Category Archives: Ballin’ on a Budget

10 Ways to Have Fun in Chicago This Winter – On the Cheap

10 Ways to Have Fun in Chicago This Winter – On the Cheap


Set a New Year’s resolution to save money this year? While Chicago abounds with expensive meals out, days of pricey sightseeing and nights on the town, there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself through the cold months on the cheap.


Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Low Cost Fun in Chicago


1.       Trek across Northerly Island by snowshoe

Bring your camera to capture great views of the city while getting a winter workout in. At only $5 for snowshoe or cross-country ski rentals, you can explore this expansive park near the Planetarium. Check here for a calendar of days the program is running. Note that there must be three inches of snow to participate – so check their Facebook page or call 312-745-2910 for up-to-date information on access.


2.       See what the Soho House hype is about for the cost of a latte

Curious about West Loop’s new glamorous social club, the Soho House (113 – 125 N. Green St.)? While much of the club is designated for members or hotel guests only, the coffee shop and bar in the stunningly decorated lobby (The Allis) and the two restaurants (Chicken Shop and Pizza East) are open to the public. One of our favorite stops in the neighborhood, we recommend finding a lovely sun-lit table in the lobby and ordering a latte or freshly-concocted Bloody Mary to soak up the Soho House atmosphere.


3.       Enjoy a homemade meal in a cozy flower shop

The Flower Flat in Lakeview (620 W. Addison) is a former flower shop offering a unique café. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served; dinner only on Friday nights. Take advantage of Friday night’s rotating $19 prix fixe menu featuring dishes such as red wine marinara spaghetti with mozzarella meatballs and peppered shrimp on creamy polenta.


4.       Visit the tropics for free at the conservatories

Surround yourself with gorgeous flowers, plants and streams when you step inside the heated haven of Lincoln Park Conservatory. Located just south of Fullerton, the Conservatory features four rooms: the Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House (which hosts annual flower shows). Access is free.

Head further west to visit the Garfield Park Conservatory (300 North Central Park Ave.), which is an expansive tropical setting featuring six multi-faceted greenhouses and two grand exhibition halls. Admission is also free, however donations are recommended.


5.       Turn your favorite walk into a bike ride with Divvy

Missing your outdoor workouts? Cover more ground and work up some body heat while biking around town. The Divvy rental bike system is available year-round and you can check out a bike for a $7 24-hour pass or kick start unlimited rides with a year-long membership for $75. Because the intent of the bike program is to offer transportation from one point to another, rides must be 30 minutes or less. If you decide to ride for longer, slight overtime charges will be applied.  The program offers 3000 bikes across the city found at 300 docking stations, so you are guaranteed to find one near where you want to go.


6.       Dine at last year’s hot restaurants

Missed a few restaurant openings last year? Head in now that lines have subsided to comfort hits such as Leghorn Chicken’s new location on 600 W. Ohio St. ($7 for a Nashville Hot chicken sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit), or Shake Shack (66 E. Ohio St.) where you can devour a classic ShackBurger for only $5.19. Dine on endless tacos, burger and po’ boys at Big & Little’s, located at 860 N. Orleans and 1034 W. Belmont. This favorite Chicago diner was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and continues to draw regulars back for more delicious eats.

Or, make it fancy and head to Enolo Wine Café in River North (450 N. Clark St.) for a $13 “Tall, Dark and Handsome” flight of 3 glasses of red wine or a $4.50 tasty bruschetta (top picks include Prosciutto, Fig Jam and Mascarpone, or Bacon Jam, Torched Burrata, Arugula and Tomato).


7.       Take advantage of free museum days

Chicago has so many options to get your cultural fix. From Degas at the Art Institute to dinosaurs at the Field Museum, Illinois residents can enjoy some of Chicago’s best museums for free on select days (bring your driver’s license to show proof of residency). Choose Chicago put together a list of specific dates museums open up to residents for free.


 8.       Conquer a new workout for free

Many fitness studios offer a trial workout for free for new customers. Tackle your New Year’s resolutions by finding your new favorite workout. TITLE Boxing Club offers a free first boxing experience, and Power Sculpt Fitness offers a free trial class (check out Cycle & Sculpt or Tabata Express).


9.       Eat and drink on the cheap with local happy hour specials

Warm, cozy bars draw you in from the cold for fun and camaraderie. Keep bar tabs low by heading in for the happy hour specials. Get your coworkers or friends to tag along to split a few appetizers. The Lobby Lounge in the JW Marriott (151 W. Adams St.) offers $5 wine specials and $5 appetizers such as pizza flatbreads and chicken bites from 5 – 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

McCormick & Schmick’s on Rush and Chestnut has a great priced happy hour menu in the early evening hours each day of the week tempting you with items ranging from $2.99 (Garlic Rosemary Fries) to $5.99 (American Kobe Style Carpaccio and Baja Fish Tacos).

