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Looking for free things to do in Chicago? The city is filled with beautiful attractions and incredible sights that don't cost a dime! Whether you're into free guided neighborhood tours, relaxing at Chicago's free beaches or learning about hundreds of animals at the free city zoo, there's something for all to enjoy. And while there are some attractions and museums with select free days, these freebies are always great and always available at no charge.

Here are 30 free Chicago attractions to add to your budget-friendly itinerary.

Chicago Cultural Center

1. CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER 
(77 E. RANDOLPH STREET)

This historical landmark hosts hundreds of free programs year-round. The building has two unbelievable stained-glass domes, which you can see on your own or on a free building tour. The many halls regularly hosts free events, from weekly classical music concerts to blues, jazz and more. Also look on the daily Chicago Cultural Center schedule for free dance performances, film screenings, seminars and theater events. 

2. CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE FOUNDATION PROGRAMS
(224 S. MICHIGAN AVENUE)

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring people to discover why design matters. In addition to their popular architecture river boat cruises and docent-led tours (ticket prices for those vary), CAF pursues this mission through free exhibitions, special events and youth/adult education programs. Visit their Loop headquarters to see their impressive 3D model of the city, try to catch a lunchtime seminar, or plan your trip around their marquee event Open House Chicago each fall.

Chicago Design Museum

3. CHICAGO DESIGN MUSEUM 
(108 N. STATE STREET, 3RD FLOOR – BLOCK 37)

The Chicago Design Museum features exhibitions, tours, public and private programs, digital media, and workshops that are free and open to the public on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Chicago Greeter Tour

4. CHICAGO GREETER NEIGHBORHOOD TOURS 
(VARIOUS LOCATIONS)

The Chicago Greeter program pairs knowledgeable locals with Chicago visitors for an informal, insider's orientation of the city and its many, vibrant neighborhoods. Through customized, guided walks you can sightsee all across the city based on interest topics of your choice, from public art and architecture to food to films.

Lakefront Trail with a view of downtown Chicago

5. CHICAGO LAKEFRONT TRAIL 
(5800 N. SHERIDAN ROAD TO 7100 S. SOUTH SHORE DRIVE)

Hit the Lakefront Trail to run, walk, bike or rollerblade with the blue waters of Lake Michigan to one side and gorgeous, green parks to the other. Along the trail are parks, beaches and gardens; recreation areas including playgrounds, soccer fields, volleyball nets and tennis courts; and amenities like washrooms, drinking fountains and concession stands.

Chicago Riverwalk and boat tours on the river

6. CHICAGO RIVERWALK
(E. UPPER WACKER DRIVE) 

Eat, drink and play along Chicago's new Riverwalk, a scenic promenade on the water's edge that stretches from downtown Lake Street to Lake Michigan. See a bridge lift from inside the bridge house with a visit the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum (free on Sundays) and enjoy the renowned architecture along the Chicago River.

7. CITY GALLERY AT THE HISTORIC WATER TOWER 
(806 N. MICHIGAN AVENUE)

The treasured landmark on The Magnificent Mile has been turned into a beautiful showcase for rotating art exhibits from local photographers and artists.

8. CLARKE HOUSE MUSEUM
(1827 S. INDIANA AVENUE)

Located in the Prairie Avenue Historic District, the Clarke House Museum is Chicago’s oldest house and was built in 1836 for Henry B. Clarke. See what life was like for a family in Chicago during the city’s formative years before the Civil War. Its fascinating history began at a time when Chicago received its city charter and much of the area was still undeveloped prairie.

9. ED PASCHKE ART CENTER
(5415 W. HIGGINS AVENUE)

With 2,800 square feet of exhibition space and 1,700 square feet of educational space, the mission of the Ed Paschke Art Center is to preserve and provide public access to the work of the legendary Chicago artist Ed Paschke; to serve as an educational resource for youth, adults, artists and academics; and to function as an accessible platform for artists to showcase their work.

Garfield Park Conservatory

10. GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY 
(300 N. CENTRAL PARK AVENUE) 

As one of the nation's premier displays of rare plant species, the Garfield Park Conservatory has a half dozen greenhouses and two large exhibition halls. 

11. HAROLD WASHINGTON LIBRARY CENTER 
(400 S. STATE STREET) 

As one of the largest public libraries in the world, the Harold Washington Library encompasses close to a million square feet filling a whole city block and houses more than 13 million published works. Enjoy a look at the architecture — giant owls perch from the roof, Roman goddess of grain Ceres on the facade, the sunny 9th floor Winter Garden — or explore the art collection of over 50 artists, both local and internationally known, displayed throughout the halls and reading rooms.

12. HYDE PARK ART CENTER 
(5020 S. CORNELL AVENUE) 

If you're looking for open to the public gallery talks, poetry readings, musical performances, and art classes, HPAC offers free cultural exhibitions for visitors of all ages. 

13. INTUIT: THE CENTER FOR INTUITIVE AND OUTSIDER ART
(756 N. MILWAUKEE AVENUE)

Established in June 1991, Intuit is dedicated to presenting intuitive and outsider art. Its 12,000 square feet facility boasts world class exhibitions; a Permanent Collection with holdings of nearly 1,100 works of art; the Henry Darger Room Collection, a permanent installation; and educational programming for people of all interest levels and backgrounds.

