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Cheap Things To Do in Chicago
By Theresa Carter

Don't let the Magnificent Mile, Oak Street, and 4-star restaurants fool you. You CAN enjoy Chicago on a budget without feeling like you're missing out.

The entrance fees at Chicago's world-class museums can add up, but there are several options to reduce the cost of seeing the amazing breadth of attractions. For $49, a CityPass gets you tickets to six of the city's biggest attractions (Adler Planetarium, Art Institute, Field Museum, Hancock Observatory, Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium) for use within nine days.

If you're a Chicago resident, museums offer discounts. And if you have a Chicago Public Library Card, you can check out a Kraft Kids Museum Passport. This gets you into 11 attractions for free, but you can only check out one per library card.

The Art Institute is free on Tuesdays. It's home to the largest Impressionist collection outside of the Louvre, collections dating to 3000BC, and (my son's favorite) a great armor and weapons collection.

Contemporary art fans can enjoy the Museum of Contemporary Art on Tuesdays from 5 to 8pm for free, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography is always free.

Explore the history of surgery at the International Museum of Surgical Science. It's free on Tuesdays. Fridays you gain free knowledge of Jewish history and culture at the Spertus Museum.

Take a free architecture tour aboard the El. During the summer, the Chicago Transit Authority offers the Loop Tour. Docents from the Chicago Architecture Foundation guide visitors through the history and architecture of the elevated train and its surrounding architecture.

You can kill two birds with one stone (figuratively, please) by having a meal or a drink at the Signature Lounge on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building.

Navy Pier is always free, but there's an entrance fee to the Chicago Children's Museum. However, it's free on Thursdays from 5 to 8pm. Grab a funnel cake, shop at the kiosks, watch a free show in the atrium, then head up to the museum.

Getting to all these fabulous places can also be free. The city offers a free trolley service. During the summer it runs daily, and on the weekends from September through December.

Dining and drink specials are too numerous to list here, but that's OK. There's a whole page of them at http://www.thelocaltourist.com/discounts.htm. Specials range from half-price wine to $2 appetizers to $25 3-course meals.

I bet your wallet's feeling a little heavier already.

(For contact information for the above attractions, visit the Things To Do page on The Local Tourist.)

This article may be reprinted with the inclusion of the following: Theresa Carter is creator and publisher of The Local Tourist, the online guide to downtown Chicago. Restaurants, bars, events, shopping, attractions, things to do and more. http://www.thelocaltourist.com

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