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Extended Stay Chicago - Enjoy an Extended Stay in Chicago without Going Broke!

free museum park center

If you’re going to be in Chicago, Illinois, for an extended stay, it’s a very good idea to find out the cheap things you can do in the city, just so you can splurge here and there on the big events that you really want to go out to see. Take advantage of the things you can do for free in Chicago so that you can pay for that great seat at that Chicago Cubs game, or visit the top of the Sears Tower.

First step is your home base for your extended stay in Chicago. True, you can find many relatively cheap chains out near O’Hare Airport, where you can stay for under $100 per night. But then, you’ll have to consider your added local travel costs for getting downtown — you’d be commuting! The same is true for the hotels in the Chicago suburbs.

Rates at the fanciest hotels downtown do go down in the off-season, such as wintertime or early spring. Call each of the hotels and find out what deal they can offer — a good backup would be to have several quotes from a discount travel website.

Now that you’re settled in for your extended stay, what to do first? Depending on the weather, take a look at Chicago’s beaches and parks — they’re free, and most have some indoor attractions too. Grant Park has the Art Institute of Chicago, the Lincoln Park Zoo is free year-round, Garfield Park has its Conservatory, and the ten acres of the Museum Campus near the lake are adjacent to the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

As long as we’re talking about museums, let’s talk about reduced rates. Ask at your hotel or at a Chicago Visitor Center for coupons. Check the online museum calendars for reduced-fee days — and look for the FREE days at the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. However, be aware the crowds will be larger than usual on those days — so go early, stay through lunch and take a late mid-day meal. The Chicago Children’s Museum charges no admission at all every Thursday 5-8 pm — on the first Sunday of each month, it’s free for children under the age of fifteen.

Navy Pier, just east of Streeterville, is over a half-mile long, and has stores, exhibits, restaurants, auditoriums, and museums — though admission to the Pier is free, the rides and such do cost money. At the very least, come take a look at the 150’ Ferris Wheel, or visit the free Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows.

You have to reserve far in advance for many of the free events at the Chicago Cultural Center, located in the Loop, and across Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park. But the building is the original Chicago Public Library, built in 1893 — explore the beautiful architecture. Check out both entrances, the one from Randolph Street walled with green-veined Vermont marble, and the one from Washington Street, with white marble walls and a green marble staircase. The Sidney R. Yates Gallery is a replica of a Venetian hall in the Doge’s Palace, and the Preston Bradley Hall is capped with the world’s largest Tiffany dome.

Street and public festivals do not charge any admission. Simply go forth and mingle.

Visit the many universities and colleges in Chicago on your extended stay — there’s always something free going on! At the very least, go to the A+D Gallery at 619 South Wabash — it’s part of the Columbia University’s Art + Design Department and features all types of creative and informative exhibits on interior design, fine arts, fashion design, illustration, etc.

Crane your neck downtown to see the tallest buildings in the city: Trump International Hotel and Tower, Willis Tower, the Aon Center, and the John Hancock Center. And those buildings are just the warm-up for the Chicago Spire, still under construction — check out the site just west of Navy Pier on the waterfront. And don’t forget the free water shows in Grant Park that happen 8 AM to 11 PM, April through October, at Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain, at Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway.

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