Thriftstyle Fun: Enjoying what's left of summer in Chicago

So its already August 23rd. My birthday has come and gone (yesterday). The temperatures are starting to settle down. There's only so much summer left to enjoy (although, to be honest, my favorite season is up next!).

Don't think that because you're on a budget you can't enjoy summer without going into debt! There are plenty of ways to enjoy the rest of this season on the cheap - and in a lot cases for absolutely NOTHING. And most of them involve my favorite thing to do in summer: spreading out a blanket and enjoying entertainment, beverages, and snacks with friends.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy without breaking my bank account:

  • The Chicago Park District: Oh man, you guys. The Chicago Park District is an awesome, awesome system. There are so many ways for you to take advantage of summer (and most other seasons, too) without spending a single cent.
  1. Theatre on the Lake: Its a bit late in the game to take advantage of this now, but Theatre on the Lake brings performances from other theatres around the city (including places like IO and Second City) to the awesome space the CPD has on the lakefront at Fullerton. The tickets aren't free, but they are a LOT cheaper than most other theatres.
  2. Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is performing a professional production of The Taming of the Shrew, free for all, in parks all over the city. Go find one near you!
  3. Movies in the Park: 176 screenings of current and classic movies in 128 citywide parks through Oct. 26. I guarantee there is one or more at a park near you or one accessible to you by public transit. You could even join me on August 25th at Oz Park for the showing of The Wizard of Oz.
  4. GO TO THE BEACH: Enough said.
  5. Go to a Park: Seriously. Spend an afternoon reading and relaxing at a park. I recommend Welles Park, Winnemac Park, Millennium Park, Oz Park, Palmisano Park (really - go check that one out, its beautiful!) and there are hundreds more. Its great to be around nature, spread out, lay in the sun and relax.
  6. CPD Open Swims: As I mentioned above, there are hundreds of parks. And some of them have indoor and outdoor pools. And these pools have open swims on the weekend. So you can go and cool off, hang out, do some tanning, whatever you want. TAKE ADVANTAGE!
  • The Ravinia: While not exactly free, lawn tickets are cheap for most of the performances and only $10 for Chicago Symphony Orchestra shows (and if you have a student ID laying around, CSO performances are FREE for you!). Getting there is super easy by car, bike, or Metra. And its a beautiful and relaxing way to spend an afternoon or evening. I love the Ravinia.
  • Go see a cheap movie: If you're looking for a way to escape the heat, go see a cheap movie at one of the lovely, old movie theatres in Chicago. I'm not talking about IMAX. I'm talking about vintage charm, cheap tickets, and cool, cool AC. I recommend The Music Box Theatre in Lakeview on Southport (great foreign, classic and indie films), The Logan Theatre in Logan Square on Milwaukee (which they recently remodeled and is now super swanky with a new lounge), and The Davis Theatre in Lincoln Square on Lincoln (great neighborhood to walk around in).
  • Explore a new neighborhood: There are plenty to choose from. I forget about the far North and South sides of the city entirely sometimes. There are so many great places to walk around and its a great way to find some cheap eats and thrift stores!
  • Grab a bike and find a trail: Pack a book, some snacks, some water, and hit one of the hundreds of trails around the city and suburbs. Bike up to the Botanic Gardens, through the forest preserves, or try my personal favorite, the North Branch Trail. This trail is peaceful, goes through several parks and preserves that are great places to stop and relax, and you can ride all the way up to the Botanic Gardens if you like.

There are lots of other ways to enjoy this city, spending little to no money. And going out to eat doesn't have to be a huge expense either. Eat at home and just get cocktails. Or share appetizers. Or hit a place that's BYOB. As long as you plan ahead, there's no reason to over-spend in order to enjoy yourself.

What are some of YOUR favorite ways to enjoy the city on the cheap?

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