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10 Free Things to Do in Chicago 

October 2018

You don't need to reach for your wallet to get your fill of culture and fun in Chicago. Here are just 10 FREE festivals, exhibitions, concerts and events to enjoy around the city this month.

1. TAKE A CHICAGO GHOST TOUR FROM FREE TOURS BY FOOT

Graceland Cemetery Chicago

Throughout October, walk along the streets that H. H. Holmes (America's first serial killer) wandered as he stalked his prey. Get a glimpse of Chicago's sordid past with stories of the Everleigh Club and the 1900s Red Light district. And learn about downtown Chicago's infamous prison breaks. Tours take approximately 2 hours. Check schedule for times

2. WATCH SCARY MOVIES OUTDOORS AT NAVY PIER

Polk Bros Park Lake Stage Performance© Heidi Zieger Photography

Last year, Navy Pier screened some of the most family friendly Fright Flicks in history, including Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters and Monsters, Inc. You can bet this year will be just as fun, as you watch family favorites at the Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park. Movies are screened from either 3-4:30pm pr 5:30-7:30pm. Stay tuned for the 2018 schedule!

3. PLUMB THE DEPTHS OF UNDERWATER BEAUTY AT SHEDD AQUARIUM 

Spotted Trunkfish
Rugnose Clam, Courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History

This special exhibition plunges you into the world of jellyfish, eels, reef fish and coral — and thanks to FREE MUSEUM DAYS, you can see it free October 3 and 10! Witness approximately 100 species create a living tapestry, filled with color, movement, and sublime beauty. See Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Ribbon Eels, Spotted Sea Jellies, Weedy Seadragons, Rugnose Clams, Pyramid Butterflyfish, and other rare species from around the world. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, 312-939-2438. Hours: 9am-6pm daily except Sunday, 9am-3pm.

4. SIZE UP "THE MANY HATS OF RALPH ARNOLD" AT THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY

Art Design Chciago
Ralph Arnold, Who You/Yeah Baby (detail) c. 1968. DePaul Art Museum, Reproduced with permission from The Pauls Foundation

The 60s and 70s were tumultuous decades socially and racially. During this time, prolific artist Ralph Arnold created collages that appropriated and commented on the manner in which mass media portrayed gender, sexuality, race and politics. The Many Hats of Ralph Arnold at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (600 S Michigan Ave) from October 11-December 21, explores the artist’s complex visual arrangements and mixed media presentations (including photography, painting and text), building upon his own identity as a black, gay veteran and prominent member of the Chicago arts community. The exhibition is part of Art Design Chicago

5. GET SURREAL AT ARTS IN THE DARK 

Arts in the Dark Halloween Parade Chicago

October takes on an element of the surreal as dusk falls upon Chicago. Arts in the Dark from 6-8pm on October 20 brings together artists from around the city for a procession along State Street filled with spectacle, puppetry, legions of masked entities, luminous lanterns, and mesmerizing performances. This year’s parade, which takes place on October 20, will be led by eight “Illuminaries” recognized as influencers in their respective fields.World-renowned institutions, including the likes of the Art Institute of Chicago and Lookingglass Theatre Company, get involved each year. 

6. GET THE KIDS IN THE HALLOWEEN MOOD AT SPOOKY ZOO SPECTACULAR

Spooky Zoo Spectacular
© Lincoln Park Zoo

It's FREE, fun and in its 32nd year! Lincoln Park Zoo's Spooky Zoo Spectacular on October 27 is all about kids and family, with toddler activities, trick-or-treating, and arts and crafts — not to mention the Haunted House at the Kovler Sea Pool and Fall Fest rides.

7. EMBRACE THE SPIRITS AT PILSEN'S DAY OF THE DEAD XICÁGO

Halloween - Day of the Dead

Light, projection and visual displays will transform the National Museum of Mexican Art’s exterior (1852 W 19th St) and the surrounding area for this annual Day of the Dead celebration in Pilsen on October 28. What's more, in Harrison Park, visitors will create their own ofrendas (Day of the Dead altars), transforming the soccer field into a festive community gathering place, just like those you would see in Mexico on Día de los Muertos. Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread), altar demonstrations, live musical performances, face painting, and art activities will round out the evening. 

8. EXPLORE HAUNTED HEARTS & HOUSEHOLD GHOSTS AT NEWBERRY LIBRARY

On October 30, explore Victorian style mourning from 6-7:30pm at Newberry Library (60 W Walton St) in a light-hearted look at the rituals and relics of this superstitious era in history — from graveyard gatherings and séances to posthumous portraits, hair art, and spirit photography. Newberry Library Scholar-in-Residence Debra N. Mancoff explores the interconnections of art, fashion, and culture, with a focus on Britain. Mancoff's newest book, The Face: Our Human Story for the British Museum (London), will be published later this year.

9. HEAD TO THE NORTHALSTED HALLOWEEN PARADE

Northalsted Halloween Parade-4
© Northalsted Business Alliance

The Northalsted Halloween Parade (North Halsted from Belmont to Cornelia Ave) is ranked one of the 10 Best Halloweens in the US by Fodor’s Travel Guide. At this annual event, taking place at 7:30pm on October 31, an exuberant crowd lines the streets of Boystown, one of the nation's leading LGBTQ+ communities, to check out fantastical outfits during an evening parade. A costume contest judged by a panel of drag queens, and Halloween food and drink specials at restaurants and bars along Halted Street, are only a few of the parade highlights.

10. EXPLORE THE WORLD OF TODROS GELLER AT THE SPERTUS INSTITUTE

Todros Geller - Art Design Chicago
Todros Geller, The Dance, 1928, oil on canvas, 17 x 20 in., Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Chicago.​

Through January 6, 2019, the work of Todros Geller, an influential Chicago artist and a central figure in modern American Jewish art history, takes center stage at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership (610 S Michigan Ave). His work reflects the prevailing social, political and artistic concerns of his era, while being intimately connected to Chicago's Jewish community. The exhibition reveals the broad scope of Geller's work, and includes paintings, prints, works on paper and personal materials. The exhibition is part of Art Design Chicago

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