Free (or cheap) Autumn Entertainment

So it seemed like it was time to update the blog with a new batch of free or cheap ways to entertain yourself as a graduate student.  Courses haven’t started so there is no excuse for not trying out a few of these options before you are drowning in reading.

First for incoming students it is great to know that your University of Chicago ID serves as your arts pass to get you in free or discounted to many area museums and theaters.

The Chicago Cultural Center

Ceiling at the Chicago Cultural Center

Festivals and Lectures

There will be many fantastic lectures on campus. However, the Chicago Humanities Festival hosts events all over the city in October and November. Most of them free or very cheap for students there is no excuse not to go see Steven Sondheim, Laurie Anderson or Jonathan Franzen speak.

Many Chicago street festivals are still happening in September and October.

Check out the Renegade Craft Fair September 10-11, Oktoberfest, September 23-24 or the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, September 24-25. A full list is here. Don’t miss free concerts in Millenium Park or Grant Park.


Discounted theater tickets are available the week of performances at hottix It is always worth asking for a student rate or checking your arts pass discount at most theaters.

Be sure to check out my guide to Chicago theaters here.  There are over 200 small theaters in Chicago covering ever style, taste and price range, many small companies still have industry nights, or pay-what-you-can nights.

More free things after the jump . . .


The Gene Siskel Film Center is in downtown Chicago and tickets are $7 with your student ID.


With a Chicago Public Library card you can check out museum passes this is a great way to get a friend or family member in with you for free. You can get a library card with and ID and two bills that prove you live in Chicago.


Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago

Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago now has free Wednesdays for Illinois residents on the first and second Wednesday of every month. The museum is always free to University of Chicago students with your ID and Thursday evenings it is open until 8:00 pm

The Museum of Contemporary Art is free to Illinois residents on Tuesdays year round and free with your student ID. Performances and lectures are discounted with your student ID

The Oriental Institute is on the University of Chicago campus and has one of the best free collections of Egyptian, Nubian and Persian art out there. It is always quiet and nearly empty and deserves more viewers.

The Field Museum – Illinois residents have free general admission on the following days: August 29-31, September 6-9, 14-15, 19, 22, 25, October 2, 4, 11, 26, 31, November 1, 3, 7, 20, 28-29 and December 4-8  (Special exhibits may still require ticket purchase)

The Museum of Science and Industry – General admission is free on the following days:  September 6-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30 and October 31

The Shedd Aquarium – Illinois residents get free general admission on Mondays and Tuesdays and special exhibits are discounted on the following days September 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27 and October 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is always free!  Elephants and skyscrapers in one place!

Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory is also always free to the public this historic conservatory was damaged by a severe hailstorm so consider giving them a donation to help repair and preserve the building.

The Chicago Park District has an ongoing series of events in parks throughout the city including music performances, movies and other events.  These go on well into September and October so be sure to check the schedule.

The Chicago Cultural Center is located in the old library with beautiful mosaics and stained glass. There are often free or inexpensive performances and free art exhibits in the building.  Check  the website or sign up for the mailing list to keep up to date.

So you have no excuses. Many of you are already in Chicago and have been stopping by the office so email the MAPH-etc list and get a group together for a cheap meet up.

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