You don’t have to blow your entire paycheck to have a blast in Chicago. These budget-conscious ideas for couples’ activities and outings will help you score maximum fun for a minimal investment.
Go on a free brewery tour
Revolution Brewing Tap Room offers free, guided tours for groups of up to 30 on a first-come, first-served basis Wednesday through Sunday. Space is limited, so plan to arrive early to put your name on the list, then treat your date to a Cross of Gold or any of the approximately 50 beers produced by the brewery.
Explore art at admission-free museums
Get cultural at Columbia College’s free Museum of Contemporary Photography, a gold mine of thought-provoking photography from around the world located right in the South Loop.
If your minds are hungry for more, head south to Pilsen, where the National Museum of Mexican Art‘s vibrant collection — not to mention the community’s street art and murals — channels authentic Mexican, Latino and Chicano culture.
Catch an outdoor pyrotechnic and circus arts performance
Chicago parks offer many free events in the summer, like weekly concerts and movies in Millennium Park.
Some of the most noteworthy performances happen after the sun goes down. Once a month, local fire spinners wielding flaming whips — from hobbyists to professional performance artists — percussionists and spectators meet on the lakefront for the Full Moon Jam.
Stroll the city’s elevated rail trail
Traverse abandoned railroad tracks peppered with art installations and artfully designed landscapes along The 606, a 2.7-mile-long park that spans four Chicago neighborhoods.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Piece Brewery and Pizzeria for dinner and live band karaoke (11 p.m. every Saturday), or enjoy a warm Chicago evening on the expansive patio at Parson’s Chicken & Fish.
Hit up a free show at a great local music venue
Get your weekend started on a high note with Friday happy hour at The Empty Bottle in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. Watch The Hoyle Brothers tear it up honky tonk-style, try your best two-step and throw back bottled beers weekly from 5:30 through 7:30 p.m.
Bond over drinks and games in a beer garden
Need an afternoon hangout spot? Linger in Kaiser Tiger‘s 200-seat outdoor beer garden in the West Loop neighborhood. You’ll have plenty to talk about over bocce ball and ping-pong (or curling in the frozen months).
Snag drinks and seats with a remarkable view
Score a city view at a fraction of the admission price to Willis Tower by snagging a seat at a nearby cocktail bar. Start with natural vistas at Lincoln Park’s North Pond Nature Sanctuary, then wind your way down to the Signature Room at the 95th at the John Hancock Center for aerial views of the lake and city skyline.