The best things to do for free in Chicago’s parks


There’s a lot going on in Chicago’s 600 parks: summer camps, training sessions, concerts and movie screenings. Night Out in the Parks offers thousands of free programs and events. Additionally, the neighborhood manages beaches, swimming pools, harbors, conservatories, a zoo, and a handful of museums in city parks.

If you’re hoping to find some of the best things to do in Chicago’s parks, check out the highlights below. The best part? All events listed are free.

Movies in the park

Bring snacks and watch an outdoor movie. Millennium Park has weekly screenings at the Prtizker Pavilion with popular films like Moonlight and Wonder woman (here is the complete program). However, movies can come to any park with an inflatable screen, projector, and speakers. To find one near you, search the Park District website by location or movie. All movies start at dusk, around 8:30 p.m.

Shakespeare in the park

A 75-minute abridged version of Shakespeare The comedy of mistakes will be visiting Chicago’s parks from July 18 to August 18. In each park, a special truck arrives with a stage and professional actors. The theater program, now in its eighth year, is completely free. Find the schedule here.

Workouts in the park

There are plenty of places to run, cycle, and even rock climb in the parks. However, taking a class to learn something new is also fun. At Millennium Park, there are free summer workouts that include Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, and Zumba. There are more in the neighborhoods, like workouts at Berger Park or Wicker Park. The Garfield Park Conservatory also offers yoga and a few classes with goats grazing the grass. Any wellness event can be found by searching the Park District website.

Classical Music Series

Pianists, violinists, singers all leave their concert halls to perform in Grant Park. Relax in the park and this season listen to professional orchestras perform Beethoven’s Symphony No.8 or the music of The Wizard of Oz. This program is one of the oldest in the city, it began in the 1930s at a temporary kiosk near the Field Museum, and is now housed in the Pritzker Pavilion.

Chicago SummerDance

Beginners are welcome ! Instructors teach swing, salsa, and bachata dance moves for the first half of the event, then everyone practice with a DJ or live band. Dance the night away in the Spirit of Music Garden which has a special outdoor dance floor or find an event in the neighborhood near the Humboldt Park Boathouse or Theater on the Lake.

Pianos in the parks

Now in its fifth summer, Make Music Chicago will be placing pianos in city parks. From June 1 to August 1, anyone can stumble upon the instrument and engage in a song. This year there are double the pianos, now 10 parks will have beautiful touches of ivory.

“I like the idea of ​​a surprise music that you have just discovered. Having pianos in a public park is such a beautiful statement about access and opportunity, ”Erin Flynn, director of children’s music programs at the Old Town School of Folk Music at the Chicago Tribune.

Learn to box

There are 21 boxing centers in city parks that offer free lessons for children between the ages of 8 and 18. The instructors, licensed by the American Amateur Boxing Federation, can help children train for the Golden Gloves and other boxing shows in Chicago. The youth boxing program has helped professional boxers like David Diaz and Nate Jones get their debuts.

Star gazing

You don’t have to be in nature to properly observe the night sky. The 606 has a resident astronomer who hosts For the Love of Stars events on Fridays. Look through telescopes set up on the elevated trail to see the constellations, planets, and the moon.

Ornithological and nature walks

The Chicago Audobon leads migratory bird walks in the spring and fall at the North Park Village Nature Center, a 46-acre natural area located northwest of the city. You will explore native landscapes such as wetlands, tall grasses, meadows and oak savannah. The Audobon also offers bird walks on the wooded island of Jackson Park or in the Skokie Lagoons. Another place to spot migrating birds is the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary.


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