How to Find Entertainment in Chicago on a Budget with Stephen Ruiz

Stephen Ruiz in Millennium Park (Photo Credit: Stephen Ruiz)

By Lauren Yard

I’ve known Stephen Ruiz for one semester but through working with him on a project and the conversations we’ve had outside of class, it is easy to tell that he is the type of guy that knows Chicago well and can easily find something to do any day of the week.

Stephen has lived downtown for the better part of 3 years and in the suburbs of Chicago for pretty much his whole life. He’s worked minimum wage for most of the time he has lived here and as a result has had to come up with a system of creative budgeting to maximize on his money and entertainment.

He is an avid sports and music fan and feels that with the amount of time he spends working he needs to make time in his week to go out and enjoy everything the city has to offer. He has been doing so successfully for the majority of the time he has lived here.

Lauren Yard: Where are your favorite free or cheap places in Chicago?

Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Stephen Ruiz: For me, my favorite things to do that are cheap in the city is finding the free days at the Museums. The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium and Museum of Science and Industry do free days periodically to cater to those who are on a budget. Additionally, the Lincoln Park Zoo is always free, so it always makes for an enjoyable day to take a bike ride down the lake-front and make a stop at the zoo. Periodically, Emporium Beer Arcade does free concerts as well. Though the drinks aren’t free, it is always nice to get out and see a free show.

Lauren Yard: Where do you look for cheap entertainment when you’re bored and broke?

Stephen Ruiz: When I’m looking for cheap entertainment, I usually look online for free concerts or other free event days. I have found that connecting to places I like on Facebook often yields good results. I don’t have to go out and look for everything because it gets sent to me in my feed. I also just use google there aren’t any specific sites I use anymore.

Lauren Yard: Is there anywhere in Chicago that you think is a total waste of money?

Stephen Ruiz: I think River North is overly expensive and totally a waste of money when you can have the same amount of fun without the wealthier folk around killing your buzz. I think paying for drinks in Wrigley isn’t necessarily a “Waste” of money, but it certainly isn’t cheap.

Lauren Yard: Is there anywhere you think people should just pay to do in Chicago? Like it’s expensive but worth it?

Stephen (right) and friends waiting for Phish concert at Wrigley Field. (Photo credit: Stephen Ruiz)

Stephen Ruiz: Yes, I think Wrigleyville is definitely fun and worth it. I always have a blast when I go to a Cubs game and have beverages before and after the game– it just tends to get to be a very expensive day.

Lauren Yard: What kind of entertainment do you try to seek out most and what has been easiest to find?

Stephen Ruiz:  I try to seek out live concerts the most. Typically, about every weekend I look for a cheap show, usually 10 to 15 dollars. They are usually the cheapest at places like the Bottom Lounge, Park West and Reggies. Like I mentioned before, Emporium Beer Arcade and other bars typically have free shows which promote upcoming bands with decent talent just trying to make a name for themselves by playing free shows in a city like Chicago. Other entertainment I attempt to seek out are just free things like walking the lake front and biking. I really enjoy being outside when I can, so I think just going to the touristy attractions in the city never really get old to me for some reason. Chicago is a beautiful city with tons of things to do, cheap and expensive, but it’s up to you to find the cheaper side of things.

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