There are so many exciting things to do in Chicago, and the farther you stretch your travel budget, the more you get to do. There are plenty of things to do within Chicago that won’t break the bank. The city is full of parks and trails. Check out the 606, a 2.7-mile trek for you to explore. There are a few libraries to consider, too. Explore the Newberry Library or the Harold Washington Library Center. Both are world-class and come equipped with small parks at the entrance to hang out in. Below, we’ll dive into a few other ideas for you and your travel companions. 

Discover Art Galleries

Ed Paschke Art Center

The Ed Paschke Art Center was built with the intent of providing a venue for artists to showcase their work in a public space. There are a ton of classes and courses offered at the center for both children and adults alike. Explore the various exhibits and discover Ed Paschke, a legendary artist that has birthed one of the greatest free art galleries in the region.

Hyde Park Art Center

The Hyde Park Art Center seeks to inspire and cultivate an engaging environment for contemporary art in Chicago. Countless programs and classes are available to youth and other members of the community. Be sure to check out their events calendar for a full listing of the happenings during your stay.


One of the first and most seasoned art centers of its kind, Intuit: The Center For Intuitive And Outsider Art is a safe heaven for outsider and self-taught art. Explore this creative space and enjoy its exhibits. Check out the current exhibits online, and take a virtual tour of the space here.

National Museum Of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture is dedicated to promoting the importance of integrating Puerto Rican arts and culture into the world. Check out the various permanent installations or give the events calendar a glance to plan your visit around specific events.

Explore History and Culture

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center is one of the great treasures of the city. Learn about the rich history of Chicago. Meander around the gorgeous building and enjoy the colonial architecture. Be sure to get a photo of the beautiful stained-glass dome. 

City Gallery at the Historic Water Tower

If you love photography, you can’t miss taking a walk through of City Gallery. This incredible showcasing of photography and visual art is located in The Chicago Water Tower, one of the most incredible buildings in the city. Take in the amazing architecture. There’s a small park out front for relaxing if you visit in the summer.

Clark House Museum

The Clark House Museum is Chicago’s oldest standing home. Done in a Greek Revival style, visitors who choose to take the free tour will see what life was like for a middle-class family in Chicago during the mid-18th century. Tours are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1 pm and are completely free of charge!

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

The Jane Addams Hull House Museum was the first-ever settlement house. A settlement house was a sort of community center that promoted middle-class and upper-middle-class women and men to live in poorer areas to provide different services to these communities. Learn about the movement started by Jane Addams and the rich history of the Hull House. Tours are free to the public, but reservations are suggested. Get more information about how you can secure your spot here.

Get Outdoors in Chicago

Chicago Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk provides its visitors with a beautiful path right along the city’s waterway. Enjoy a hike along the path. Explore the four distinct areas of the riverwalk: The Confluence, The Arcade, The Civic, and the Esplanade. You’ll find restaurants, cafés, and bars along the way. Stop for a bite and enjoy the natural beauty right in the heart of Chicago.

Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile path that wraps around the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Travel a portion of the path on foot, rent a bike and cruise up the down the entirety, or just relax on the beach. 

Lincoln Park Conservatory

The Lincoln Park Conservatory is home to tons of plants, flowers, and trees. Check out the tropical palms and ancient ferns. You’ll have access to four distinct display houses: Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House, and Show House. 

Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the best free things to do in the whole city. The botanical conservatory is one of the biggest and most impressive in the country. Space is limited to enter, so advanced reservations are recommended.

Kid-friendly Things to Do

Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo is home to almost 200 different kinds of animals. It also houses over 2000 different types of plants and includes 100-year-old oak trees. The zoo prides itself in providing one of the best levels of care of animals in captivity and backs its claim with guided scientific research. 

Maggie Daley Park Play Garden

The Maggie Daley Park Play Garden is a great spot to take children for the afternoon. The site is home to many attractions, most notably the Play Garden. This space is loaded with slides and other playground-like apparatuses, all inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There is no admission fee to enter the park, but separate fees are associated with using the climbing wall, bungee apparatus, mini-golf course, skating ribbon, and purchasing food and drink from the snack kiosk.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is perhaps the most famous spot in Chicago. The park is home to the world-famous Silver Bean and hosts a ton of fun events for the whole family. Check the calendar for what might be happening during your visit.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier is a great option for anyone traveling with their dog. This dog-friendly area is home to a ton of great restaurants and bars. There are also cruises available on the pier, but you’ll pay for those.

Still looking for other things to do during your budget-friendly trip to Chicago. Check out this article to learn about a few inexpensive activities and attractions for your trip.

Chicago is the Spot!

Whether you’re interested in exploring the rich culture and history of the city, checking out art galleries, or taking the kids out to play, Chicago offers its visitors a ton of free attractions. Ready to start planning your trip today? VacationRenter has got you covered. Find your perfect vacation rental today!