Chicago Money-Saving Tips
Layer your wardrobeIndian summer in October and November is not unheard of, but neither is an April blizzard; prepare yourself for the city’s schizophrenic weather system by packing layers.
Skip the rental car companyChicago traffic is miserable, even on its best days. Comfortable shoes and a CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) pass are all you need in this pedestrian-friendly city.
Take your butt outsideIllinois finally became a smoke-free state on January 1, 2008. This means that cigarette smoking is now prohibited in public places, including restaurants, nightclubs, and bars.
Eat like a localSaganaki (flaming cheese), the jibarito (skirt steak and cheese on crisp plantains), and Italian beef sandwiches were all invented here. Visit Greektown, Humboldt Park, and downtown, respectively, to sample these Windy City staples.
Become grid savvyChicago is easier to navigate than an excel spreadsheet, and street signs are numbered to help you get your bearings in relation to downtown. For example, if you're at 1600 N Wells St., it means you're 16 blocks north of the Loop. If you're at 800 W. Armitage Ave., it means you're 8 blocks west of the Loop, and so forth.
Hit the Beach
Take the Train
Check out a Ticket
Always Check the Calendar
Don’t forget to look at the calendars for the Chicago Public Library (www.chipublib.org) and Chicago Cultural Center (explorechicago.org) for year-round free programs and attractions.
Art and DesignCheck out the latest in modern design at the notable Archicenter (caf.architecture.org) which offers free gallery talks (Mon., Fri., Sat. 12:30pm). Almost all of Chi-town’s museums, including the famous Art Institute of Chicago (www.artic.edu), offer free days (the first and second Wednesdays of the month).
Chicago’s Animal KingdomChicago is home to hundreds of species living in its zoos and animal parks. Take a stroll through the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is always free, and check on the Shedd Aquarium’s website (www.sheddaquarium.org) for its listing of free admission days.
Seek Out Local GuidanceChicago Greeter, a branch of the Global Greeter Network, provides local-led free walking tours of one of the city’s many neighborhoods (www.chicagogreeter.com). Register 7-10 business days ahead of your visit to schedule a tour.
Enjoy the SurroundingsGrant Park’s Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest fountains in the world, has free water and light shows on summer evenings. The nearby Navy Pier is ideal for a stroll, plus a few of its attractions, like the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows and live music on the Beer Garden stage (May-Oct.; www.chicagosbestbeergarden.com), are free.
Our Experts save you money with travel deals and advice
Invest in a strong, yet lightweight bag that’s in accordance with the bulk of airlines’ carry-on allowances.
Jim Sherman Founder and Chairman
Sign up for the Top 25 Newsletter
to get exclusive weekly deals