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With its enormous lakefront and majestic skyline, Chicago is one of the most iconic and picturesque cities in the country. Being a gigantic metropolis and the third largest city in the U.S., one might think it costs a pretty penny to explore and enjoy. We tend to disagree. And, since a lot of you will be heading toward the “Capital of the Midwest” for the BlogHer ’13 Conference, we thought we’d hand out a few pointers on how to have an amazing time while still keeping it cheap.

The ElTransportation
Once you’ve checked in at the Sheraton Chicago and situated yourself in the “Windy City”, it’s time to get out there and explore. Why spend the money on a cab when you can opt for one of the many more frugal options? First thing’s first. Call the front desk of your hotel and see if they offer free shuttles to any of the major destinations within the city. If they don’t? Get an authentic local experience by taking public transportation. The buses, subways, and the famous “El” (elevated train) will only run you about two bucks each to get from point A to point B. Another fun option in the summer months is taking a trolley. Unfortunately, the only remaining FREE trolley service is the one to Navy Pier. Wanna do it old school? Hoof it! Walking around a new city is one of the best ways to really take it in.

One of the many delightful things about traveling to a new place is sampling the local cuisine. Everybody loves food, right? Well, lucky for us, Chi-Town’s local fare is of the cheap variety. Woot! In this city you can find a little (huge) slice of heaven – known by others as Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza – on any given corner. On our last visit, we tried and adored the deep dish at Gino’s! One bite of that melty-cheese-oozing, chunky-tomato-saucing, deep-crusted thickness will have you speaking Chicagoan in no time. Best of all, a single slice will fill your belly for just a few greenbacks. Looking for veggies? Look no further than the Chicago-Style Hot Dog! Onions, tomatoes, relish, a pickle spear, and celery salt, all on top of an all-beef dog in a poppyseed bun. OK, so the only veggies to speak of are the onions, but still… A typical Chi-dog will satiate the starving without breaking the bank.

The Lincoln Park ZooEntertainment
In case you’re able to find a moment away from your busy schedule, there are a TON of cheap and even FREE activities Chicago has to offer. Check out the Lincoln Park Zoo or the Lincoln Park Conservatory without even opening your wallet. Take a stroll through Millennium Park where you can catch a twisted reflection of yourself and the skyscrapers behind you in the renowned Cloud Gate sculpture, better known as “The Bean”. After The Bean, ramble over to the most futuristic and freaky fountain you’ve ever seen – the Crown Fountain . This artistic, 21st century video sculpture displays gigantic faces of Chicago natives that spew water from their mouths onto the more playful onlookers. Now that you’re good and soaked, go dry off and relax at the calming and often breathtaking prairie-within-a-city known as Lurie Garden. Close your eyes and listen to the wind skip through the swaying moor grass. If you hear music in the air, chances are it’s coming from Pritzker Pavillion, home of the Grant Park Music Festival which is rocking all summer long. When you’re done with Millennium Park, keep truckin’ toward other some of the other captivating and equally free sites such as Navy Pier, the Lakefront Trail, or even take in a light show at the Buckingham Fountain.