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Chicago is a great city to live in and a great city to visit. It has one of America’s best food scenes, unrivaled architecture and many of the country’s finest museums. Unfortunately it is also one of America’s most expensive cities. A day at the museum can set a family back $100 or more. Luckily, at least for Illinois residents, there are many days when Chicago’s world class museums are free.  To save you the trouble of finding what museums are free on what days we have done all of the research for you and put together this list. Most of these free days are for Illinois residents only.

Free days at Chicago museums in 2017:

Art Institute Chicago:  Free every Thursday evening from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm. Weekdays from Jan. 9 – Feb. 16.

The Field Museum: Jan. 4, 5, 16, 28, 29, 30 Feb. 1 – 28

Shedd Aquarium: Free admission or you can get the all access pass for $15 instead of $39.95. Jan. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, Feb. 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 21, 27, 28, June 5, 6, 12, 13, Aug. 28, 29, Sept. 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26, Oct. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, Nov. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21

Museum of Science & Industry Chicago:  Jan. 10-12, 16-19, 24-26, 31, Feb. 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28, June 5-9, 12, Sept.  5-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, Oct. 2-5

Chicago History Museum: Every Tuesday after 12:30. Jan. 16, Feb. 20, March 4, and July 4.

MCA Chicago: Every Tuesday.

Adler Planetarium:  Jan. 6–13, 16, 17-20, Feb. 6–10, 20-24, June 5–9

Loyola University Museum of Art: Free to everyone on Tuesdays.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Thursdays are suggested donation days.

Smart Museum of Art: Always free to everyone.

Oriental Institute: Suggested $10 donation.

Swedish American Museum: Free for everyone the second Tuesday of the month

You may be thinking, Hamilton for $10, you must be joking. Tickets have been sold out for months and even if you could buy them they cost a heck of a lot more than $10. Good seats are going for $500 plus for some shows, how in the world can there be $10 tickets. Luckily for us the show is generously offering 44 seats for $10 for every show. They are not just bad seats up in the rafters in the back, the seats are all over. We were lucky enough to get front row center Hamilton seats for just $10. That’s right we were literally 5 feet from the stage. I could not tell you what their shoes looked like but I know which actors didn’t brush their teeth.    

Not surprisingly you will not be alone in hoping to buy these tickets. To make it fair they hold a new lottery for every show. All you have to do is enter a bit of information on their website. There are a few strict rules; you must be 18, there is a 2 ticket limit, you have 1 hour to buy the tickets online after you are notified you won and you have to show up at the theater to get the tickets.  The lottery is held the day of the show and you will be notified just a few hours before the show so you need to be ready to go to Hamilton on short notice.

There are a few tricks to greatly increasing your odds of winning cheap tickets to Hamilton in Chicago.

  • While you can only enter once per show there are no rules against you and your significant other from both entering. You can even enter for them as long as you have 2 separate email addresses. That doubles your chances of winning.
  • Enter for as many shows as you can. If you are free to go that night make sure and enter and keep entering every chance you can go. They only allow you to enter the day of the show so you will have to do it every day.

  • Put a tab or bookmark on your phone or internet browser to remind yourself to do it and to make it easier. 

  • Be patient and persistent.  We entered dozens of times before we won. 

  • Watch your emails for a notification you have won. You only have an hour to purchase the tickets online and winning and then missing your opportunity because you saw the email too late would be very annoying. 

Good luck. It is an amazing show and well worth spending $10 to see.  

Chicago is a beautiful city all year long, okay maybe not in January when the snow on the streets turns to black and the trees are bare. It is at its best during Christmastime. Christmas means 1 million white lights on Michigan Avenue, the former Marshall Field's on State looking the same as it did 60 years ago, Christkindlmart and all of its charm returns and buildings all over the city lite decorated for the holiday season.  
PictureCommunity Management on Facebook
There is more to making a social media campaign successful than creating interesting posts. One of the most important and often overlooked parts of a well-executed social media campaign is community management. Social media is a great platform for building brand awareness. More importantly it can be used to build relationship with customers and clients. People are much more likely to buy something from your store, dine at your restaurant or support your cause if you have established a relationship with them.

 What we mean by community management is responding to people’s comments on your posts and also finding where people have mentioned your organization on social media and leveraging that to your advantage.

