We’ve seen it all before: those obvious, endless lists of “cheap things to do in Chicago” that clutter the Internet and media outlets and are completely overdone. People who want more to do on their Saturdays than go to the Lincoln Park Zoo are stuck fishing around for cheap alternatives.
You may be left wondering what exactly to do when all the tourist trap locations have been exhausted (how many times can one person take a picture at the Bean?). To help expand your horizons, here are some suggestions to bring you one step closer to spending your free time like a true Chicago native.
Contrary to how they come off, Divvy bikes aren’t just for tourists and savvy young professionals. These convenient bikes are available at 300 stations around the city, located in neighborhoods as far north as Edgewater and as far south as Hyde Park. Currently, the closest Divvy station to Loyola is on North Broadway and Berwyn Avenue. In 2015, stations are planned to open as far north as Touhy Avenue and Sheridan Road.
For only $7, renters can use a bike for 24 hours, giving people the opportunity to explore different neighborhoods away from the El stops. Whether you decide to just cruise around the Gold Coast for a scenic bike ride, or ride over to explore new restaurants such as Big Star (1531 N. Damen Ave.) and record stores such as Reckless Records (1532 N. Milwaukee Ave.) in Wicker Park, Divvy bikes are an affordable way to have the city’s many
neighborhoods within your reach.
If music is more your scene, the Red Line Tap (7006 N. Glenwood Ave.) is a venue you don’t want to skip. Conveniently located off the Morse Red Line stop, the Red Line Tap features local bands with surprisingly cheap entrance fees.
Prices at the door can range from $5 suggested donations to $13 cover charges. On Mondays the venue hosts open mic nights. Anyone can sign up, and it’s free to perform and attend. The venue is open until 2 a.m. every day except Saturdays, when it’s open until 3 a.m.
Though I’ll never understand morning people, places like Wishbone Diner (3300 N. Lincoln Ave.) in Lakeview would even get me out of bed before 9 a.m. This southern-style restaurant serves delicious breakfast favorites for around $8-$15 a plate. Pancakes smothered in your choice of mangos, bananas or strawberries, as well as challah bread French toast are both on the menu for under $8 each.
The menu also features classic southern sandwiches such as a blackened catfish po’ boy and pulled pork for under $10. Put your bibs on and begin setting up a Sunday morning brunch or second dinner with your friends — your taste buds (and wallet) will be glad you did.
If you have doubts about bowling or simply consider it a lame excuse for a night out, then you have obviously never been cosmic bowling at Diversey River Bowl (2211 W. Diversey Parkway). The tired-out pastime gains a breath of life at 8:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Bowling with the lights off in the midst of a light show while rock music is blasting really changes one’s perspective on the sport. On Fridays, lanes are only $9.95 per hour. You can have up to 10 people in a lane, so the more people you bring to split the cost, the more budget-friendly the night becomes. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, from 12-5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday, shoe rentals are only $1 each.
Whether you’re searching for daylight entertainment or an off-beat place to spend your night, there are always cheap alternatives for the same old movie night. Consider expanding your sights and exploring all the neat (and inexpensive) gems around our city.