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Cheap Right Now gives a snapshot of a cheap weekend getaway each month.

People around the country will tell you that there’s no better place in the world to be than downtown Chicago in the summertime. It’s true, Chicago summers are enticing and overflowing with festivals, free activities and restaurant patios. But Chicago in November (and all of fall) is just as captivating. The leaves are losing their grip on the trees and the city is beginning to illuminate with that magical holiday glow. The lights glisten longer amid an early nightfall, and the warmth of city’s impeccable food and drink scene warms that November chill.

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Courtesy of Steven Vance.

Courtesy of Steven Vance.

Plane, train or automobile — Take your pick. Chicago is a major transportation hub with main veins leading to it from all over the country. It has two international airports, O’Hare and Midway, with trains providing easy access downtown, and marks a crossroads for several interstates, making travel by car easy as well. It’s also accessible by bus, Amtrak and even boat, if you are feeling really adventurous.

 

Courtesy of Ron Cogswell.

Courtesy of Ron Cogswell.

Cheap local transit — Most Chicagoans don’t own cars, so getting around town is a piece of cake. Take the Chicago Transit Authority buses or trains, also known as the L, anywhere in the city for $2.25 a ride. If you want to go to the suburbs, Metra trains can take you there. Chicago is walkable though, so for the cheapest form of transit, use your feet and see the sights. Divvy, Chicago’s bikeshare program, is another good option if the weather holds up, but prices just went up to $9.95 for a 24-hour pass, and it will charge you a fee if you don’t dock the bike every 30 minutes. 

Thanksgiving Day Parade. Courtesy of Randy Escalada

Thanksgiving Day Parade. Courtesy of Randy Escalada

Stare on State Street — Chicago’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade is not to be missed if you are in town for the holiday. It starts at 8 a.m. and takes over State Street from Congress Parkway to Randolph Street. Watch floats, giant balloons, marching bands and local celebrities traverse downtown. If your neck starts to hurt from looking up, there will be plenty of people watching to do as well. And all that entertainment won’t cost youa dime.

 

Courtesy of Ryan Dickey.

Courtesy of Ryan Dickey.

Taste fall in the alcohol — Revolution Brewing, one of Chicago’s premier breweries, makes a mean Oktoberfest. And fortunate for fellow beer lovers, Revolution offers free tours of its production facility at 3340 N. Kedzie on a first-come, first-serve basis. The tours fill up fast, especially on the weekends, so get there early. It comes with a tasting and is connected to its tap room, which serves many brews that never get bottled and distributed to the public. Revolution brews very seasonally, so you should be able to appreciate fall with every sip.

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Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Dine on doughnuts — The fierce doughnut competition in the city has raised the bar quite high for the delicious treats, far above and beyond what you could get at any run-of-the-mill doughnut joint. Specialty doughnut shops pepper the city and are worth waiting in line for. Try Firecakes Donuts, Stan’s Donuts, Do-Rite Donuts, the Doughnut Vault or Glazed and Infused. Although prices at these shops are higher than most, getting one doughnut as breakfast is a cheaper option than an elaborate brunch elsewhere, and these things are undoubtedly gourmet. If you want to cut costs even further, stop at any of the dozens of Dunkin’ Donuts.

 

View of Chicago from the water taxi. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

View of Chicago from the water taxi. Courtesy of Ally Marotti.

Take in the views by sea — Chicago’s geography lends itself quite nicely to boat rides, and the options for those longing to set sail are many. There are architecture tours, sunset cruises and other passenger barges. But those options can cost upwards of $40 a person. Take a water taxi from Navy Pier to the museum campus through Chicago Harbor for a mere $8 (which would likely be cheaper than if a normal taxi drove you that distance), and take in sweeping views of the skyline. Go on a warmer day since passengers are exposed to the elements during the trip. Rides are short, though, so you won’t be bitten too hard by that November chill. Pro tip: If you aren’t into the boat thing, walk out to the Adler Planetarium for more great views of the city.

 

Courtesy of Daniel X. O'Neil.

Courtesy of Daniel X. O’Neil.

Take your kinder to Christkindlmarket — The city sets up a traditional German Christmas market in Daley Plaza in the heart of the city, opening on Nov. 20. Try some German mulled wine or shop around and get a head start on some of your Christmas shopping. Visiting the Christkindlmarket is a sacred holiday tradition to most Chicagoans, so make yourself at home and stop by.

 

Courtesy of Thomas Hawk.

Courtesy of Thomas Hawk.

BYOB — A spectacular way to save money but still experience Chicago’s world-renowned culinary scene are restaurants that allow patrons to bring their own alcohol. You’ll savebig on avoiding paying the premiums restaurants charge for a glass of wine, and these places usually have the best vibes. Dozens of sushi places across the city are BYOB. Other favorites include 90 Miles Cuban Cafe, which has a couple locations throughout the city, and Chilam Balam, a Mexican restaurant in Lakeview that is constantly changing its menu.

 

Views from the Signature Lounge. Courtesy of Salil Wadhavkar.

Views from the Signature Lounge. Courtesy of Salil Wadhavkar.

On top of the world — If seeing the city from above is a privilege reserved for those in planes and penthouses, the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building is a loop hole. This place sells drinks and appetizers that are slightly overpriced, but the views are stunning, allegedly allowing vistas of three states. Other observation decks in skyscrapers offer similar views, but most charge an entry fee of at least $20 per person. The Signature Lounge is free, besides, of course, the drink you’ll likely have there.

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Tagged: Cheap of the Month, Food & drink, Holidays, Off-season, Seasonal, Uncategorized

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