It’s time to start thinking about your weekend plans, and we’ve got a new guide to help you find free and cheap things to do in Chicago and the suburbs.

Some of the highlights in today’s guide:

  • Cheering on athletes who embody the mission to create a better, more inclusive world at Soldier Field;
  • Sipping a cold beer in River North on a warm summer’s day;
  • Watching performances by the masters of tap dancing in Chicago;
  • Going on a troll hunt in the suburbs

Here’s our selection of things to do this weekend, all either free or cheap:

Special Olympics: Global Day of Inclusion

Special Olympics Athlete Eric Baumann attends a groundbreaking ceremony at Soldier Field in March. The main event is this weekend. | James Foster/ For the Sun-Times

Special Olympics athlete Eric Baumann attends a groundbreaking ceremony at Soldier Field in March. The main event is this weekend. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

WHEN: Saturday, July 21, 1-7 p.m.

WHERE: Soldier Field, Chicago

COST: Free

To mark the 50th anniversary of its founding, the Special Olympics is hosting a family-friendly festival at Solider Field, where the inclusive sports movement began half a century ago. Play with professional Special Olympics athletes on the field, head over to the Stadium Green to watch Chicago’s local talent, or check out the Historical and Cultural Walk to learn about the last 50 years of the Special Olympics.

The Chicago Sun-Times audience team has partnered with the Special Olympics to bring you the stories and histories of the movement. Read about the legacy of the Special Olympics in Chicago, or check out our special section on the Special Olympics.

JUBA! Masters of Tap by Chicago Human Rhythm Project

Juba! The Masters of Tap is putting on two shows this weekend in Chicago. | Provided

Juba! The Masters of Tap is putting on two shows this weekend in Chicago. | Provided

WHEN: Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

WHERE: Studebaker Theater, 410 South Michigan Ave in Chicago

COST:  Tickets start at $15 

Rhythm World is back in Chicago again this summer and as part of the annual festival you can see performances by some of the world’s very best tap and percussive dancers in the JUBA! Masters of Tap shows this weekend.  The are two performances at the Studebaker Theatre each featuring a different cast of artists.

Walking tour of the Bronzeville neighborhood

Ji Suk Yi with the team at Abundance Bakery in Bronzeville. A great place to stop during your self-guided walking tour of this important Chicago neighborhood. Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times

Ji Suk Yi with the team at Abundance Bakery in Bronzeville. A great place to stop during your self-guided walking tour of this important Chicago neighborhood. Brian Rich/For the Sun-Times

WHEN:  This weekend

WHERE: Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side

COST: Free

Take a walking tour of this interesting Chicago neighborhood using our Sun-Times neighborhood guide “The Grid: Bronzeville.”  Ji Suk Yi has all the details on the best things to do as you explore the heart of Chicago’s African-American community including free and cheap things to do like explore the public art, the Bronzeville walk of fame, the South Side Community Art Center and don’t miss the carmel upside-down cupcakes at the Abundance Bakery for just under $4 a piece!

Taste of River North

Pop band Masked Intruder is scheduled to play at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 22 at the Taste of River North. | Taste of River North

WHEN: Friday, July 20, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, July 21, noon-10 p.m.; Sunday, July 22, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

WHERE: Ward Park, 630 N. Kingsbury St.

COST: $10 Friday; $5 before 3 p.m. Saturday, $10 after; $5 Sunday

If you missed the Taste of Chicago (or you miss going to a tasting festival), you might want to try the Taste of River North, now celebrating its 17th year as a signature event in this north side neighborhood. Try some new beers and flavors, or listen to one of the dozen bands play at the event. Like Taste of Chicago, plenty of people are expected to go and try some amazing food; unlike the Taste of Chicago, the Taste of River North is dog-friendly 🐶.

Help Wanted: The Summer Servants Tour

Help Wanted: The Summer Servants Tour is a living history tour at the Driehaus Museum. | The Richard H. Driehaus Museum

WHEN: Friday, July 20 5:30-7 p.m.  (see link for other dates and times)

WHERE: The Richard H. Driehaus Museum, 40 East Erie St., Chicago

COST: $20 adults, $10 kids 8-12

The Driehaus Museum takes visitors on this living history tour through some of the museum’s back staircases and servants’ quarters, which are normally closed to the public. In the tour, visitors play the role of a prospective candidate to fill the position of one of the house’s domestic servants. The Driehaus Museum is always a good place to visit if you enjoy history or architecture, and this tour is an opportunity to see what you normally wouldn’t. (Also, we understand the museum’s current exhibition on the history of chairs to be quite fascinating.)

