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Free Things to Do in Chicago: 5 Ideas for Group or Solo Outings

chicago skyline on a sunny day

One of the best parts of living near the Windy City is the abundance of things to do in the area. Finding fun things to do for a solo or group outing doesn’t have to be expensive! Check out some of our favorite free things to do in Chicago (and one right here in Oak Park). 

Spend the Day at Lincoln Park Zoo

When we think of free things to do in the area, a visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo immediately tops the list. It’s an iconic part of the city, and has been offering free admission since it opened in 1868. Lincoln Park Zoo is the only privately-managed, free zoo in the US, and along with nearly 200 species of animals in residence, they have a variety of gorgeous gardens (including an accredited herbaceous hibiscus collection). Plus, the zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation and science, so you can feel good about stopping by. 

Smell the Flowers at the Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory is another great free option for friends, solo adventures, or even a date! The conservatory has over ten acres of outdoor gardens, but it also boasts a variety of indoor gardens, so you can visit any time of year. The crown jewel, in our opinion, has to be the  Palm House, which is a massive, 65-foot tall space featuring an idealized tropical design. While the Garfield Park Conservatory is free to enter, reservations are required, and advance reservations are strongly recommended. 

Enjoy the Grant Park Music Festival in Millennium Park

If you’re a music buff—or even someone who just enjoys the vibes—you’ll want to check out the Grant Park Music Festival during the summer months. During the warmer season, you can enjoy some of the foremost musicians in Chicago at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, without paying a dime. There are two options for free seating: fixed seats in the back half of the Seating Bowl (be sure to come early! It’s first-come, first-served) or you can bring some chairs or a blanket and find a spot on the Great Lawn.  

Visit the Historic Navy Pier

If you want to check out a place that captures the historic beauty and unique architecture of Chicago, you’ll definitely want to check out Navy Pier. The pier was created as a special place for locals to enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan, and after its reopening in 1995, Navy Pier has become a go-to spot for families and friends all year long. Along with the fun that comes from exploring and seeing the sights, the Pier also offers free events and public pronouns all year round. If you’re okay with spending a bit of money, you can buy tickets to ride on the iconic Centennial Wheel for less than $20.    

Take a Self-Guided Tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Houses

Right here in Oak Park, you can view the work of one of the most recognizable architects in the US and across the world: Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright spent many years in Oak Park, where he designed dozens of structures. You can take a self-guided tour to observe these homes any time you’d like—although, of course, it’s important to stay off private property and admire these homes’ architecture from the street. It’s a great way to spend a sunny afternoon and get your steps in! If you’re a huge enthusiast and want to invest in a truly spectacular experience, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust offers the annual Wright Plus Architectural Housewalk, which will allow you to see inside several of these beautiful residences. 

Ready to Make the Move to Oak Park?      

If you want to make a move to a fantastic area with close proximity to all the fun Chicago has to offer, check out Oak Park Apartments! Oak Park Apartments offers more than 60 Chicago-area apartment buildings and 1,500 apartments for rent in Oak Park, Chicago, Forest Park and River Forest. 

Call or text Oak Park Apartments at (833) 896-9936 today to learn more about our available apartments. 


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35 Chicago Avenue
Oak Park, IL 60302

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