14. JANE ADDAMS HULL-HOUSE MUSEUM 
(800 S. HALSTED STREET) 

This museum is dedicated to providing free to the public exhibits and programs that focus on policy efforts. The tribute to Jane Addams serves as an educational conduit to addressing issues that affect the sociological conditions of underserved communities. 

Lincoln Park Conservatory

15. LINCOLN PARK CONSERVATORY 
(2391 N. STOCKTON DRIVE) 

Located in stunning Lincoln Park, this conservatory displays some of the most stunning flowers and rare plant life. No matter the season, a walk through this storied green house will always feel like a stroll through paradise. 

16. LINCOLN PARK ZOO 
(2200 N. CANNON DRIVE) 

As one of only a few free zoos in the country, Lincoln Park Zoo covers over 35 acres and features tigers, polar bears, lions and more than 230 other species of animals. The Farm in the Zoo and Nature Boardwalk bring you up close and personal with the animal world.

Maggie Daley Park

17. MAGGIE DALEY PARK PLAY GARDEN
(337 E. RANDOLPH STREET)

Meet Grant Park's newest addition, located immediately east of Millennium Park. This play park for kids is an imaginative 20 acres designed in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It comes complete with its own mini-lighthouse, a life-sized ship, two climbing walls (fee starts at $15), 30-foot tall Suspension Bridge Towers, a quarter-mile long skating ribbon, an Enchanted Garden of upside-down trees, plus several Picnic Groves.

Cloud Gate Millennium Park

18. MILLENNIUM PARK 
(201 E. RANDOLPH STREET) 

One of the state's most popular tourist attractions features larger-than-life public art (don't miss Cloud Gate for a mirrored look at the skyline or splashing in Crown Fountain during warm weather months); a cutting edge performance stage (the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Prizker Pavilion) featuring free concerts all summer; and the all-seasons beauty Lurie Garden. Be sure to check the Millennium Park schedule for a listing of upcoming events.

19. MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY 
(600 S. MICHIGAN AVENUE)

As one of the only museums in the region devoted exclusively to photography, this cultural center aims to communicate the value of still images, artistic expression, and human thought. 

National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

20. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF PUERTO RICAN ARTS & CULTURE 
(3015 W. DIVISION STREET)

NMPRAC features visual art exhibitions, hands-on community arts workshops, films in the park and an annual outdoor fine arts and crafts festival.

21. NATIONAL VETERANS ART MUSEUM
(4041 N. MILWAUKEE AVENUE, 2ND FLOOR)

This truly unique museum features work by combat veterans from all conflicts, with a mission that is dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of art inspired by combat and created by veterans.

22. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MEXICAN ART 
(1852 W. 19TH STREET) 

Located in the cultural epicenter of the colorful Pilsen neighborhood, this museum is focused on celebrating Mexican culture and is the largest of its kind in the nation.

Navy Pier

23. NAVY PIER 
(600 E. GRAND AVENUE) 

One of Chicago's most recognizable landmarks boasts gorgeous lakefront views — take a stroll and enjoy the breezes, admission is free to the pier's boardwalk. Summer features free weekly fireworks Wednesday and Saturday evenings as well as free outdoor concerts in the Miller Lite Beer Garden. 

People enjoying Oak Street Beach

24. PUBLIC PARKS & BEACHES
(VARIOUS LOCATIONS)

Chicago has hundreds of free public parks that cover over 8,000 acres of Chicago. Many feature wildlife havens like Northerly Island and North Pond Nature Sanctuary; incredible landscape designs such as Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool and Humboldt Park's prairie river and boathouse; and athletic facilities such as the kayak boathouse in Ping Tom Memorial Park. Spend the day at one of the free public beaches, open Memorial Day to Labor Day.

25. POETRY FOUNDATION 
(61 W. SUPERIOR STREET)

Get lost in the first space in Chicago dedicated solely to the art of poetry. The Poetry Foundation houses a public garden, a 30,000-volume library, an exhibition gallery, and an extensive roster of weekly public programs and events.

606 Trail

26. THE 606 
(BLOOMINGDALE AVENUE FROM ASHLAND TO RIDGEWAY)

Trek this stunning new 2.7 mile elevated park trail set above city streets and explore its five interconnected neighborhoods. With its linear walking/bicycle/jogging paths, as well as ample green space, it boasts scenic lookout points, public art murals, and an outdoor observatory. 

27. THE NEWBERRY LIBRARY 
(60 W. WALTON STREET) 

This stunning library contains more than 1.5 million published works and often features special exhibitions. 

Oriental Institute Museum

28. THE ORIENTAL INSTITUTE MUSEUM 
(1155 E. 59TH STREET) 

Focusing on the rich history of the ancient Near East, this museum displays artifacts recovered during Oriental Institute excavations. 

29. THE RENAISSANCE SOCIETY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO 
(5811 S. ELLIS AVENUE) 

The society offers exhibitions and programs that aim to provide insight and education on the wonders of art history. 

30. SMART MUSEUM OF ART 
(5550 S. GREENWOOD AVENUE) 

The name kind of says it all. This museum features works from some the world's all-time brightest minds like Goya, Frank Lloyd Wright, Degas, Rodin, Matisse, Picasso, Rivera and Ansel Adams. 

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