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Sightseeing in the US doesn’t have to cost you the earth! Here we debunk another expensive city, and bring you some top attractions to see for free in Chicago.
Ahhhh Chicago. The very name conjures up images of prohibition, gale force winds that’ll blow right through your very bones and deep dish pizzas. It might not technically be the “second city” anymore (a title that Los Angeles has surely taken over) but historically it always will be number two for a variety of reasons. And much like its fellow US counterparts, it can often be described as being a tad expensive! NOT SO say we! For here we have racked our brains and plunged into the depths of our knowledge to bring you some of the very best that Chicago has to offer – and all without paying a (giant) bean! Do you see what we did there?! GIANT BEAN! It’ll all become clear in a moment…
Cheap in Chi! Free stuff to see and do in the USA’s second city!
The Cultural Centre
Opening way back in 1897 as a public library, the Chicago Cultural Centre has become a city institution. The architecture is truly amazing, with two beautiful stained glass domes and a commandingly impressive façade. Apart from its visual delights, the centre hosts an abundance of free stuff to do, and you know how much we like free stuff here at Etramping! You can take your pick from free concerts and theatre performances, to lectures and exhibitions, to family events and everything in between! With over a thousand events happening each year, you’ll be sure to find something right up your street!
95th Floor of the John Hancock building
City skylines don’t come that much more impressive than Chicago’s, but seeing the grand spectacle from a great height often comes at a great price. (We’re looking at you – Empire State!) But if you venture to the 95th floor of the John Hancock building, you can gaze out over the stunning city below, right out over the enormous Lake Michigan and beyond. It’s simply breathtaking and it won’t cost you a penny to get up there. It also boasts the fastest lifts in the western hemisphere! However be aware that you’ll be in a bar, so maybe order a tea or something. Either way, the panoramic view is worth a couple of bucks alone. Don’t miss it.
You can’t get away with doing a feature about Chicago and not mention Millennium Park. Situated right in the heart of the city, this vast outdoor playground comes alive during those late summer nights. It’s buzzing with free music concerts, stunning architecture, unique street art and more. It’s here you’ll find one of Chicago’s most famous and best loved landmarks – the Cloud Gate, which is more affectionately known as “the giant bean”. Visiting it won’t cost you one! Listen to the sounds of some cool jazz at the parks focal point – the Jay Pritzker Pavilion – there’s no better place in the city to chill out at the end of a busy day sightseeing. Don’t miss the free movie showings on the big screen too!
Chicago Botanical Gardens
Taking up 385 acres of Chicago is the botanical gardens – a living, breathing museum of nature. It contains 25 display gardens and habitats housing flora from all over the world, and hosts multiple events year round to entice all the senses. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan city, you can’t go wrong by paying a visit here. It’s also a leader in plant conservation and care and has some great cycle tracks so you can keep fit while traveling.
The award for Chicago’s most visited attraction goes to the famous Navy Pier, favourite of locals and tourists alike. Here you’ll find a ridiculous amount of things to do for nothing, including concerts, theatre, art exhibitions and more. Stretching right out into the vastness of Lake Michigan, it also offers some of the very best views of the Chicago skyline, so don’t forget your camera for that perfect shot. During the warmer months, you’ll also be able to capture amazing festivals taking place in and around the pier, as all of Chicago comes out to play, so check their website for an up-to-date program of events.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Visit one of the oldest zoos in the States by swinging (like a monkey) by the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. It’s completely free all year round, and you can see all the usual subjects hanging out on branches or chewing leaves 20ft up in the air. The zoo is always a great place to take kids too, if you’ve brought the little darlings with you on your trip – and don’t miss the annual Zoolights festival which takes place every winter. This 20 year tradition illuminates the zoo with over 2 million lights – just as good as going to see the animals themselves!
Museum of Contemporary Photography
Chicago is home to hundreds of amazing museums, and although most of the famous ones have a cover charge, there’s more than one you can enter with free admission. Try exploring the lesser known galleries to find some real diamonds in the rough – like the Museum of Contemporary Photography. As you would expect, the collection consists of a variety of thought-provoking photographs, from some of the Midwest’s finest artists. Make sure you leave enough time too, as with over 1000 pieces on display, you could be here a while. Perfect for when the weather isn’t quite what you hoped it would be – but hey – welcome to Chicago!
