free parking in chicago 2019 2020

FREE Parking in Chicago in 2019

Looking for FREE Parking in Chicago in 2019?  Finding where to park for free in Chicago is hard to do if you don’t know where to look, so we were excited when ChicagoNow gave out seven great tips on finding free parking in Chicago. Everyone knows that parking anywhere outside of the major commercial centers of Chicago is going to be easier than the loop but click below to get some great tips  on how to find where to park in Chicago.free_parking in chicago

Also check out:

How to Find Cheap and Free Parking Near Navy Pier in Chicago
Free Parking for Chicago Blackhawks at United Center
Free Parking for 2014 Chicago Cubs games at Wrigley Field
FREE Sunday Parking in Chicago in 2014

Our favorite tip:  Check out SPOT ANGELS and their map of Chicago showing where all the free parking spots are HERE.   Not only will this free parking map of Chicago show you free street parking, but you’ll be able to find parking spots at nearby parking garages. Check with the business you’re heading to and find out whether they validate parking for patrons because then you’ll be able to park in that garage for free.


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Meter Beaters App for Free Parking in Chicago.  We also recommend you check out the Meter Beaters App for iPhone & Android has saved me a crazy amount of money. They have over 200 miles of Chicago streets mapped out with locations of free parking– including large venue parking updates, such as the United Center. The app seems to keep progressing– one new feature is the ability to mark open parking spaces, that way other app users will be able see where there is a guaranteed open free parking spot in Chicago. Think of it as a good samaritan act.   Meter Beaters also factors in the restriction times for all of the areas covered.


Also check this map out: — Parkopedia is a website that calculates the price of parking in the exact location you are trying to find parking. Just put the address in the search bar and the times you are trying to find parking. The nearby parking garages, parking meters and how much they charge per hour, and free street parking will all come up according to the area you are trying to park in.




free parking in chicago 2019 2020


Here are our tips on how to find FREE parking in Chicago:


Hotels with Free Overnight Parking in Chicago. Parking is free at most hotels in the suburbs, but what about downtown Chicago? If you take a road trip, rent a car at the airport, or even take a “staycation” from the burbs, is there a place to stay where you can get more bang for your buck by not paying for parking?

Yes! The Ohio House Motel at 600 N. LaSalle St. in River North offers free parking with a room reservation, just blocks from the Chicago River and The Loop. For more downtown Chicago parking tips, be sure to see our bonus tip which can save you $20 – $40 per night on hotel parking.

For more downtown Chicago parking tips, be sure to see our bonus tip below, which can save you $20 – $40 per night on hotel parking.


Free parking in Chicago on Sundays.  Yes! Street parking is free on Sundays in Chicago. Meters don’t run on Sundays, so metered parking throughout the city is free.


Many Chicago beaches have FREE parking – learn more at bottom of this post



Free Validated Parking If You Only Need 1-2 Hours of Parking.    Validated parking is another way to get a free spot. From Trader Joe’s (44 E Ontario) to Eataly (10 E Grand) to French Market (131 N Clinton),  there are places all over the city that offer free parking for an hour or two if you make a purchase in-store (usually $20).

Here are other locations we know that offer free parking for 1 to 2 hours with a validated ticket by a local business:

  • Metra Market
  • Saint Joseph Hospital
  • Rock N Roll McDonald’s

Know of others? Please comment so we can add them to our list.


Free Street Parking Map near Downtown / The Loop.   If you don’t mind walking about a mile or taking a short trip via public transit, you can actually find free street parking within a short distance of downtown. There’s free street parking in the area around Fulton Market, a busy restaurant and shopping district about a mile west of Downtown and the Loop. This area has grown in popularity over the last few years, with Google coming to the neighborhood, among many other newcomers.


Do your homework. Some pay lots rake in the fees even as nearby street parking sits empty. Lawrence’s favorite examples are the United Center and McCormick Place. Check out‘s maps of free street parking around McCormick at and United Center at Frugalista Facebook fan Sara May pointed out that you can reliably find free street parking in Hyde Park near the Museum of Science and Industry, if you are willing to walk a block or two to the museum’s front door.


Enjoy a long walk. We used work in the Willis Tower. When we drive, we normally park for free. The trick is to go straight west from the Loop out to Aberdeen Street or farther west. This is about one mile west of the river, or 1.5 miles west of the heart of the Loop.  Going west from Aberdeen between the Eisenhower Expressway and the Lake Street el tracks, street parking is unmetered and there are no time limits. Also, there aren’t any permit zones, which you tend to see in many Chicago neighborhoods. Just be careful not to park near a fire hydrant or in a loading zone. It’s sometimes tough to find a space, however, if you arrive relatively late in the morning. These free street spaces aren’t a secret.

