which can accommodate up to six people, combine walking, buses and trains and are offered in over a dozen languages.

It is open 365 days a year, always free for visitors and very conveniently located in Chicago’s beloved Lincoln Park, just minutes north of downtown by a taxi or Uber.
Parents of younger children will love their Juicebox series and those who like classical, jazz or ethnic music will appreciate Chamber Mondays.
The Chicago Park District has been sponsoring Movies in the Park for well over a decade, showing both current and classic movies at various city park locations all summer long.
Grab a blanket and bring a picnic dinner to enjoy the giant 40-foot screen and state-of-the-art sound system.
However, many smaller, neighborhood festivals are well worth venturing out of the city center for a great, authentic Chicago neighborhood experience. Some of the best ones that are closest to the downtown area are North Avenue Beach, Oak Street Beach and Ohio Street Beach. You can see the fireworks from the pier, anywhere along the lake, or even some parts of the city. Look to Chicago in the summer to see the best of not only Chicago, but the best of its residents as well. On Wednesday and Saturday from May to October, the Green City Market in Lincoln Park showcases the best locally grown produce and sustainable meats, as well as offers live cooking demonstrations by some of Chicago’s best chefs.
Lined with restaurants, shops, and even the Shakespeare Theatre, a visit here will have you walking amongst families, young lovers, and those who just want to get out and enjoy the beautiful Chicago sunshine. Browse Viator’s Chicago tours and things to do, Chicago attractions, and Chicago travel recommendations. Save time for the "Thorne Miniature Rooms" exhibition, a peek at dozens of painstakingly crafted European and American interiors from the 13th century to the 1930s.
If your family likes to break into spontaneous mid-day dance parties, you should plan to attend Wired Fridays, featuring famous DJs and held every other Friday during lunch hour. A great way to explore the Chicago lakefront and have access to its beaches is to rent bikes at Navy Pier and ride either north or south along Lake Michigan. Two particularly great spots to watch are on the pier at North Avenue Beach or on the lakefront by the city marina in front of Buckingham Fountain. Lincoln Park is probably the preferred park of choice for Chicagoans in the summertime, due to it being a fun little stretch of town that abuts Lake Michigan and also for housing the Lincoln Park Zoo (a wonderful zoo, and free). It’s an epicurean extravaganza at any time of the year, and you’re invited to the sunshine and good times on the South lawn. Ok, you don’t need to jog it, but if you do decide to head over there, you’ll definitely see your fair share of joggers, roller-bladers, bikers and the sort.
Don’t forget to take a ride on the Ferris wheel while at the Navy Pier – it offers some of the best views of Chicago. Choose from 25 different neighborhoods or 40 interests such as art and architecture, food, city history, or family-friendly attractions. The Chicago skyline from in front of this venue is gorgeous during the day, and especially striking in the evening or night when the city is illuminated by millions of lights. Another great park for exploring the best of Chicago is Millennium Park, famous for its innovative use of architecture, and for this, probably best known by the giant silver bean sculpture (aka The Cloud Gate).
During the winter, the experience is still the same, but shop moves indoors to Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s South Gallery. Based on your preferences, you will be matched up with one of the enthusiastic volunteers who all share a passion for the city. Best of all, the beauty of Lake Michigan is juxtaposed to the Chicago skyline, and photographers will delight sunset or sunrise along this beautiful strip. Stop in to see rotating exhibits from their permanent collection, including popular works by Alexander Calder.Admission to exhibitions at the National Museum of Mexican Art in the Pilsen neighborhood is always free. However, if you decide to go at the last moment or want flexibility, you can still participate in the hour-long InstaGreeter walking tour of downtown Chicago, which requires no registration. As one of the largest organizations dedicated to Latino arts, the museum has everything from native folk art to existentialist works by Ester Hernandez.The DePaul University Art Museum in Lincoln Park has a diverse permanent collection on view, as well as many special exhibits, all free. Past exhibitions have featured the work of contemporary Iraqi artists—from paintings to sculpture—and showcased photographic works by Eugene Atget and Berenice Abbott.Peruse the dynamic works of emerging and established artists at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, which is free to the public. Exhibitions have included “Bird Watching” by Paula McCartney and Paul Shambroom's "Evidence of Democracy."The permanent collection at the University of Chicago's Smart Museum has more than 10,000 objects ranging from ancient Chinese artifacts to works by Francisco Goya and Henri Matisse.

