“Hello” a reflection.

Um, This whole blogging thing is totally all its been cracked up to be. Finally being pushed by school to start a blog has inspired me to continue and grow with the blogosphere. This is a genuine way of expressing oneself and also provides a creative outlet. I use my blog to inform people that great experiences could be attained for free or the price of a Chipotle burrito (they’re crazy expensive, amirite?), but many of my classmates chose to address deeper topics such as violence and addiction. Trust me, I could talk forever about pretty much anything so the biggest challenge of this assignment was  choosing a topic.

After choosing the topic one must realize that a blog is SO PUBLIC. Google, Yahoo, Bing, and future employers can dig up all of your web skeletons lurking in the geocities. One has to be aware. This was a challenge because I tend to be a perfectionist with my over editing and that is an addiction. (That addiction would make a super boring blog)

I loved the interaction and reading my classmates blogs. It was interesting to see how they developed and of course all the wonderful media included (Malta Morena and Cyl, shoutout!). I also enjoyed viewing different perspective in the heavier blogs on issues we face as youth and even was delighted to read some poetry (CriCri). I learned about healthy eating and the environment. It was great, thanks to all the bloggers for teaching me new things. I actually loved all of the blogs I read (which was a fantastic pastime at work, yikes). I really appreciated this assignment, it activated a desire in me that I’ve been trying to bring out for years.

Blogging brought a multifaceted approach to education in that not only are you practicing and accelerating your writing skills/style, you are also learning about MORE than the language arts.

Blogging is essential to the modern college experience for honing students skills and developing frequency of writing, but more simply, it helps you to connect with your class on a deeper level, and become a better student while doing it.




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Hello, Let’s DANCE!

Dancing is a way to let loose and blow off steam (or energy) and actually helps relieve stress and tension. It’s an activity that once you start, it becomes contagious. However, Not everyone has the guts to groove in the public eye. One thing to aid this confidence is not the commonly used approach of liquid courage, but instruction. Learning the fundamentals and structure creates a platform to which one can develop their own style or progress. Once you’ve nailed something simple like Salsa, you may apply it to a multitude of songs and link the steps with other movements.

The problem with developing  technique is the high rates involved in dance classes. There are also requirements of time, commitment and sometimes one needs a partner to even attend the classes. Most people just want to do something different and have fun, not do something rather constricting. The whole system is very intimidating. One thing a shoelacer will cherish in Chicago is the free dance lessons at various venues and special events.

At any given time of the year, one can attend free dance lessons at many Chicago eateries. Latin restaurants use free mini dance instruction dinners and nights to appeal to couples and curious diners. Learn to Rumba  over a nice Rioja, and leave with the confidence to get a lil’ funky in your free time. No time commitment, no requirements, just simple, straight forward basics of many latin dances. This option is only pertinent to latin dance, but as a lover of dance, I believe you must have a wide variety of styles in your dance repertoire to really rock the floor.

One can find these nights at Carnivale, Bandera, Havana, and more.

If you’re not tempted by Tango, Chicagoans can learn to ‘break it on down’ at proper dance studios with most businesses offering the first class for free. Not only is this an option to open your eyes, mind and body to dance, there are free dance festivals offering lessons in the park of swing, hip-hop, bollywood style, and pretty much anything one can image.

Dance is such an amazing way to express oneself. It is truly a multisensory experience.

Why let fear hold you back from freedom of movement?

Ill start your journey with a free class link http://www.interclubdance.com/free-dance-class-coupon/?gclid=CMHy1tfbibcCFaNhMgodCS0A9Q

Most people do not realize the amount of free education that exists in the world around us.

Get out there and tear it up Chicago!

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Hello, and what a view!

Climb to the top of a mountain, scale a cliff, or slow down and take the scenic route. Typically an aerial vista of a city or natural setting is always “free.” Not so typical is the view from the tallest building in the world.

Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper and once was the home to the tallest building ever. Although time has gone by and our first place medal has been passed on, we can still drink in the views that larger than life towers offer.

The Sears Tower (Or “Willis Tower” to the uncool) is a fantastic journey to experience for the tourist or Chicago native alike. Unfortunately, the beauty and history are accompanied by a hefty admission. To visit the “Sky Deck” at Sears Tower a visitor must pay $18-$40. There are various passes and tours to save tourists money and allow them to visit the city’s main attractions for one flat rate. These options shave a few bucks off the total price of seeing the city but cost more in the long run.

