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Free and Cheap things to do in Chicago this weekend: August 3-5, 2018

Following the Box is a contemporary art exhibit described as a visual dialogue of American and Indian artists. | Provided by Loyola University Museum of Art

It’s going to be a crowded weekend in Chicago: Lollapalloza 2018 is happening in Grant Park all weekend long.

If you’re going to Lolla, have fun! The Sun-Times has put together a guide to the fun, music and stories of Lollapalloza that you may find helpful.

For everybody else, there is still plenty to do away from the hub-bub of Grant Park. Here’s our list of free and cheap places to go and things to do!

The Sun-Times recommendations are:

  • Stroll through art exhibitions at the Loyola Museum of Art
  • Watch a cooking demo at the Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Go kayaking to help the Shedd Aquarium with a conservation project
  • Water taxi to Chinatown and explore this vibrant neighborhood
  • “Made in Chicago Market” featuring things made by local artisans

Read on for all the details!

Support Chicago makers

The “Made in Chicago Market” is August 5th in the West Loop.
The “Made in Chicago Market” is August 5th in the West Loop.

WHAT: The Chicago Sun-Times/ Reader “Made in Chicago Market.”

Get out of the heat and come inside to support local Chicago artisans. There will be dozens of local vendors (see the list here) with handcrafted items for your home, garden, kids, pets and more. Plus there will be live music from the Old Town School of Folks Music.

WHEN: Sunday, August 5th from 11am to 5pm

WHERE: Plumbers Hall at 1340 W Washington Blvd. in the West Loop (free parking available)

COST: Free, VIP Tix $15

MORE INFO: Check out the event Facebook page here.

Let art inspire you

Tonika Johnson, 38, discusses her “Folded Map” art project earlier this monthon the porch of her Englewood home. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Tonika Johnson created the Folded Map art project now on display at the Loyola University Museum of Art. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

WHAT: Three Loyola University Museum of Art summer exhibits that challenge our concepts of memory, identity and community.

In Folded Map, artist Tonika Johnson connects residents who live at the matching addresses of the North and South sides of Chicago. The project examines the issue of segregation and racial inequality in Chicago by highlighting the exhibiting the disparities in housing, education, crime and economic resources. Johnson spoke to the Sun-Times in May about her then-upcoming exhibition.

LUMA is also showing two other exhibitions: Following the Box, an exhibition of contemporary art by Indian artists based on photographs of everyday life in India taken by a U.S. solider in 1945; and Celestial House, a mixed-media exhibit where artist Victoria Martinez combines items such as wallpaper and curtains with images of her Pilsen childhood community to create a sense of home and the city environment.

WHEN: Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, closed; (also open throughout the week)

WHERE: Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago

GETTING HERE: Walk 5 minutes from the CTA Red Line, Chicago stop

COST: Free

MORE INFO: Call (312) 915-7600 or check the website

Learn a new recipe

Learn new recipes using summer produce at the free chef cooking demo at the Botanic Garden. | Sun-Times Archives.
Learn new recipes using summer produce at the free chef cooking demo at the Botanic Garden. | Sun-Times Archives.

WHAT: Garden Chef Series at the Chicago Botanic Garden

This is a great weekend to escape to the suburbs. Why not head to the Chicago Botanic Garden for a walk around? On weekends, the Garden also hosts a “Garden Chef” series, where noted chefs will demonstrate how to cook produce fresh from the garden. On Saturday, August 4, the chef will be Erica Fischer of One North Kitchen and Bar; on Sunday, it’s John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina and El Che Bar. (John Manion was one of the chefs who shared grilling tips with Ji Suk Yi last week!) Seating is first-come, first-served in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden open-air amphitheater. Wear a hat and bring sun protection, but no umbrellas!

