Budget Travel Ideas in Chicago

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Chicago is an eclectic city that offers many forms of luxury. However, for us more budget conscious travelers, Chicago is full with affordable options for everybody. Here are some budget travel ideas to plan your next visit to Chicago.

Where to Stay

Hostelling International Chicago (HI Chicago) is a great hostel that has no curfew, which allows late night party goers to party as long as they want. Located in the center of downtown Chicago at 24 East Congress Parkway, HI-Chicago is near Lake Michigan and within walking distance of Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. The hostel has capacity for 500 guests and offers volunteer city guides.

Where to Eat

Cemitas Puebla is a family owned restaurant specialized in a particular style of Mexican cuisine, Poblano (endemic from Puebla, Mexico). Located on 3619 W. North Avenue, east of Pulaski by Monticello. This affordable restaurant can provide lunch for 2 for about $20. Also, it's home to the Cemita Sandwich (Cemita Puebla has trademarked it!), a sandwich on sesame seed bread layered with avocado, a choice from 8 meats, adobo chipotle peppers, fresh Oaxacan cheese and papalo herb (during season).

For a more upscale, yet still affordable, dining option, try Lula Cafe on 3053 N. California Avenue. Here you can enjoy a dinner for 2 for about $30. Closed on Tuesdays, Lula Cafe opens Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

What to Do (for Free)

At the top of the list is the Chicago Greet free service offered by the Chicago Office of Tourism that matches visitors with enthusiastic and knowledgeable Chicago residents. Your free (yup, $0) Chicago Greeter will help you discover the city's neighborhoods, lakefront parks, museums, shops and restaurants from a local point of view. You'll be able to select your choices from over 25 neighborhoods, 40 areas of interest, a list of preferred languages and three choices of date and time. There are 2 important things to remember. First, you must submit your registration from 7 to 10  business days in advance. Second, parties are limited to a strict maximum of 6.

Visit the Museum Contemporary Art on Tuesday (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.) because admission is free year round on this day. On Tuesdays you can join an MCA Volunteer Guide for a tour of the museum’s exhibitions and collection at 1, 2 and 6 p.m. All tours last forty-five minutes and meet in the second-floor lobby. Located on 220 East Chicago Avenue, this museum will leave you on the heart of the "Magnificent Mile" in downtown Chicago.

You can spend a whole day at the Millennium Park, a 24.5 acre park that features the work of world renowned architects, planners, artists and designers. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., the Millenium Park does not charge for admission. There you can find the interactive Crown Fountain by Jaume Piensa, the Lurie Garden and the popular Cloud Gate sculpture from Anish Kappor.
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