FREE Chicago Date Ideas (You've Probably Never Heard Of!!!)
Your local Chicago Event Oracle is on track with fun, free, and cheap date ideas for you and that special someone. While Chicago is sometimes known for its inclement weather, there are plenty of fun, cozy things to do that don't involve donning arctic weather gear (and some that do!). And we have just the right spots for you to take your sweetie, all while keeping your budget on track. This fast paced city truly has a lot to offer, from amazing architecture, a thriving arts scene, and even some hidden treasures that you'll only know if you're a local (or are fortunate enough to be favored by my crystal ball!) If you live in the area, or are heading to town for a short visit, here are the best FREE Chicago date ideas that you should check out.
2391 N. Stockton Dr. Chicago
2391 N. Stockton Dr.
Chicago, IL 60614
We promised you cozy places that don't require arctic gear, and this is certainly one of those places. Enter a lush tropical paradise, any time of year at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. This glass masterpiece showcases exotic plants all year round, and offers several annual flower shows each year. Towering palms and ancient ferns abound and the heady scent of blooming flowers will have you and your date imagining you are on a secluded tropical island together. How romantic! Check before going for any special restrictions like timed entries, and yes entrance is free.
400 S. State Street, Chicago
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Libraries have been free since time immemorial, and you might think they house just a bunch of stuffy old books, but you'd be wrong. Libraries nowadays are a hub of wonderful events, homes for arts and crafts, and a great place to research something that you and your date might share in common. The Harold Washington Library is home to some amazing art, with works from over 50 local and international artists. Or visit the library with your date, and do a little family history research. You could learn more about each other's family's through their geniology database. There are maker labs and music practice rooms, and lots of fun classes, lectures and events. Not so boring after all, and perhaps there is the makings of a fun date at the library after all.
For an outdoors date that takes you through four major Chicago parks, hike, bike, or walk the Lakefront Trail. Choose your idea of romantic. Perhaps it is stunning skyline views, or maybe a park setting is more your vibe, or maybe it's a beach setting at sunset. You have 18 miles of trail to choose from, leaving lots of trail to conquer for that 2nd or even if you are lucky, 3rd date. And if you are willing to shell out a little money for your date, there are plenty of waterfront restaurants to choose from along the way.
Parks throughout the city
If it is glorious summertime while you are reading this, then you are in luck! Because it is that time of year when everyone puts on their dancing shoes and hits the local parks for a rockin' good time. Everything from reggae, to line dancing, to salsa, you can dance to live music for free. And if you don't know the steps, don't worry. There are free introductory lessons before the music kicks off. These events are held at different parks throughout the city, so check the schedule and then make a date with someone you've been wanting to boogie with!
78 E Washington St, Chicago
78 E Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602
This iconic building houses a world of beautiful architecture and a whole lot more. In fact the list fits pretty much anyone's bill. There's free music, dance, theater, films, lectures, art exhibitions and more. If your date is not impressed by the world's largest stained glass Tiffany dome, then you are in trouble. Or maybe you've both seen it already, but why wouldn't you want to see it again, and again, and again. This 19th century building has seen many a couple holding hands pass through it's corridors. If the walls could only speak. And if that date goes really, really well, then maybe you will one day be booking this amazing venue for your wedding!
Maggie Daley Park, Chicago
337 E Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60601
If summer dancing is out, and winter has descended in all its icy glory, then don't despair! There's always ice skating on the ice skating ribbon at Maggie Daley park. It is free if you bring your own skates, or you can rent skates for a fee. It is open 7 days a week in season, and reservations are a must. You'll have 90 blissful minutes of gliding along, and/or clutching to each other so you don't fall. The perfect excuse for close encounters of the skating kind. So strap on some blades, get yourself a warm hat and gloves, and go skating!
201 E Randolph St, Chicago
201 E Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60602
The exhibits in Millennium Park are ever changing and are truly wonderful. Large scale installations that take your breath away. Even if you've seen The Bean a thousand times, (did you know it is really called Cloud Gate?), there's always something new at Millennium Park to see. But not only that, there are pop-up performances, music festivals, film series and summer workouts. There's so much going on, you are sure to have something you'll want to do on that second date. For instance the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is host to some amazing music and dance. The perfect place for a picnic on the grass, and a relaxed evening out getting to know each other, or spending a date night with your sweetie, away from the kids.
