Playing on the water in Chicago

Budget friendly group travel itinerary

Plan your group travel itinerary around fun things to do in Chicago for free — or nearly free — to make the most of your budget. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Affordable group activities in Chicago

Fun and sun on a Chicago beach

Chicago beaches

With 25 beaches dotting Chicago’s 26-mile coastline, there are plenty of places to enjoy the waterfront scenery and outdoor activities for free. Pick a nearby beach, and plan an outdoor meal or a walking tour through these vibrant lakefront playgrounds. Multiple locations

Chicago Greeter

Chicago Greeter
For groups of six or less, Chicago Greeter offers free 2 – 4 hour tours. Explore rich histories, diverse cultural traditions, and hidden treasures. See sides of the city your group may not have adventured out to on their own, and take away a truly authentic Chicago experience. Greeter visits are customized based on your choice of neighborhoods, language, and interests. Multiple locations

Chicago Cultural Center
Dramatic architectural details, curated art exhibits and free music, dance and theatre events are the draw at this Chicago attraction, home to the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome. 77 E. Randolph St.

Garfield

Garfield Park Conservatory
Explore tropical and desert botanical collections, outdoor gardens, and special exhibits at this beautiful, free conservatory. Groups of 10 or more must pre-register at least one week in advance. Free parking is available just south of the main entrance. 300 N. Central Park Ave.

Lincoln Park Conservatory
Spend some time in a magnificent Victorian Era greenhouse, where tropical flowers and towering greenery set the scene for a colorful, exotic day. Outside the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, North Pond Sanctuary and Lincoln Monument Gardens are ideal for a walk during warmer months. Admission is free. 2000 N. Racine Ave., Suite 2080

Lincoln Park Zoo
African lions, red pandas, Japanese macaques — they’re all here at the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free and open every day throughout the year. 2001 N. Clark St.

Museum of Contemporary Photography
With stimulating collection of artwork by local, national and international artists, this free photography museum showcases contemporary visual arts in thought-provoking displays. 600 S. Michigan Ave.

National Museum of Mexican Art
Groups can explore the richness of Mexican arts and culture in this free museum — the largest of its kind in the country — where more than 7,000 objects span from photography to textiles to sculptures. 1852 W. 19th St.

Navy Pier arcade

Navy Pier
Take in the sights and sounds at Chicago’s Navy Pier, home to arts and entertainment attractions, museums, rides and dining options. While many of the attractions require admission, it’s completely free to enjoy the lively ambiance and the beauty of the waterfront views of Lake Michigan. There’s also a free fireworks show every Wednesday and Saturday all summer long. 600 E. Grand Ave.

The Oriental Institute
History, art, and architecture of the ancient Near East come together at this free museum, where groups could see everything from Egyptian statues to a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Advance notice is required for self-guided or guided tours for groups of 10 – 60. 1155 E. 58th St. 

Smart Museum of Art
Built on four fundamental pillars: Asian art, European art, contemporary art and modern art and design, this free art museum on the University of Chicago campus boats extensive holdings, with more than 12,000 objects. 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

Special deals

Save money on group tours and admission prices with special deals or discount programs.

CityPASS
Save 50% on premium admission to Chicago’s top attractions with CityPASS tickets.

Includes prepaid admission to 5 must-see attractions:

  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Skydeck Chicago
  • Field Museum
  • Adler Planetarium or Art Institute of Chicago
  • Museum of Science and Industry or 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck

Valid for 9 consecutive days, Chicago CityPASS tickets cost $108 for adults (value $214) and $89 for children ages 3 – 11. Buy online at CityPASS.com or at any CityPASS attraction. Spend less, experience more.

Hot Tix
Go to a show for a fraction of the price with this program offered by the League of Chicago Theatres, featuring half-price theater tickets for same-week shows.

Go Chicago 
Save up to 55 percent on some of the best attractions in Chicago, with more than 25 Chicago attractions to choose from, including museums, boat tours, and more with the Go Chicago. Groups of 10 or more can earn extra discounts and additional benefits, such as a free guidebook for every member of the group.

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