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PSJD: A NALP Initiative

Having Fun on the Cheap - Chicago

Use PSJD's "Having Fun on the Cheap" pages, which are compiled by locals, to learn how to stretch your paycheck and maximize your fun while completing an internship or working in a big city. Contact us at psjd@nalp.org if you have resources to contribute.  Thanks.

Free Things to Do

Buckingham Fountain: Opened in 1926, this Chicago landmark anchors visits to Grant Park during the summer months. It is beautiful anytime, but makes for especially striking pictures at night due to its unusual lighting.

Chicago Cultural Center: An incredibly active and ongoing civic project, the center hosts hundreds of free performances and activities each year. Its proximity to Millennium Park makes it a staple of young adult life.

Lincoln Park Zoo: A serene setting in a decidedly urban neighborhood, the zoo is free every day. Be sure to check exhibit closures on the website- many sections of the zoo are only open for part of the day. Also make time to see the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which contains four greenhouses, while you’re there.

Loop Art Tour: Over two miles of urban art in the downtown area. The link will also give you the option to download an audio tour to accompany your walk.

Magnificent Mile: Window shop at the epitome of Midwestern style on Michigan Avenue. There are also numerous dining options and happy hours in this area if you find yourself famished. Be sure to pick up a box of Frango Mints, which have been produced exclusively in Chicago and are the city’s de facto signature taste.

Millennium Park: In a city of well-cultivated green spaces, Millennium Park stands a step above.  Visitors are treated to a mesh of architecture, modern design and of course open areas for frolicking. It also plays host to many concerts and art shows in the summer months.

Navy Pier: Take a stroll on this Chicago landmark. While you’re there, be sure to check out postings explaining the pier’s long and varied history, which spans twists and turns that you might not expect.

Take a Tour: Chicago Greeters offer free tours of the city via the Department of Cultural Affairs. Given by volunteers, these tours offer a free and personal introduction to this metropolitan area.

Wicker Park: One of Chicago’s artistic havens, Wicker Park has given rise to its share of musicians, trend-setting galleries and of course an eponymous film. Take a stroll through this famous neighborhood and enjoy excellent people watching.

Cheap Things to Do

Bike It Off: Did you eat a little too much deep dish pizza? Chicago has an active and growing bike culture, anchored by the city-run bike rental program. Most neighborhoods are flat, so don’t feel hampered by inexperience. Biking is also an environmentally friendly and cheap way to commute for many residents.

Festivals: It would take careful planning to be in Chicago on a week when there was not a significant festival happening. True to its ethnic roots, Chicago plays host to events put on by parishes and community organizations throughout the year. Metromix updates this (fairly) comprehensive list annually.

Frank Llyod Wright Tours: No trip to the Midwest would be complete without seeing at least one of the iconic architect’s creations.  Consider taking this comprehensive tour hosted by the foundation in his memory, or if you’re more intrepid, see a few of the homes on your own.

Make the Climb: Chicago is home to three of the nation’s five tallest buildings. The Sears Tower, Trump Tower and Aon Center, all open to public viewing for a fee. However, among locals, the Hancock Center (which ranks sixth, nationally) is the clear favorite.

Silver Screen Glory: Chicago Filmmakers offers a number of discounted and free screenings, as well as informational offerings to learn the behind the scenes scoop of all your favorite films. You can also start here to learn about the many films in which Chicago has served as a backdrop.

Additional Resources

The University of Chicago updates a web guide for students in the Windy City.

Time Out Chicago has a student guide which covers everything from dorm décor to transportation. Time Out is also known as the city’s most comprehensive guide to going out.

Chicago has many world class universities, which offer cultural events and sporting activities for less than you will pay off campus. Check out event calendars for the University of Chicago and Northwestern University to get started.

New City publishes a weekly list of arts and entertainment options in the Chicago area.