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 February 2022.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Snowshow the lakefront

Make the most of the wintry weather during Polar Adventure Days, a free outdoor program from the Chicago Park District. Held on lakefront Northerly Island, the event features snowshoeing, encounters with birds of prey, demonstrations from husky sled teams, winter crafts, and more. The next Polar Adventure Days will take place on Feb. 25, 2023.

4. 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.

5. Go ice skating in Millennium Park

Nothing says “winter in Chicago” like gliding around on one of the city’s magical skating rinks. One favorite spot is the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, which is open for its 21st season from Nov. 18 until March 5. 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.

6. Celebrate Carnivale at Navy Pier

Photo by James Richards IV

Experience this one-of-a-kind event representing traditions from across the world with art-making activities, music, global dances, live performances, and more. Part of Navy Pier’s Global Connections Series, this free International Carnivale celebration will take place in the Aon Grand Ballroom on Saturday, Feb. 25.

7. Visit an indoor conservatory

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 home to an array of plant life, from tropical palms to towering cacti. The conservatory is free; reservations are strongly recommended and donations are accepted.

You can also swing by the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a warm and tranquil oasis in the lakefront Lincoln Park neighborhood. The historic structure holds thousands of rare and exotic plants, including orchids, lily pools, ancient ferns, and beyond. Admission is free, you can reserve tickets online in advance.

8. 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.

9. Walk through a snowy park

Winter in Chicago

Feeling some cabin fever? Winter can be one of the best times to explore Chicago’s many parks and gardens. Pick somewhere iconic, like Millennium Park or the Lakefront Trail, or head into the neighborhoods to find a peaceful winter oasis. The city’s neighborhood parks are especially scenic when they’re covered in a layer of fresh snow. Just make sure to bundle up before heading out.

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.