The SEARS tower

To get around this cost and still see the city shoestring style, a few options exist. The first being one of my personal favorite buildings, the John Hancock. This 100 story building was also one of the tallest in it’s time. You may still reach great heights and view 40+ miles of city land with this option and a smaller price tag. To visit the “John Hancock Observatory” and the Chicago’s highest cafe, a visitor must pay a lot of money for the view. Particularly what is expensive is the “John Hancock Observatory.” Which offers a nice Chicago tour, an ice-skating rink in the winter months and “Chicago’s only open air Sky Walk.”

While the architecture and bragging rights of the Hancock Tower are impressive, the price-tag is the same as the Sears, ringing in at $18 per adult and around $40 for the city pass. If all you are looking for is a view you have a view other offers. The Hancock is also famous for its “Signature Lounge”, a gorgeous fine dining establishment on the 95nd floor. Anyone can gain entry and have a fantastic lunch for the same price as the tour and without being probed by the gift shop or wrangled around like a child. That is another perk, few children dine here. Personally, when I enjoy scenery, I like to have a quiet reflection, not a spectacle.

Signature Room

If you are not hungry or you prefer a “liquid dinner” you can head upstairs to the Signature Lounge. The lounge offers coffee, tea, and sodas to the non-drinkers and a plethora of specialty martinis and fully stocked bar to those over 21. This “tour” and view could honestly cost you under $10 (including tip to server/bartender) and provide a more casual and unique experience to brag to your friends about.

Signature Lounge

That is my favorite place to view the city from 96 floors for half the price. There are also many terraces and rooftop that offer stunning views.

Explore the skyline and views from the sky Chicago!

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Hello Fitness!


Photo by Rob Seal

Soon is the season where we pack our long heavy coats and rugged soled boots  into storage and opt for much lighter coverings. Slivers of skin emerge and freshly painted toe nails pound the pavement. People begin to join sports leagues and focus more on fitness goals. The sun shining and light breeze creates a fantastic atmosphere for outdoor exercise. Chicago offers several free or inexpensive ways to take advantage of the nice weather and reach fitness goals on a shoestring budget.

No matter what skill level a person is, the Chicago Park District offers several afforable programs, facilities, and lap pools to challenge and meet needs. Every January the CPD provides the “free fitness week” so residents can try before they buy. The comparison of prices for three month and yearly memberships are nearly an eighth of what a regular gym or fitness class would be, with a yearly pass to all facilites coming in at a mere $250. If that price isn’t in your budget, monthly options of around $20 dollars, and yearly individual facility passes ring up at $100.

The Boat House at Humbolt Park

If frequenting a gym isn’t your steez, CPD also offers weekly classes and programs to all ages. These range from complimentary childrens sports teams, to several classes charging $30 for a full term. For the grown ups, there are adult leagues charging around $200 total team fee to participate and fitness classes for around $30 a term. Perusing the catalog of spring program offerings in its entirety, one faces 176 pages with topics ranging from arts and crafts to wresting, from Archery to literature. The CPD’s seasonal curriculum offers something to hone all types of skills or broaden horizons, while focusing on keeping prices low.

Although these programs are fairly accessible to the less financially endowed, there are also many free options to explore.





These are a given. However, some people need to be motivated by an instructor or group setting.  Activites of all sorts are offered under Millenium Park’s  Pritzker Pavillion in the wee morning hours of the spring and summer. Wake up to a calming Tai Chi practice, follow that hour with refreshing and focused yoga, or opt for the third class of each Saturday morning, pilates. Attend Sunday for a fun and energetic Zumba class. This is just one park that offers a free fitness program outdoors weekly. There are also beach, indoor and outdoor yoga programs that require no coin to shed the pounds. With a little sweat equity gained by researching, city dwellers could avoid shelling out thousands of dollars to megagyms and have just as many options and amenities.

Yoga at Pritzker Pavillion


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Hello Spring!

After a long winter of highs and lows (temperature and etc) Chicagoans’ could not be happier for springtime. It is the season of growth, rebirth, and leeway into everyone’s favorite time of year, the summer.

Springtime in the city allows for a plethora of free or cheap activities for the cheapskate tourist. One of my favorite activities for the cost of zero dollars is the Lincoln Park Zoo. This wonderful little zoo is nestled in the heart of Lincoln Park. It is able to operate without patron admission due to the generous philanthropy of the Pritzker family. Thank you Pritzker’s!

Lincoln Park Zoo

The zoo is 35-acres, and was established in 1868.  After a quick wikipedia read, I discovered it is one of the oldest zoos in the nation.  The zoo is open year round and most of the animals are kept indoors in the winter. I find this zoo unique because it seems more intimate. The cages and glass walls are very thin, and sometimes non-existent.  Overall the Lincoln Park Zoo is a fantastic, free, springtime excursion for all ages.