The first aspect of community management, responding to comments on your posts, is easy and should be done every day. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and doing it on social media will start to build a relationship with your followers. At the very least you should be reading the comments on Facebook and clicking the like button. It is a very simple and quick way to acknowledge that you have seen their comments and that you appreciate them taking the time to write something. Positive or well thought out comments deserve a little more effort. A simple reply such as, thank you or we are glad you liked our post, will go a long way in creating good will with a follower.

Unfortunately you are going to on occasion get negative comments. These must be addressed. If they are false or vulgar you can hide them from your page. Friends of the commenter will still see it but no one else will. If they are legitimate you should take the opportunity to respond to the comment and explain the situation. The comments should also be used as a source of free feedback for your company.

The second aspect of community management is to search social media to find where people or other organizations have mentioned your business. If someone else has said what a wonderful company you are you want to make sure that as many people as possible see the post. A like or comment on a post signals to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that it is an interesting post and they should show it to more people. You can also share the post on your page so your followers will see it. Negative posts also need to be responded to. Comments can be used to tell your side of the story and help reassure people that you have heard their concerns and will address the problem.

Comments on your posts are easy to find, you just pull up your social media pages. Posts about you are harder to find and take a bit of effort. The social media sites do make this easier but notifying you when someone tags you in a post. You can either log into your account and check notifications or if you want to be more proactive you can have the notifications sent to you by email. Posts where you are mentioned but not tagged are harder to find. You will need to do a search on the individual social media sites to find them. Another option is to use social media listening sites like Sprout or Hootsuite. They will automate the social media listening process for you. We recommend using these if you are getting several mentions every day.

1. Figure out what your goals are for you social media campaign.
    a. Name recognition.
    b. Bring in new clients.
    c. Distribute news to current clients.

2. Pick which social media channels you what to use.

3. Set up accounts on the different social media sites.
   a, Use consistent names, photos and logos on all of the sites.
   b. Fill the pages out completely so people can find out about your organization.
   c. Have links to your website and contact information on your page.

4. Have a consistent voice across the different sites and over time.

5. Post interesting and informative stories daily.

6.Post about things relevant to your organization but not directly about it at least 50% of the time.

7. Analyze your results and make improvements.
   a. What times do posts get the most views or likes?
   b. What types of posts do best?
   c. Are we achieving our goals?

8. Be patient. Social media success does not happen overnight. It takes time to build a following.

Author: Douglas Boehm of Chicago Social Media Marketers

The answer is yes and no. If you have limited time and are not adept at social media go ahead and link them. If you are serious about your social media campaign then do not link them.

So you may be thinking why shouldn’t I link my Facebook and Twitter accounts? It’s certainly the easiest way to go.  In fact it allows you to get 2 posts for the price of one! The problem is that Facebook and Twitter are independent social media sites. They do not work the same way. You should have an overall social media strategy and you should also have a tactical plan for each platform. Linking these two accounts means that you are posting the exact same content on both Facebook and Twitter and you are not taking advantage of the different strengths each offers.

The most obvious difference is the 140 character limit on Twitter. Twitter is designed for quick and compact updates. This limit does not allow you to elaborate on a topic or in a message. Tweeting is a skill onto itself. Facebook allows you to be more eloquent. While you should keep the majority of your Facebook posts short and sweet, you certainly should be using more than 140 characters.

Hashtag use should be tailored to the individual social media platforms. People expect several hashtags in Instagram and it is important to use them. Using hashtags on Twitter is also important but you should be more judicious about it. We are not fans of using hashtags on Facebook. People are not used to seeing them on Facebook. If you are going to do it they should be added at the end of the text. Hashtags in the middle of a sentence on Twitter is common and accepted while on Facebook it makes it tougher to read the post.

Many people will be following you on Facebook and Twitter. If they see your Facebook post and then later see the exact same post on Twitter they will likely ignore it. Getting the same message but in a different format will work to reinforce your message.

There are of course some benefits to linking the two. Linking is a good way to get your Facebook followers to follow you on Twitter and vice versa.   


Once again it is time for one of our favorite events in Chicago, Open House Chicago. Every October over 200 buildings including high-rises, historic mansions, private clubs, World famous architectural firms and churches open their door to the public. Inviting them to come in and have a look around. Most of these places are normally off limits to the public so it is your chance to see them from the inside.

