Best Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Chicago

THE 10 BEST Cheap Things to Do in Chicago

Best Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Chicago

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  • Things to do ranked using Tripadvisor data including reviews, ratings, photos, and popularity.
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What travellers are saying

  • Caitlin H
    Kansas40 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Amazing art in a gorgeous setting. The museum has been carefully retrofitted for mobility access without losing its historical charm, but definitely get a map as different elevators service specific parts of the building complex. The staff is friendly and well informed, so don't be afraid to ask for directions if needed.
    Written 8 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • hockeyaw19
    Marlborough, MA648 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Quite a nice park in the heart of Chicago near Lake Michigan. The bean is here though under construction in late May when we went. They also have a concert/pavilion that had a kid friendly music festival going on while we were there for the surrounding school districts. Plenty of people watching, fountains, greenery, and art adjourn the park walking paths. There are also several bathroom facilities free to the public and clean. We felt quite safe the entire time we were there including later in the evening upwards of 9pm.
    Written 8 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Taylor B
    Chicago, IL8,277 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    The Chicago Architecture Center is the perfect launch pad for discovering the city's stunning buildings and their enduring legacy and offers an engaging overview of its long history of groundbreaking architecture. It is Chicago's all-in-one architecture experience, a museum with two floors of exhibits and a gateway to more than 85 boat, walking, bus, bike and L tours. No matter which guided tour you choose to take, each one reveals stories and secrets of one of the most beautiful and architecturally inspiring and vibrant cities in the world. Located at 111 East Wacker Drive, in the Illinois Center, a building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a pioneer of modern architecture and one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. The new home of the CAC, which opened in 2018, is steps from the boat dock at the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, where Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River, for CAC river cruises aboard Chicago's First Lady, voted the No. 1 boat tour in North America. Why is Chicago architecture so famous? Because Chicago is the birthplace of the American skyscraper, the home to four different architecture schools--the First Chicago School, the Second Chicago School, the International School and the Prairie School. And it is home to such famous architects as Louis Sullivan, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, Jeanne Gang and Danielle Tillman. Step into the CAC and learn the captivating stories behind the city's grand hotels, soaring skyscrapers, distinct residential styles, parks and public spaces and cemeteries. Learn how Chicago became "the city of architecture" by touring CAC galleries that focus on the city's diverse neighborhoods, housing types, leading architects and future projects. The centerpiece of the center's Chicago Gallery is the Chicago City Model Experience, the largest scale model of the city with more than 4,250 miniature buildings, interactive touch screens and a cinematic, 3-dimensional cityscape that animates key moments in Chicago history, from its early growth to its rebirth after the devastating Great Chicago Fire of 1871 to its ever changing skyline. As you stroll through 10,000 square feet of exhibition space, you'll marvel at super-sized models and views of iconic skyscrapers from around the world and discover design and engineering innovations that push us even higher. Other interesting exhibits are Highrises and Loop as Lab: Reshaping Downtown. Highrises allows viewers to experience Art Deco buildings from a new point of view with Chris Hytha's unique photography from a collection of nearly 200 skyscrapers from across the United States. Loop as Lab, holds the central business district up to the light, exploring ways to keep our economic engine humming while diversifying uses and making the Loop more welcoming and more vibrant, resilient and livable to everyone after it emerged from the pandemic on shaky footing. In addition, you'll discover Chicago's continuing role in the design of tall buildings that has changed skylines around the world and learn how design can shape and sustain cities in the future and imagine what urban life will look like in 2050. The CAC is open from 9 to 5 Sunday through Thursday and 9 to 7 on Friday and Saturday.
    Written 7 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Sheryl C
    2 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    We got there just after opening and left as it was closing. One day is not enough to see it all. My daughter's boyfriend, a real rocket scientist, totally geeked out. He's not a guy of many words but when I asked him about the U-505 tour, he gushed! He, my husband, and daughter took the tour, not my thing. My husband and daughter first saw it when the indoor exhibit first opened and had to come back. They all loved it. The space area where they have models of rockets, for us was kind of meh- for that we have Kennedy Space Center to see rockets and a space shuttle but they don't have a submarine, everything else was great. Wish we had time to go to all of the exhibits. Once again this is a "don't miss place"!!!!
    Written 11 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Shackleton87
    Topeka, KS56 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    An unforgettable baseball experience. This was my son's big request on our trip to Chicago. Crowd was involved, people were friendly, and the environment is a truly unique experience. I've attended games it many major league stadiums, and this is definitely the most unique experience. The "game presentation" isn't quite as involved as some that I have seen, but it doesn't need to be. My only criticism is the same as most ballparks - ridiculous concession prices. $7.99 for a bottle of soda? Also, be patient about exiting - it took us awhile to get out, but that's part of the experience!
    Written 10 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Mathias n
    6 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Fun to see but the bean was fenced off for some reason put a real damper on the visit. I assume it’s either a short term project or for the winter weather. Regardless it was cool would like to see it up close next time.
    Written 27 March 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Caitlin H
    Kansas40 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Beautiful and historic Chicago building that has been skillfully retrofitted for wheelchair accessibility. Multiple bathroom configurations available depending on your personal needs.

