Maybe that last late-night rendezvous with online shopping has left your bank account in the so-scary single digits. Or, maybe you just love the thrill of finding fun, free stuff to do around town. Whatever your motives, we've got you.
We tracked down the best things going on in Chicago this weekend—that just so happen to be free (or so cheap, they might as well be free). Living in the Windy City can get expensive—rent, gas, and one trip to a street fair or vintage market can wipe you out for the week. So, check out our list of frugal, fun activities that you and your money-savvy friends can totally get into this Saturday and Sunday. Don't fall victim to the idea that living it up in Chi-town has to cost big bucks. Free yourself.
1) Free Haircuts, Color, Blowouts and More: Free or Almost Free
Want to add “hair model” to your resume? Student stylists need you to hone their craft and are giving away hair services for next to nothing. Peruse through salonapprentice.com for the motherlode of hair model listings at luxe salons like Maxine’s, Trio, Marianne Strokirk, Joseph Michael’s, Streets of London and more.
Recent deals we found include a free long-layer trim at Maxine’s in the Gold Coast (normally $60 and up); a free shampoo and blowout at Art + Science in Wicker Park (normally $38 and up); single-process color and blowdry for $25 at Sine Qua Non in Lakeview (normally $70); and individual lash extensions at The Lashe Spot in Hinsdale for $25 (normally $300). Beat that, Groupon.
Services can be time consuming because the padawon’s work must be constantly checked by a master stylist, and we admit the idea of a student coming at us with scissors and permanent dye sounds scary. But if it’s between that and another month of visible roots—well, just remember this Rihanna moment and make an informed decision.
2) West Loop Art Gallery Tour: Free!
And now for the refined portion of our free swag weekend: Chicago Gallery News hosts a free art gallery tour every weekend, and this Saturday they explore the loft-like warehouse spaces of the West Loop’s unique art scene. Meet at Mars Gallery in the West Loop (1139 W. Fulton Market) a little before 1:30 p.m. for the tour lead by the gallery’s owner Barb Gazdik.
At Mars Gallery, you’ll view a series based on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland entitled "Alice in Chicagoland" by Peter Mars. The tour moves on to Linda Warren Projects to take in Tom Torluemke’s "Ring Around The Rosie" and Jeriah Hildwine’s "Living Dead Girls." While viewing Hebru Brantley’s “Trapped in What I Made Believe” series at Kasia Kay Art Projects Gallery, impress those around you by proclaiming that Brandtley’s paintings “capture the universal essence of the human condition.” The tour ends at Packer Schopf Gallery with a series of paintings, drawings and embroidered x-rays (for a little something different).
Mars Gallery, 1139 West Fulton Market (between Racine Avenue and May Street); 312-226-7808.
3) Free Yoga Class: Free!
After a long weekend of snapping deals and steals up around the city, a healthy detox is the perfect way to end the week. The Chicago School of Hot Yoga in Lincoln Park offers a free community class on Sundays at 5:45 p.m. (normally $19) that is open to all levels.
Class is an hour and fifteen minutes and make sure to bring water, a towel and your mat (or rent one for $2). Relish in those last few moments class—they call it savasana, we call it laying on the floor with our eyes closed in pure, free bliss.
The Chicago School of Yoga, 2442 N Lincoln Avenue, 2nd floor (between Sheffield Avenue and Halsted Street); 773-868-9642.
4) Half Acre Brewery Tour: $10
Stroll down Lincoln Ave. in Northcenter on a Saturday afternoon and you’ll see a line forming down the street in front of Half Acre Brewery. It’s well worth the wait for a tour of a true Chicago brewery, plus a Half Acre pint glass and up to three full pours of beer are included—all for a mere $10. The cash-only tour is every Saturday at 1 p.m. and only the first 60 people are allowed in, so be sure to secure a spot in time.
The brewery’s signature Daisy Cutter Pale Ale is a must-try, plus seasonal brews are always in the making—currently, an India-style red ale called Ginger Twin. Bonus: Half Acre will honor a 10 percent discount to anyone who buys this brew with God-given red hair or accompanied by an identical twin.
Half Acre Brewery Tour, 4257 North Lincoln Avenue (at West Collum Avenue); 773-248-4038.
5) Tulip Mania and an Urban Gardening Festival at the Garfield Park Conservatory: Free!
Every year, all of the gorgeous tulips lining Michigan Ave. and the entire city must be pulled up and replaced—but a city this green is certainly not wasteful. The bags of the bulbs will be given away for free at the Garfield Park Conservatory on a first come, first serve basis this Saturday at 8 a.m. We’re told they’ll all be gone within 30 minutes, so get there early to stand a chance.
After tulip brigade, prep your green thumb from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the conservatory’s 20th Annual Green & Growing Fair, an urban gardening festival sponsored by Chicagoland’s GreenNet Coalition. Stations set up throughout the free festival will teach you how to build your own mini raised garden bed, make compost in the city and design a community garden space. Organic seedlings, gardening materials and more will be for sale—including the KOCHTERRIITM pepper, a new breed of hot pepper created right here Chicago.
Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 North Central Park Avenue (at West Carroll Avenue); 312-746-5100.
Photo: Rex USA