Because I have spent 3.5 weeks in Chicago I decided to write reviews about most of the places I went to. This post will therefore be a bit Lonely Planet like but from my personal point of view. I hope you enjoy it and that you can use it one day!
A really good option to get free accommodation in Chicago is to find volunteer work on Workaway.com. This is a website for backpackers that would love to stay at some place for a bit longer. I was so lucky to find a really good spot. I spent 3.5 weeks at Francesca’s house with dog Dolce. I worked from 8 till 12 in the morning every weekday to ‘earn’ my accommodation and some food.
What to do?
If you love Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Seurat, and other super famous painters: go here! They have everything from Religious European to Impressionism and American art. I liked it a lot.
The Field Museum
This museum is big! I spent here 2 hours and it was still not enough. Go visit the Africa department and do the nature walk. Seeing the dino Sue is cool too.
The Shedd Aquarium
Zoo’s are not really my thing as I am a vegetarian and I really care about animals. However, seeing tropical fish, penguins, and dolphins is fun and the Aquarium offers a lot of info about water, coral, climate, and tropical animals.
Museum of Contemporary Art
This museum is lovely, however you need to be interested in modern art. They have a really good exhibition of the Japanese artist Murakami till September this year.
The Planetarium offers great information about our solar system and space in general. However, the museum is small but this makes it easy to combine with the Field Museum or the Shedd Aquarium which are all located in the same area.
The Museum of science and industry
I’ve been visiting a lot of museums ha 😉 ? This museum is too big to be honest. It is easy to spend here a full day. But they have some interesting topics about genes, airplanes, human bodies, food, trains, WWII etc.
Rent a bike
Get around by the Blue Ventra bikes and cycle the beach coast route. I started in the south at the Aquarium and went all the way up to North Av. Beach. Every 30 minutes you’ve to make a stop to check your bike in and out again. I combined these stops with lunch and coffee breaks (brought my own).
Walk around down town
Please go explore down town by yourself to find your own favorite spots! Use Google Maps or get a good street map at one of the hostels. I walked around down town to see the shops. I like shops as ‘Forever 21’ and ‘Victoria’s Secret’. Those can be find at Michigan Av a.o.
Go explore the Blues at Buddy Guys Legends
Nice Blues music here! Concerts start in general at 9PM but there is also pre music during dinner. Admission is 10 dollars.
Buckingham fountain by night
Go visit the fountain by night as there are light and music shows often.
John Hancock building (360 chicago)
Please don’t go to the official viewpoint because this will cost you 25 dollars. Go to the lounge! Ask at the counter where to go. Over here, you can order a Coca Cola for 6.90 and the view is the same. It is beautiful!
Kayak Chicago is a company that offers tours on the river. The 3 hour tour is a heavy work out (yes even for a sports fan like me) but it is worth it. Tip: Buy your ticket on Groupon to safe more or less 20 dollars on the price.
Free Walking Tours by Foot
I did two free walking tours in the time I was here. Go to freetoursbyfoot.com to book yours! I can recommend the Lincoln Park and Gangster tour and the West Loop tour. Tours are free but they ask for a tip for the guides.
The Zoo plus the garden
The Zoo at Lincoln Park is free and they have some impressive animals like tigers, lions, sea lions, gorilla’s, apes (all sorts), zebras etc. When you enter the Zoo at the West entrance there are some beautiful gardens as well that are free to visit.
Go visit a baseball game
Be prepared: a game will take like 4 hours but it is a typical American thing to do. Go to m.mbl.com to buy your ticket for the Cubs or the White Sox. Prices vary from 7 till 70 dollars.
Thai food festival
This is a festival with good Thai food in Lincoln Park in July. They also have some stands with typical Thai clothes and there is Thai music. However, be there early because the food was all gone when I arrived at 6PM.
Chinatown Summer Fair
Market in July with a lot of stands to buy stuff. I bought a nice vintage handbag here.