While the main areas of interest are of course architecture and interior design there are other interesting things to see. In the past the kitchen at the Drake Hotel was part of the event. While you would think that kitchens are normally not that interesting they are when they are one that can make enough food to feed over a 1000 people at one time, making it certainly something to see. Some of the building are only open to Chicago Architectural Foundation members.

The buildings included in Open House Chicago are spread out all over the city and some have waits of up to an hour to get in so you will be lucky to cover more than a small fraction of the over 200 options. The Chicago Architecture Foundation has a great website that lists all of the buildings by neighborhood along with a short description of each. The site also includes an interactive map. We recommend you plan out where you want to go rather than trying to pick places as you go.

Having regularly taken advantage of the opportunity that Open House Chicago presents to see some of Chicago’s best buildings we have developed a list of the best places to go.

Number 1 on our list is the Brewster Apartments. This Lincoln Park residence is one of Chicago’s most interesting buildings. The glass block cat walks and ornate metal stairs make it a unique and beautiful place. As a photographer I have tried to get in any of the other 363 days of the year, only to have the doorman send me packing. By this gatekeeper’s reaction, I do not think I was the first or even the hundredth person who has tried to get in just to look around.  Happily, I found the Brewster Apartments on last year’s list and made seeing it a top priority.

The Clark House is the oldest house in Chicago. I doubt many Chicagoans, including myself 2 years ago, could tell you what the oldest house in Chicago was or where it was located. This is a museum so you can see it at other times, but there is a $10 admission fee, which is waived for this event. So going here is more about saving money than seeing something off limits the rest of the year.

The mansion on N Sheridan. There are two beautiful old mansion that can be toured on N Sheridan near Granville. The Gunder House and Conway House. You can see what lakefront mansions from a time gone by look like. 

Studio Gang Architects. One of the World’s top architectural firms that is on the cutting edge of modern architecture. You can stop in and see what boundaries they are pushing now.

Lake Point Tower.  A condo building that is the only building east of Lake Shore Drive. Their rooftop outdoor area has to be seen to be believed. It is over two acres of peaceful, manicured grounds right in the heart of downtown Chicago.

Almost all of the places are worth visiting but there are few more we have enjoyed. The Columbia Yacht Club, a private club, is a fun stop to see what that big ship on the lakefront looks like on the inside. The Fine Arts Building is always open to the public but it is so much fun it makes the list anyway. It is like going back in time with elevator operators and brass staircase railings. The Chicago Temple is a unique place of worship; a distinctive chapel 550 feet in the air. The Chicago Board of Trade Building is an ART Deco masterpiece and has an important place in Chicago history. Lastly, any of the architecture firms are worth a visit for a sneak preview of their latest in building design.

Open House Chicago is October 15 & 16 from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm and as always is completely free. Individual buildings set their own times so make sure and check each one before going. Some are only open on one of the two days and a few are only open to members of the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Photo credit to Chicago photographer Douglas Boehm.

Saturday 10/1-Sunday 10/2

Thursday September 28 thru October 30 – UniverSoul Circus, Washington Park
Friday September 29 thru Saturday October 1 - The West Town Art Walk, Chicago Ave. between Milwaukee & Hoyne
Friday thru Saturday October 1st - Oktoberfest, Naper Settlement, Naperville
Friday thru Sunday October 2nd – St. Benedicts’s Octoberfest, Chicago
Friday thru Sunday October 2nd - Evanston Art & Big Fork Festival
Saturday – Bacon and Beer Classic, Soldier Field
Saturday – Logan Square Beer Festival, Logan Square Auditorium
Saturday - Woodstock Ale Fest, Downtown Woodstock
Saturday – Chicago’s Vegan Mania, Broadway Armory
Saturday thru Sunday - 29th Annual Apple Fest, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood
Sunday - All-Star BBQ, Palmer Square


Monday 10/3-Sunday 10/9

Thursday September 28 thru October 30 – UniverSoul Circus, Washington Park
Friday - Harvest HopDown, Millennium Park
Friday thru Sunday - Fall Bulb Festival, Chicago Botanic Garden
Friday thru Sunday - Scarecrow Fest, St. Charles
Friday thru Sunday – Rocktober Beerfest, West Loop
Friday thru Sunday - The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival, Highwood
Saturday - Fall Adventure Day, Northerly Island
Sunday – The Chicago Marathon

