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There are so many exciting things to do in Chicago, and the farther you stretch your travel budget, the more you get to do. First, consider cutting costs by choosing a vacation rental that gives you the comforts of home. When you choose a vacation rental over a hotel, you’re already cutting some expenses from your travel budget, and you can do some free things in the Windy City to save even more. Adding some wallet-friendly destinations to your itinerary lets you include even more fun, free things to do in Chicago.

5 things to do in Chicago for free or cheap

  1. Food Samplings and Complimentary Snacks
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    Food samples and complimentary snacks are offered to grocery store and bar customers in hopes of increasing sales. Many stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods set out sample bites of food for customers to try before buying. If you find something you like, you may want to pick up a full-sized package to take back to your rental home’s kitchen for later. Complimentary snacks include things like dishes of mixed nuts, small plate appetizers or popcorn that bars like Monk’s Pub and Quenchers Saloon set out for patrons to enjoy.

  2. Restaurants with Free Offerings
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    For bigger eats that don’t ding your wallet, some restaurants, like Big Chicks and Howl at the Moon, offer free buffets. These eateries offer the free buffets only on certain nights, and they don’t run year-round, so be sure to call or check their websites before going if you’re scouting for freebies. Lou Mitchell’s is another Chicago restaurant that offers a free treat. This spot gives out free donut holes, and women get a box of Milk Duds, too, in honor of the founder who had a fondness for the candy.

  3. Clubs with No Cover Charge
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    Several clubs invite guests in with no cover charge, and this can substantially cut the cost of a night out on the town. These include places like The Empty Bottle, where you can enjoy a free show on Monday evenings and Friday afternoons, Cole’s in Logan Square, where you can listen to bands and DJs, or Hidden Cove, where you can show off your karaoke skills.

  4. Free Chicago Museums
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    Chicago’s free museums provide educational opportunities and aesthetic viewing. The Chicago Architecture Foundation has a combination of free exhibits and paid activities, like a riverboat cruise. The Museum of Contemporary Photography features still images chosen to share the artistic worth of the medium.

  5. Free Outdoor Destinations in Chicago
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    Lincoln Park Zoo provides the chance to see 230 species of animals and it spans over 35 acres. Visitors can get to the zoo by bus, train, cab or by walking. Parking is also available. You may want to schedule a second day in this neighborhood because another free venue is right next to the zoo; at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, you can walk through the greenhouse to see a variety of rare plants.