Free (or cheap) summer entertainment

So there are only a couple of weeks of the year left and you are frantically finishing papers. Many of you have family arriving for convocation and many of you are staying in Chicago for the summer or longer.

Here is a list of all the great free things you can do in Chicago before you have to start paying off student loans, or a cheap way to show visiting friends family a good time while exploring places outside of the Regenstein Library.

Millennium Park

Museum Free Days

Adler Planetarium – Free June 1, 6-10

Art Institute – Free on the first and second Wednesdays of every Month starting in June

Chicago Cultural Center – Has free exhibits and lunch concerts

Chicago History Museum – Free June 6, 13, 20 & 27

DuSable Museum – Free every Sunday

Field Museum – Free June 7 & 13; July 11; August 8, 29 & 31

Lincoln Park Zoo – Free year round

(Don’t forget  to hit the mold-a-rama machines for cheap souvenirs!)


Who doesn’t want a purple Mold-a-rama Rhino?

MCA – Free Tuesdays 10:00am-8:00pm

Museum of Science and Industry – Free June 1, 2, 6-9

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – Free June 2,9, 16, 23 & 30

Shedd Aquarium -Free June 12-16

They have Jellyfish!



Did you know that you can check out passes to museums at the public library? They are available on a first come first serve basis with a valid library card.

Events in Chicago Parks

In addition to just enjoying Chicago’s parks and lakefront there are many free activities in parks throughout the summer.

Free movies in parks across the city. See the schedule here.

Grant Park Music Festival schedule here.

Millennium Park Concert schedule here.

Theatre on the Lake sponsored by the Park District offers remounts of some of the best productions of the year with fairly inexpensive tickets. See the schedule.

Literary/Book Events

Did you know U of C Press offers a free ebook every month? Click here to get yours.

Poetry Foundation Open House June 25-26 Has a wide variety of panels, readings and book events.

Printers Row Lit Fest June 4-5 has all kinds of books, speakers, and author events

Newberry Library Book Fair July 28-31 your chance to get cheap used books and enjoy Bughouse square debates and speaker events

Little City Book Fair August 19-21 is a bit of a drive but another chance to get cheap summer reading.

Street Festivals

Chicago hosts countless street festivals with concerts, food and the traditional street festival vendors. Many are free. Explore everything from Bluesfest to Sausagefest to the Renegade Craft Fair in this Metromix guide.

Most of all in these last few weeks, Don’t Panic! You will get done, you will have time to look for jobs, and you will be able to enjoy lots of free things with friends during a slower paced Chicago summer.

6 thoughts on “Free (or cheap) summer entertainment

  1. Jane Hanna

    Maren, is there really a purple rhino at the LPZoo? Last time I was there, they had a blue cow and a green gorilla.
    I MUST have a purple rhino to add to my family of 45+ MARs…

  2. marenr Post author

    Truthfully, I think I got a Rhino at the Brookfield Zoo and it was black not fantastic purple. I just posted the purple rhino because I too would love one.

  3. Jane Hanna

    Bah! Oh well. If things go my way, my summer will include a road trip to Detroit so that I can stop at the Henry Ford Museum/ Greenfield Village and pick up the MARs they have there. (including a Wienermobile. A WIENERMOBILE!!!)

  4. Andy

    Any free or cheap entertainment in the Fall? Autumn is really nice in the Windy City. Planning to visit my cousin in October.

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