8 Free Things to do in Chicago This Summer

Chicago is a city that is filled with endless activities to do for your entire family. During the summer, there are many special events, activities, and things to do that can’t be experienced anywhere else. While the weather is warm, you can enjoy all of the outdoor festivities that Chicago has to offer. From beaches along Lake Michigan to live music concerts, this is sure to be a visit to the city that you won’t forget. There are even activities that you can enjoy for free and at your own pace, while either enjoying the sun or cooling off in the air conditioning. Here is a list of 8 experiences in Chicago that are completely free.

Walk along The Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is a 13 block strip that goes through downtown Chicago along Michigan Avenue. It’s a hub for culture, art, and history, and you can see 11 historical landmarks including the Chicago Water Tower along it. This gorgeous building survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1971 and still stands today as an icon. As you near the Chicago Riverwalk, you’ll also have the opportunity to see and walk across the iconic DuSable Bridge. The McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum are also free on Sundays if you’d like to learn more about the landmark.

Watch fireworks on Navy Pier

Rather than waiting for the Fourth of July, enjoy a dazzling display of fireworks on Navy Pier twice a week. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are free fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night at dark. The firework show is a magical experience with dazzling colors that explodes to a musical playlist, engulfing Navy Pier. Your whole family can enjoy watching the night sky light up over beautiful Lake Michigan.

See the water show at Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain is one of the biggest fountains in the world. Don’t miss the chance to see the water shoot 150 feet in the air during the major displays every hour on the hour from 9 am to 10:35 pm. There is even a water show featuring light and music for 20 minutes at dusk every night. Children and adults alike will revel in watching the water show, located in Grant Park.

Experience Garfield Park Observatory

While Chicago is a big city, there are still many pockets of green that are absolutely stunning. The Garfield Park Observatory features two acres of greenhouses and twelve acres of outdoor landscape art. Home to palm trees, fern, and exotic flora, the gardens here will be an experience unlike any other in the Chicago area. It’s like a far-away vacation right in the middle of the city. While this experience is free to visitors, they do request reservations be made in advance.

Visit the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is the fourth oldest zoo in America. It is home to animals of all kinds, with over 200 unique species calling it home. This is the closest you can get to seeing a lion surrounded by skyscrapers. While at the zoo, visitors can delight in the antics of the monkeys and marvel at the beauty of the peacocks. Whether you’re 5 or 50 years old, the zoo is sure to be a delight.

See the stars at Adler Planetarium

The planetarium is more than a science center, it’s an architectural marvel. This building was the first planetarium in the western hemisphere. The outside features gorgeous sculptural panels depicting the zodiac symbols. After staring at the architecture outside, go inside to discover another world. There are a variety of sky shows to choose from, as well as areas to play and learn about space as we know it. For Illinois residents, the Adler is free every Wednesday evening from 4 to 10 p.m.

Jam out at Millennium Park Summer Music Series

If you like to listen to live music, then this activity is perfect for you. Millennium Park hosts free concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion all summer long. From June 20th to August 18th, there are a variety of shows available to the public. Listen to orchestras, jazz bands, and local singers. While you’re in the audience on the Great Lawn, you’ll never be bored this summer.

Take in the Art on theMART

Chicago is a place where art and technology combine in the most unique ways. If you visit the Chicago Riverwalk during the evening, you’ll have the chance to see art projected on the side of theMART. Incredible videos and art projections are shown nightly at 9 and 9:30 pm. You’ll be able to admire the projections and the way they move across the building in a way that you’ve never seen before. The larger than life art is sure to take your breath away and hopefully, you’ll want to come back again and again.

Chicago can’t be beat

You don’t have to spend a lot of cash to experience the Windy City. The summer is a perfect time to explore all that the city has to offer, and it is certain to keep you entertained. For an unforgettable experience, consider booking your stay at a boutique hotel like Hotel EMC2, which is only a short walk away from many of these free summertime activities.

​​Need a place to stay when visiting Chicago? Book your reservation here.