Things to do in Chicago long-term for a not-working, no-kids woman.
May 7, 2014 1:39 PM   Subscribe

What can a 30 year old woman with no work and no kids do in Chicago to spend her day?

I'm asking as a favor for a friend who just moved to Chicago from Mexico. She speaks english fluently and has a degree in Education and an MBA, but no working visa yet. She just got married a month ago and moved there to be with her husband. She says she's looked for things to do but the classes she's seen are too expensive. I don't really know what she's looked at yet, but I'm guessing local Chicago Mefites probably know of better places to do stuff so she can spend her day not watching TV or at the mall all the time.

She lives in the Old Town neighborhood and is willing to move around by bus.
posted by CrazyLemonade to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
General admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. My favorite art museum in the country.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:45 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

roller derby.
posted by steinwald at 1:45 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I had no work to do all day, I'd just wander around my city (or anywhere else I could get to) taking pictures and building myself one of those really cool Instagram accounts with bajillions of followers.

Or foster kittens.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:50 PM on May 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

We used the Big Apple Greeter program for a visit to New York and it was fantastic. This is the Chicago equivalent - maybe have her spend a day with a local to see what the options are?
posted by jbickers at 1:50 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Volunteer! There are lots of opportunities via Chicago Cares.
posted by Pineapplicious at 1:51 PM on May 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Check out the following websites for info on upcoming events:


Gaper's Block

Also, check out programming at:

The Chicago Cultural Center (art, usually free)

Millenium Park (lots of free summer concerts)

Jane Adams Hull House Museum (history events, exhibits, and talks)

Also, take the Green Line to the Garfield Park Convservatory. Free and warm.
posted by mai at 1:54 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Volunteer at the Art Institute of Chicago or at the Field Museum? With an education degree, an MBA and being bilingual English/Spanish I think they would snap her up pretty quickly for whatever time she is willing to give (I know if she lived in my city our museums would love to have her help).
posted by gudrun at 1:57 PM on May 7, 2014

Or foster kittens.

If she's more of a dog person, I'm currently fostering chihuahua puppies for One Tail At a Time, and they're an incredible organization to work with. Here is information about becoming a volunteer, and they even have an orientation coming up.

Our next volunteer orientation will be next month, Monday, May 12 from 6-7pm. Orientations are held at Bucktown-Wicker Park Library, 1701 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. **Please contact for more details. You must reserve a space at the orientation in order to attend. Thank you!

Oh god I love those tiny, tiny baby dogs.

Some other random ideas:

-most of the farmer's markets start this month
-maxwell street market on sundays
-long bike rides if she's an experienced cyclist, short jaunts on divvy if not
-go to spice house (in old town) and spend all day making complex recipes
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:05 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, which coordinates tours of several Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Chicago and Oak Park, has volunteer opportunities as well. I was a docent at a couple of Wright houses in Los Angeles, and it's great way to experience famous architecture a little more intimately than shuffling through on a tour, and you get to see parts of buildings that are usually off-limits to the public.
posted by usonian at 2:09 PM on May 7, 2014

There's a large low-income Mexican population in Chicago. If she's interested in volunteering, I'm sure there are plenty of places that could use the help of a well-educated Mexican who speaks fluent English. I don't know the city so can't give specific recommendations, but she could start by contacting the Mexican consulate. And if she's looking for or will be looking for work, then trying to find volunteer work, of whatever type, that would match with her career interests would be a good idea.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:14 PM on May 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Volunteering, definitely! I would check out the Pilsen neighborhood and suburb Franklin Park for organizations that specifically serve the Mexican-American community, if she's interested in that. Otherwise, museums, schools, animal shelters, community gardens, Girl Scouts - they all need volunteers.
posted by amaire at 2:22 PM on May 7, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. Came by to add that preferably she wants something to do while her husband's at work, so think 9 to 5.

She's not quite the charity work type (although volunteering at a Museum seems like something that could interest her). More than things to go see or events, I was thinking more in terms of something with a schedule, maybe an art/history/cooking class or some sort of workshop. Any ideas?