Harold Washington Library Centre
You’ll find a book lovers paradise if you visit the Harold Washington Library Centre, as well as regular exhibitions and events that you can attend without paying a dime. The building is equally as impressive too, opening in 1991, and serves as the Chicago Public Library’s flagship branch. Another good choice for those bad weather days, with over 2 million books to choose from, you’ll wish the sun never came out at all! It’s also home to a 385 seat theatre, art collections and stunning internal architecture. Perfect for those book worms among you!
Free walking tours
The best thing about walking is that it’s free. And that it keeps you fit too – which we also like – but being free is awesome. Now you could choose to meander through Chicago’s many famous neighbourhoods and get lost exploring on your own, or you could opt for one of the cities many free walking tours which operate daily through the summer months. For some special care and attention, you must try the wonderful Chicago Greeter program, which matches visitors with a local, knowledgeable guide. You need to register ten days in advance though – as you can imagine this service is pretty popular!
Go to the beach!
Now we wouldn’t recommend this in winter, as Chicago can get colder than the surface of Pluto from November onwards. However, if you’re lucky enough to be visiting in summer – which is when most sensible people should be – then you’re in for a treat. Chicago has got some awesome beaches running the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and there are plenty of activities available, from swimming to cycling, jogging to volleyball. Or you could just simply bury yourself in the sand with a good book. This season opens on May 26th 2017. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Chicago has got so much to offer when it comes to free attractions. It’s a great travel destination for cheap holidays and we could be writing this post forever. It’s such an incredible place, full of energy and life, and there’s always something going on – even if the weather threatens to dampen your day! They don’t call it the windy city for nothing!
Weekend getaways have become essential for maintaining excellent physical and mental health. An escape from the boredom and stress of the work week requires 48 hours of freedom, which is not fully experienced unless you can change locations and mindsets. No matter your reason for a weekend retreat, having the right luggage for the situation is crucial to ensuring your Saturday and Sunday do not end up as overstuffed and tiresome as the other five days of the week.
But how do you make packing for the venture not cut into your time away? Also, what about looking for items once you have made the trip? Having the right set of bags for your weekend retreats is vital for maximizing your relaxation time and not cutting into your fun.
You may be into the ease and versatility of a backpack, which is a widespread favorite for travelers and school students alike. If you are a fan of packing everything into a backpack, check out Eagle Creek’s Backpack Buying Guide, which will give you a comprehensive list of details to compare when choosing the perfect backpack for your travels. But, if you think you will need to pack more clothes, shoes, and more than will fit in a lone backpack, you will want to check out Eagle Creek’s Converge Collection, a line of outdoor- and travel-ready bags and packing accessories sure to make your life easier.
Eagle Creek’s Converge Collection has everything you need to allow your weekends to be fun, relaxing, and worry-free. It is based off of Eagle Creek’s original design of an outdoor aesthetic, which has transformed into travel luggage that maintains its rugged original design with a more appealing allure.
Specifically made for weekend ventures, the Converge™ Weekend Set utilizes multiple bags to fulfill several needs. The set includes the Converge Weekend Bag, Pack-It Converge™ Cube S, Cube M, 2-Sided Cube, Toiletry Cube and Garment Sleeve. Each is uniquely tailored for a role within the greater packing needs of the weekend getaway individual. Not only are these bags manufactured for ideal two-day trips, but they are also designed to work together. All Pack-It™ pieces conveniently fit together to create a seamless system of luggage that can be stored within the Converge Weekend Bag.
The Weekend Bag truly is a do-it-all. Small enough to be considered a carry-on, it still has ample storage for all of your essentials; there is even a laptop compartment that can fit up to a 17” computer within its padded walls. Internal compression straps help secure all of your items safely and securely during the rigorous expeditions (expected or not). The bag is lined with a water-repellent fabric in addition to the water-repellent Bi-Tech™ bottom that makes it virtually weatherproof.
One of the first items you will want to pack in your Weekend Bag is the Pack-It Converge™ Toiletry Cube. Ideal for all of your bathroom essentials, the toiletry cube continues the water-repellent design. It also has six pockets for multiple ways to sub-categorize your toiletries. You can even place the bag upright on the countertop for easy use in every bathroom.
A bag that will not be packed far away from the toiletry cube is the garment sleeve. It is structured and designed to prevent something we all hate: wrinkles. This tri-folded clothing bag features foam rollers to help prevent them. Once you have landed, a dual hang loop has room for two hangers. You have the ability to compress your clothing, keep wrinkles to a minimum, and then hang them all with the help of the garment sleeve.
