Cheap in the City

November 19, 2009 at 6:31 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )


One of the perks of living in a big city is the never ending list of events and activities that are out there, just waiting to be experienced.  However, a drawback to living in a big city is that actually doing many of these things would take me well beyond the financial limits I must unfortunately impose on myself.  So I’ve learned to search for the awesomely cheap or fantastically free activities to do around Chicago, because there are so many.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good museum.  I think there’s something fascinating about standing in front of an object that has been around for hundreds or even thousands of years and imagining it in its original time and place.  Yes, I’m rather dorky and no, I do not care.  In fact, when my alarm went off this morning I was in the midst of an interesting dream where I was in an unidentified museum and examining a sort of sword and shield set from the Celtic Era.  Perhaps that was the impetus for this post?

My absolute favorite place to go in Chicago is the Field Museum of Natural History.  Being a student of anthropology I think this is only natural, no pun intended.  It would be a dream of mine to actually have a job in this place, and maybe one day I will.  Until then, however, I will enjoy the FREE DAYS they offer to museumphiles (did I just make up a new word?) such as myself.  The Field Museum offers a handful of Free Days every month, though it’s unfortunate (and well planned) that they all fall during the work week.  Luckily, last Wednesday was Veteran’s Day and as such was a paid holiday for me.  (Sidenote: I love having a grown up job that gives paid holidays).  It also happened to be a Free Day at the Field, so I was in anthropological heaven.  I wandered through the exhibits for hours before I went to my favorite part, which I try to save for last.  The mummies.
I don’t know why but I love the mummies.  The Field is home to wrapped and dehydrated men, women, babies, birds, cats and severed appendages.  It’s so freaking cool and I got to see it all for the low, low price of nothing, which of course makes it even better.  Typically a day pass is around $20, so a Free Day is a bargain.  It would be even better if I had a membership because then every day would be a Free Day…I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Santa reads blog posts.

So now that I’ve talked up the Field Museum, I think it’s only fair to mention the other places around that lure in patrons with their Free Day deal.
The Shedd Aquarium is a great place to go at anytime, especially since Beluga whales are so awesome.  Be warned though that the Shedd attracts swarms of strollers, toddlers and stressed out screaming parents.  Obviously this is even worse on the Free Days, so therein lies the problem.  Actually, I was surprised that the Field wasn’t busier when I was there but the last thing I would do about that is complain.  I guess old bones and ancient artifacts aren’t as fascinating to a two year old as a dolphin doing a dance across water.  I can respect that.

The Adler Planetarium also gives out Free Days.  Unfortunately, this is a place I have yet to visit so I don’t have any witty stories or comments to make.  I will say that it appears to be super cool and I’m rather disappointed in myself for not having gone out there.  The same goes for this next place, the Museum of Science and Industry.

Alas, another fine institution in this city that I have not taken advantage of.  They also have Free Days, so we can now reasonably conclude that every major museum in Chicago likes to give it away for nothing.  But only on weekdays, of course.  I actually had planned on going to this one on my day off last week and was even on a bus headed that way.  However, the Museum of Science and Industry is apparently quite cumbersome to get to without a vehicle (which I lack) and I realized that by the time the bus got me there it would be relatively close to closing.  That’s when I hopped off the bus and hoofed it to the Field, but I’ll always wonder about what could have been.  That is, until I get my lazy butt up early on a weekend and try to go there again.

In the end, a good museum (or any other institution ending in -um…the Planetarium, the Aquarium etc) is worth the price you pay to get in.  That’s how they pay their bills and we should support that.  But if you can find a way to get in someplace that’s legal and free, by all means you should take it, run and never look back.  This rule can apply to all sorts of things, including but not limited to: sports games, concerts, movies, plays, bars and weddings.  In this time of economic awfulness, feel free to be cheap and try to remember that some of the best things in life really can be free!

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