Also, please no one-word answers, if she's new to the city, just randomly telling her ideas won't be much help, we appreciate any extra info.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 2:43 PM on May 7, 2014

I know it sounds weird, but volunteering can count as a violation of visa status in some cases. I know that volunteering for no pay for a job which normally pays is definitely illegal.

That said, Museum of Science and Industry also has some great volunteer opportunities if she likes science and kids. might have some active groups that interest her, and would also be an opportunity to make friends.

This is unorthodox, but she can just go sit in a class at a university (and there are many options: UChicago, Northwestern, UIC, IIT, Loyola, the Art Institute), provided the class is large enough and/or the professor does not mind. I teach at a university, and I'd be thrilled if a local person wanted to audit. She can't get credit or expect to hand in assignments, obviously, but it's still a free class taught by some great people. The only issue is that the term is winding down, but there are summer classes. These universities also have any number of invited speakers and seminar series every day which are free and open to the public.

There are tons of structured workshops of all kinds, of course. You mention that the classes she's seen are too expensive, but if you let us know what her approximate budget is, we can suggest some affordable ones.
posted by redlines at 4:18 PM on May 7, 2014

I am a temporarily-not-working, no-kids person your friend's age, and I live in Chicago. Honestly I manage to spend most of my time just, like, running errands and doing whatever around the house. (Or embarking on big cooking projects, but that's because I really like to cook.) However, sometimes one gets stir-crazy, in which case I enjoy the following activities:

- Ride the El around. I sometimes this. You see and hear lots of interesting things. Sometimes I'll take a bus from end to end to see where it goes. Last time I was unemployed, I required myself to go walk around one new neighborhood each week. There are lots of great safe neighborhoods to wander through: certainly anywhere north of where your friend lives, and many places to the south and west. Get a cup of coffee, check out some shops. If you're super ambitious, you can take the Metra out to a suburb - lots of suburbs have cute downtowns around the Metra station.

- The Old Town School offers music classes during the day. They aren't cheap ($184 for 8 weeks) though I've found them to be a good value - the instructors are good and it's a fun way to meet people. They do offer financial aid, which might be an option depending on her situation.

- Visit the library! I complain about CPL a lot but honestly a lot of the branches are beautiful and very pleasant places to spend an afternoon. There are also lots of great indie bookstores in Chicago and many of them offer readings and other events.

- Similar to the first thing, there are parts of town with lots of art galleries or antique shops or whatever, and those can be especially good places to hang out. Going to museums is also good but gets expensive, though they all have some free days.

- My gym offers lots of classes and when I have a flexible schedule I can actually take advantage of them. I also go ice skating (indoors at McFetridge!) and swimming (lots of park districts have indoor and/or outdoor pools). The Chicago Park District offers tons of very inexpensive classes, and I've always had good experiences with them.

- When it gets warmer, there will be tons of street fairs to hang out at. Lots of them start on Friday, when they are usually quieter. She can scope things out and see if she and her husband want to go back over the weekend. Good people-watching, good food, sometimes good music and shopping.

What kinds of things is she interested in? You'll probably get better answers - a lot of the things that I like doing are sort of weird and specific to my interests. Your friend probably also has preferences.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:44 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

OH also, the Old Town Art Fair (not to be confused with the far inferior Wells Street Art Fair) is THE BEST, and coming up next month. It might be too late, but maybe she could volunteer for them? Or just hang out there the entire weekend, which is what I do every year. She should also eat pizza at Bricks because it's delicious. And Lincoln Park is beautiful near her neighborhood, good for jogging or biking or walking - and hey, it's almost beach time! ...those are all the things I know about Old Town
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:48 PM on May 7, 2014

How about teaching new immigrants English? Or being a translator for folks?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:47 PM on May 7, 2014

The Chicago Architecture Foundation does excellent tours. It is around $80 for an annual family membership (charity tax deduction). It is a great way to feel a deeper connection to the city and also very handy when people visit. It's a great thing to do on your own because you will meet other people who are new to the city and the guides are also very enthusiastic and friendly Chicagoans.
posted by srboisvert at 7:08 PM on May 10, 2014

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