The best free things to do in April in Chicago

Find the best free things to do in April in Chicago with our complete guide to gratis events and city living on the cheap
Photograph: Jordan Avery

As the mercury begins to rise and snow storms become a distant memory, you're going to be tempted to celebrate the arrival of April at a great concert or with a meal at one of Chicago's best restaurants. If you're trying to keep your spending in check, the first full month of spring weather is packed with free events, festivals and exhibits that will keep you entertained without breaking the bank. If you still need more things to do, you can always check out our complete April events calendar. Keep some money in your wallet with our guide to the best free things to do in April in Chicago.

Free things to do in April

Photograph: Grace DuVal
Things to do

Free museum days at the best Chicago museums

You don't have to spend a fortune in order to visit some of Chicago's best museums and cultural institutions. If you're willing to plan ahead, you can take in masterpieces at the Art Institute or gaze at tropical fish while strolling through Shedd Aquarium without spending a dime. You'll need to be an Illinois resident to take advantage of many of these offers, but that's just one of the perks of living in Chicago. 

Photograph: Martha Williams

The Paper Machete

icon-location-pin The Green Mill, Uptown

Christopher Piatt hosts this weekly "live magazine," a cavalcade of culture, politics and wit featuring journalists, actors, comedians and musicians offering idiosyncratic reports on the news of the day. Head to Uptown's iconic Green Mill for a Saturday afternoon of drinks, hot takes and laughs. 

Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Arts District

2nd Fridays in the Chicago Arts District

icon-location-pin Chicago Arts District, Lower West Side

On the second Friday of each month, The Chicago Arts District hosts 2nd Fridays Gallery Night, a series of receptions at the galleries and artists' studios centered around South Halsted Street, beginning at 1711 and ending at 2005 South Halsted Street. Pick up a map at the information center at 1945 South Halsted Street and visit the creative spaces free of charge as they open their doors to showcase an exciting display of art and artists from Chicago and beyond.

Logan Arcade
Photograph: Martha Williams
Nightlife, Alternative nightlife

Night Names

icon-location-pin Logan Arcade, Logan Square

Set a new high score at this arcade bar’s monthly queer night. Guests can take advantage of free pinball (make sure you take a turn on the classic Star Wars and PIN·BOT tables), enjoy bar specials or bust a move in the back room with resident DJ Essential Logic.

Nightlife, Alternative nightlife


icon-location-pin Berlin, Lake View

This biweekly nocturnal Latinx and LGBTQ gathering is always filled with clever decorations, dancing queens and underground Latin club music from resident DJ [X]P. It also serves Jarritos cocktails.

Photograph: Kelly Peloza
Things to do, Literary events

Tuesday Funk

icon-location-pin Hopleaf, Uptown

This eclectic reading series is where good writing and good beer mix. Every month five local writers and authors put together pieces to read while you order off Hopleaf's extensive beer menu.

Photograph: Andrew Leon Hensley


icon-location-pin The Burlington, Logan Square

Burliness is optional at this night for bearded boys, funky folk and all other queers and allies, which takes over Logan Square dive the Burlington. Resident DJ Butch Sassidy and the Come Dance Kid spins punk, disco and new wave galore.