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Cheap City, USA: Chicago

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Cheap City, USA is a CheapTickets blog series where we show you that any city can be enjoyed on a budget if you know where to look. In this breakdown of Cheap City, USA, we take a look at Chicago.

Millennium Park and Grant Park

Let’s start with the obvious but no less essential must-see Chicago attractions. You could easily spend a whole day walking around Millennium Park and Grant Park, both free to enter and explore, but let’s go over the highlights. The famously photographed Cloud Gate or “The Bean,” might be the only thing on earth with more selfies than Kim Kardashian. Get to this one early in the day when the crowds are thin. Also check out the Pritzker Pavilion before heading south to Buckingham Fountain and the many gardens in Grant Park.

The Bean; Photo credit: Andrew E. Larsen

The Bean; Photo credit: Andrew E. Larsen


Chicago Museums: Free and cheap days

The windy city has some world-famous museums and one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world. Here are the best times to go and save a few dinosaur bones.

Lincoln Park Zoo: Always free and open year-round! Stroll through a scenery of lions, alpacas, chimps and seals.

The Field Museum: Regularly $18; offers discounted and free days about twice a week, though the free days only apply to those with an Illinois ID. Out of staters may be out of luck.

The Shedd Aquarium: Regularly $40; offers free admission Mondays and Tuesdays for Illinois residents.

Shedd Aquarium; Photo credit: David Ohmer

Shedd Aquarium; Photo credit: David Ohmer

Museum of Science and Industry: Regularly $18; offers free admission on select days to Illinois residents.

Adler Planetarium: Regularly $12; offers free admission Mondays-Wednesdays to Illinois residents.

Art Institute of Chicago: Regularly $23; offers free admission to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Adler Planetarium; Photo credit: Rob Pongsajapan

Adler Planetarium; Photo credit: Rob Pongsajapan


Comedy Shows

Chicago is a funny city. It’s got some of the best improv theaters and comedy clubs in the country, producing greats like Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Mike Meyers. It’s hard to see a bad show in the 312, but here are some free, cheap and all good shows to check out:

TJ & Dave: Two critically acclaimed improv veterans play in a way that’s so impressive you’ll be trying to figure out how they did it. They are creepily in sync with one another on stage, but it’s all laughs in the audience. Wednesdays at 10:40 p.m. at iO Theater; $10.

Messing With A Friend: Seasoned improviser Susan Messing hosts and improvises each week inviting other comedians from around town to play with her. Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. at Annoyance Theater; $5.

TJ and Dave; Photo credit: Jeffrey Zeldman

TJ and Dave; Photo credit: Jeffrey Zeldman

Shame That Tune: Improvised music is like magic. You know there’s a reasonable explanation to how it’s done, yet you still suspect sorcery. This show has a game show format where guests tell embarrassing stories and the hosts turn them into “warped covers of popular songs.” Monthly performances at The Hideout; $5

The Lincoln Lodge: This show is always good for a laugh. It’s been a haven stage for emerging stand-up acts for the last 14 years. Fridays at 8 p.m. at the SubT Lounge; free (donation suggested).

Armando Diaz Experience: This show has been running strong at iO for 10 years. Founded by now-famous comedians Adam McKay, Dave Koechner and Armando Diaz, the improvised show starts with a monologist to inspire the scenes. Said guest story-teller is often a well-known comedian or celebrity. Mondays at 8 p.m. at iO Theater; $12

Members of Armando Diaz Experience perform; Photo credit: Angela Manginelli

Members of Armando Diaz Experience perform; Courtesy of iO Theater, photo credit: Angela Manginelli


Live Music

Kingston Mines: This Lincoln Park blues clubs lays down the live tunes every night of the week. It’s hosted blues acts like B.B. King and Carl Weathersby. The vibe is southern casual. Go on a weeknight when the cover is only $12.

The Empty Bottle: If you’re looking for the hipster Brooklyn experience of Chicago, come here. What looks like a real hole-in-the-wall operation from the outside is home to some great live music acts. Almost all shows are $15 or less.

Elbow Room: Another Lincoln Park jam factory, the Elbow Room has live music all week long. A few notable past acts include The Shins, Cage The Elephant and Joss Stone. The average nightly cover is $5.

