5FreeChicagoChicago is an expensive city, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to take a trip to this great cultural opportunity just a few hours away. Our family vacation this year was a trip to Chi-town, and here are a few places we visited to make the trip more affordable. Beware: you might not be able to do all of these in one trip. Luckily Chicago is a short drive from here in Indy, so you’ll be able to visit a few times to really enjoy them all.

1. Money Museum– Learn about the history of money in America at the Money Museum in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. This museum is open weekdays from 8:30-5, except bank holidays. This small museum is full of interactive activities to help you learn about money. You can even see a million dollars! We really enjoyed our time in this hidden treasure, but that could be because I LOVE money (not in the Scrooge way, really). I loved having such great visuals to help teach the kids about the history of money, banking, and money circulation. OH! And as an added bonus, you get a bag of shredded money.

2. Tribune Tower– The Tribune Tower is a great stop for any geology and/ or history buffs. The architecture alone is impressive, but take your time walking around the building and checking out all the artifacts that are part of the base. You can get eye-to-eye with stones from some of the most important landmarks around the world! The base is home to 120 such pieces of stone, including a piece of the pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, and Aztec ruins from New Mexico.

Picasso3. Public Art– Chicago has an amazing collection of public art to visit. You can spend your entire trip just walking the city enjoying these free works of art. My favorite was The Picasso. The kids enjoyed Cloud Gate (the Bean) and Crown Fountain, though the weather was too cool for the fountain to be on the last time we were there. These are by far the most well-known pieces in the city, but there are actually over 700 to find throughout Chicago!

4. Smart Museum of Art– The University of Chicago is home to a free art museum known as the Smart Museum of Art. This museum hosts a great collection of Asian, European, Contemporary, and Modern art. They are closed Mondays.

5. Historic Water Tower– Amidst the big, modern buildings that make up Chicago, you can find one resilient piece of history. The Historic Water Tower of Chicago is one of the only structures to survive the Chicago Fire of 1871. As if it weren’t impressive enough just on its own, it also is now home to the City Gallery, a photography gallery with rotating works. The pumping station is home to a vistor’s center where you can pick up brochures and maps.

Sue*BONUS: The Lincoln Park Zoo is always free and open every day of the year! To my great disappointment, we didn’t have time to visit, but it is at the top of my list for next time. They even have a chimpanzee! I mean, come on, a chimp!

*BONUS BONUS: If you are a member of an ASTC-member museum (such as the Indiana State Museum), you can receive free admission at many museums around the country just by showing your card, including Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, the International Museum of Surgical Science, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Peggy Notebeaert Nature Museum, all located in Chicago!