WHEN: Saturday, August 4, 2018 and Sunday, August 5, 2018; sessions at 1:30 p.m. and again at 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, Illinois

GETTING HERE: Take the Metra UP-N line to Braeside and walk to the entrance; see other options

COST: Free (general admission and Garden Chef series)

Help clean-up the Chicago River

Get involved with conservation efforts in and around the Chicago River through the “Kayak for Conservation” program, organized by the Shedd Aquarium.  Provided by Shedd Aquarium
Get involved with conservation efforts in and around the Chicago River through the “Kayak for Conservation” program, organized by the Shedd Aquarium. Provided by Shedd Aquarium

WHAT: Kayak along the North Branch canal of the Chicago River and visit Shedd’s River Island, learning about the river ecosystem and help maintain the island habitat.

In the Shedd Aquarium’s Kayak for Conservation program, you can paddle up the Chicago River to the aquarium’s River Island, a floating habitat constructed by Shedd to shelter and study native species. The paddling should take between 10-15 minutes, including time stopped to learn about the Chicago River and the discover the plants, fish and animals that live within its ecosystem; afterwards, kayakers help Shedd’s conservation efforts by pulling invasive species, removing litter and other activities as needed.

WHEN: Saturday, August 4, 2018, 9-11 a.m.

WHERE: Kayak Chicago at 1220 W. Le Moyne St., Chicago

GETTING HERE: The kayak outfitter is located 1 block south of North Avenue at the intersection of Le Moyne and Magnolia next to the Chicago River.

COST: Free ($23 refundable deposit on sign-up)

FOR MORE INFO: Visit the Shedd website

Go explore Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood

Chinatown neighborhood of Chicago on July 27, 2018 from the Cermak-Chinatown CTA stop. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times
Chinatown neighborhood of Chicago on July 27, 2018 from the Cermak-Chinatown CTA stop. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times
Colin Boyle/Sun-Times file photo

WHAT: Explore one of Chicago’s most unique neighborhoods: Chinatown

Chicago’s Chinatown is notable because it has stayed culturally Chinese — with all the many traditions and cultures together on the near South Side — even as other Chinatowns nationwide have become much less Chinese due to gentrification and other issues. Head off on a self-guided walking tour of this small and vibrant neighborhood with the help of “The Grid,” our Sun-Times series on Chicago neighborhoods. — host Ji Suk Yi will show you all the best places to visit, shop and eat in the Chinatown episode.

WHERE: Chinatown; about three miles south of downtown Chicago, near Wentworth and Cermak

GETTING HERE: CTA Red Line, Cermak-Chinatown stop; CTA Green Line, Cermak-McCormick Place stop, Chicago Water Taxi, Chinatown stop; CTA buses 24 Wentworth or 62 Archer

COST: Free

MORE INFO: Read The Grid: Exploring the Chinatown neighborhood!

More suggestions:

  • Story Time with Theatre Y. This free program for kids under 6, put on by Theater Y at the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center in Lincoln Square, is meant to bring children and parents together in a lively performance of children’s books, music and improv. Saturday, August 4 at 10 a.m. See the event listing on Facebook or email for more info.
  • Jeff Fest. The Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual arts and music festival this weekend, with music, food, arts and crafts stations and ticketed wine tastings. It runs Friday through Sunday at Jefferson Memorial Park at 4822 N. Long Ave on the city’s northwest side. $5 admission.
  • Edge Fest. There’s another fest in Edgewater, but this one also has a pet parade! Edge Fest takes place on both days this weekend, and the pet parade meets Saturday at 11 a.m. Suggested donation $5.

More Sun-Times Guides with things to do:

The Grid: Explore Chicago’s neighborhoods on your own self-guided walking tour with the help of our Sun-Times neighborhood guides hosted by Ji Suk Yi. Check out “The Grid”, which includes lots of things to do and tons of fun.

Or check out the Sun-Times’ 2018 Summer Guide with all the best things to do in Chicago this summer, or our Sun-Times 2018 Farmers Market Guide with info on the farmers markets in the city and suburbs.

Tell us about free and cheap things to do!

We’d love to hear about your suggestions for free and cheap things to do in Chicago and the suburbs. Email us at and we may include your events in a future story.