Frugal Chicago Fun: Street Fests

June 02, 2015

ah, june.  it's definitely frugal month in my life and on the blog.  i'm supposed to be on a spending frost (more on that next week), but april and may were rough on me.  it's easy for spending to get away from you when you aren't paying attention.

usually summer bears the brunt of my spending.  it's not that hard to save during a chicago winter, when temperatures are single digits and all you want to do is stay indoors under the covers.  i think i even cook at home more during the winter, because i want to turn the oven on.  but summer is full of spending.  you want to be outside as much as possible, so you're paying for travel, food, drinks, and the various forms of entertainment that let you meet up with your friends you haven't seen in months.


so i'm dedicated, this summer, to meeting up with my friends in the most frugal ways possible.  the favorite for all of us seems to be street fests - you know, where they close off portions of a main road and fill it with stages for bands to play, food and drink vendors, and artisan shops.  so it's not that there's nothing to buy but if you're smart, you can hit up a street fest for almost no money spent.  they're free to get into; you just have to keep the wallet stashed while you're there.



money saving tips:
transportation.  chicago is pretty great about covering all its grounds with public transit. very few street fests aren't directly off a train line stop (all of the ones i listed below are right by a stop.)  a ticket only costs $2.25 each way and the fests all end at 10 p.m., plenty of time to make it back safely on train.

food. try to eat before you go.  personally, i haven't found any street fest food that's worth the inflated prices.  if you get hungry, there's cheaper options around versus trying the stands inside the fest.  try leaving the fest and walking a block or two, you'll find plenty of cheap places for chinese food or sandwiches.

drinks.  bring your own water bottles.  and purse booze, i'm a big fan of purse booze.  do you know how much a street fest beer is?!  just, no.  make a cocktail at home and put it in a water bottle.  public drinking isn't allowed in chicago, unless you're inside the confines of a street fest.  and in that case, you don't have to consume only what the vendors offer.

entertainment.  focus on the cover bands more than the vendors.  trust me, the vendors have adorable things and if you have a shopping problem, you'll find things you want.  stick to watching the bands - they don't charge!  i'm biased, but you should definitely go see my friends sixteen candles and stache.


you can find more than one street fest in chicago every weekend from may through october.  but some of my upcoming favorites are:


taste of lakeview, july 11-12
taste of river north, july 17-19
taste of lincoln avenue, july 25-26
retro on roscoe, august 7-9
wrigleyville summerfest, august 8-9
and my personal favorite, northalsted market days, august 8-9.


the amount of time i spend at street fests during the summer months is rather unreasonable, but hey, free entertainment!  if you're ever in town during one and want to meet up, just let me know.

so what about you?  a fan of the free street fests - are there as many in your hometown? are you with me on free/frugal summer activities?

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54 comments

  1. Love the tips! I really need to start eating before I go out with friends.

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  2. yes, this is such a struggle for me. i want to hang with friends- but i don't want to blow the budget!

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  3. So with you- I love street fests! I'm right across from NYC so there's plenty to choose from. I also love the free concerts and outdoor movies- you have to know where to find them, but they're out there! Though I'm not sure if drinking is permitted, but I stealthily put mine in a (non-translucent) traveler's mug :)

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  4. Purse alcohol ... oh dear! Never again haha. Kevin still asks me about it almost every time you and I get together!

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  5. I love going to festivals, so much that I have convinced Gabriel that should be our new hobby. I love that you can go and spend as little as you want. Although, I have to admit sometimes the funnel cake gets me!

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  6. Your street fests sound like so much fun!!! We dont really have many of them around these parts, but I like your tips on eating before you go out and purse booze :)

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  7. We're going to be in Chicago before and after a wedding in Benton Harbor on August 8th, so we'll definitely try to check out some of the festivals! Thanks :)

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  8. Purse alcohol will not be denied!

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  9. Not only saves me money, but saves me from eating a lot of bad stuff too. Sometimes I forget, like when I'm getting ready in a hurry, but I try to plan it!

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  10. Luckily I think most people are in the same boat. They'd probably be happy for you to suggest frugal activities!

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  11. haha! Girl after my own heart :) I haven't been to an outdoor movie in so long, I should add that to my frugal list this summer. My taxes pay for it after all, might as well go enjoy!

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  12. Funnel cake is definitely part of the reason I eat before I go anywhere that might have one! They smell so good, how can you resist?! I justify it by saying it's only a summer thing so I have to get one but... my wallet and waistline do not approve of that reasoning ;)

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  13. Purse booze is the best, I can always be counted on to have a few bottles on me wherever we go. I'm cheap, what can I say? :)

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  14. Oh you'll have so much fun! That's a great weekend for fests, you'll have a ton of options. Glad I could help, enjoy your vacation!

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  15. I miss street fests, they do a few here in the off season but it's not practical during peak tourist time.

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  16. These are great tips! Street fests are my favorite! We have so many in Atlanta. Definitely my favorite part of summer.

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  17. Won't be in Chicago, but I'll be trying to do June as frugally as possible too. I'll be out of town at least one day every weekend from here through July and between the gas, the travel food, the tolls, etc. it's going to be a challenge to stay on budget. But I HAVE to, because April and May were absolute travesties as far as my numbers were concerned. Your tips are great for saving anywhere though—especially to avoid eating at big attractions if you can help it!