Fireworks at Navy Pier
During Summer, there are free fireworks at Navy Pier. On Wednesday it starts at 9PM, on Saturday at 10:15PM.
Music and movies in Millennium Park
During the whole summer there are concerts in Millennium Park. On Mondays and Thursdays there is music. Every Tuesday a movie is playing (anno 2017).
Sheffield Music Festival
Festival in July with music close to Fullerton Subway station at Lincoln park. I liked it here because the festival also offers free garden tours and a visit to one of the churches.
Michigan Art Festival
Free festival in July down town. It is kind of a market where artist can show and sell their art. I liked it!
Go Run Chicago/CARA sport
Check out the websites or Facebook pages of these organizations to see if there is a run in a park close by! It is free but registration is necessary.
Summer Fitness class at Navy Pier
Every summer on Tuesday at 6Pm there is a free fitness class at Navy Pier. It is a good way to dance off your Chicago Style Hot Dog.
Summer sunset yoga at Navy Pier
Every summer on Tuesday at 7:30 PM at Navy Pier. Beautiful way to try yoga if you’ve never done it before. Free!
The French Market
Located at N. Clinton Street, this market has everything from fresh salads to sushi, chocolates, wine, good cheese, and fish and meat. Of course, it is a bit pricy but worth a visit!
The Randolph Street Market
This is a really nice vintage market that takes place in July. I bought a super cute jacket here. You’ve to pay entrance to visit but it is sooo worth it. General admission is 10 dollars but if you’re a student it will cost you only 5.
Where to eat?
Smoke Daddy BBQ
This place has the best veggie burger in town. Well, that’s what I think! And they have cheap beers for 3 dollars and good cocktails. Winning! (Located at Division Street)
Parlor Pizza Bar
Kind of expensive place because a meal will cost you 20 dollars. However, it is always crowded here and that makes this place fancy and cozy. (Located at Division Street)
This pizzeria, located at Division street, offers the good typical Chicago deep dish pizza. You can have an individual slice for 8.90 dollars or a small one with a drink for more or less 20 dollars. A small pizza is enough, because the pizza is super filling.
Patso’s last Place
This snack bar has delicious Chicago style hot dogs. And even has a veggie dog! The orders come with a lot of fries so please be prepared. A veggie dog with fries is between 6 and 8 dollars. (Located at Chicago Av.)
Places to drink?
Big Shoulders Coffee
Even though I prefer tea, this place has a good cappuccino. It is located on Chicago Av. next to the Blue Line Metro station. They have vegan options as well.
Atomix Coffee Bar
My favorite coffee bar in town! This place has good and big cappuccino with soy milk for 4 dollars and it is a nice place to get work done as it is a flex work place as well.
Fatpour Tap works
Good place to go out on Division street (Jup, I love Division Street). They have some cheap beers for 3 dollars and you can even have dinner here before going out.
Just this whole neighborhood is an amazing place during the night. There are late night restaurants, theaters, cinemas, bars and some clubs.
Nice parks and beaches
Because Chicago is located at Lake Michigan, it has some good beaches and of course a lot of parks. Here a list of the parks and beaches I’ve been visiting during my stay:
- North Av. Beach
- Oak Street Beach
- Montrose Beach
- Ohio Street Beach
- Smith Park
- Humboldt Park
- Millennium Park
- Grant Park
- Milton Lee Olive Park]
- Polk Bros Park
On Chicago on the Cheap (website and Facebook) are a lot of cheap and free options about festivals and activities in and around the city.
Use Hostelworld.com to find good hostels in the city. My favorites are Holiday Jones Hostel and HI Chicago.
If you’re running out of budget or just really want to meet local people: use Couchsurfing. There are a lot of local Chicago peeps on Couchsurfing.
Who! That are a lot of recommendations right? However, I really liked to write all this down for you. What I already said, hopefully you can use this tips one day. Maybe ‘Bella’s Chicago’ will be your new guide book 🙂