If you’re craving a Hawaiian island menu, head to Roy’s (720 N. State St.) for Aloha Hour every night from 4:30 – 7 p.m. to enjoy $6 cocktails such as Cucumber Martinis and $6 bar bites such as Red Curry Chicken Samosas and Tempura-Crusted Ahi Rolls.


10.   Collect extra cash by selling clothes at consignment shops

Make a few extra bucks to fund your social life as you clear up space in your closet. Donate clean items in great condition that you no longer want to consignment shops such as Second Time Around (823 W. Armitage). Earn on average 30 – 40% of the original value of an item, or 50% for new items with tags still on. Second Time Around is looking for designer clothing and accessories that you no longer need and can sell to someone else who would enjoy them.

Le Thrift Consignment (1821 W. Chicago Ave.) is currently accepting winter hand bags, clothing, jewelry and accessories for similar prices, no appointment necessary.


Ballin’ on a Budget: Low-Cost Bars in Lincoln Park

Ballin’ on a Budget: Low-Cost Bars in Lincoln Park


Though I’m often in denial about it, I’m on a college budget and need to start acting like it! I’ve mastered the art of walking through a mall without buying clothes I don’t need and have learned to cook at home to eliminate expensive checks, but I’m still working on going out and maintaining a low tab. In an effort to drink cheap and late night eats low – here is our guide to low-cost bars in Lincoln Park; ballin’ on a budget, if you will.




Derby Bar and Grill


Derby Bar Chicago


As a southern girl, I love the idea of going to Derby and on Monday nights for the $5 Burgers and $5 Fat Pour Drafts. Derby is a nicer hang for one dining on a small budget, so Monday’s are great! According to their website, Derby is one of Chicago’s oldest prohibition bars and their simple southern charm atmosphere reflects its history perfectly. The inside is nice, but I definitely recommended you take your burger and beer outside to the beautiful beer garden on the side.




Clark’s Bar and Grille


clarke's bar and grille chicago


On Tuesdays Clarke’s offers $1 Beef Tacos, $2 Corona Bottles, $3 Jameson Whiskey, $5 Patron Tequila, and $3 Fireball Whiskey. What’s better than 2 tacos and 2 Coronas for $4?? Do tip the waitresses well though, they are all super sweet and ready to load you up with the specials. I don’t frequent Clarke’s on weekends often because they tend to attract a young and sometimes rowdy crowd but Tuesdays at Clarke’s are prime.




Duffy’s Tavern and Grille


This giant bar on Diversey offers $1 Budweiser, Shock Top Drafts, and Bud Light on Wednesdays, but the best part is the live music.  The cover band, “The Hot Sauce Committee” knows how to get the entire bar dancing and belting the lyrics to all the beloved oldies. The front room is separate from the band so whether you’re there to drink on a small tab or sing your heart out to “Backstreet’s Back,” Duffy’s is the place for ballin’ on a Wednesday budget.




McGee’s Tavern and Grille


McGee’s Tavern and Grille is the classic neighborhood sports bar and is located at the Sheffield and Webster intersection in the heart of Lincoln Park. On Thursdays McGee’s offers $1 Bud Family Bottles and $4 Fireball shots. If you enjoy your experience at McGee’s, check out some of the other Bar1 Events bars like Durkins, Redmonds, and others.




Irish Eyes


Irish Eyes Chicago


On Lincoln just north of Fullerton, Irish Eyes offers $3.50 PBR Tall Boys on Fridays. Beware, if you are not in college – this is a college bar, but one of the most beloved of DePaul bars. Irish Eyes is loved by the young folks in the neighborhood for the music on Wednesday – Saturday nights. They offer some of the best of country music and you can be assured the entire bar will be swaying to “Wagon Wheel” at least once in a night. Some are deterred by the dark green carpet but Irish Eyes has the wonderful “bar” feel; not too big, not too small, and clean but hilariously graffiti-ied bathrooms.






MaxBar Chicago


Finding a deal on Saturday nights is the real trick especially if you’re looking for main-stream bars, but it’s is definitely possible! My suggestion would be to go with a big group of friend to MaxBar on North Lincoln. On Saturday nights they offer one bottle of Grey Goose and one bottle of Patron Silver for $225. Though it doesn’t sound like the best deal at first, keep in mind you’re paying in a group for bottle service on top shelf vodka and tequila.


Have fun out there! What are your favorite spots for Ballin’ on a Budget in Lincoln Park? Comment below!


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