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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

Garfield Conservatory
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas Garfield Conservatory

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

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Photograph: Todd Rosenberg
Music, Music festivals

Free concerts in Millennium Park

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

Art Institute of Chicago interior
Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago
Things to do

Free museum days

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 (

Things to do

Free movies in the parks

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

Restaurants, Mexican

$2.25 tacos at 5 Rabanitos

icon-location-pin Lower West Side

At that price, it’s easy to order quite a few of these suckers. You can’t go wrong on the filling, but we’re partial to the al pastor and vegetarian tacos. 1758 W 18th St (312-285-2710,

Time Out says
Revolution Brewing Taproom
Photograph: Courtesy Revolution Brewing
Bars, Breweries

Free beer at Revolution Brewing Taproom

icon-location-pin Avondale

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 

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

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks
Photograph: Julie Stanton
Theater, Outdoor theaters

Cheap (or free!) outdoor theater in Chicago

This summer’s program Shakespeare in the Parks brings Twelfth Night to 18 parks across the city. Set up lawn chairs or spread out a blanket before the show. Various locations (

Restaurants, Ice cream parlors

$2 paletas from La Michoacana Premium–Del Panda

icon-location-pin Lower West Side

Summer’s ripe for a frozen treat, so head to the bright-pink paletas spot in Pilsen to choose from a variety of flavors. The lime is super refreshing, while the blackberry is creamy and delightful. 1855 S Blue Island Ave (312-226-9600,

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The best day trips from Chicago

Lake Geneva, WI
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Lake Geneva

The 13 best day trips from Chicago

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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