Admission is free.AttractionsSee a free water display every hour at the Buckingham Fountain from mid-April to mid-October. This 50-acre playground offers myriad attractions, including a Ferris wheel, a winter ice-skating rink, and two children's museums. Although most of the indoor attractions charge a fee, some offer free admission, including the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. Admission to the zoo is free seven days a week.Millennium Park incorporates art, music, architecture, and landscape design.
Free programs, such as Music Without Borders and Made in Chicago: Home Cooked Jazz, are held in the park throughout the year.
The Chicago Greeter Program offers free two- to four-hour walking tours of the city hosted by resident volunteers.
From the Ukrainian Village to Lincoln Square, Greeter Program tours are a great way to learn the ins and outs of this dynamic city. One-hour InstaGreeter tours of downtown are available on weekends at the last minute.At the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, roam 27,000 square feet of greenhouses among some thousand colorful butterflies, including some rare varieties.
Illinois residents can enter for free on Thursdays, but a donation is appreciated.Check out the largest T. The museum hosts revolving exhibitions, like the video installation "Question Bridge," as well as workshops, lectures, and films. Explore the "Freedom Now" mural, a wooden bas-relief depicting 400 years of African-American history.Learn about the lives of Near Eastern civilizations at Chicago's Oriental Institute Museum, which is free to the public (a donation is suggested, however). Visitors to the galleries—which include artifacts from Egyptian, Persian, and Mesopotamian societies—can take a break by strolling through the courtyard.Chicago's unique Shedd Aquarium hosts Illinois residents free of charge on discount days, which often coincide with school holidays. Watch a diver feed sharks, rays, and a sea turtle at the "Caribbean Reef" exhibit.Illinois residents can explore the universe for free on discount days at the Adler Planetarium. Share your prose at the annual poetry fest or learn how to manage your personal finances at the annual Money Smart Week.Check out the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, one of the first settlement houses in the United States.
Founded in 1889 by social reformer Jane Addams—the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize—the museum offers photographs, furniture, and a collection of works by artists who lived at Hull House at the turn of the 20th century.
Admission and all programs are free.Interested in learning more about Chicago's architecture? Visit the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which is free to the public seven days a week, from 9 a.m. Visitors can pay extra (from $10) for guided architecture tours, which are well worth the splurge.Every year, the Chicago Cultural Center hosts a variety of free programs and events related to the visual, literary, and performing arts.
Completed in 1897, the beaux arts-style building is crowned by the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome. Available at all library locations on a first-come, first-served basis.Invent your own flying machine at the "Inventing Lab" exhibit or navigate a boat down a river at the "Waterways" exhibit in the Chicago Children's Museum. Admission to both museums is free the second Tuesday of each month.OutdoorsEnjoy a break from the city's urban side at the Chicago Botanic Garden and stroll through miles of bucolic landscapes.
The garden also boasts more than 200 bird species, a sculpture collection, and plant varieties from across the world.
Often referred to as "landscape art under glass," the conservatory grows thousands of plants every year. Shows range from political satire to performance puppetry, and admission is by donation.Chicago's annual SummerDance festival is held for 11 weeks each year. Get a free one-hour dance lesson and follow that by indulging in two hours of live music and dancing.
The dance extravaganza—which includes jazz, Latin, funk, and ballroom—is held Thursday through Sunday in the Spirit of Music Garden at Grant Park.

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