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

September 24th, 2015

18. Explore Millennium Park

Beautiful art at Millennium Park in Chicago

What once used to be nothing but industrial wasteland is now one of the city’s most popular parks. Activities vary based on the season your visit falls. During the summer time, you can enjoy free festivals, movies, and concerts, and stroll beautiful Lurie Gardens. Winter is a great time to check out the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. All year round, you can enjoy the beautiful architecture and artistic creations, including the reflective Cloud Gate “the bean” Sculpture and Crown Fountain. Overall, it’s just a nice place to hang out and take a break with many shady walking paths and benches to sit and enjoy the scenery.

19. Check out the Macy’s Holiday windows

Macy's on State Street holiday windows in Chicago

The festive holiday window displays at Macy’s on State Street, which tell a different holiday story each year, is a treasured Chicago holiday tradition not to be missed. If you find yourself visiting during the month of December, you must plan a time to check out this classic, old-fashioned holiday attraction. You can also check out the 43 foot tall Christmas tree and the festive displays throughout the store.

20. Take a day trip to Starved Rock State Park

Canyons and waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park

Although the park is a bit of a drive (about 2 hours from the city), it is well worth the time spent in the car. You will find that the many activities available and beautiful scenery will more than make up for the time in the car. With 13 miles of trails to explore, many with beautiful canyons and waterfalls (you will find waterfalls in 14 out of the 18 trails), in addition to great overviews of the Illinois River, you might not want to go back to the city! The best time to see the waterfalls are in the spring after heavy rains.

A few other fun & free activities to check out

*Stroll around Oakbrook Terrace, a nice outdoor shopping destination in Chicago’s western suburbs

*Pick a hiking trail in the Forest Preserve of Cook County. The Southwest suburbs near Palos Hills offers some of the best trails near the city.

*Check out Lowden State Park in Oregon, featuring a 50 foot tall statue of Blackhawk, 4 miles of tree-lined trails, enjoy great views of the river, and climb the 100 foot step challenging staircase.

The famous Blackhawk statue at Lowden State Park in Oregon, IL

*Take a stroll around Naperville’s beautiful riverwalk, featuring a 1.75 mile brick lined path, beautiful gardens, fountains, water views, and gorgeous architecture.

*Visit Woodfield Shopping Mall, one of the 10 largest malls in the US.

*Take a day trip to Dixon, hometown of President Ronald Reagan. Here you will find various statues and memorials around town and the childhood home of Reagan, which is now open for tours.

Ronald Reagan's boyhood home in Dixon, IL

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