• Free For All: Chicago

    What do hotdogs, blues music, and beaches have in common? You’ll find them all in the Windy City! And here’s where you can find those and more for free:

    Lincoln Park

    Lincoln Park is both a park and a trendy neighborhood. The park features a conservatory, filled with exotic plants, as well as a zoo with animals from all over the world. Both are open every day of the year and you can take in spectacular views of the Chicago skyline while you’re there. Don’t miss Zoolights, the free holiday celebration featuring light displays and holiday activities throughout the zoo. Afterward, head to Halstead Street in the heart of the neighborhood for some window shopping.

    DePaul Art Museum

    DePaul is a nationally well-known and respected university in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood that features a 15,000-square-foot museum. Focused on contemporary, local art, the museum seeks to explore the local culture through artistic expression. The museum is always free, but note that it’s closed on Monday and Tuesday.

    Buddy Guy’s Legends

    The best spot for live blues music in Chicago, Buddy Guy’s Legends features performances every day of the week. Avoid the $10 or $20 cover fee by checking out their acoustic sets held Wednesday-Sunday from noon-2pm, Friday at 5:30pm, and Saturday at 6pm.

    There’s also a free Sunday Night Jazz Party from 5-8pm.

    Hyde Park Art Center

    This art collection is dedicated to connecting Chicago-area artists to the community. Open 7 days a week, you’ll find multimedia, statues, paintings, and everything in between. And don’t be fooled by the name – Hyde Park refers to a neighborhood, not an actual park!

    Money Museum

    Get your picture taken with your hand on a million dollars in cash at this museum dedicated to exploring the U.S. currency system. Recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, the Money Museum is a fun, interactive way to learn about the Federal Reserve System. Just remember to bring your ID.

    National Museum of Mexican Art

    Immerse yourself in Mexican art and culture at the National Museum of Mexican Art. The museum’s impressive 10,000 piece permanent collection covers 3,000 years of Mexican creativity. Located in the Pilsen neighborhood, the city’s Mexican neighborhood, it is easy to get to from the hostel on the Pink Line. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is always free.

    Green Market

    Green City Market

    Held outdoors in Lincoln Park from May-October, and in Fulton from August-October, Green City Market showcases sustainable foods and connects farmers to the local community. In the winter months, the market is held at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Check out chef demonstrations every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30am year-round.


    Inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany the Christkindlmarket Chicago brings a cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm to Chicago. Open daily from November 20 - December 24. Admission is free but make sure to bring some cash for delicious potato pancakes & crepes or a mug of mulled wine.

    Hostel Activities

    Almost every day of the week you’ll find a free walking tour for guests at HI Chicago exploring different parts of the city. Every Monday, grab a free Chicago-style hotdog in the dining room, and enjoy cookies and lemonade in the lobby on Thursday afternoons. Welcome parties are held on Wednesday and Friday evenings, so you’ll find something fun to do or eat throughout your stay.

    Find more free things to across the country in the HI USA Free For All.