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Metra rides are free this weekend! Here’s where you should go.

Written by
Marty Johnson

You usually need a ticket to ride the Metra (unless you reach your stop before the conductor reaches your car), but this weekend is an exception. For the first time ever, Metra will be offering free rides on all of its lines on Saturday, February 16 and Sunday, February 17. 

The promotion is an effort to increase weekend ridership on the commuter rail system after a bout of extremely cold weather in the area, which forced Metra to light some of its rails on fire to keep the system running. 

“We survived the polar vortex - now let’s have some fun,” Metra CEO and executive director Jim Derwinski said in a press release. “There is a lot to do in Chicago and the suburbs and Metra can take you there.”

Derwinksi isn’t wrong; Chicago’s neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs are filled with cheap, fun attractions located within walking distance of Metra stations. If you decide to take a free ride this weekend, we've gathered some interesting destinations to explore. ’

Galloping Ghost Arcade (Brookfield, Congress Park Station, BSNF)

For only $20, you can play all day at this retro arcade. With nearly 700 different games, Galloping Ghost is easily the largest arcade in the Midwest.

Two Brothers Roundhouse (Aurora, Aurora Station, BSNF)

With the money you save on Metra tickets, you can easily afford a beer or two at this popular brewpub. Two Brothers Roundhouse is located in a historic, circular building that once served as a train station.

Pullman National Monument (Pullman, 111th St/Pullman Station, ME)

Pullman was the first industrial community in the country, where employees lived and constructed train cars. Head to the Pullman Historic District to admire the beautiful architecture and grab a walking tour map from the Pullman National Monument Visitor Information Center.

Burt’s Place (Morton Grove, Morton Grove Station, MD-N)

Reopened in 2017, Burt’s Place is famous for its pan pizza, which sports a caramelized crust that should be familiar if you've ever dined at Pequod's (Burt's late co-founder opened the original Pequod's location).

Vie (Western Springs, Western Springs Station, BSNF)

With its seasonal menu and local ingredients, Western Spring fine-dining institution Vie is a solid option for a fancy, weekend date night.

Hala Kahiki Lounge (River Grove, River Grove Station, NCS & MD-W)

What better way to celebrate surviving the polar vortex than with a tropical drink at a tiki bar? Hala Kahiki has been serving boozy concoctions since 1964, which is decades longer than Chicago tiki spots like Three Dots & a Dash and Lost Lake have collectively been in business.

Chicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe, Braeside Station, UP-N)

Even though it’s still winter, the Chicago Botanic Garden is open every day of the year and always offers free admission. If you are willing to spend some money ($8–$12), the Garden's annual Orchid Show is on display this weekend, with more than 10,000 tropical blooms on view.

Brookfield Zoo (Brookfield, Hollywood Station, BSNF)

While not free like the Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo is considerably larger and houses more than 400 species of animals spread across 216 acres.

DuPage Children’s Museum (Naperville, Naperville Station, BSNF)

There’s something for children of all ages here including rotating exhibits that teach kids about math, science and more.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio (Oak Park, Oak Park Station, UP-W)

Yes, Frank Lloyd Wright really lived here. The house contains a studio where the architect perfected his well-known Prairie style—and you'll find plenty of other Wright-designed homes in Oak Park.

Kohl’s Children Museum (Glenview, Glen/N Glenview Station, MD-N)

This suburban museum allows kids to explore a miniature version of Chicago, complete with a Whole Foods and a Potbelly’s.

Kenosha, WI (Kenosha, WI, Kenosha Station, UP-N)

At 90 minutes, it’s a bit of a jaunt, but a train ride to Kenosha is a faster way of getting to Wisconsin than slogging through weekend traffic on the highways. The Dinosaur Discovery Museum, the Civil War Museum and Kenosha Public Museum are all within walking distance of the Metra station. And you can also buy some New Glarus beer to bring back to Chicago.

What's life really like in Chicago today? Take the Time Out Index survey and tell us about it.

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