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 outdoor adventures, cultural celebrations, flower shows, free museum days, and so much more. Start planning your budget-friendly Chicago adventures with these free things to do in March 2024.

1. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

A boat on the green Chicago River on St. Patricks' Day
St. Patrick’s Day Clover Cruise by Chicago’s First Lady Cruises

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 downtown festivities will take place on Saturday, March 16.

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 official Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade filled with Irish dancers, bagpipers, marching bands, and more.

2. Admire the first blooms of spring

Garfield Park conservatory spring flower show

It might be cold outside, but it’s always springtime in the city’s indoor conservatories.

Named the best garden in North America, Garfield Park Conservatory will be hosting its spring celebration now through May 12, 2024. This year’s theme “What’s in a Name?” will explore the history and science of plant naming. Book your free reservations online in advance.

At the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the annual spring show will be called “Sweet Gnome Chicago” and run now through May 12, 2024. See if you can spot nearly 300 gnomes of all sizes located throughout the botanical displays. Book your free reservations online in advance.

3. Get free admission at Chicago museums

Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago; photo by Abel Arciniega, @tequilagraphics

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 during March 2024 for Illinois residents:

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

4. Celebrate Women’s History Month

Chicago’s history has been shaped by a long line of bold, pioneering women and Women’s History Month is the perfect time to honor that legacy. The city is home to monuments for trailblazers like Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells, Pearl Hart, and beyond. Dive into Chicago’s female-led history by visiting historic sites like The Light of Truth Ida B. Wells National Monument, Gwendolyn Brooks Park and former residence, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum ($5 suggested donation for admission), many stops along the Chicago Legacy Walk, and so much more.

5. 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, DJs, 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 23.

6. Explore the Chicago Botanic Garden

Located just outside Chicago, the sprawling Chicago Botanic Garden is offering various free admission days this year. This month, the gardens are free to all on March 18 – 22. Explore the sprawling grounds then check out the lush greenhouses. Tickets are free but pre-registration is required.

7. Experience Mexican art and culture in Pilsen

National Museum of Mexican Art
Cultural itineraries enrich attendees’ experiences

The National Museum of Mexican Art is hosting its 30th annual Sor Juana Festival, a multi-disciplinary event series that honors the artistic accomplishments of Mexican women. This month, catch a free screening of the movie FRIDA, which delves into the life and art of the iconic Frida Kahlo. While you’re there, make sure to explore the always-free museum galleries.

8. Discover 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.

This March, catch free performances during the Dance Residency Open Studio Series featuring new and in-progress works from a diverse range of performers.

9. Visit a historic zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo; Abel Arciniega, @tequilagraphics

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.

10. Explore the Poetry Foundation

Poetry Foundation
Poetry Foundation; photo by Diana Solis

Come explore a Chicago hidden gem, the Poetry Foundation, which 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.

Bonus! Discover a new neighborhood

The arch welcoming visitors to Little Village
Photo by Lucy Hewett

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.

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