Spring marks the blooming of flowers, and budding of trees. Another favorite demonstration of April/May is the tulips planted along Michigan Avenue or “The Magnificent Mile.” This is a premier shopping destination for tourists, and still remains fun and fashionable to locals. Thousands of bright blooms along the stretch brighten and exhilarate the senses as a variety of sales at the stores please the pocketbooks. Even window shopping is fun when the city is alive with color. There are street performers making their living as robots, jazz musicians, and other random characters that entertain.

Tulips on Mag Mile

If shopping or animals are not what you would like out of your spring afternoon, there are several outdoor activities Chicago offers. One of the most popular attractions is Millennium Park, which boasts many art pieces that wow passerbys. The “Cloudgate” is a large, mirrored, bean-shaped sculpture that invites the locals to coin it “The Bean.” This ChiTown staple has served as a stage to many light shows and theatrical performances. And you guessed it, all free.

Millennium park also offers the Pritzker Pavillion, which hosts concerts, paid and complimentary, free workout classes, and more. In addition there are a few gardens, a large bridge and plenty of people watching. After exploring north Millenium Park one can view the interaction of the faces that are displayed on the Crown Fountain, south of the bean. These two towers blink at each other and squirt water out of their mouths into the fountains down below. Children splash around in the water and sometimes playful adults do as well!

Crown Fountain

Spring activates the city; the senses come alive with touch, smell, and sight. The colors awaken your spirit and city dwellers leave their caves. Most importantly, the weather encourages us to explore the many parks and paths the city offers. This is why I live in Chicago.

On that note, and the 65 degree weather today, I’m heading to North Pond. I’ll save talking about north Lincoln Park  for another day.

Happy spring weekend Chicago!

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Hello Chi-cago!

Ken Hornak

Chicago, home of the cubs, deep-dish pizza and the skyscraper. It is the third largest city in the country, and boasts the fourth-largest GDP in the world. Chicago might seem intimidating to residents or broke travelers. However, with a little savvy and an eye for opportunity, one can make the most of the city, while spending pennies on the dollar. Here is an introduction to seeing the city shoestring style.

In zero degree temperatures or the high eighties, Chicago has something for every person and any budget. A favorite activity of tourists and native Chicagoans’ are the world class museums. Located on the south end of the loop, the museum campus is home to a world of artifacts, and history. Whether you have an interest in science or sharks you will find it all alongside lake Michigan and accessible by the CTA. These museums have several up-charges for exhibits, package deals, and hidden fees to earn more of the tourist’s buck. A resident of the city or shoestring traveler has several ways around these fees. The first way is free days for residents, industry or simple generousity. Research Chicago and other cities free days here. There are also free “kids museum passports” at all Chicago libraries for children and up to 2 adults in the party. Lastly, a trick to obtain free or discounted museum admission across the world is to flash your teacher or student ID.

Next, to really see the heart of “The Windy City”, take a personalized neighborhood tour. This volunteer-run organization provides an intimate touch to tourists or locals alike when deciding to move or simply learn about a new hidden gem of the city.  Schedule a tour ten days in advance at Chicago Greeter.

While the days are spent ogling architectural treasures, trekking the grid system of the city streets, and riding the EL; nights can be spent saving money on another one of Chicago’s premier arts, theater.  One of my favorite budget loving sites is Hottix.org. This non-profit, run by the League of Chicago Theatres, allows patrons to purchase tickets to a variety of genres for half price. Fifty percent off the ticket price and the profits go to charity.  From musicals to best selling shows at Steppenwolf, Hottix has something for all palates and piggy banks. Incredible.

Theater Critics Crossing Dearborn Street by Michael Willcommen

While free theater is a rarity,  free improv is not. Chicago is to improvised comedy as Nashville is to country music.  There are several no-cost or donation-based improv hours at big name comedy clubs after the costly shows let out. Go early to secure a seat and one may see the next budding Tina Fey or Stephen Colbert.

Notable Second City Alumni

Check out: The Second City, The Annoyance Theater, “Comedians You Should Know“, and iO for free open-mics and and post show improv sets.

This is a mere introduction of the programs that exist in Chicago. With a little research and a shoestring budget one will be surprised what they could discover.

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Hello Blogosphere!

Welcome to Shoestring Budget where simple ways to stretch your dollar become a lifestyle. The inspiration for this blog comes from relocation to a new city and the lack of funding for adventure. Varying from travel and dining,  to fashion, music, art and culture, this is a blog of exploration. Check back to discover inexpensive and free options to explore Chicago, and the world beyond.

Bon Voyage!

"Free Stamp" Cleveland, Ohio.

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