Chicago Essentials

Discover the best places for everything in Chicago.

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to...

HAVE FUN FOR FREE

Chicago Cultural Center
Performances and exhibits are free, many of which are held in the Center’s Tiffany-domed Preston Bradley Hall.

Free Museum/Attraction Days
Several Chicago museums and attractions offer free admission on certain days, even big-name hits like the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Children’s Museum to name a few.

City of Chicago Free Events
The city of Chicago and Chicago Park District offer numerous free events during the year, including free outdoor concerts and classic films in Millennium Park.

Dearborn Observatory, Evanston campus of Northwestern University, 2131 Tech Dr.
Open to the public on Friday nights from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. hour is by reservation only. Dress for the elements, because the observatory has no heat or air conditioning. Call 847-491-7650 to make reservations.

Oriental Institute Museum, 1155 E. 58th St.
Always free, this museum offers a world-renowned showcase for the history, art and archaeology of the ancient Near East.

SHOP AT A FUNKY LOCAL BUSINESS

Two Fish Art Glass, 7401 W. Madison St. in Forest Park
Create your own glass artwork and fixtures, customize glass lamps, windows or gifts, and check out patterns and workshops. The shop is also a dropoff center for compact fluorescent light bulbs.

ElementBars.com
This Chicago company lets people design and customize their own energy bars online. Each bar is handmade, packaged and labeled with its nutritional information and a custom name.

ENTERTAIN THE KIDS

Navy Pier Park, 600 E. Grand Ave.
A lighted Ferris wheel, Viennese swings, 18-hole minigolf course, musical carousel and remote-control boats await inside the Navy Pier Park. Check out the Chicago Children’s Museum next door while you’re there.

Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 North Clark St.
Home to sea lions, polar bears, jaguars, red pandas and Burmese pythons, Lincoln Park is an animal kingdom all its own. Check out animals in their native habitats.

Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road in Brookfield
Help care for the animals, go on a family sleepover safari or take a class in dolphin training.

Medieval Times, 2001 N. Roselle Road in Schaumburg
Enjoy period foods, like turkey legs and hearty soups, with the utensils God gave you, while cheering on your knight during his joust in the center ring.

MEET NEW PEOPLE

Chicago Sport and Social Club
With more than a dozen sport leagues, including volleyball, dance, rock climbing and kayaking, the Club is an easy way to meet people who share your interests.

Chicago Summerdance, 601 S. Michigan Ave., 312-742-4007
One-hour dance lessons by professional instructors, followed by two hours of live music and dancing on a 4,600 square foot open-air dance floor in Grant Park.

Chicago Cares or One Brick
Volunteer and make a difference while meeting new friends. Check out more than 100 different monthly programs.

Running Groups
A great way to meet fellow runners, whether you’re training for a triathlon or interested in taking a short jog followed by a round of cold beers. You can also join a tennis group or suggest a meetup group of your own.

TAKE A DATE

Geja’s Cafe, 340 W. Armitage Ave.
Built for romance with secluded alcoves, classical guitar music and dim lighting.

Spirit of Chicago
Take an evening dinner cruise and watch the fireworks over the lake onboard the Spirit of Chicago.

Gethsemane Garden Center, 5739 N. Clark St.
Pick out your own Christmas tree, find yourself a vibrant and unusual greenhouse plant, or peruse hand-crafted gifts.

Osaka Garden, Wooded Island (within the Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary) in Jackson Park
Tranquil pools fed by waterfalls reflect circular bridges in this traditional Japanese garden.

GET A BEAUTY TREATMENT

Skincare Company, 7249 Madison St. in Forest Park
Chosen as a “best of” for the variety of services it offers under one roof. The spa not only offers a complete array of beauty treatments, but also reiki energy work at the Chi Balancing Center in the same building.

Guise/Chic, 2128 N. Halstead in Chicago
Located in a rehabbed police station, this unique Lincoln Park “style store” originally opened for men who love fashion but hate to shop. The business has since gone coed and offers salon and boutique services for men and women.

GO DANCING

Club 720, 720 N. Wells St., Chicago, 312-787-8720
Three floors of dance, offering a different type of music on each and free Latin dance lessons on Friday. Register for the VIP guest list online for free admission.

Crobar, 1546 N. Kingsbury
For hard-core dancers, Crobar offers extreme body-pounding techno, disco and anything with a strong beat on its spacious dancefloors. Call ahead to book the upstairs VIP room for a special event.

Martini Park, 151 W. Erie St.
Touting itself as the “new nightlife concept for grownups,” Martini Park offers a sophisticated menu in its lounge and live music for its dance floor. Can’t get your groove on to live music? No problem. DJs spin club music after the band wraps for the night.

Neo, 2350 N. Clark St.
Tailored to Chicago’s underground scene, Neo pounds out metal, elektro, industrial, retro and more for the ultimate in hard-core dance. Open every night of the week, Neo charges no cover on Sundays through Wednesdays.

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