You don’t need to reach for your wallet to get your fill of fun things to do in Chicago. Here are 10 of our favorite free and cheap things to do in Chicago this month, including free museum days, outdoor movie screenings, music festivals, neighborhood walking tours, and so much more. Start planning your budget-friendly adventures now and don’t miss more free things to do all summer long.

1. Explore a museum

Chicago museums are open to enjoy, and there’s no better way to spend an afternoon than wandering through a new museum exhibit or art gallery. Here are the upcoming free museum days this month (and make sure to reserve  your tickets ahead of time):

You can also check out one of the city’s always-free museums, like the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Hyde Park Art Center. And check out free museum days throughout the year.

2. Experience Taste of Chicago To Go

We’ll all miss the massive tasting extravaganza that takes over Grant Park each July, but this year’s new and reimagined event will bring the best of Taste of Chicago to the city’s neighborhoods. Taste of Chicago To Go will bring free pop-up events to Pullman, Austin, Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, and more from July 7 – 11, 2021. Come enjoy live music, special guests, dancing, and, of course, plenty of local food available for purchase.

3. See live music

Pritzker Pavilion

It’s the Year of Chicago Music, and that means a summer jam-packed with music festivals, outdoor concerts, and more. The best news? A lot of them are free. Check out some upcoming free concerts and festivals in July.

  • Tuesdays on the Terrace: The Museum of Contemporary Art offers free live music each week in highlighting artists from Chicago’s internationally renowned jazz community.
  • Jazzin’ On the Steps: The South Side Jazz Coalition kicks off it’s summer series with a return to free jazz on the steps of St. Columbanus Catholic Church.
  • Grant Park Music Festival: This 80-year tradition brings free classical music to Millennium Park all summer long.
  • House City: This new, nine-part series of free events will showcase the Chicago-born genre of house music through pop-up performances in various neighborhoods.
  • Wicker Park Fest: This weekend fest celebrates the eclectic neighborhood it calls home with over 50 bands on four stages, local food, a kids’ area, and more.
  • Chicago Latin Jazz Festival: The scenic Humboldt Park will host this drive-in concert series featuring a line-up of the hottest Latin jazz ensembles.

Check out more music festivals in Chicago this month.

4. Visit the Chicago Cultural Center

After a long hiatus, the Chicago Cultural Center has reopened to the public. The cultural heart of the Loop, this stunning landmark building is home to free art exhibits, concerts, tours, and the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world. Spend a day exploring, then head right across the street to spend some time in Millennium Park.

5. Catch music, movies, yoga, and more on the lakefront

Navy Pier offers a full schedule of free summer events, from live DJ performances to outdoor fitness classes. Check out everything happening on the Pier this summer and visit the Navy Pier events calendar for more details:

  • Wave Wall Moves dance series on Saturdays
  • Wave Wall Wax DJ sets on Saturdays
  • Live on the Lake! concerts on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Pier Fitness classes on Tuesdays
  • Skyline Sessions concerts on Thursdays and Fridays
  • Water Flicks movie screenings on Mondays and Thursday starting July 8

6. See the world’s largest video art show

Art on theMART is back! The free show lights up the Chicago Riverwalk with a stunning light display each night at 8:30 and 9 p.m. Grab a spot near the water and enjoy projections inspired by the blockbuster art exhibits on Frida Kahlo and the Obamas.

7. Take a free neighborhood tour

Whether it’s 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. Or drop into a free InstaGreeter walk that covers the top things to see around the Chicago Loop.

8. See landscape art under glass

Garfield

Recently named the best garden in North America by Yelp users, Garfield Park Conservatory is a lush wonderland of plant life from all over the world, from massive palm trees to cacti and succulents. The conservatory is housed inside a historic glass structure designed by the legendary Jens Jensen. Outside, you’ll find 10 acres of sprawling gardens to explore. The conservatory is free, donations are accepted.

9. Wander The Lakefront Trail

Biking down Lakeshore Drive on Divvys
Clayton Hauck for Choose Chicago

Explore a stretch of the 18-mile Lakefront Trail, where you’ll find scenic views of the vast Lake Michigan. Venture out by foot or rent a Divvy bike to cover more ground. Make sure to check the weather and trail conditions before heading out.

10. Experience the Chicago Riverwalk

Pedestrians walk on the Chicago Riverwalk in summer
Alice Achterhof

Last but certainly not least, the Chicago Riverwalk is the perfect vantage point to admire the city’s stunning architecture. The award-winning stretch of waterfront is open year-round, though concessions are seasonal.

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