Planning Your Enjoyable, Enlightening, and Cost-Effective Trip to Chicago



Chicago from the Chicago River

Chicago, a city teeming with activities and landmarks, can sometimes feel a world away. High schoolers, often overwhelmed with strenuous academic and extracurricular schedules, just don’t seem to have time to visit the city that only lies 25 miles away from Glen Ellyn. However, investing just one of your valuable days off to visit this remarkable city can reap extraordinary fun and knowledge that will benefit you in the years to come. According to Leon Logothetis, a blogger who has been traveling the world for more than 20 years, “Nothing beats traveling to historic landmarks and exploring your way around a city’s history and culture.” With a multitude of exciting things to do and landmarks to explore while you’re enriching your cultural knowledge, the city of Chicago offers an enjoyable and educational getaway for families and groups of friends.

The city of Chicago, incorporated in 1837, is composed of an incredibly diverse atmosphere due to the many immigrants it attracted in the 20th century. Today, it serves as a vital air, rail, and marine hub for North America’s economy. The culture developed by the diversity brought in by immigrants and trade is very unique and if you know how to experience it, enlightening and entertaining as well.

When one has to abide by a budget when traveling to Chicago (as many families and high schoolers have to), there are a multitude of budget-friendly activities to try. If you’re someone who likes your fair share of museums, there are several great times to visit some of the most popular museums in Chicago for free! Due to Illinois law, many museums are required to open their doors to Illinois residents for free. Museums that must abide by this mandate include the Adler Planetarium, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and even the Shedd Aquarium! For times these museums are free to Illinois residents in 2017, please consult the information at the end of this article.

If you’re looking for a place to wander around and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, the Lincoln Park Zoo or Millennium Park may be for you. The Lincoln Park Zoo, free to the general public, is home to many exotic animals such as lions, penguins, tigers, and polar bears. Millennium Park, surrounded by a multitude of historic architecture, houses gardens, fountains, concerts, and even the iconic Cloud Gate (“The Bean”).

Navy Pier, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, offers a variety of attractions open to the public. The famous Navy Pier Ferris Wheel is just one of many things to do on Navy Pier. If one is economically capable, they can also purchase a boat tour ticket for about $45 that departs from Navy Pier to explore the architecture and history of the city along the Chicago River.  

If you’re looking to browse shop windows and purchase a few items along the way, the famous Magnificent Mile may be for you. With an abundance of stores neatly packed along this strip of Michigan Avenue just north of the Chicago River, it is hard for many people to walk away empty-handed.

Finally, if you’re looking to get the ultimate view of Chicago and you are not afraid of heights, venture to the observation decks of either the Willis Tower or the John Hancock Center. These exceptionally high vantage points allow for exceptional views of the city and on occasion, even Michigan! Tickets range between $20-$25.

Now that you’re gearing up to make the short trek to Chicago, the question becomes, “How do I get there without breaking the bank?” The answer for many visitors is Metra’s commuter train. With fares for high schoolers at $3.25 each way and weekend passes costing $8 for unlimited rides for an adult, this mode of transportation proves to be very cost-efficient. Once you reach the city, one can often get around by just walking! However, there are instances where alternative modes of transportations may be necessary. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) offers reasonable fares for trips on the famous “L” trains and buses. Taxies are also available if time is an issue.

If you or your family are able, traveling to the city of Chicago is a rewarding experience. It grants visitors fun and enlightening experiences as they explore the city’s great attractions. Moreover, visiting a city such as Chicago can provide younger visitors with vital city experience that will likely be utilized later in their life. If an opportunity to visit Chicago presents itself, do not hesitate to embrace the trip and construct experiences that will last a lifetime.

If you have any questions about trips to Chicago, feel free to contact me through FirstClass email! I am always eager to help people with their travel plans.

Times Where Museums Are Free to Illinois Residents

  • Adler Planetarium
    • January 6-13, 16-20
    • February 6-10, 20-24
    • June 5–9
    • October 9
  • Art Institute of Chicago
    • Ages under 14 always free
    • Everyone free thursday evenings 5-8PM
  • Chicago History Museum
    • Every Tuesday 12:30-7:30
    • Also on January 16, February 20, March 4, and July 4
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum
    • Free certified guide tour Monday-Friday 1PM
  • Museum of Science and Industry
    • January 10-12, 16-19, 24-26, 31
    • February 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28
    • June 5-9, 12
    • September 5-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29
    • October 2-5
  • Shedd Aquarium
    • January 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29 30, 31
    • February 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 21, 27, 28
    • June 5, 6, 12, 13
    • August 28, 29
    • September 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26
    • October 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31
    • November 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21