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20 Free Things to do in Chicago (and surrounding areas)

September 24th, 2015

7. Enjoy a free fall or winter day at Brookfield Zoo

Tiger at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo, with top knotch exhibits, wonderful shows, lots of animals, and a beautiful layout surrounded by trees, is easily one of the top zoos in the country. Must see attractions during your visit to Brookfield include the indoor rainforest Tropic World, a unique underwater polar bear viewing exhibit, and a dolphin show (small fee).

8. Walk the Magnificent Mile

Looking down The Mag Mile in Chicago

The Magnificent Mile is an upscale mile long section of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, well known for the many high end shops that line the streets. Whether or not you have the cash to shop at the trendy retailers, it’s a fun area to window shop, take in the wonderful architecture, and people watch.  Be sure to stop at Watertower Place, for 8 floors of fun, including a unique glass elevator which takes you up to each level. The Magnificent Mile looks especially festive during the winter season when the holiday lights go up. Many events are held throughout the seasons including a fantastic Magnificent Mile Lights Festival to kick off the Christmas season, complete with fireworks, concerts, a parade, and over a million festive lights.

9. Check out Buckingham Fountain, both day and night

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

The amazing Grant Park fountain, which stands as one of the world’s tallest, is a sight to behold both day and night. Every hour a fantastic 20 minute show with jets shooting 150 feet into the air takes place. The night setting include the added bonus of music and lights. Visiting the fountain is an entertaining and free activity to add to your itinerary.

10. Walk the quiet trails at Little Red Schoolhouse

A trail at Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs, Illinois

Just a half hour or so outside of the city, you’ll find a handful of recreational hotspots in the suburbs. The best of these is the Little Red Schoolhouse, a nature center with on site tree-lined nature trails, live animals and nature exhibits, and great views of the lake.

11. Take a tour of Wrigleyville

Wrigley Field in Chicago

Take a self guided tour of Wrigleyville, home to Wrigley Field, the 2nd oldest ballpark (after Fenway in Boston) in the US (Wrigley opened 100 years ago back in 1914). Other interesting sights/activities include the beautiful old style rowhouses that line Alta Vista Terrace and the many sports themed bars and restaurants.

12. Enjoy free summer concerts in the city

Grant Park in Chicago

Each summer season for 10 weeks, the Grant Park Music Festival puts on a series of free outdoor concerts featuring classical music. The celebration is held in Millennium Park. Additionally, a number of other free concerts take place in Millennium throughout the year, including a free, fun, & festive Christmas carol concert on Friday nights in front of Cloud Gate (from November 28th-December 19th).

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