Chi-Town for Cheap: Free Chicago Entertainment

Today rounds out my posts on Chicago as I’ll be discussing some cheaper things to enjoy in the city. This post is sort of a hodgepodge of neighborhoods to explore, places to run, and shops to browse, so hopefully there’s something for everyone.

IMG_2763Grant and Millennium Parks–Not too far from our hotel, these two parks make for a great place to run through on a crisp morning. Grant Park has a huge fountain and is close to Lake Michigan and the running paths that go parallel to the water, but it’s also not too far from the famous Millennium Park. Millennium Park is filled with lots of modern, public art, like the famous Cloud Gate, a stainless steel sculpture in the shape of a bean. It gets quite crowded as people like to take their pictures reflected in the sculpture, but when we went running through the park at around 8:30 AM, it was practically empty and a lot more enjoyable (and a good way to get a first glimpse of this sculpture). It’s cool to see the skyline reflected in it, but it’s tough to discern on a foggy day.

Chicago River Walk–Chicago has mandated that development along the Chicago River provide public access and walkways so that the space becomes more usable. There are some restaurants and a couple of nice, small parks along the river, so it’s a cool place to walk around.

IMG_2735Lincoln Park–When we planned on going to Lincoln Park for a walk, we had no idea that they have a completely free zoo. There are a bunch of apes and chimps which were very animated, between eating lunch, climbing around, and peeing on a log in front of everyone. Other favorites of ours were the otters, beaver (which is really interesting to watch swim because it curls its arms up into its chest), and sea lions.

IMG_2747Lake Michigan–Not too far from Lincoln Park is a beach with great access to Lake Michigan and an incredible view of Chicago’s skyline. For the view alone, it’s definitely worth it, but dipping your feet in the water is a nice way to cool off and unwind after a lot of walking. There are running/biking paths between the beach and the road which a lot of joggers and cyclists used, and plenty of people also went in the water, which was clear but also very cold.

Myopic Books

Wicker Park & Bucktown–Finally, we took the L (their subway) into a trendy section of the city  with a Portland-esque vibe. These neighborhoods are filled with bookstores, record shops (try Reckless Records), restaurants, vintage clothing stores, you name it. We visited two bookstores: Quimby’s, which I thought was remarkable for the number of zines they sell, and Myopic Books, which is a really great shop with tall bookshelves and that classic used bookstore feel. Rudy’s Roundup is a general store similar to Pinecone & Chickadee in Portland, selling weird tchotchkes.

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