Last week, we parked on Monroe just east of Ashland. It was about a 20-minute walk east from there to our meeting, and of course the same 20-minute walk back that evening. It’s a pleasant walk in the spring, summer and fall, and it’s just incredible how lively the West Loop neighborhood is getting. Lots of people with baby strollers, a high school baseball game in progress, old buildings turned into loft condos, new town homes, interesting restaurants, etc. Well worth the walk if you’re not in too big a hurry and want to save the money.


Even in areas without plentiful free parking — close to downtown — you can find meter-free stretches. Say you’re taking the kids to American Girl at Water Tower Place. Cruise down Chicago Avenue just west of Orleans Street. Between Sedgwick and Cambridge, you’ll find free street parking right across from a lot that charges $12 a day. A noble man gave me this tip, and I confirmed that the north side of this stretch has no meters or restrictions. The area’s not the nicest, but it’s not the worst, either. It’s just a few minutes on the 66 bus, which operates every day, to the Magnificent Mile, or a 20-minute walk.


Free Parking for the Majority of Chicago

Many of Chicago’s meters run on the schedule of $2 / hour between 8:00 am – 10:00 pm, Monday – Saturday. Sundays are typically the meters’ day of rest and you can park for free (some North Side neighborhoods excluded). There are usually signs around that have the parking regulations on them– so keep your eyes peeled and memorize or write down the free parking times of the areas that you frequent the most.

Free Parking in River North

River North only gives you a small timeframe to snag free parking since they enforce their meters 7 days a week. However, there is a small grace period everyday from 12:00 am – 7:59 am that’ll allow you to access free parking in Chicago’s young and wealthy neighborhood. (Overnight parking is not permitted though.)

Free Parking in the Central Business District

The business district is a little more forgiving when it comes to free parking in meter areas; however, that’s because there isn’t much to do in this area after 10:00 pm.
Everyday from 10:01 pm – 7:59 am you can pull into a meter spot without having to worry about feeding it money.

Free Parking in Residential

This rule can vary area to area, but it is something to keep an eye out for. Sundays are typically free parking; while, Monday – Saturday only requires meter money from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm. Stay alert though, some areas require permits to park.

Loading & Standing Zones

These zones can vary from location to location as well– but they are only enforced for a specific timeframe everyday (typically business hours). Any other time they are fair game. The signs will clearly state when they are in effect or not.

Read the signs — then read them again. Even if nobody’s parked there, it might still be a legal spot. Sometimes, signs restricting parking during certain hours, like for a construction project, scare parkers off even after the specified hours have ended.

If Lawrence visits the Loop in the evening, he heads for a little spot at Van Buren and Wells, marked Loading Zone from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. but unrestricted after that time.

“I frequently go by there and nobody parks there,” he said. “They (avoid) it out of fear.”

He’s right. Sometimes parking for free requires nerves of steel — and reading skills of platinum.


Combine parking and public transit. If you live in the suburbs or a neighborhood without an El stop, many of the free spots already mentioned can be a launching point for a visit to another part of the city. Or, take advantage of the easier parking in communities near the ends of the train lines. My editor has left his car in one of the free-on-Sundays downtown garages in Oak Park, in order to hop the Green Line to the Red Line, to take his son to see the White Sox. This type of strategy also applies to North Side fans. The Frugalista fondly remembers childhood car trips from Kenosha to Skokie, where we would ride the “Skokie Swift” to the Red Line to get to Wrigley Field.


Tap your social and professional networks. A reader wrote this suggestion: “(My) husband asks the president of his company to borrow his spot occasionally … It’s a West Loop office building, always available on the weekends.”


Pay, but pay less. Sometimes you just have to pay to park, but you don’t have to pay the sky-high rates charged at city garages. Look for properties that aren’t in the parking business but still offer public parking, like hospitals.


Brookfield Zoo Secret FREE parking.  Look at the favorite “secret” street parking on residential streets right around the Brookfield Zoo’s south entrance. Sure, you have to read the signs carefully. Some streets require a residential permit at all times, others only during certain hours. And Village of Brookfield residents might not smile and wave as you park on their street. But as long as I arrive after 10 a.m., I have never failed to find a legal free parking spot in Brookfield.

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