Monday 10/10-Sunday 10/16

Monday - Columbus Day Parade, State St. from Wacker to Van Buren
Thursday September 28 thru October 30 – UniverSoul Circus, Washington Park
Friday-Sunday – Andersonville Arts Weekend, multiple locations
Saturday - Chicago Home Movie Day, Chicago History Museum
Saturday - Say Cheese Fest, Chicago Marriott and Medical District/UIC
Saturday - Brew Moon Beer & Band Festival, McCook
Saturday-Sunday – Open House Chicago, multiple locations

Monday 10/17-Sunday 10/23

Friday thru November 6 - The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, multiple locations
Saturday – Spooky Pooch Parade, Chicago Botanic Garden
Saturday - Spooky Zoo Spectacular, Lincoln Park Zoo
Saturday-Sunday – Halloween at Navy Pier
Saturday-Sunday – Boo! At the Zoo, Brookfield Zoo
Saturday  thru November 12 – Chicago Humanities Festival, multiple locations
Sunday – Clark Street Spooktacular, Lincoln Park

Monday 10/24-Sunday 10/30

Friday thru November 6 - The Chicago International Children's Film Festival, multiple locations
Saturday – Spooky Pooch Parade, Chicago Botanic Garden
Saturday - Spooky Zoo Spectacular, Lincoln Park Zoo
Saturday-Sunday – Halloween at Navy Pier
Saturday-Sunday – Boo! At the Zoo, Brookfield Zoo
Saturday  thru November 12 – Chicago Humanities Festival, multiple locations
Sunday – Clark Street Spooktacular, Lincoln Park

Halloween - Monday 10/31

Northhalsted Halloween Parade
Halloween at Navy Pier

Banner Photo Credit: DBoehm Photography


Thursday 9/1-Sunday 9/4

August 31 thru next Sunday - Chicago Fringe Festival, Jefferson Park
Thursday  -  Closing night 22nd Black Harvest Film Festival, Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago
Thursday thru Sunday – Chicago Jazz Festival
Thursday thru next Sunday  - Chicago Fringe Festival, Jefferson Park
Friday thru Sunday – Northcoast Music Festival
Friday thru Monday - African Festival of the Arts, Washington Park
Friday thru Monday - Taste of Polonia, Jefferson Park
Friday thru Monday  - Napervile Last Fling
Saturday thru Sunday – Midnight Circus, Gately Park, 744 E. 103rd St.
Saturday thru Monday - Septemberfest, Schaumburg
Saturday - Chicago Fire, Toyota Park

Monday 9/5-Sunday 9/11

Monday thru Sunday - Chicago Fringe Festival, Jefferson Park
Tuesday thru Friday – Free Day for Illinois Residents, Museum of Science & Industry
Wednesday thru Sunday – The 129th Sandwich Fair, Sandwich, IL
Thursday – Adults Night Out, Lincoln Park Zoo
Friday thru Saturday – Windy City Wine Festival, Buckingham Fountain
Friday thru Saturday – 9th Annual Lebanese Festival, Our Lady of Lebanon Church, Lombard
Friday thru Sunday - Festival de La Villita, Little Village
Friday thru Sunday – Official Star Trek Convention, Westin O’Hare
Friday thru Sunday – Chicago German-American Oktoberfest, Lincoln Square
Friday thru Sunday – Hip-Hop Summerfest, Adams/Medill Park, University Village
Saturday – Ribfest, Forest Park
Saturday – Taste of Hungary, Norridge
Saturday thru Sunday - Lakeview East Festival of the Arts
Saturday thru Sunday – Ukranian Village Fest
Saturday thru Sunday – Renegade Craft Fair, Wicker Park
Saturday thru Sunday – Ravenswood ArtWalk
Saturday thru Sunday – Midnight Circus, McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing Rd.
Sunday - Scandinavian Day Festival, South Elgin
Sunday – Zoo Run Run, Brookfield Zoo
Sunday thru next Saturday – Naperville Independent Film Festival

