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Garfield Conservatory
Photograph: Jaclyn RivasGarfield Conservatory

The best cheap things to do this summer

Free movies, cheap eats and affordable outings top our list of the best things to do this summer in Chicago

Written by
Laura Rote

Chicagoans are lucky—we have plenty of cheap things to choose from to keep us entertained, especially in the warmer months. Some of the best things to do in summer are even free, and we don't just mean lounging on one of Chicago's beaches or hanging out at one of the many farmers' markets.  

The best cheap things to do this summer

  • Music
  • Music festivals

Millennium Park’s slate of free concerts is filled with music for all fans. Highlights of the lineup include Brazilian guitarist Rodrigo Amarante (June 13), the Afropop rhythms of King Sunny Adé (July 18) and hushed Swedish folk singer José González (August 1). 201 E Randolph St ( Mon, Thu at 6:30pm

  • Things to do

See everything from ancient Chinese warriors to iconic works by Andy Warhol at no cost. For Illinois residents, the Field Museum is free June 21 to 23, and the Art Institute is free on Thursdays. 1400 S Lake Shore Dr (; 111 S Michigan Ave (

Free movies in the parks
  • Things to do

Pack a blanket and hit the corner store for candy—the Chicago Park District's annual lineup for Movies in the Parks is packed with goodies

  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Avondale
  • price 2 of 4

Tour Revolution Brewery’s Avondale facility Wednesday through Sunday for a free taste of its suds while you check out the canning lines plus the tanks for hot liquor and fermentation. Don’t know what any of that means? You will soon. 3340 N Kedzie Ave ( Wed–Fri at 6, 7pm; Sat, Sun at 3, 4, 5, 6pm 

Free Zumba and more in Millennium Park
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

Free Zumba and more in Millennium Park

Free tai chi, yoga, Pilates and Zumba mean you’re out of excuses for skipping your workout. Get outside in Millennium Park every Saturday and Wednesday. Sat 7–11am, Wed 7:30–815am

Free tour of Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • East Garfield Park

About 120,000 plants representing some 600 species occupy the conservatory’s 1.6 acres, and four times a year flower shows premiere to herald the change in seasons.

The best day trips from Chicago

  • Travel

Caught with a bad case of summer wanderlust and a short supply of vacation time? Luckily, Chicago is the perfect launching spot for a host of one-day escapes, from nautical adventures in Wisconsin and beaches in Indiana to sipping craft beer and spirits in Michigan and dining farmstead-style in central Illinois. Add one—or more—of these adventures to your list of things to do in the summer. 

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