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7 Free Things to Do in Chicago

In Chicago, the opportunities for budget-conscious visitors are seemingly endless. Here are seven favorite culture and entertainment options that will not cost a dime:
  1. Just north of The Loop, Lincoln Park is a bustling Chicago neighborhood, and the gem of the area is the park itself, which features a range of no-cost activities. The Lincoln Park Zoo, open year-round, anchors the park and is well worth the trip. While there, explore the Lincoln Park Conservatory that dates to 1895, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (free on Thursdays) and the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. The Green City Market, one of the country's most well-known farmers markets is held select Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the year.
  2. People of all faiths will marvel at the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, just north of the city. Just seven of these temples exist in the world, and this is the only one found in North America. Each stunning temple is unique, but all are circular, have nine sides and are surrounded by lush gardens.
  3. Free beer! Local microbreweries have popped up around the city and many offer free tours -- and samples. Check out Metropolitan Brewing, Half Acre Beer Company or Revolution Brewing, among others.
  4. In the summer months, grab a blanket and a picnic basket and camp out on the lawn in front of the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. Nightly shows throughout the season are open to the public. The quality of the acoustics and the breathtaking view of the city are one in a million.
  5. When the weather turns, opt for one of the city’s hidden gems. Glide around the ice rink at Daley Bicentennial Plaza, and take in the sights of the surrounding skyscrapers. Admission is free, and unlike the nearby Millennium Park rink, crowds are scarce.
  6. Tucked away on the west side of Chicago is the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest in the country. Marvel at the thousands of exotic plants and flowers on display in its 4.5 acres.
  7. Many of Chicago's world-class museums are free -- if you know when to go. Among the highlights are The Art Institute of Chicago, free every Thursday from 5-8 p.m.; the Museum of Contemporary Art, free on Tuesdays; and The Field Museum, free on the second Monday of every month. These and many others also host free weeks and months throughout the year.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, New York
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
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Caroline Eber