Saving Money in Chicago With Military Discounts

I always love coming home to Chicago, to get my fill of the things I don’t have as much of in Colorado. Things like endless great restaurants, museums, access to large bodies of water, and tons of festivals. In addition to taking in all of these things, I step foot into one of the most architecturally aestheitc cities in the world.

Every time I come home, I still feel like a tourist. Chicago offers so many activities that even after growing up there and coming back to visit for ten days or so every summer, there is no shortage of places to explore.

As a budget traveler, I have to be selective on which adventures I decide to participate in. Chicago offers plenty of free things to do in the summer – the beaches, Millenium Park, walking down Michigan Avenue, and Lincoln Park Zoo. However, some things just cost money.

If You are in the Military…

I learned last year that there are quite a few things to do that offer a military discount or even free admission. Last year, I spent an afternoon at the Art Instutute without paying a dime. This year, I wanted to visit more places that offer a military discount.

Making a jaunt to the city is always part of my agenda. Getting to Chicago is not always as fun as being down there if you live in one of the suburbs. I always find the train to be the best option if you have the time and don’t mind walking a bit. Put on your comfortable shoes and get a ticket for the Metra.

Discounts on Public Transportation

Taking the train down to the city is significantly less stressful than driving and much cheaper. Even without any military discount, you can get from practically any suburb to heart of Chicago with about $10 and an hour. No traffic, no parking, no stress.

My ticket to Union Station was $2.50 each way. This was 50% off regular fare.

While you are in the city, you can also ride the CTA buses and trains for free with a Military Service Pass. But there are only a few places to pick up this pass and the hours are specific.

FREE Entrance to the Willis Tower Observatory

The Ledge at Willis Tower

The Ledge at Willis Tower

The train ends steps from the Chicago River in the heart of The Loop, and Willis Tower is just across the Chicago River, only a few blocks away from Union Station. The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) Skydeck is free for military. Tickets are currently $17.50.

Warning to those afraid of heights…

The observatory is on the 103rd floor overlooking the city from all directions. Once you get to the top, be prepared for crowds, especially in the summer.

In 2009, three ten by ten glass balconies were adding, providing a whole new experience to viewing the city from above. These enclosed glass viewing spaces jut out about four feet from the building, suspending you 1,353 feet above ground. These platforms are made of thick glass that allows tourists to see the cityscape above them and below them.

Personally, I didn’t like the vertigo-like feeling for very long, but you really can’t skip this part of the adventure in the observatory.

After leaving Willis Tower, we headed to Millenium Park to cool off in the puddles resulting from the spitting fountains. Along the way, we made a stop at Garrett’s to get a bag of the famous popcorn. Cheaper than the movie theater and much better.

We attempted to capture views from Lake Point Tower, a luxurious condo with a restaurant on top. But the Cite restaurant has a strict dress code – no sleeveless, jeans, or flip-flops. So, no go.

Views from the Hancock Observatory

View from hancock

View from Hancock Signature Lounge

Our next high-rise view was the John Hancock Center Observatory, not far from Oak Street Beach. The observatory is also free for military.

Since my mom does not get a discount and had already forked over $17.50 to see the Chicago skyline from the tallest building in the country, we skipped the observatory and instead went to the Signature Lounge.

There is no charge to enter the lounge on the 96th floor, but a drink will set you back about $10.00. Which is actually not too bad, considering the views that are included.

The Signature Room is one floor below where you can have dinner while looking out onto the skyline and Lake Michigan. Expect to pay for this experience.

In my opinion, the views up here are even better than Willis Tower. The atmosphere is more relaxed and you get a drink for your money. No glass balcony. But I was okay with that.

Drink at Signature Lounge

Drink at Signature Lounge

Chicago really is a military friendly town and I encourage you whether you live there or are visiting, take some time to check out the views, and the other places that support our military.

More Chicago military discounts: Chicago Art Institute, Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and even White Sox tickets on days that are not sold out.

If only there was an Air Force base near Chicago, I could be close to home and the city that I love.

5 Responses to Saving Money in Chicago With Military Discounts

  1. This is a great article. With the Navy bootcamp and TPU right there in Chicago, the town offers a plethora of discounts. I remember visiting there when my ex got out of bootcamp, and he always asked if there was a military discount. I was surprised by how many people said yes!

    Nicole August 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm Reply
    • I know, I was surprised too and it took me over 10 years to figure that one out! HA!

      Julie August 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm Reply
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