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  18. Have so much fun! I always appreciate your spending tips. Since we're moving we've been trying to figure out what things we really want to spend money on before we move and then staying home or eating beforehand with the others.

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  19. I think there are some in Boston that I want to check out so I'll keep your tips in mind for any that I can use here.

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  20. Ughh, this is making me sad about canceling our Chicago trip all over again!!! ;) I love summer months too where there is always a fair or festival going on somewhere. I'll be honest- people watching alone is entertainment for me and that's 100% free!!!! :)

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  21. Purse booze. Lmao.
    I need to get out to the farmers market and some feats and fairs this summer. I've been so busy working weekends or visiting my sick MIL.

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  22. I love these types of things, but we don't have that many and they are always when the weather is SWELTERING! I wish street food prices weren't so inflated, but it seems like it's become a in thing!

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  23. Purse booze... makes me think of my Mom-Mom when she would take me to the movies and she would bring purse popcorn! But you're right, drinks at the street fairs are rediculously priced!

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  24. Girl, I do purse booze like every weekend. #hehe

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  25. I love that you call it purse booze. Prechild, I was a fan of it. Now I have purse snacks and soda.


    I live in the sticks and we have no street fairs but we do have the beach around an hour away and beach vendors are a huge wallet drain so when we go, I employ many of the same strategies. I love having fun for as little money as possible. It's a challenge I can't back down from.

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  26. I hope Chicago area people take these tips to heart! A solid day out without a solid payout. Boom.

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  27. good going girl!

    www.thewonderlanders.com

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  28. Oh snap! Best line ever, I'm definitely stealing it!

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  29. haha me too, friend. Me. Too.

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  30. Oh I bet beach vendors are crazy. My friend actually owns a shop on Venice Beach in California and their biggest income is bottled water. Bottled water!! Crazy. Who doesn't bring their own water?
    I agree, saving money is a fun challenge. The more you try it, the better you get. And I hate to lose.

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  31. Yeah I bet - everything's crowded and people just want to get to the beach!

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  32. They're so fun! My friend just moved to Atlanta, I'll have to tell her to find some. Any good ones you recommend?

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  33. haha I love that! My parents weren't frugal at all (which is odd, since they both grew up really poor) but my friend's mom totally did that with the popcorn when we went and I was so confused! Still tasted great though :)

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  34. Jeez, that's a lot of travel!! Why so many trips?! Good luck! Travel always makes it hard because you don't have your usual things around you, like grocery stores and a place to cook :(

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  35. Moving is so hard on the finances, I wish you luck! And you're moving out of town so not only moving costs, but costs of seeing all the friends and places you'll miss. I hope it's not too expensive for you!

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  36. Yay! Let me know if you go to any!

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  37. All good things—yoga festivals, friend's wedding, concerts, etc. Loading up on granola bars, bread and peanut butter to help with the food thing :)

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  38. hahaha that is so true!! People watching is the best, the things you see in a single day... it's pretty fantastic.
    I'm sad about you cancelling Chicago too. Re-plan it ;)

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  39. We are trying! We were on Groupon/Living Social last night looking at hotels! :)

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  40. Working weekends is the worst, especially in summer :( I hope you get a couple nice weather days to yourself to get out and enjoy!

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  41. Oh I hear you, I can never go when the weather is too hot because it's rarely shaded. Luckily we just don't get that kind of heat here - it's very rare!
    It is! It's so much more popular now that they have a ton more food options - but the prices have gone up even more. Sad.

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  42. Meh it's not so bad, better than working weekends in the winter in -30 temps! And thankfully I don't work every weekend so I'll have plenty of ops to enjoy the summer. :)

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  43. Haha I just did a post about things to do in the summer. I am all about street fests but I do need to be saving so I might need to get on the purse booze! When we went to belmont sheffield fest we walked down the block for food and came back!

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  44. They are usually just called county fairs here. My town is a big loser and doesn't have anything. My favorite is my hometown the first weekend in October.

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  45. we definitely spend more in the summer, winter is just so miserable and i just want to stay inside. we don't have lots of cool things like chicago (jealous) but we do have a few little festivals that i always make sure we go to. they are free and something to do for a few hours!

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  46. It should be fine. We've been saving and budgeting for months. :)

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  47. We stayed for about 20 minutes of Stache before the downpour, and then called it quits and went to Headquarters. Definitely get on the purse booze, it's delicious ;) Which one are you going to next? I'll try to meet up with you!

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  48. Yeah i think IL is too many streets for county fairs. We have a couple out in the burbs and definitely a lot in Wisconsin, but downtown is pretty much just the 2 day street fests. Still fun though!

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  49. Winter is so windy and snowy that it's almost impossible to do anything. Personally, i love cold and snow - but I can't get my friends out of their houses haha. Summer definitely weighs on the wallet. Heavily. Sigh.

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  50. I think I am heading to Ribfest this weekend!

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  51. Its like the area around Lincoln/Damen/Irving! Lots of yummy food http://www.ribfest-chicago.com/

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  52. Basically Chicago seems like one of the best cities ever. Glad you could have fun on a budget there too especially during outdoorsy months!

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