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Fun for free in Chicago
Chicago’s Essex Inn, more fun for free in the heart of downtown Chicago
We love Chicago. And we love sharing ideas for things to see in Chicago with our guests. If you’re looking for things to do in Chicago, check out our favorite fun things to do for free*.
With Chicago’s best attractions within walking distance, the Essex Inn is the perfect hotel for your Chicago visit and with our excellent accommodations at fantastic prices you’ll have more money left for fun in the city.
Stroll down to the Buckingham Fountain for a free water display every hour from mid-April to mid-October. After dark the fountain is accompanied by music and lights.
Swim in our rooftop pool, work out in our fitness center or take a sauna. It’s all free, and better still, it’ll give you heaps of energy to explore Chicago.
Watch the fireworks at Navy Pier on Wednesday and Saturday nights during summer. Also check out the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows at the Pier, which has free admission. Navy Pier itself is a hub of attractions, many of which charge a fee, but walking around the Pier is always fun and always free.
North of Lincoln Park is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Rooftop gardens showcase energy efficient technology and greenhouses are home to rare butterflies. Free admission for Illinois residents on Thursdays.
Let it all hang out at any of Chicago’s free skate parks (Grant Park, 31st Street and Lake Shore Drive or Wilson Avenue and Lake Shore Drive).
Go to Grant Park. Better yet, go to the Grant Park Symphony in Millennium Park. The Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus presents approximately 35 free concerts between June and August. Concerts are generally performed on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday evenings, and occasionally on Sundays. The lawn and general seating section in the pavilion are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Stroll along the lakefront. It’s fabulous any time of year. You can get a beach report for the lakefront beaches here.
Ice skate at Millennium Park in the winter (it’s free as long as you have your own skates).
Visit Chinatown or Greektown for fantastic architecture, ambience and food.
The Chicago Greeter Program offers free walking tours of the city led by resident volunteers. Explore neighborhoods, meet locals and learn about the history and culture of Chicago.
If you want to know more about Chicago’s wealth of architecture visit the ArchiCenter, which offers free admission to its permanent displays and visiting exhibitions. They also offer guided architecture tours around the city for a fee.
Check out the Chicago Cultural Center at 78 E. Washington St. The building that once housed the main branch of the Chicago Public Library, it is a neo-classical masterpiece and one of the most splendid structures downtown, featuring art-glass domes and glittering mosaic walls. Daytime concerts are often staged in Preston Bradley Hall.
The City Gallery is a free gallery in an old water tower, dedicated to photographs of Chicago.
Many galleries in the Cultural Center exhibit contemporary art from around town and around the world. Live musical performances take place every weekday at the Lunch Break program at 12:15PM. Hear live music on Tuesdays and Fridays in the Randolph Cafe.
Explore the Harold Washington Library at 400 S. State St. With 756,000 square feet, The Guinness Book of Records recognized it as the largest public library building in the world. Learn about Chicago’s history, see Civil War artifacts and a variety of sculptures and murals.
*This information was accurate and up to date at the time of writing; however we advise guests to check each location’s direct website for the most up to date information on opening hours and availability of free activities.
And don’t forget the Essex Inn, for free extras and a great value place to stay
We often have special deals for our guests at local attractions, restaurants, shops and more so ask at reception and discover more of Chicago for less. And don’t forget about all the great extras you get for free staying at the Essex Inn.
Free rooftop pool, with a great view of Grant Park
Free fitness center with treadmills, lifecycles, elliptical machines, weight machines and free-weights
Free dry sauna
Free shuttle around downtown, ask at reception for schedule and availability
Free wireless internet
Panoramic views from our rooftop garden overlooking the parks and Lake Michigan
Add these extras to our comfortable, well priced range of rooms and suites, reasonably priced valet parking and unbeatable location in the heart of downtown Chicago and you’ve got the ultimate downtown hotel for those wanting to experience Chicago.
Essex Inn is the downtown Chicago Hotel for attractions and events
The Essex Inn is one of the best value Chicago Hotels. We offer excellent accommodations at fantastic prices and free extras to make your stay special. And we don't cut corners on comfort or location.
Located in the heart of downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue, with Chicago's finest attractions within walking distance, we have comfortable rooms, hotel suites and family rooms overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan. Our free pool, fitness center and rooftop garden, free shuttle and reasonably priced parking all make for a better Chicago vacation or business trip.
We offer Chicago hotel deals and packages for all interests and budget, so when you're planning your next trip to Chicago, check out The Essex Inn's hotel specials and vacation packages. Whether you want to see a game at Soldier Field, shop the Magnificent Mile, soak up culture at the Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, attend an event, go to a Broadway In Chicago show, or attend a convention at McCormick Place we'll have the Chicago hotel deal for you.