I’m on the first leg of my train trip and I realized a long time ago that I would run out of money if I don’t spend wisely. I’m also the type of person that likes to see what I can do in a city for cheap or free. Chicago has definitely got the mark on things to do for under $20.
Let me make this clear that these are not just random things I pulled out of my hat. I have found the best way to see a city is via your friendly tour guide. When I say tour guide I mean friend. Period.
I’ve been meaning to come up to Chicago for a while to visit my long time friend from living abroad, Elsa. She knows how to party on a dime. As someone that also went through London and Thailand with little to no income, she has become very gifted in the art of doing things without spending to much money. So here you go, the things we did on the cheap and my thoughts.
Garfield Park Conservatory
Man was this place pretty! Big beautifully lush plants and, like any botanical gardens, they have different rooms for the environments of each type of plant. From the humid tropics to the dry dusty heat of the desert. We walked around this place for a good 2 to 3 hours and kept finding new rooms to roam. I’m sure it is very lovely in the summer, for us it was an excellent escape from the cold winds of winter out side.
Walking around Hyde Park/ University of Chicago
Another great place to walk and see some excellent architecture. Not many people when class is out, so easy to walk around and not run into a hoard of students running late to class. This area also host some quaint little coffee shops and restaurants. We found a cute book store called th Street Books in the basement of a building. It was a maze a rooms each with a different genre. Grabe a book and head dwn the street to the coffee shop of choice to enjoy a moment out of the weather.
On our way to check out different locales of Chicago, we drove down Lakeshore Drive and watched the views from both the lake and the city. What a beautiful site to see. It was a little cold to go during the winter, even though it was warm for a Chicago winter day. During the summer this would be an amazing place to hang out on the beach.
Cost: $15 – $20, depending on show
We decided to splurge a little and see a show. Tickets at IO are reasonable and it’s a great way to spend the evening. IO feeds into SNL and some of the other great comedy shows, so you are guaranteed an amazing show. They also have some great food and drinks.
Cost: $10 – $20 per person
Not the cheapest tacos I’ve had but they have a unique twist on them for sure. Make sure to split an order of their tater tots. So yummy! Bonus, you can say you went to place called the Velvet Taco in the in Viagra Triangle.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzaria
Cost: around $15 person depending on what you get
While I’m in Chicago I decided I had to be super touristy and have Chicago Style deep dish pizza. Elsa and her roommates (Mark & Kate) brought me to this little gem. I believe it is a chain, so it’s probably easy to find. They said they like it better than the other chain deep dish places. The crust was crunchy and toppings over flowing. It was decadent. Bonus, it had this great modernized mid-century vibe to it.
Cost: $5 per beer $1 per Tamale (in the tasting room!)
Apparently Chicago is saturated with brewerys serving up some delicous beers. Since we had a car and Elsa doesn’t often have the chance to swing by Lagunitas, we decided to hit it up. There was a LONG line to wait for the restaurant (Tap Room) so we opted for the Tasting room where you can grab a beer for around $5. On the way to the tasting room, there was a tamale stand set up with delicious authentic tamales handmade by a 65 year old man. His daughter mans the booth and is nice to chat with. Swing on by for a mid-day beer and tamale combo!
Cost: Free! or expensive depending on if you spend any money
This is a great town to walk around. A lot of historic buildings and charming shops to pop into. We parked at one end and walked the length of town center ending at Gethsemane Garden Center. What a great little nursery! It had a big green house with beautiful plants of all types. If I lived in Chicago I would be here all the time!
There you have it. A snapshot of some great places to discover in Chicago while on a dime. I hope you enjoyed reading and will have a great time checking out some of these places for yourself!
Thanks for reading,