Fun and Fancy Free – Free Chicago Guide
Chicago has always been such a wonderful special place to me. Since the first time I visited in 2011, I knew it was special. There’s a constant sense of things happening and a positive bustle of energy here. A hustle and bustle, but not to the degree New York has. People here are generally friendly with their Midwestern values. With that being said it’s no surprise that this beautiful city has so much to offer including many free sights and museums. These are just a few of them.
1. Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N Central Park Ave
Chicago, IL 60624
Garfield Park Conservatory is not only one of the largest in the country, it’s also 100% free. Yes, of course they accept donations, but if you’re on a tight budget you’re under no obligation to pay up. I myself went to the conservatory for the first time a few weeks ago and was in total disbelief of the overall size and beauty of the place. There are multiple connecting rooms featuring different landscapes and plants of different climates, including a hot desert room to remind me of the desert heat I left behind. There’s a beautiful fern room and an outdoor pond and walkway, and even baby goats! Judging from the outside you wouldn’t even know that the indoor exhibits spread about two acres wide on top of the green outdoor space. You could easily get caught up spending a couple of hours here, but not to worry, you can get food at the little shop located inside or bring your own lunch and eat your food surrounded by plants. The space is also available to rent for events and weddings.
2. The 606 aka Bloomingdale Trail
Bloomingdale Ave from Ashland to Ridgeway
Built to create more green space in the neighborhoods that were severely lacking it, the 606 was created from old train tracks that went out of service in the 1990s. The trail which has been in the works for a while now, finally opened to the public in June 2015 and has been enjoyed by the public ever since. Not only does the trail provide beautiful views overlooking the city, but it also provides a safe way for pedestrians and cyclists alike to commute through the neighborhoods. Stretching for nearly three miles, the path brings safety, the beauty of nature and community all together.
3. Chicago Riverwalk
Riverwalk, parallel to Wacker Drive between Franklin and the Lakefront Trail
The beautiful riverfront space is finally completed and available for everyone to enjoy. The nearly two-mile trail of beautiful outdoor scenery provides locals and tourists alike with million-dollar views. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll, grabbing some lunch, sipping a glass of wine or listening to live music, the riverfront has something for everyone to enjoy. Watch as the boats and kayaks go by, listen in on a tour guide’s speech of the history of the river and the city, or do absolutely nothing. You can also rent kayaks or a small boat to take out and enjoy on the river, or go for a walk and look at some of the sculptures along the way. After all, Mayor Rahm Emanuel dubbed 2017 the “year of public art” with sculptures and art displays everywhere throughout the city, including the spectacular Riverwalk. So get down to the lakefront and enjoy the views with some booze.
4. Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College Chicago
600 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605
Many people have visited Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute, but there’s so much more art to see than that. The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College provides not only a free experience, but also a unique gallery of photos. With rotating exhibitions, the current display is titled: “re:collection,” which is a compiled gallery of photos from past-archived images with a focus on how we perceive image. This exhibition is being showcased until October 1. If art and photography are important to you, you won’t want to miss out on your chance to see this unique space.
5. Poetry Foundation
61 West Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60654
A facility completely dedicated to poetry, the first of its kind in Chicago, the Poetry Foundation has created a home base for poets in Chicago. Built off the dream of Chicagoan poet Harriet Monroe and Poetry magazine comes a place exclusively for poetry. With rotating exhibitions of poetry, currently featuring the works of Gwendolyn E. Brooks, the first black winner of the Pulitzer Prize, there’s so much to see, hear and do here. With special collections and a growing library of poems and books at the Poetry Foundation, you could spend a lot of time here reading and learning.
And that’s the beauty of it all, isn’t it? How wonderful it is to have accessibility, beauty, knowledge and nature at your fingertips. A few of these locations are outdoor spaces and are just as beautiful in the cold Chicago winters. However, with the cool winds of fall already blowing you might want to take advantage of the outdoor spaces available in Chicago now, especially the wonderful beaches, parks and lakefront/riverfront areas.