Vinnie Van GO believes the best things in life are free. (He is very fond of the sun in the morning, the moon at night and free hors d’oeuvres in between.) So you can imagine how pleased he was when his friends at GO Airport Express, told him about all the neat things you can do in Chicago without spending a dime.
Free Walking Tours
The City of Chicago has a corps of volunteers who serve as city greeters and will show you around their particular neck of the woods. Explore any one of 25 diverse neighborhoods—including The Loop, Hyde Park, Ukrainian Village, Pilsen, each with its own unique history and personality. There are also special interest tours for foodies, history buffs, families with children and the LGBT community. Sign up 10 business days prior to the requested visit, or (if you can’t plan ahead) there are 1-hour Instagreeter tours of the Loop and Millennium Park. Check dates and times on-line.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Open year round, the Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States as well one of the few with free admission. It is situated on 35-acres of parkland and is home to about 1,100 animals from 200 species. Highlights include the Lion House with both outdoor and indoor environments, the ever-entertaining Great Ape House, the Sea Lion Pool and the Farm-in-the-Zoo. Soon to come are a new bear habitat and a renovated penguin/polar bear habitat.
Grant Park Music Festival
The Grant Park Orchestra, under the direction of principal conductor Carlos Kalmar, offers free classical concerts Tuesdays through Saturdays, during June, July and August. Most concerts take place at the spectacular Jay Pritzker Pavillion (designed by Frank Gehry) at the North end of Millennium Park. Reserved seats require a ticket, but open seating and lawn are always free.
Free Museum Days
All Chicago museums offer free days to Illinois residents – Thursdays at the Art Institute and Tuesdays at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Children’s Museum on Navy Pier offers free admission to everyone Thursday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. Also, children, 15 and under, are admitted free on the first Sunday of every month. The DuSable Museum of African American History is free every Sunday. Other museums offer free admission on a less regular schedule so check their websites for dates and times.
Maggie Daley Park
Chicago’s newest attraction is Maggie Daley Park, a brand new children’s park with lots for grown-ups to love: an ice-skating/roller-blading ribbon, a climbing wall (not free), field house, tennis courts and avant-garde play ground—part of which is meant to evoke a pirate’s ship.
Vinnie offers this final piece of free advice. He says when you visit Chicago, the best way to get to and from O’Hare International (ORD) and Midway Airport (MDW) is with The GO Group.