free parking in chicago

7 Ways To Score Free Parking In Chicago

There are only 3 things that bring Chicagoans true suffering:

1) Cold winters

2) Cubs baseball… until 2016!

3) Parking!

Parking prevents both residents and tourists alike from enjoying all our city has to offer. Now that the city privatized parking meters and Chicago has been recognized as the worst city in the USA for parking, it’s time to fight back! This begs the question:

Is there free parking in Chicago?

The answer is yes! From validated parking to overnight street parking, you can easily park for free when you know where to look. Ready for some tips? Listen up, Chicago; find the best parking tips, maps, and more below!

1. 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 below, which can save you $20 – $40 per night on hotel parking.

2. 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.

A lot of businesses in the area open in the very early morning, so parking during the day is in high demand. A lot of the employees who work at these businesses clear out by mid-afternoon, so finding a free parking spot can actually be easier in the evening and over the weekend than during the day.

3. Forget Your United Center Parking Pass – Score Free Street Parking!

The United Center is located a bit west of Fulton Market District and Downtown Chicago. If you arrive early enough, you can find street parking and save yourself $25 or so on parking in an official United Center parking lot. Pay careful attention to any posted signs, we recommend taking photos of parking signs or restrictions so that you can reference them easily when searching for a spot!

4. Free Parking in 15 Minute Standing Zones

Need to run a quick errand? Look for free street parking in standing zones. You can park there for free for 15 minutes. Just make sure your hazard lights are flashing.
These 15-minute standing zones are pretty common throughout the city. Keep an eye out for them in front of office buildings, hotels, residential buildings, and even grocery stores. The zones are marked by signs like this:


5. 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

6. Overnight Street Parking is Free

While street parking can cost as much as $6.50 during the day, at night you can park on the street for free in many areas throughout the city.  In the Central Business District outside the Loop (area bounded by Lake Michigan to the east, North Avenue to the north, Halsted to the west, and Roosevelt Road to the south), parking is free overnight from midnight – 8AM.

In residential areas outside of downtown Chicago, parking is free from 10PM until 8AM.

7. “There’s No Such Thing as Free Parking”

If you’re not paying for parking, someone is. Taxpayers, local businesses, or…you get the idea. Someone has to pay for parking. So, in cases where free just doesn’t make sense, SpotHero is here for you!

SpotHero helps you find and book parking in hundreds of garages, lots, and valets around the city with rates up to 50% off. In many cases, you’ll pay less to park with SpotHero all day than you would to park on the street for just 2-3 hours.

Visit the SpotHero website, or download the app (iOS | Android) for parking.

SpotHero offers parking deals near these popular destinations and many more: