Whether you’re looking for free events in Chicago or just want to experience the rich history and culture of the city, don’t miss a visit to the Chicago Cultural Center, a creative epicenter with free art exhibits, concerts, guided tours and more. Here are 7 free must-sees and dos to get you started at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Chicago Cultural Center GAR Hall

1. Go on a guided architecture tour of the Chicago Cultural Center.

Experience the magnificent architectural features of this historic building during one of the free Chicago Cultural Center tours. The 45- to 60-minute tours will take you beneath the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome, past colorful mosaics and through rooms featuring intricate detailing such as marble arches, crown molding and coffered ceilings. Tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday at 1:15pm and meet in the Randolph Street lobby. Tours are limited to the first 20 people, so be sure to arrive early. 

Chicago Cultural Center Stairway

2. Brighten your weekday with a classical music concert.

Every Wednesday at 12:15pm, the Preston Bradley Hall inside the Chicago Cultural Center comes to life with classical music during Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts. These free, 45-minute music concerts feature a lineup of emerging artists, from violinists to pianists and more.


3. Introduce a young one to the magic of music.

Intended for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade, the Young People’s Concerts at Chicago Cultural Center introduce the magic of classical music to young minds, featuring everything from opera to orchestral symphony productions. These free, 45-minute concerts are presented by the International Music Foundation and take place in Preston Bradley Hall, beginning at 10:30am and noon.


4. Get your toddler to dance and play at “Juicebox.”

Plan for some playtime with your little one at Juicebox, a special cultural event that introduces toddlers to music from around the world, while encouraging dancing and interacting with performers. These free, kid-friendly events take place on alternating Fridays from 11-11:45am in Preston Bradley Hall.


5. Peruse the exhibits in the Chicago Cultural Center’s free art galleries.

The Chicago Cultural center is home to a number of rotating art exhibits located in galleries throughout the building. Learn more about upcoming Chicago Cultural Center exhibits:

  • Enjoy a broad range of artwork—photography, sculpture, video, painting and more—at the 50x50 Invitational/The Subject is Chicago: People, Places, Possibilities (through April 9, 2017) in the Exhibit Hall, featuring diverse works by 50 selected artists representing Chicago’s 50 wards.
  • In the Michigan Avenue Galleries, see how artists Nicole Marroquin and Andres L. Hernandez portray citizen struggles and resident-led protests at their exhibit titled Historical F(r)ictions (through May 7, 2017).
  • Experience the beauty of the Black Arts movement at the Eugene Eda’s Doors for Malcolm X College exhibit in the Sidney R. Yates Gallery (through June 25, 2017), which brings together 32 doors—painted by artist Eugene Eda in 1971—from the now-demolished Malcolm X College. Eda was one of the 14 artists who created The Wall of Respect mural in 1967. Learn more about this culturally significant piece in the exhibit The Wall of Respect: Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power in the Chicago Rooms (through July 30, 2017).
  • And learn about the history of public art in Chicago at The Pride & Perils of Chicago’s Public Art exhibit (through July 30, 2017), on display in the Landmark Chicago Gallery and Randolph Stairs.

6. Share your story at the StoryCorps oral history project.

The largest oral history project of its kind, StoryCorps interviews and records the diverse stories of people from all walks of life in Chicago. These personal accounts are preserved at the Library of Congress and shared with listeners of NPR’s Morning Edition. Make an appointment to share your own story at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Chicago Cultural Center Pedway

7. Explore the underground Pedway.

Deep beneath the city is an extensive pedestrian walkway system, which connects more than 50 buildings across 40 Chicago city blocks. Explore the Pedway from the access point in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Randolph Street lobby.


Looking for even more fun things to do? See the ever-changing Chicago Cultural Center events calendar to find what will be going on during your next visit. And check out even more free things to do in Chicago.


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