You don’t need to reach for your wallet to get your fill of fun things to do all around the city. Here are 10 of our favorite free events and activities this month in Chicago, including exciting cultural celebrations, free museum days, outdoor adventures, and so much more. Start planning your budget-friendly Chicago adventures for March 2023.

1. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

A Seadog boat cruises on the green river

Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are among some of the most iconic in the world — and you can experience them for free. This year’s festivities will take place on Saturday, March 11. Get up bright and early to watch the Chicago River being dyed a brilliant shade of emerald green, then head to Columbus Drive to catch the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade filled with Irish dancers, bagpipers, marching bands, and more.

2. Enjoy a free museum day

Field Museum with guests socially distanced
Photo by Lucy Hewett

Spend an afternoon wandering through a Chicago museum, where you can dive into fascinating history, provocative contemporary art, and galaxies far, far away.

Here are the upcoming free museum days in Chicago this month for Illinois residents:

You can also visit one of the city’s always-free museums, like the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Hyde Park Art Center. The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center is free for all every Wednesday, and the Museum of Contemporary Art is free for Illinois residents every Tuesday.

Explore more: Mark your calendar for free museum days throughout the year.

3. Go back in time in Pullman

Market Square arches_Photo by Eric Allix Rogers_Courtesy of Historic Pullman Foundation
Market Square arches; photo by Eric Allix Rogers, courtesy of Historic Pullman Foundation

Just a train ride away from downtown Chicago, Pullman National Historic Park is the city’s only National Park Service site. The community was built as a planned industrial community for a luxury railcar company in the 1880s. While it was designed to be a utopia, the community has a tumultuous history that was instrumental in the labor movement. Wander the grounds, admire the striking architecture, and learn more about this unique National Monument.

4. Celebrate Holi at Navy Pier

Holi is an ancient Hindu tradition that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Experience this one-of-a-kind cultural celebration with live music, dance, interactive programs, and colorful powder throwing. Part of Navy Pier’s Global Connections Series, this free Holi celebration will take place outdoors at the lakefront Beer Garden on Saturday, March 4.

5. Explore the Poetry Foundation

Poetry Foundation
Poetry Foundation; photo by Diana Solis

A calming oasis in the heart River North, the Poetry Foundation houses a massive library, an exhibition gallery, a tree-lined courtyard, and a performance space. Visitors will find an array of events that are free and open to the public, from readings and lectures to workshops and discussions. Come hear an up-and-coming poet, catch a film screening, or just find a moment of tranquility.

6. See a spring flower show

Garfield Park conservatory spring flower show

Named the best garden in North America, Garfield Park Conservatory is a lush wonderland of botanical treasures from all over the globe. The soaring glass greenhouse is currently hosting its annual Spring Flower Show: Bee’s Knees, focused on the relationship between bees and blooms. Admission to the conservatory is free; reservations are required and donations are accepted.

You can also swing by the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a warm and tranquil oasis in the lakefront Lincoln Park neighborhood. Their Spring Flower Show: Cooler by the Lake is themed around Chicago’s stunning waterfront. Admission is free, you can reserve tickets online in advance.

7. Visit a historic zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is Chicago’s free zoo and one of the oldest in the country. It’s open all year long, including throughout the winter. Stroll through the snowy grounds, where you can watch polar bears, penguins, and snow monkeys play outside. And warm up inside the animal houses, where you can meet penguins, gorillas, lions, and more.

8. Go ice skating in Millennium Park

Last call to glide around on one of the city’s magical skating rinks. The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is only open until March 5 (weather permitting). This free-admission rink in Millennium Park is nestled in the shadow of Cloud Gate, known as “The Bean,” and the glimmering lights of Michigan Avenue. Note that free online reservations are required, and skate rentals are available for a fee.

9. Take a tour of the Chicago Cultural Center

A landmark attraction in the Loop, the Chicago Cultural Center is a stunning public space featuring art exhibits, fascinating history, a local makers market, and soaring architecture — including the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome. Make the most of your visit with the free guided tours that meet every Thursday and Friday afternoon year-round.

10. Explore a new neighborhood

The Nine Dragon wall in Chinatown
Chinatown; photo by Adam Alexander

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, there’s always something new to discover in Chicago. Get to know a new neighborhood on a free Chicago Greeter tour, led by a friendly local who will show you each neighborhood’s landmarks, hot spots, and hidden gems.

For example, experience an urban melting pot in West Ridge, featuring plenty of international grocers and authentic restaurants. Become immersed in the historic communities of Washington Park and Woodlawn, which are home to a lively art scene, must-try eateries, and an abundance of landmarks. Or take a cultural journey with an immersive visit to the historic Chinatown neighborhood.

Looking for more? Check out our guide on free things to do in Chicago all year long.