Having lived in Chicago for several years, I have yet exhausted the possibilities of the “city of big shoulders.”
With it’s neoclassical architecture, many sections of Chicago look incredibly beautiful and it’s a great place to experience many things for free. While the parking can be terrible. The red and blue lines on the City Transit run effectively though above-ground trains means freezing in the wintertime.
Visiting the Chicago Transit Authorities website can quickly allow you to figure out the best ways to get somewhere. It’s especially advisable to stick to trains as much as possible. Depending on where your hotel is located, it’s an excellent resource to allow you to experience Chicago without spending too much.
For your convenience, I’ve compiled a list of places to visit that are either free or inexpensive.
1) Buckingham Fountain
This fountain is beautiful in the daytime but after the sun sets, it’s absolutely stunning. There’s a light and music show that roughly begins every 20 minutes from 8 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m.
Located in Grant Park, at the intersection of Columbus Park and Congress Parkway. It’s in one of the safest and prettiest areas of Chicago and a great place to go for an after-dinner stroll.
2) The University of Chicago Campus
One of the best representatives of neo-gothic architecture in the country, visit this campus to see the many gargoyles. Step the same ground that esteemed nobel prize winners have busied about with their great ideas. Visit the duck pond right next to the Regenstein Library and bordering the quadrangle. This is a great place to visit in the spring! The duck pond is frequently filled with little ducklings paddling about and they are positively adorable!
Located in Hyde Park, there is ample street parking but watch out for your personal safety. This area really has it’s ups and downs. When you’re not 5 minutes from the immediate campus there is always a chance of getting robbed, so be sure that you don’t leave a wallet in your back pocket. Otherwise, you should be fine. It’s a great place to be.
Address: 1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637
3) Lincoln Park Zoo
This zoo is one of the most fantastic free zoos in the country. Unfortunately, the experience is not exactly free because the parking is so expensive. However, if you get creative with the parking, and are willing to bus over from the Michigan Avenue area. You might just have yourself a free and wonderful day at the zoo.
The Regenstein African Journey is especially delightful, with the colony of meerkats poking their cute little heads out to greet you. The stately giraffes, the rhinos, hippos, and even the almighty aardvark are all around in naturalistic settings to take you on a splendid safari.
If you’re visiting in winter the zoo is not very busy, which means that you might be able to feel like Citizen Kane. There are so few people around, you can spend half an hour in the birdhouse with these great birds flying about and only you in the room to witness the beauty of it all.
If it’s freezing outside, step inside one of the zoo cafes and buy yourself a delicious hot chocolate. You’ll feel so great and toasty just sipping on it and it will warm your fingers right up!
Address: 2200 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614