Performers at Kingston Mines; Photo credit: Jason Saul

Performers at Kingston Mines; Photo credit: Jason Saul


Lake Michigan

If you don’t stand/walk/bike along the edge of Lake Michigan while you’re in Chicago, you’re doing it wrong. All of the parks and beaches along the lakefront are free. For a peaceful, beachy view, go to Montrose Beach. North Avenue Beach draws the most crowds and is a good place to join in a beach volleyball game. The lakefronts surrounding Belmont Harbor are concrete-paved steps with breathtaking views of the The Loop’s skyscrapers, and make for a great sand-free picnic place.

North Ave. Beach; Photo credit: David Wilson

North Avenue Beach; Photo credit: David Wilson


Chicago Botanic Garden

This living museum has over 25 different gardens including an aquatic garden and a bonsai collection. Admission to the gardens is free. You’ll have to pay for parking if you drive; it’s about a half hour drive from the city. It’s 100% free if you make a day of it and do the two-hour bike ride there, but you’ll have a great view of the lake for most of your ride.

Lily pads at Chicago Botanic Gardens; Photo credit: Eden Pictures

Lily pads at Chicago Botanic Garden; Photo credit: Eden Pictures

Infuse a little Om into your city getaway – for free

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Money doesn’t grow on your tree pose. Fortunately, major cities across the country host free yoga classes through summer—perfect for traveling warriors who want to avoid the $10 to $25 per-class fee that’s standard at most yoga studios.

Plus, most of these yoga sessions are held outdoors in iconic cosmopolitan settings, which is ideal for travelers who want to combine a little mind-body-spirit TLC with sightseeing.

New York City

What: Bryant Park Yoga

Where: Bryant Park

When: Tuesdays 10-11 a.m. and Thursday 6-7 p.m., through Sept. 18, 2014

Work your downward dog under shady trees, surrounded by towering Manhattan skyscrapers in this summer series presented by Athleta. Mats are provided. Walk-ins are welcome, but visitors are encouraged to pre-register online.

Bryant Park Yoga - Photo by Bryant Park Corporation (1)

Bryant Park

What: Summer in the Square

Where: Union Square

When: Thursdays 7-8a.m. (South Plaza) and 7-8 p.m. (North Plaza)

Find solace in one of New York’s great public spaces in the morning or evening. A limited number of mats are provided, so participants are encouraged to bring their own. Families can enjoy Yoga StoryTime with Karma Kids from 10-11 a.m.

Credit: Union Square Partnership

Union Square. Credit: Union Square Partnership

What: Wanderlust 108

Where: Prospect Park, Brooklyn

When: Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014

The meditation and yoga portion of this bigger “mindful triathlon” event is free for those who register online by Aug. 15, 2014. With celebrated yoga teachers Seane Corn and Elena Brower leading the group, complemented with music by MC Yogi, it’s sure to be an energetic gathering in Brooklyn.

Credit: Jake Laub

Wanderlust 108 in Brooklyn. Credit: Jake Laub


What: Summer Yoga at Frog Pond

Where: The Boston Common Frog Pond

When: Thursdays, 6-7:15 p.m., through Aug. 28, 2014

Enjoy an all-levels vinyasa yoga flow in Boston’s most historic park. The class meets behind the Frog Pond Carousel. Bring your own mat, and check for weather-related cancelations on the Facebook page.


What: Everybody Free Yoga

Where: Venues all over Chicago

When: Varying times through Sept. 6, 2014

This summer initiative spearheaded by Moksha Yoga Center, Chicago’s largest yoga studio, offers free yoga at parks, beaches and festivals throughout the city. Among the offerings: Saturday morning yoga at Millennium Park and Candlelight Yoga at Foster Beach during full moons. Check the website for a complete schedule.

Millennium Park Credit: Jen Pagonis

Millennium Park. Credit: Jen Pagonis

What: Yoga Rocks the Park

Where: Northside Preparatory High School

When: Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

Part of a bigger grassroots initiative to bring yoga into parks across the country, the Chicago event is free to those who register online. Sponsored by YOGA SIX, the class will include live music.

Washington, D.C.

