You don’t need to reach for your wallet to get your fill of culture and fun in Chicago. Here are 10 free things to do in Chicago this October, including festivals, exhibits, concerts, and more.
1. Explore the future of architecture
Sept. 19, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020
The Chicago Architecture Biennial is back, with tons of free exhibits, performances, events, and talks all over the city. The largest exhibition of its kind in North America, the Biennial explores how architecture shapes our communities, cities, and environments. The event is centered around the Chicago Cultural Center, but there are more than 40 partner sites in neighborhoods all over Chicago. Explore the full schedule.
2. See some outdoor theatre
Oct. 4, 5, 10 – 12, 2019
Catch the last of the summer theatre residencies at Millennium Park. This free series features local theatre companies performing original works in Chicago’s iconic downtown park. October’s residencies include The Book of Peace by Collaboraction Theatre Company and Still/Here: Manifestos for Joy and Survival by Free Street Theater.
3. Marvel at a nighttime Halloween parade
Oct. 19, 2019
Celebrate the spookiest season of the year with Arts in the Dark. This one-of-a-kind experience brings together Chicago’s world-renowned cultural institutions to create a surreal and fantastical evening parade, complete with unique floats, puppets, performances, and more. The procession will head south on State Street from Lake to Van Buren starting at 6 p.m.
4. Gaze into outer space
Oct. 7 – 9 and 14 – 16, 2019
One of Chicago’s most popular museums is offering free admission days this October. Illinois residents get free admission to the Adler Planetarium, where you can explore far-away galaxies, exploding stars, black holes, and beyond. Check out our list of free museum days for more upcoming no admission days.
5. Go behind the scenes at architectural landmarks
Oct. 19 – 20, 2019
For one weekend only, Chicago’s most iconic buildings will throw open their doors for the public to explore. This free annual architecture festival, hosted by the Chicago Architecture Center, includes more than 350 buildings all around Chicago. Tour soaring skyscrapers, opulent mansions, famous theatres, private clubs, historic churches, and more. Learn more about Open House Chicago.
6. Experience an authentic Day of the Dead celebration
Oct. 29, 2019
Celebrate Día de los Muertos at the National Museum of Mexican Art. The (always free) museum’s exterior will be transformed into a giant art display, with elaborate lights and projections. The surrounding park will be filled with traditional Day of the Dead altars, food, live performances, face painting, art activities, and more.
7. Have some Halloween fun at the zoo
Oct. 26, 2019
Spooky Zoo is a free, family-friendly event that’s been a Lincoln Park Zoo tradition for more than 30 years. More than 25,000 families join in the fun each year, including trick-or-treating, Ferris wheel rides, a corn maze, a pumpkin carver, and more.
8. See the new Oriental Institute
All month long
The University of Chicago’s acclaimed Oriental Institute is marking its 100th anniversary in a big way. The museum, home to the largest collection of Middle Eastern antiquities in the United States, recently revealed a $3 million overhaul of their galleries, with an additional 500 objects on display for the first time.
9. See the new Art on theMART works
All month long
The world’s largest video art display recently unveiled new artwork for their fall season. Art on theMART’s new program contains original commissions by Charles Atlas and Petra Cortright. Plus, accompanying audio is now available through permanent audio speakers on the Riverwalk Jetty while the projection is running.
10. Celebrate Halloweek in Boystown
Oct. 26 – 31, 2019
A week of spooktacular festivities culminate in the annual Northalsted Halloween Parade, one of the biggest Halloween parties of the year. Don’t miss the massive celebration on Oct. 31 which includes a popular costume contest with scary, drag, creative, youth, and other creative categories.