9 Things to Do in Chicago for Under $10

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Looking for cheap things to do in Chicago? In this article, we’ll show you how to explore the wondrous sights of the city without breaking the bank.

Here is our guide for couples, families, and solo explorers to see the city while saving money.

The Second City is one of the top destinations in the United States and offers an array of experiences for all travelers. But costly attractions don’t have to deter you from experiencing the best in culture, food, or sights.

From beautiful gardens to free museums, this guide unveils some of the best activities that will allow you to savor the essence of Chicago.

Tour the Top Attractions of Chicago

marquee at chicago theater

From the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Willis Tower to the serene beauty of Millennium Park, each attraction is brought to life through narration and storytelling.

As you walk on this self-guided tour, you’ll see the architectural marvels that have defined Chicago’s skyline, showcasing the ingenious designs and the visionaries who brought them to life.

Stops include Buckingham Fountain, The Art Institute of Chicago, Cloud Gate, Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago History Museum, and Lincoln Park Zoo.

Explore the 606 Trail

art installation at 606 trail in chicago

Love being outdoors? The 606 Trail is a unique 2.7-mile-long elevated park and trail system built on an abandoned railway line in Chicago. This urban greenspace connects several Chicago neighborhoods and it’s a peaceful escape from the city.

With its beautifully landscaped gardens, public art installations, and designated areas for various activities including walking, running, biking, and rollerblading.

The 606 Trail provides a refreshing outdoor experience right in the heart of Chicago. A full day for bike rental is about $30 if you don’t mind the splurge.

Stroll the Lakefront

woman standing in water on lake shore

The Chicago lakefront has breathtaking natural beauty and sophistication. It stretches for miles along the shore of Lake Michigan. Here are the best five spots to sit, relax, and soak in the stunning views:

  1. Adler Planetarium: Situated on the Museum Campus, this iconic landmark offers unobstructed vistas of the city skyline reflected in the lake’s serene waters, creating a truly mesmerizing sight.
  2. Oakwood Beach: This hidden gem in the South Shore neighborhood provides a tranquil escape from the city buzz, with pristine sandy shores and panoramic views of the lakefront and Chicago’s skyline in the distance.
  3. Fullerton Avenue Beach: Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, this popular beach has the perfect blend of city life and natural beauty, with the iconic skyline serving as a stunning backdrop to the lakefront.
  4. Milton Lee Olive Park: This picturesque park in the Hyde Park neighborhood boasts a serene lakefront setting, complete with a picturesque bird sanctuary and sweeping views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan.
  5. Navy Pier: While not a traditional beach, Navy Pier offers unparalleled views of the lakefront and the city skyline from its iconic Ferris wheel, providing a unique perspective on Chicago’s stunning waterfront.

See Chinatown

chinese restaurant sign

On the South Side, Chicago’s Chinatown is an authentic cultural neighborhood brimming with sights, sounds, and flavors of the Far East.

The neighborhood’s main street, Wentworth Avenue, is lined with traditional Chinese restaurants, bakeries, and shops selling everything from souvenirs to local grocers.

I recommend a boba tea while strolling Chinatown Square. On the Dragon Kings Quest, you can see all the highlights while enjoying a treasure hunt.

Learn more family friendly things to do in Chinatown that are mostly free.

Roam Lincoln Square

Uncover Chicago’s hidden gems with this exhilarating urban adventure that challenges you to explore the city’s lesser-known sites. Decipher cryptic clues leading you to offbeat cultural hotspots like the quirky Merz Apothecary, historical marvels like Lincoln Square’s vibrant murals, and culinary gems such as Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen.

More than a scavenger hunt, it’s an immersive journey with fascinating tales that paint a vivid picture of Chicago’s diversity. Embrace the thrill of discovery and create unforgettable memories by venturing off the beaten path.

See Lincoln Park Zoo

garden with pathway

No visit to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is complete without encountering the majestic lions and playful polar bears. The Regenstein African Journey is quite impressive, and you can marvel all the giraffes, zebras, and elegant birds.

The iconic Kovler Lion House offers fantastic views of the king of the jungle. Be sure to catch a dolphin show at the Abbott Oceanarium and explore the lush surroundings of the Farm-in-the-Zoo.

With free admission and fantastic exhibits, the Lincoln Park Zoo provides an unforgettable wildlife experience right in the heart of the city.

  • Cost: Free but tickets must be reserved online in advance
  • Website: lpzoo.org

Visit during sunset for breathtaking views of the Gold Coast skyscrapers or sign up for a scavenger hunt.

Check tickets for the Lincoln Park Zoo Scavenger Hunt

Listen to Thrilling Gangster Tales

woman standing next to mural

Gangsters are one of several reasons why people ask “is Chicago safe“.

On this tour, you’ll take a historic walk that narrates Chicago’s rise from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire. From the heart of downtown, you’ll cross the river and see world-famous landmarks along the way.

In this experience, you’ll discover the answers to the city’s most intriguing questions and hear the tales of Chicago’s most infamous gangsters.

Walk Chicago’s Gold Coast Hidden History

The Gold Coast is considered the wealthiest neighborhood in Chicago.

On this tour, you’ll find the rich history and iconic architecture of one of Chicago’s most luxurious neighborhoods with this self-guided smartphone audio walking tour. After booking, simply download the app and embark on your tour at your own pace and convenience.

You’ll explore Gold Coast landmarks, from historic piano bars to the original Playboy Mansion, with insider stories narrated by a local historian. The GPS maps work offline, ensuring you never get lost, and the tour comes with lifetime access, allowing you to revisit as often as you like. How cool is that?

Discover Chicago’s Gold Coast through engaging stories and notable sights, all while enjoying a budget-friendly and flexible tour experience.

If you up for the challenge, explore the Magnificent Mile to get in those extra daily steps. Then stop at Starbucks cafe for refreshments.

Take a Haunted Tour

In the mood for creepy tales or Chicago’s haunted history? The self-guided tour begins at the entrance to the Riverwalk, where you’ll descend to stroll along the river and beneath the bridges.

As you take the stroll, you’ll hear captivating tales of the spirits that now haunt these historic paths. The tour concludes at the Congress Plaza Hotel, a notorious site brimming with ghost stories, including those of the city’s most infamous serial killer.

Final Thoughts about Things to do in Chicago for $10 or Less

view of lake michigan

We hope this helps you expore beyond Chicago’s well-trodden tourist attractions and see the best of the city while saving money.

Chicago scavenger hunts and self-guided tours give a unique opportunity to have your own exhilarating adventure. You can explore on your own time and at your own pace.

There is so much more to do in Chicago for $10 or less, this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Safe travel.

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  1. Usually I do not read article on blogs however I would like to say that this writeup very compelled me to take a look at and do it Your writing style has been amazed me Thank you very nice article

    1. Tanya (Admin) says:

      You’re welcome!