Chicago is a beautiful city to explore but like any famed metropolis all those activities can start to add up. Before you know it your cheap getaway has turned into a major spending spree just to see the city. Well fear not, I have come up with some of the best spots to spend time in Chicago without burning a hole in your wallet!
Ride the Brown Line
Built in 1907 this section of the El (short for elevated train) is over one hundred years old. Rattling along adjacent to the third floors of apartment blocks and looking down over smaller stores, I think this route gives you a great view of the city allowing you to see the sky scape and surrounding areas from a completely different angle. You’ll pass the Merchandise Mart, spy the Bean between buildings and even go by the triangle shaped prison. Best of all, the brown line completes a loop through downtown so you can get off where you started once you’ve taken the scenic ride. I would recommend trying to get on between Fullerton and Armitage and head South towards the city.
Time: 40 minutes Cost: $2.25
Explore the Water Tower
One of the few buildings to survive the Great Fire, the Water Tower is a historical landmark in amongst the skyscrapers and high rises of the modern downtown Chicago. Not only is it beautiful, resembling I think a tower fit for Rupunzel, but it also houses a small gallery in the bottom that you can visit for free. Usually showcasing local artists and photographers the exhibits change- so check out the website for whats on when you visit. Currently they are displaying the story of the company who create ‘Cards Against Humanity.’ Founded right here in Chicago the displays give you a fascinating insight into how the idea started, the unique outlook of the owners and how they give back to their loyal investors and customers. There is even an original Picasso displayed with an interesting story of how it got there. Definitely worth while a stop to see the local art and storied but also to take a step inside a piece of history.
Time: 10-20 minutes Cost: Free Address: 806 N. Michigan Avenue
Splash around at the Crown Fountain
No trip to Chicago is complete without spending some time in Millennium Park usually to find you reflection in the Bean but I think the hidden highlight is Crown Fountain. Two 50ft glass towers, each displaying a giant picture of a local Chicagoan, face one another. Water pours over the top of them constantly and squirts a huge stream from the mouths of the locals at intervals, causing crowds of children to run and scream excitedly towards either end. The shallow reflection pool is a great place to splash around, cool down and be a child again. The wooden blocks that run either side of the fountain are the perfect place to have a coffee or some lunch, enjoy the sunshine and cool of the water and watch all the excitement and hubbub going on around you. I can spend hours here relaxing with a smile of my face but even if you’re short on time, stop by for a splash.
Time: 10-60 minutes Cost: Free Address: 201 E. Randolph St.
See the World at the Tribune Tower
Whilst walking down the magnificent mile you can’t miss the gothic Tribune Tower standing majestically amongst the shiny new buildings. Despite the ornate towers and gargoyles way up high there is something much cooler at eye level. Around the entire base of the building are sections of rock from famous places and monuments around the world. Never made it to China? Don’t worry they have a section of the Great Wall. Egypt too hot? No problem, a part of the Pyramids is on there. Not quite fit enough to scale Mount Mckinley (now Denali) skip the gym and touch a piece at the Tribune. With over 149 different places embedded on the base you can travel around the world right on Michigan Avenue.
Time: 10-20 minutes Cost: Free Address: 435 N. Michigan Avenue
Get creative at The Design Museum
Tucked away in a modern and sterile mall is this little gem of a gallery. Not only is it completely free but the exhibitions change on a regular basis meaning you can keep going back time and again. There was a fantastic display of art based on paper, and I have never seen such imagination when using a simple white sheet. Detailed cuts and folds were turned into a dress, $1,000,000 worth of $1 bills were shredded and displayed in a huge clear cylinder, an ornate fireplace was created using papier mache and framed paper that had been dyed in a gradient of color. Absolutely fantastic.
Time: 30-60 minutes Cost: Free Address: 108 N State Street, 3rd floor
Relax at North Avenue Beach
Chicago has one of the most identifiable skylines in the country and for a very good reason. A hub of architectural feats, astonishing designs and complimentary exteriors the buildings are beautiful to look at up close and from a distance. One of my favorite views is from the North Avenue beach. Bike, skate, jog or walk along the front and see the buildings get closer as you go. Then once you are ready for a break get out your towel and sunbathe or take a dip in the lake and afterwards enjoy a picnic with the Chicago skyline in the distance. It makes for a great photo anytime of the day and is a perfect relaxation spot.
Time: 1- 5 hours Cost: Free Address: 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive
Enjoy exploring this wonderful city and let us know where your favorite places to spend time are!