    Educational and fun exhibits, including their ticked experiences.
    Written 9 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • LaurenSCO
    Scotland, UK95 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    The most amazing views! The tilt experience was great and I thought, reasonably priced! Staff were nice and queues moved fast. Only thing that stopped it being a 5 was the cost of the photos. You expect to pay a bit more at these things but I felt $30 for one print was excessive.
    Would definitely recommend when in Chicago!
    Written 21 November 2023
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • DriveAllNight
    New City, NY261 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Quintessential Chicago - you can’t be here without walking along the river. Again and again! Loved looking at the architecture as we walked.
    Written 8 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • hockeyaw19
    Marlborough, MA648 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Killed an hour or so here before a business meeting on a Thursday and was pleasantly surprised by the experience. Some excellent exhibits, active animals, and clean bathrooms. I entered right at opening and had most of the place to myself. Field trips started to trickle in as the day went on but I got to see most of the zoo in an hour and a half. Admission was free but donations are appreciated.
    Written 8 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Donald L
    1 contribution
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Very awesome the sets are great gory and informative. The ghost tour is really cool you can record and snap a pic so all in all great.
    Written 5 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • MojoLad
    Graton, CA305 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    We went here just to check out the famed Tiffany Dome, but as there was a free docent-led tour starting, decided to take in the whole experience. It was wonderful! And free! The building itself is something else, with jaw-droppingly beautiful mosaics throughout, recently cleaned and now in their full original glory, and of course the Dome, which just in itself is worthy of a visit. There's also a cool little (unafiiated) gift shop with very interesting art & souvenirs for sale entirely created by local Chicago artists. Strongly recommended.
    Written 22 April 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Taylor B
    Chicago, IL8,277 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    The Chicago River is a winding, wandering, wonderful body of water. It flows backward, piercing the heart of Chicago, linking Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. It is a system of rivers and canals with a combined length of 156 miles that runs through downtown Chicago. It is dyed bright green on St. Patrick's Day and is spanned by iconic bridges that open and close to traffic. Today, the main stem of the river flows west from Lake Michigan to Wolf Point, near the Merchandise Mart, where it converges with the North Branch to form the South Branch, which flows southwest and empties into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The North Branch has its beginnings in the northern suburbs where its three principal tributaries converge -- Skokie River, Rondout and Mettawa -- and continue south through Niles before entering Chicago near the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Devon Avenue. Meanwhile, the South Branch enters the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at Damen Avenue and flows down the canal through the southwestern suburbs and, in time, into the Des Plaines River between Crest Hill and Lockport, eventually reaching the Gulf of Mexico. Historically, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, though probably not the first Europeans to visit the area, are the first recorded explorers to have visited the Chicago River in 1673. Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, acknowledged to be the first permanent resident of Chicago, built a farm on the north bank at the mouth of the river in the 1780s. In 1803, Fort Dearborn was constructed on the bank opposite what had been Point du Sable's settlement, on the site of the present day Michigan Avenue Bridge. The first bridge over the river was constructed over the North Branch near present day Kinzie Street in 1832. A second bridge over the South Branch near Randolph Street was added in 1833. Today, the Chicago River is spanned by 38 bridges, down from a peak of 52. To learn about the history of the Chicago River and how the bridges are raised and lowered, visit the five-story, 1,613-square-foot McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum at the southwest bridgehouse of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Looking for other ways to enjoy the river? Take a lightening fast cruise on the speedy Seadog, which jets off from Navy Pier, speeds along the lakefront, then zips down the river. allowing passengers to see the most famous riverfront buildings, including Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, Willis Tower, Marina City, Lyric Opera and Merchandise Mart. Take a ride on a fireboat, paddle a kayak, take a guided architectural tour that circles the Loop and glides past the spot where the first settlers to Chicago set up their home base or hail a water taxi to travel via the Chicago River to Chinatown, Navy Pier, the Museum Campus, Willis Tower, Michigan Avenue and Union Station. All in all, there are many exciting ways to explore the Chicago River.
    Written 4 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • Baybug2
    Macon, GA315 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Just be prepared for the wind...........it was nice and warm and people were out and about. It was our first time visiting the Pier. It was nicely done and very spread out so you could move about even when it was busy.

    We will come back for the boat tours and probably some good food as well.

    The view is just absolutely beautiful. It is really hard to believe it is a freshwater lake. Reminded us alot of the Destin FL harbor.
    Written 30 April 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
  • hockeyaw19
    Marlborough, MA648 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Pretty nice fountain set in the more southern portion of Millennium Park. We went in mid-may and the fountain was in full action and was nice to watch for a bit as we strolled the grounds. Note - there is not much shade in this area so you'll be sunblasted.

    It's also the fountain prominently displayed during the opening of Married with Children.
    Written 8 June 2024
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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