4041 N Milwaukee Ave 2nd floor, Chicago
4041 N Milwaukee Ave 2nd floor
Chicago, IL 60641
The collection, exhibition, and preservation of veteran art is the focus of the NVAM. It is dedicated to presenting veteran-created contemporary art inspired by combat and military service. The collection includes art from U.S.-based artists and from artists around the world. The work engages all audiences to think about the impact of conflict on our society, community and nation. If you are in service or are a veteran yourself, this might be just the place to visit on a date, as a way to engage each other about the realities of war. Or maybe you are just a keen history buff, and your interest lies in this direction. There truly is something (and someone) out there for everyone.
600 E Grand Ave, Chicago
600 E Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
Free Chicago events are endless, and Navy Pier is no exception to that rule. There is just so much going on there! After all, their tagline is, "There’s always something fun going on at Navy Pier!" They offer a full calendar of free arts, cultural events, and public programs all year long, from cultural programming and seasonal celebrations to special events, festivals, fireworks, and more. Of course there is tons of free music, but the Oracle thinks the best date idea at Navy Pier is to catch some summer fireworks. And if you are lucky, the brilliant light show will inspire a little fireworks between you and your date.
1521 S Linn White Dr, Chicago
1521 S Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
Northerly Island Park is a 119-acre Natural Area and park. The island was the site of the Century of Progress World Fair in 1933, but you wouldn't know it today, as it has since been transformed into an urban nature sanctuary. This lakefront Natural Area features prairie grasslands, a 5 acre pond, and strolling paths that offer great views for observing birds and other native wildlife. There are over 150 different varieties of native plants and an emerging savanna with 20,000 trees and shrubs, all which provide an ecosystem for migratory and local birds. So if you and your date just love exploring natural habitats, and fancy a little stroll, this is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and get acquainted in a more serene environment.
Take a stroll through the Pilsen neighborhood and you'll discover an eclectic and vibrant array of murals adorning various buildings, walls, embankments, and overpasses. The area has been expressing itself through paint since the late 60s, and the artists and themes have evolved over the years. With some well-known Chicago street artists represented, as well as several international names, this outdoor gallery is a great place to visit on a sunny day. And if you are also into fitness, you'll be working on your daily goal of 10,000 steps at the same time as catching some great art. Or turn it into a treasure hunt, and see if you can locate a pre-selected list of certain murals.
2400 N. Cannon Drive
2400 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Not only does this zoo date back to the mid-1800s, it is free and always has been. If you and your date both love animals, and could spend hours just hanging around looking at monkeys, lions, and bears, then this is the perfect daytime date spot. There are even some animals that you can get up close and personal with like penguins, chickens, goats, and cows. Check out which animals are on the endangered species list, or have already lost their homes in the wild to us. Maybe you'll be inspired to give a donation to the zoo so they can keep up their good work. Otherwise just show up and have a fun time practicing your best Dr. Doolittle accent, so you can talk to the animals. Who knows what they'll have to say in return.
Grant Park, Chicago
301 S. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60601
Fountains may seem like an old-fashioned idea of fun, but not all fountains are created equal, and this one combines a capacity of over 14,000 gallons of water per minute, and 820 lights, for a spectacular 20 minute display of late 1920s engineering. At the top of every hour from morning to evening, a major display begins, with the added beauty of lights and music starting at dusk. Unfortunately due to winter weather, the fountain only operates from May to mid October, but it makes for a romantic walk in the park nonetheless.
These are just a few of the many fantastic date night options you'll experience in Chicago. It can be tough to find a cheap date idea that's fun, entertaining, and romantic, but free dates can very well be some of the most memorable ones. You don't have to spend a lot of money to have a great time in Chicago, and as you can see, there's something that's fun (and free!) for everyone - the Oracle sees one of these exciting date ideas in your near future.
We'll look deep into our crystal ball for any additional date ideas for future posts - if you have any suggestions or recommendations for unique date ideas in Chicago, be sure to let us know!