Monday 9/12-Sunday 9/18

Monday thru Friday – Free Day for Illinois Residents, Museum of Science & Industry
Monday thru Saturday – Naperville Independent Film Festival
Thursday – ACTIVATE, Cow Path Alley, The Loop
Friday thru Saturday – Oaktoberfest, Oak Park
Friday thru Sunday -  Riot Fest, Douglas Park
Friday thru Sunday, – Midnight Circus, Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen Ave.
Saturday - 16th Annual Englewood Jazz Festival, Hamilton Park Cultural Center, 513 W. 72nd Street
Saturday - 25th Annual Fall Arts & Crafts Adventure, Park Ridge
Saturday – Japanese Culture Center Open House, 1016 W. Belmont, Chicago
Saturday thru Sunday -  West Loop Art Festival
Saturday thru Sunday – Lakeview Taco Fest
Saturday thru Sunday - City Made Fest, Andersonville
Saturday thru Sunday - American Indian Center of Chicago 63rd Annual Powwow, Busse
Woods Forest Preserve, Elk Grove Township
Saturday thru Sunday - 31st Annual Riverwalk Fine Art Fair, Naperville
Sunday - Monarch Festival, Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens, Palos Heights

Monday 9/19-Sunday 9/25

Monday thru Friday – Free Day for Illinois Residents, Museum of Science & Industry
Thursday thru next Thursday – Reeling, The 34th Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, Andersonville
Thursday thru Sunday – Expo Chicago, Navy Pier
Friday thru Sunday - The 32nd Annual American Craft Exposition, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe
Friday thru Sunday - Chicago Gourmet, Millennium Park
Friday thru Sunday – St. Alphonsus Octoberfest, Lakeview Chicago
Saturday – The Tao of Tacos, Harris Theater Rooftop, Millennium Park
Saturday - The Annual Elim Dutch Festival, Palos Heights
Saturday - Lisle Ale Fest
Saturday - 11th Annual Hyde Park Arts & Crafts Adventure, University of Chicago
Saturday thru Sunday - Hyde Park Jazz Festival
Saturday thru Sunday - Edgewater Arts Festival, Granville Ave.
Saturday thru Sunday, – Midnight Circus, Oriole Park, 5430 N. Olcott Ave.

Monday 9/26-Friday 9/30

Monday thru Friday – Free Day for Illinois Residents, Museum of Science & Industry
Monday thru Thursday – Reeling, The 34th Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, Andersonville
Friday thru Saturday October 1st - The West Town Art Walk, Chicago Ave. between Milwaukee & Hoyne
Friday thru Saturday October 1st - Oktoberfest, Naper Settlement, Naperville
Friday thru Sunday October 2nd – St. Benedicts’s Octoberfest, Chicago
Friday thru Sunday October 2nd - Evanston Art & Big Fork Festival

Banner Photo Credit: DBoehm Photography

PictureFollow us on Facebook
Facebook Ads already has several powerful tools to help you reach your intended audience. You can promote your content to a specific geographic area. You can pick a city or if you really want to zoom in you can put a pin on a map and set how many miles from that pin you want your ad to show. Facebook also lets you set the age and gender of the people that your ads reach. They even let you specify interests that your audience should have, such as: art, home owners, sports, etc. Drilling down your audience can greatly reduce your cost because your ads are not going to people that are not potential customers.

Now Facebook has added an even better tool to reach a specific audience. Through the Ads Manager feature you can upload your email list and send ads to just the people on your list. That means your ad is reaching only people who have already shown an interest in your company. That can greatly reduce your cost and it allows you to send a more specific message. It is a great way to follow up an email campaign. Most customers are moved to action after seeing an offer more than one time. You can send out an email promoting a big sale and then follow that up by using a Facebook Ad targeting your email list.

Steps to creating a Facebook Ads audience from your email list.

1.       Create a .csv file of your email list. You can turn an Excel file into a .csv file using the save as feature and choosing .csv as the save as type. If you use an email campaign service like Mailchimp you will have to follow their directions in their help section.
2.       Open Ads Manager.
3.       Click on the hamburger symbol in the upper left corner and look for audiences under the assets header.
4.       Click create audience and then scroll down to custom audience.
5.       Click on customer file and then click choose a file and upload your .csv file.
6.       Make sure to name the audience so you can find it easily.

Facebook will use the email addresses to try and find the Facebook accounts of the people on your list. Not everyone will be found but we had a high percentage of the people on our lists found. Now the only thing left to do is design your ads and get started. 


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