The Best Free Stuff In Chicago

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We never need a reason to have a good time, and we certainly don't need a reason to have that good time for free. If you know where to look (Refinery29, obvs), you can find tons of things you love to do—and even some that you've been dying to try—for the bargain price of nothing at all. From movies and stand-up comedy to cooking classes and dance lessons, the options are limitless and totally affordable. All you'll need to bring is a friend or two and a serious desire to get the most out of your city. Start exploring all the ways Chicago loves to show off for free, and save your cash for where it counts—your closet!
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1. Navy Pier Fall Fireworks
This is still happening, y'all! Tell us one thing better than blanket snuggling during an awesome fireworks show. Seriously, one thing. Saturdays at 9 p.m. September 10 through October 29. Navy Pier, 600 East Grand Avenue (or anywhere within viewing distance!); No phone.
2. Free movies at the Chicago History Museum
Free movies aren't just for summer evenings in the park. The Chicago History Museum will hook you up indoors, too! Check their website for showtimes throughout the month of October, but get there early or you'll be in the neck-cramp zone! Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark Street (at North Avenue); 312-642-4600.
3. Free improv at Improv Olympics
Need a good laugh after work? Every Wednesday at 8 p.m., let the experts at iO help you release the tension with a little free comedy. You can wait months and spend big bucks for other shows, or just save your cash for the cocktails. It's up to you. iO, 3541 North Clark Street (at Addison Street); 773-880-0199.
4. Free Salsa lessons at Nacional27
If you're not quite ready for the commitment of a multi-session dance class, try this first. Every Thursday from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Nacional27 offers guests free Salsa-dancing lessons. The dance floor is open after that, and there are plenty of yummy things to order once you've danced up an appetite. Nacional27, 325 West Huron (at Orleans Street); 312-664-2727.
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5. Free admission to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Every Thursday, one Chicago museum takes time out to help you learn a little somethin'—for free! Swing by between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to check out things you didn't know about plants and stuff! Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 North Cannon Drive (north of Fullerton Avenue); 773-755-5100.
6. Free cooking class at Williams-Sonoma
Stop burning everthing! (Okay, maybe we should take our own advice.) Williams-Sonoma hosts free cooking classes once a month. They are very much in-demand, so make sure you sign up early! Williams-Sonoma, 900 North Michigan Avenue, Space #L2-14 LI-4s (at Walton Street); 312-597-8080.
7. Free standup at the Hopleaf
Every second Tuesday of the month, those dining at one of our favorite local restos will be treated to some funnies along with their craft beer and mussels. Not a bad night at all, if you ask us. The fun starts at 7:30, so factor in your wait time and make sure you've scored a good seat! Hopleaf, 5148 North Clark Street (at Foster Avenue); 773-334-9851.
8. Free board games at the California Clipper
Rather than spend a small fortune reclaiming your youth at Toys R Us, head over to the California Clipper in Humbolt Park, where all the games you loved as a kid now come with the option of cocktails. California Clipper, 1002 North California Avenue (at Augusta Boulevard); 773-384-2547.
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9. Free wine tastings at Lush
You knew the part about free booze was coming, right? Every single Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m., Lush Wine & Spirits offers shoppers free wine tastings, plus tons of info about what they'll sip. For absolutely nothing, try a flight of vino handpicked by the whipsmart staff at Lush. Lush Wine & Spirits, 1412 West Chicago Avenue (at Noble Street); 312-666-6900.
10. Free beer tastings at Maria's Packaged Goods
Because not everybody is into wine, Maria's makes sure the beer lovers can sample sips for free, too. Come by every Tuesday from 8 to 10 p.m. and sample what Maria's has to offer. Sampling means you'll still be in shape for work the next day, right? Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, 960 West 31st Street (between Lituanica Avenue and Farrell Street); 773-890-0588.
Photo: Skating image via Explore Chicago, wine image via Lush Wine & Spirits, California Clipper image via California Clipper, fireworks image via Explore Chicago, museum image via Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
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