By Polly Fitz
Having lived in and around Chicago all my life, I may be a little bit biased, but I think Chicago is a world-class city. There’s award-winning theater and restaurants, prestigious museums and miles of parks and lakefront. And what makes it even better is that many of Chicago’s institutions offer free or discounted programs, making it easy — and cheap — to enjoy all that Chicago has to offer.
Here’s just a small sample of free and discounted programs to make your Chicago vacation a cheap vacation:
The Art Institute of Chicago: 111 S. Michigan Ave. Free Thursday and Friday evenings, 5-9 p.m.
Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art: 220 E. Chicago Ave. (one block east of Michigan Ave.) Free all day on Tuesdays.
Chicago Cultural Center: 78 East Washington St. The center hosts art exhibits, films, dance events, concerts and more, and it’s always free — every day.
Art Gallery Tours: The Chicago Art Dealers Association offers free gallery tours Saturday mornings at 11. Tours are led by a gallery owner and generally include 4 galleries. Meet at the Starbucks at 750 N. Franklin.
Hot Tix sells discount tickets to some of Chicago’s most popular shows. Some tickets are available online; others must be purchased in person. You can’t buy these tickets too far in advance; they’re often for the current day or 3-4 days out.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company: 1650 N. Halsted St. Twenty tickets priced at $20 are available for most subscription shows on the day of the performance beginning at 11 a.m. (Monday-Saturday) and 1 p.m. (Sunday). Tickets may be purchased by phone or in person. Limit two per person.
Goodman Theatre: At 10 a.m. each day, remaining mezzanine-level tickets for that day’s show(s) are available for half-price online (promo code MEZZTIX); you can buy the tickets at the box office beginning at noon. (Tickets subject to availability; handling fees apply.)
Lincoln Park Zoo: 2200 N. Cannon Drive. Free every day.
Chicago Children’s Museum: 700 E. Grand Ave. (on Navy Pier). Free the first Monday of the month for kids aged 15 and younger. Free for everyone Thursday evenings 5-8 p.m.
I know lots of other cities have similar programs, and we’d love to hear about them. What are some of the free and cheap activities that you enjoy in your city? Is there a great restaurant that offers a regular dinner special? Free walking tours of some of the landmarks? Share your tips in the comments section. We may use them in a future story.
Polly Fitz is an editor for CheapTickets.