What: Yoga in the Park

Where: Dupont Circle

When: Wednesdays, 6-7 p.m., Through Oct. 1, 2014

Hosted by lululemon Logan Circle, this is an all-level class in the heart of one of DC’s trendiest ‘hoods. Check the Facebook page for weather updates.

Meridian Hill Park

Meridian Hill Park

What: Yoga in the Park 2014

Where: Meridian Hill Park

When: Sundays, 5-6:30 p.m., Through August

Get your OM on in this gorgeous 12-acre park in the Columbia Heights-Adams Morgan neighborhoods of northwest DC. Hosted by Bikram Yoga Dupont, this all-level class celebrates its 10th summer season.


What: Yoga in the Park

Where: Bayfront Park (Tina Hills Pavilion)

When: Mondays and Wednesdays, 6-7:15 p.m.; Saturdays, 9-10:15 a.m.

Free yoga is offered year-round at this park overlooking Biscayne Bay and hugged by Miami’s luxurious high-rises and palm trees. Participants should bring their own mats.

Bayfront Park in Miami

Bayfront Park in Miami

Las Vegas

What: Blissfully Free Sundays

Where: Barefoot Sanctuary
(located inside Whole Foods Market at Town Square)

When: Sundays at 4:30 p.m., through 2014

After a weekend of partying hard on The Strip, detox with a mellow yoga class suitable for beginners at Barefoot Sanctuary — the only yoga studio on the Las Vegas Strip, inside the Whole Foods Town Square.

Barefoot Sanctuary located along the Las Vegas Strip

Barefoot Sanctuary located along the Las Vegas Strip

What: Sunday Morning Yoga

Where: lululemon, Las Vegas Fashion Show Mall

When: Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

lululemon is always a great go-to for free yoga since most stores offer no-cost classes on weekends. The Las Vegas location extends classes to the public on Sunday mornings. Mats are provided, but arrive early to snag a spot.

Dallas-Fort Worth

What: DFW Free Day of Yoga

Where: Throughout Dallas-Fort Worth

When: Aug. 31 & Sept. 1, 2014

If you’re in Dallas-Fort Worth for the Labor Day Weekend, take advantage of free yoga across the city at more than 170 participating studios on Sept, 1. A free group class will also take place at the Fort Worth Water Gardens on Sunday, Aug. 31, at 5 p.m.

Los Angeles

What: Runyon Canyon Free Daily Yoga

Where: Runyon Canyon Park (Fuller Avenue entrance)

When: Everyday, see schedule

It’s tough to find free yoga in Los Angeles. But no-cost classes are offered at Runyon Canyon not just once a week – but several times daily! The classes, which get stellar Yelp reviews, are appropriate for all levels. Donations are accepted and appreciated.

Runyon Canyon Park. Credit: Ryan Vaarsi

Runyon Canyon Park. Credit: Ryan Vaarsi

San Francisco

What: Yoga in Golden Gate Park

Where: Golden Gate Park (Big Rec Baseball Field)

When: Sundays at 11 a.m.

Hold your tree pose amidst the trees in one of San Francisco’s most beautiful parks. While the class is technically free, teachers accept donations to benefit the Purusha Seva Project. Sparing a few bucks is good for karma, after all.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

What: Rooftop Yoga by Kari Gregg

Where: Lombardi Sports’ Rooftop

When: Sundays at 11 a.m.

Enjoy yoga under the skies atop a rooftop in San Francisco’s hip Nob Hill neighborhood. Bring your own mat for this 60-minute all-levels class and leave with a smile – plus, a 20-percent-off coupon for in-store merchandise.

Lombardi Sports Rooftop in Nob Hill

Lombardi Sports Rooftop in Nob Hill


What: Gentle Yoga

Where: Seattle Center Exhibition Hall Lawn

When: Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m., Through Aug. 20, 2014

Breathe and gently stretch your body in this Hatha yoga class suitable for beginners. Drop-ins are welcome, but bring your own yoga mat.

Olympic Sculpture Park. Credit: Robert Wade

Olympic Sculpture Park. Credit: Robert Wade

What: Summer at SAM Olympic Sculpture Park

Where: Olympic Sculpture Park

When: Saturdays, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Through Aug. 25, 2014

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) combines the outdoors with art and yoga for a weekly summer yoga practice in its Olympic Sculpture Park. Bring your own mat and check the Facebook page for more information and weather-related cancelations.

