How many of you want to take a trip to Chicago, but are worried you don’t have the money to do it? I’ve put together a little list of budget friendly options in Chicago to make sure your girls weekend doesn’t break the bank.
- Pack a lunch and eat it on the Riverwalk– This is one of my absolute favorite things to do on a nice day. The Riverwalk is one of my favorite spots in Chicago because it is so unique to our city. The Riverwalk is lined with bars and restaurants that you can enjoy cocktails or lunch in, but it is often overpriced. Instead, pack your own lunch and sit along the river with your girlfriends for a Riverwalk picnic.
- Comedy Show over Broadway Show- If you’re wanting to have a night at the theatre on your Chicago Getaway, try checking out a comedy show instead of an expensive Broadway Show. After all, Chicago is where many famous comedians started their careers at Second City Theatre, such as Steve Carell, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Chris Farley, Stephen Colbert, Mike Myers, Bill Murray and many more. Second City has a variety of shows. The mainstage show tickets can often be just as expensive as Broadway tickets, so try buying tickets to their trainee shows, where you can find tickets for $10-15. Another fun comedy club in the city is Thirsty Improv Theatre comedy club, where tickets are $20. The entire show is improv with a large amount of audience engagement, all heavily induced by booze.
- Hotels and Airbnbs– Ahh, the accommodation dilemma. Chicago can be veryyyyy pricey when it comes to accommodations. Even the Airbnb’s can be costly in the city, but sometimes you may find a deal, so it’s worth a look. Try looking in more local areas for Airbnb’s instead of downtown and you’re more likely to find cheaper prices, since tourists don’t know about these areas. Some of my favorite more “local” areas are Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Loop, Southport, Old Town, Wrigleyville and Logan Square. All of these neighborhoods are still only a couple miles outside of downtown and a 10-minute train or uber ride away. If you’re looking for a hotel, try Hotwire. I have stayed at some incredible hotels downtown for under $100 a night by using Hotwire. If you’re not familiar with Hotwire, it will let you pick your location and then list hotels by price, hotel class and ratings. The only information it will not tell you is the hotel name itself until after you book it. Sounds scary, but it’s SO fun! I always put the hotels at 3, 4, or 5 stars with an 85% rating or above and I’ve never been disappointed.
- Eat dinner at a BYOB restaurant- Why aren’t BYOB restaurants a thing everywhere?? It’s honestly the best idea anyone has ever thought of. You don’t realize how much money you spend on dinner cocktails and wine until you go to a BYOB restaurant. It is SO cheap. Most sushi restaurants in Chicago are BYOB, but you’re also able to find some other cuisines that offer BYOB.
- Chicago Hot Dogs and Deep-Dish Pizza– Chicago is a world-renowned foodie city, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat at 5-star Michelin restaurants during your stay in Chicago. Stick with the classics. Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza and Chicago Hot Dogs. Check out Portillo’s for a true Chicago hot dog experience. While you’re there try the Italian Beef and Chocolate Cake. You’ll still be able to checkout for under $15. Next try the deep-dish za. Not only will you not spend a lot of money, but this stuff will fill you up for your entire weekend! My personal favorite is Giordano’s, but many of the locals prefer Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East, and Pequods.
- City Views at the John Hancock– The Willis Tower or “Sears Tower” is the tallest building in Chicago and hosts incredible views from the Skydeck, but a ticket to the top will cost you about $40 and a long wait in line for the elevator. Instead, take the elevator to the top of the John Hancock building and grab a drink in the Signature Lounge. The views are just as amazing, plus you’ll spend $30 less and get a drink! If you do this, make sure to check out the views from the women’s bath room, as they are some of the best views you’ll get anywhere in the city.
- The Lincoln Park Zoo– The Lincoln Park Zoo is everyone’s favorite budget-friendly activity because it is FREE! That’s right, it will cost you $0 to enjoy an afternoon at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Most visitors only think to visit the zoo during the summer, but the zoo actually puts on one of the best Christmas light shows I’ve ever seen, so if you’re there over the holidays, make sure to pay it a visit.
Photos by: Gina Figliolia