The last two bags you can utilize with the weekend set are the Pack-It Converge™ 2-Sided Cube and the Pack-It Converge™ Compression Cube (small or medium sizes are available). The 2-sided cube is unique because of its dual compartment design that is ideal for shoes (up to a men’s size 9) or separating dirty and clean clothes. There is an interior divider that allows contents of the bag to remain separate while sharing the same flexible space. As with many of the other bags in the series, the 2-sided cube is made out of water-repellent material for when you have items that are damp and need to be kept away from other luggage. Finally, there are two sizes of compression cubes that can be used within the weekend set. These cubes feature a compression zipper to shrink socks, underwear and other items into a more manageable size.
Eagle Creek produced a set of convertible bags that truly perform for weekend getaways. They have even found a way to implement some of the outdoor roots into the weekend bag – it has zip-away padded backpack straps that will have you ready to hit the trail once you have reached your destination. If you prefer carrying the bag more like traditional luggage, a shoulder strap and quick-grab handle provide you with multiple options for holding your bag.
So if you are looking for a set of bags specifically designed for 2-3 days away from home, the solution you need is Eagle Creek’s Converge Series. The weekend set stands apart from traditional luggage. It is rugged enough for nearly every situation, but sophisticated and organized for business getaways. Most importantly, they will help you stay organized so you can focus tasks more important – or relaxing – than trying to find your toothbrush.
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Flying is never easy. Even the most seasoned traveller gets a little nervous when they have to board a giant flying machine and crowd into a tiny seat next to a complete stranger. We’ve all been there. The shortness of breath, the clammy hands, your heart beating out of your chest… Anxiety. It’s no fun. But there are ways to calm it down. Studies have shown that music can actually change the pattern of our brainwaves, easing anxiety and helping to avoid panic attacks. Whether you’re in for a short two-hour flight or going overseas, these songs will help you beat the airplane jitters.
10. “Someone Like You” by Adele: This song’s soft rhythmic verses lead up to an intense chorus. Getting lost in the emotion of the song can help distract your mind and calm your nerves. I’m pretty sure listening to Adele sing the phone book would do the same thing.
9. “Let it Be” by The Beatles: Ok, the lyrics may be a little obvious as to why this one made the list, but it’s not only the song’s message that can be soothing. The gentle piano melodies can actually help slow the heartbeat and set your mind at ease.
8. “Watermark” by Enya: Enya’s music has been used in spas and medical offices for years because of her mystical, calming voice and symphonic sounds. Close your eyes and picture waterfalls and gently flowing green meadows, you’ll be in relaxing bliss in no time.
7. “The Scientist” by Coldplay: This song is soft and melodic with gentle falsetto vocals. The piano is a nice edition for calming effects. Actually, many of Coldplay’s songs would do the trick.
6. “High and Dry” by Radiohead: Radiohead’s some times nonsensical lyrics paired with intense instrumental background tend to take your brain on a fantasy journey. Listen to Radiohead and you won’t even notice take off, you’ll be too busy taking off to a magical musical journey in your head.
5. “Clare de Lune” by Claude Debussy: This is one of the most beautiful piano pieces ever written. Piano in any song can be soothing but this masterpiece will help you softly drift away.
4. “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John: This classic is not only melodic and calming, it’s iconic. Soon you’ll be passionately singing along. Maybe everyone will join in and you and your fellow passengers can recreate the famous tour bus scene in “Almost Famous”.
3. “Breathe Me” by Sia: The vast vocal range and clear tone of Sia’s beautiful voice make almost all of her tracks relaxing. She takes listeners on a journey with her vocals and lyrics, particularly in this song.
2. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac: Stevie Knicks’ rough, deep tone with the melodic intricacies of “Landslide” makes this song a top choice for easing anxiety. Float away with Knicks’ one of a kind sound.
1. “Weightless” by Marconi Union: Now with this one, you don’t have to take my word for it, there’s scientific proof that this song will ease anxiety. According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, this song produces a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date. It was actually created for the purpose of calming your mind. Marconi Union worked with sound therapists to carefully arrange harmonies, rhythms and bass lines to help slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. In fact, it’s so powerful at calming your mind and body, that driving is not recommended while listening to this song. Flying is ok, as long as you’re not the pilot.
So there you have it, the top ten songs for reducing flight anxiety. Bring your most obnoxiously large headphones, load up your listening device (when the flight attendants say it’s safe to of course) and float away to lala land. You’ll be landing and fighting for first dibs at the overhead compartments before you know it. Safe travels.
About the Author:
Jessica Kane is a writer for SoundStage Direct, the number online source for the best vinyl records and turntables.