City guides

Cheap things to do in Chicago

@bored_in_chicago knows all the best ways to enjoy Chicago without breaking the bank.

February 2, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 15
The dinosaur exhibit of the Field Museum in Chicago, with a T-Rex skeleton in the foreground.

Bored in Chicago? Not likely with @bored_in_chicago around! This popular Chicago influencer and content creator knows all the best ways to avoid boredom in the windy city and is more than happy to share their recommendations and advice. Whether it's hot tips about where to score the best city views or hidden street eat snacks, we sat down with @bored_in_Chicago to discuss their favourite cheap things to do in Chicago.

1. If someone only has one day in Chicago, what are the (affordable) things they have to do?

I would recommend hitting all of the major tourist spots first, especially since these are often free: Millennium Park, walk along the riverwalk, explore Michigan Ave, etc. For great views, go to the Signature Room in the Hancock building, buy only a drink, and take in the beautiful skyline. And, explore our neighborhoods! A simple walk along Clark Street lets you see several Chicago neighborhoods, each with their own unique characteristics. And of course, enjoy some amazing food: most of the iconic foods (deep dish, tavern pizza, hot dogs, and Italian beef) are all already fairly affordable!

2. What’s an activity I can do in Chicago for less than $10?

Catch a comedy show! Chicago has a storied comedic history, and you can find incredible comedy shows all across the city – some for less than $10, and some for completely free (provided you buy a drink). Even top-tier comedy institution Second City offers inexpensive shows: they are currently running a $10 show aptly named “Ten Dollar Comedy”.

3. What affordable activity would you recommend for a family?

Visit one of the many museums! For Illinois residents, all of the major Chicago museums (MSI, Art Institute, Field, etc) offer many days per year where entry is completely free. If not an Illinois resident or not able to visit a museum on one of the free days, there are still hundreds of other, smaller museums scattered around the city that are always free (with suggested donation). Some recommendations are the Chinese-American Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, or the South Side Community Arts Center.

4. What do you think is the best “hidden gem” in Chicago?

It is hard to officially call it a “hidden gem”, but so many Chicagoans have never gone to have phở (Vietnamese noodle soup) in Uptown on Argyle Street. Phở is fantastic and affordable: the ultimate meal for when you’re cold, sick, or tired, and Argyle is packed with delicious restaurants and lesser known stores. Try Phở Loan or Nhà Hàng (or honestly any of the other spots nearby)!

5. What’s your favorite cheap indoor activity in Chicago?

Visit one of the two main conservatories in Chicago: Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory. They are both completely free to visit, located in historic buildings, and filled with beautiful plantlife. They are especially amazing to visit in the winter: when it is cold, dry, and gray outside, the conservatories are still warm, humid, and full of color!

6. What’s your favorite cheap outdoor activity in Chicago?

Visit one of the many Chicago parks – there is a ton of variety amongst them and a lot to do in each… plus they are free! Some great examples: Steelworkers Park, former site of an old steel mill; Jackson Park, home to Cherry Blossoms and the Japanese Garden; Humboldt Park, with a beautiful lagoon and boathouse; or Lincoln Park, with wildlife, ponds, and the zoo (also free)!


So there you have it! Six cheap (even free!) things to do in Chicago as recommended by a real Chicago insider. If you're looking for more things to do in Chicago be sure to check out our full Chicago City Guide.

*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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Cam Brenson manages the social media account Bored in Chicago, which focuses on finding the most fun, affordable, exciting, and unique things to do in Chicago so that you are never bored! Cam has lived in Chicago for most of his life and is passionate about showcasing the city when not spending time with friends/family, playing chess, or running along Chicago’s many running trails.