A pair of cheap Chicago hotels for St. Patty’s Day weekend

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

By Vince Font

Chicago painted the river green on March 12, but locals will still be painting the town red beyond Patty's Day. Credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar.

This might sound strange, but every time I think about St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago I can’t help remembering the scene from “The Fugitive” where Harrison Ford uses the parading throngs to make good on his getaway from Tommy Lee Jones. While the actual parade and river dyeing happened over the weekend, the party will most definitely carry on past the actual holiday, making for a great last-minute trip if you can manage it.

Maybe it was seeing the waters of the Chicago River dyed green on such a big screen that started my fascination, or the fact that the people in the parade all seemed to be having such a good time that I’d rather have had the camera follow them for the next hour and a half. Either way, real life has a way of proving that sometimes it’s entirely impossible to climb into your favorite movie scenes — and that doing so in this case doesn’t have to be all that expensive, especially if you know how to round up some of the best cheap Chicago hotels.


Cheap Halloween getaways to the Windy City

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Opened in 1858, the "Old Joliet Prsion" is said to be a haunted hotspot. Credit: keith_011764.

By Maria Mora

For a cheap Halloween getaway, you’ll find it hard to resist Windy City where cheap Chicago hotels, rustling leaves and cool fall temps and early bargains on holiday shopping deals are only half the reason to go. For me, it’s the many Halloween attractions that keep me coming back for more. Don’t take my word for it — plan your trip now and don’t miss these favorite Chicago Halloween celebrations.


Cheap Chicago hotels for New Year’s Eve

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Chicago hotels
By Kate Schwartz

Ring in the New Year in the Windy City with CheapTickets’ cheap Chicago hotels. Known for its breathtaking architecture and delectable cuisine, Chicago has something for everyone. With CheapTickets’ hotel deals, plus tips on cheap New Year’s Eve fun, you’ll be able to start the New Year with some cash in your pocket. Check out CheapTickets cheap guide to New Year’s Eve in Chicago.

Hotel Allegro: Located in Chicago’s Loop, Hotel Allegro is surrounded by the Windy City’s most astounding architecture and steps from the famous Chicago River. CheapTickets is teaming up with Hotel Allegro to offer 20% off your stay between now and February 15, 2009. For a cheap New Year’s Eve celebration, walk across the street for a drink at the Encore Liquid Lounge, or take a short cab ride to see the free fireworks show at Navy Pier.

Hotel Burnham: Pair cheap travel with cheap shopping, and you’ll be bringing in the New Year in style. Hotel Burnham is located across the street from Chicago’s flagship Macy’s store on State Street, so you’ll be in position to take advantage of any New Year’s sales. Hotel Burnham also is offering 20% off your stay through February 15. And for cheap New Year’s Eve options, take a romantic midnight stroll through Millennium Park or catch the lights on Michigan Avenue.

Hotel Monaco: Stay at Hotel Monaco this New Year’s Eve and you’ll be in position no matter how you decide to celebrate. Hotel Monaco is just steps from Michigan Avenue and Millenium Park, in the heart of downtown, so you’re close to great clubs, restaurants and attractions. Book with CheapTickets and save 20% on your stay.

The Windy City is where it’s at, so get the party started for less when you book your cheap Chicago hotel on CheapTickets.

CheapTickets resources:

Kate Schwartz is a marketing coordinator for CheapTickets. When
she’s not searching for the best travel deals, she’s out taking
advantage of them!  From hiking the Rockies to lounging on the beaches
of Barcelona, Kate is always looking for adventure.

Cheap hotels, activities make cities great travel destinations

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

By Kate Schwartz

Get the most for your money this holiday season with a cheap vacation to a big city. As cultural and transportation hubs, it’s easy to find cheap flights to and cheap hotels in big cities, and they offer plenty of cheap — and sometimes free — activities. From visiting museums on days when they offer free admission, to taking efficient and cost-friendly (not to mention eco-friendly) public transportation, big cities can be fun and cheap vacation destinations. This holiday season, CheapTickets is offering great deals on cheap hotels in big cities across the country.  Here are just some of the ways you can save on your big city adventure:

Chicago: Enjoy being steps away from Lake Michigan and a mile of magnificent shopping when you stay at the Talbot Hotel in Chicago. For a limited time, CheapTickets is making your stay cheaper with 25% off your reservation. For cheap travel fun, take a short walk to the Museum of Contemporary Art and see the latest and greatest for free on Tuesdays.

