Chicago shines in the summertime. There are so many things to see and do — many of which don't cost a dime! From a day at the beach to a yoga class on the pavilion, here are six (totally FREE!) things to see and do this summer in Chicago!
1) Spend a day at the North Avenue Beach.
A day at this sandy stretch of Lake Michigan is the perfect place to spend a hot summer afternoon. Build a sandcastle, stroll along the gorgeous shoreline, and cool off with a dip in Lake Michigan. Head here August 20-21 for the annual (free!) Air and Water Show, the largest of its kind in the U.S., or grab a drink at Castaways, located on the beach, where live entertainment is on the menu on weekends all summer long. North Avenue Beach is just one of 26 Chicago beaches — get a beach cheat sheet here — and hit the waters!
2) Meet the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Chicago's very own zoo, located in charming Lincoln Park, is educational, fun and... free! Over 1,000 animals call this 35-acre zoo home. Founded in 1868, it's also one of the oldest zoos in the U.S.
3) Enjoy a picnic and a concert at the world class Pritzker Pavilion.
The Pritzker Pavilion is the musical centerpiece of Millennium Park. All summer long, its acoustically outstanding open air stage plays host to a wide range of performance artists — from blues and jazz and rock, to classical for the Grant Park Music Festival. Spread your blanket on the grass and toast the stars with a class of champagne. Check out the upcoming schedule today and plan out your summer of free concerts.
4) Stroll the docks of Navy Pier.Entrance is always free to Chicago's Navy Pier. The Family Pavilion offers daily, free entertainment, and the spectacular fireworks, on display Wednesday and Saturday evenings throughout the summer are a must-see.
5) Get swimsuit ready with a free workout.
Forget the gym: head to Millennium Park this summer for a free, 45-minute workout on the Great Lawn. These free alfresco workout sessions will be held from 7-11am every Saturday now through September 3. Workouts are 45 minutes long with classes in Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates and Zumba® while on Wednesdays through September 2, yoga is also offered 7:30-8:15am.
6) Watch a movie in the park.
The Millennium Park Summer Film Series does the big screen experience BIG — and it does it in the heart of downtown. Its massive LED screen is 40 feet high, and the sound system state of the art, ensuring that you'll see every moment of Ferris Bueller's antics in full color and the beloved songs of West Side Story loud and clear.
Over 200 movies will hit the screens outdoors, May through September, in over 175 Chicago parks as part of the fabulous Movies in the Park series, which takes the cinema to community parks citywide. Put some popcorn in your picnic basket, spread out a big blanket and enjoy a movie under the stars.
Check out 20 ways to cool off in Chicago for more inspiration on how to spend the perfect day in the city this summer — or continue on the FREE route with these always free attractions , this handy budget friendly itinerary and this essential list of free summer festivals.