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Free Things to Do in Chicago

It's easy to spend money in Chicago, what with shopping, museum-entrance fees, restaurants, and theater, but if you'd like to put your wallet away for a while, here are some options. The Lincoln Park Zoo is also free.

Free Art

Chicago has some of the most famous public art in the country, including a Picasso in Daley Plaza, Alexander Calder's Flamingo in Federal Plaza, and the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park. For a fairly comprehensive list, see cityofchicago.org/publicart or pick up a Chicago Public Art guide at a visitor center.

The City Gallery (806 N. Michigan Ave. 312/742–0808) in the Historic Water Tower has rotating exhibits of Chicago-themed photography.

Five different galleries showcase contemporary visual art by local artists at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St. 312/744–6630 www.chicagoculturalcenter.org).

Free Concerts

Grant Park and Millennium Park host regular classical and pop concerts in summer. For a schedule, pick up the Chicago Reader or visit the TimeOut Chicago website at www.timeoutchicago.com.

Chicago is a festival town, celebrating blues, jazz, and world music during the warm months. For a schedule, see www.explorechicago.org.

Free concerts—from classic and jazz to electronica and world beat—are performed most weekdays at 12:15 in the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St. 312/744–6630 www.chicagoculturalcenter.org).

Free Movies

Local library branches and parks across the city show free movies throughout the summer—check the Chicago Park District website for details (www.chicagoparkdistrict.com).

Free Fireworks

Every Wednesday and Saturday night in summer Navy Pier puts on a showy display of colorful explosives. Watch from the pier or along the waterfront opposite Buckingham Fountain.

Free Improv

The world-famous Second City comedy troupe has a free improv set after the last performance every night but Friday. For more information, go to www.secondcity.com or call 312/664–4032.

Free Museum Days

Always Free: Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Museum of Contemporary Photography, National Museum of Mexican Art, Oriental Institute Museum, Smart Museum of Art

Sunday: DuSable Museum of African-American History

Tuesday: Swedish American Museum Center (second Tuesday of each month)

Wednesday: Art Institute of Chicago (first and second Wednesday of each month)

Thursday: Chicago Children's Museum (5–8 pm only), Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

The Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Field Museum, among others, offer free admission on certain weekdays in the winter; call the museums or visit their websites for specific dates.

Updated: 02-2014

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