New York: Although the city never sleeps, you may have to, and when you do, the Wellington Hotel provides a cheap place to rest your head. With 15% off your stay, traveling to New York City has never been cheaper.  Conveniently located a mere three blocks from Central Park, you can spend your days exploring without having to spend a penny.

Los Angeles: Hollywood here you come! Travel like a celebrity this holiday season without breaking the bank. The Wilshire Grand Hotel is offering an astounding 50% off a two-night stay. For a fun and free travel activity, take a trip to the Griffith Observatory. A mere seventeen minutes away from the Wilshire Grand Hotel, this popular attraction includes a free observatory, museum and park.

Wherever your travels take you, there are always ways to save money. With cheap flights and cheap hotels from CheapTickets, combined with savvy travel tips, you can always afford to explore!

CheapTickets resources:

Kate Schwartz is a marketing coordinator for CheapTickets. When
she’s not searching for the best travel deals, she’s out taking
advantage of them!  From hiking the Rockies to lounging on the beaches
of Barcelona, Kate is always looking for adventure.

Hotel deals: Top spots for holiday travel

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

The holiday travel season is fast approaching, and if you’re planning to head out of town for Thanksgiving or take a Christmas vacation, take note: CheapTickets has identified the top 10 holiday travel destinations for 2008.

The list includes a mix of big cities and beach vacation destinations, with Florida and Mexico cities grabbing the most spots. According to CheapTickets’ data, Las Vegas hotels are the most popular for holiday travel, while travelers also have booked plenty of rooms in New York hotels and Cancun hotels.

Travel deal alert: Average rates are less than $100 at Las Vegas hotels, Orlando hotels and Fort Lauderdale hotels.

Check out these popular travel spots and average daily hotel rates.

CheapTickets’ 10 Most Popular Holiday Getaways
1. Las Vegas / $97.74 6. Riviera Maya, Mexico / $284.21
2. New York City / $273.95 7. Miami, Fla. / $134.49
3. Cancun, Mexico / $194.62 8. Chicago, Ill. / $135.52
4. Orlando, Fla. / $83.80 9. Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / $87.02
5. Oahu, Hi. / $151.08 10. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico / $155.18

The data is based on the average price for all hotel bookings on CheapTickets compared to the listed destinations for arrivals November 24 – December 31, 2008.

CheapTickets resources:

Cheap flights for September weekend getaways

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Cheap tickets make travel easy. And CheapTickets is making it easy for you to plan a weekend getaway in September with cheap flights to cities across the U.S.

Check out these sample airfares (which include all taxes and fees):

  • Atlanta to Los Angeles: $309
  • Chicago to Las Vegas: $287
  • New Orleans to New York City: $252
  • New York City to Ft. Lauderdale: $173
  • San Francisco to Chicago: $274
  • Philadelphia to Orlando: $151

These cheap tickets are for travel in September — leaving Thursday through Saturday and returning Sunday through Tuesday.

September is right around the corner. So pick a weekend and find your cheap tickets.

CheapTickets resources:


Save up to 50% on Starwood hotels

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Cheap hotels are easy to find wherever you travel with this sale from Starwood Hotels.

For a limited time, you can save up to 50% on regular rates at select hotels. Check out these hotels, and look for other participating hotels throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean:

The Westin Boston Waterfront
The Park Plaza Hotel

The Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago
Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers

Los Angeles
The Westin Pasadena
Sheraton Universal

Le Centre Sheraton

New York City
Sheraton Manhattan at Times Square
Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers

San Diego
Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina

The Westin Harbour Castle
Le Meridien King Edward

Washington DC
The Westin Arlington
The Westin Alexandria

Book your hotel room by August 11 and travel through September 28 to take advantage of this sale.

CheapTickets resources:

Free, cheap ways to enjoy popular Chicago attractions

Friday, July 11th, 2008

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.

CheapTickets resources:

Polly Fitz is an editor for CheapTickets.