Because part of this tour goes through normally-closed off areas, it is not fully wheelchair accessible.

Beach Clean-up

A beach clean-up is a great weekend activity. | Virginia Barred/Chicago Sun-Times

A beach clean-up is a great weekend activity. | Virginia Barred/Chicago Sun-Times

WHEN: Saturday, July 21 starting at 9:45 am

WHERE: Hollywood Beach (also known as Kathy Osterman Beach) in Edgewater

COST: FREE

Rather than just going to a beach, why not help maintain our beautiful lakeshores? There’s a clean-up on Saturday hosted by the Discovery Channel. Bring your own reuseable water bottle. Gloves and trash bags will be provided but you are encouraged to bring your own gloves and a bucket if you can.

You can find out about other beach clean-ups and how to host your own from the The Alliance for the Great Lakes, through the Adopt-a-Beach program. It organizes and coordinates beach cleanups across the Great Lakes shorelines, including in and around Chicago.

The Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. | DuPage County Convention & Visitors Bureau

WHEN:  Generally 7 a.m. until sunset, every day

WHERE: The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, IL

COST:  Kids 1 and younger free; Kids 2-17 $10; Adults $15; Seniors over 65 $10 

If you’d spend some time amongst the trees and learn why our natural environment is so important, the Morton Arboretum would be a brilliant place for you. Since June, the Arboretum has put up a special art exhibition, “Troll Hunt,” which invites visitors to explore the site through hunting six troll sculptures created from reclaimed wood by designer Thomas Dambo — so now you have a good reason to be wondering through the Arboretum.

The Arboretum is a great place for kids all summer, too, and the Build-a-Tree Eco-Workshop (included in admission) in the Children’s Garden will give your kids a memorable keepsake from their day of experiencing the joy of nature and trees. And if you bring your bicycle on most Friday evenings this summer, you can bike under the canopy of the Arboretum’s trees on over 9 miles of vehicle-free paved roads.

 The 606

Chicago and the suburbs have a number of free running trails like the 606 in Bucktown. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun

Chicago and the suburbs have a number of free running trails, like the 606 in Bucktown. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

WHEN: Open every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

WHERE: The 606 in Chicago

COST: Free

The elevated Bloomingdale Trail, opened in 2016, is a joy for joggers, cyclists and dog-lovers alike. The elevated park in the city’s Northwest Side is 2.7 miles of former railroad embankment stretching from Ashland Avenue in the east to Ridgeway Avenue in the west, with 12 access points along the way — four of which connect to neighboring parks.

The 606 Trail is a beautiful way to spend a quiet (if busy) tree-lined stroll the city this weekend, but if you’re up for some exploring, part of the 606 is the southern boundary of the Logan Square neighborhood. Ji Suk Yi has explored Logan Square for our ‘The Grid’ series.

Special note: there’s a free concert along the 606 on Thursday, June 19th starting at 7:30pm at the Milwaukee and Leavitt park area.

Other free and cheap things to do:

  • Divvy is offering free Explorer Passes, good for an unlimited number of 3-hour rides within a 24 hour period, this Saturday. Enter code NOOSA18 in the Divvy app on Saturday, July 21. (Noosa Yoghurt is sponsoring the passes.)
  • The Logan Square Farmers Market opens at 10 a.m. Sundays. It’s always a great place to get local produce, talk with farmers and get to know the neighborhood!  While you are at it, take a self-guided walking tour of Logan Square using our neighborhood guide “The Grid: Logan Square.” 
  • Movie In The Park: The Oscar-winning “Coco” animated film is being shown Sunday, July 22nd at 8:15pm at the Women’s Park and Garden in the South Loop at 1801 S. Indiana Avenue.

More Sun-Times Guides with things to do:

The Sun-Times has put together a complete 2018 Summer Guide to all the best things to do in Chicago this summer. Why not take advntage of free Divvy passes and check out our bike guide with all the information about how to explore Chicago on two wheels?

You can also check out our Sun-Times 2018 Farmers Market Guide with info on the farmers markets in the city and suburbs, many with weekend hours.

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 freeandcheap@suntimes.com and we may include your events in a future story.