Smartphones are basically personal computers that can be carried around in our pockets. This means we don’t have to be inside and chained to a desk to enjoy their benefits. Explore Chicago’s outdoor destinations with these great iPhone apps.
Dialing up destinations on the cheap
Millennium Park and Oak Street Beach are great places to enjoy a Chicago summer day without spending a dime, but what about other free or very cheap activities off the beaten path?
For my money ($1.99), Free & Frugal Chicago is the best iPhone app for discovering hidden local gems. Curated by Chicago-based travel writer Karla Zimmerman, Free & Frugal Chicago publishes links to neighborhood audio tours that showcase everything from Chicago blues legends to attractions best enjoyed by small children. The app also features things like schedules for free cooking lessons at Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, directions to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool in Lincoln Park, and a comprehensive guide to Chicago’s summer festivals.
Closer to home
Want to find out what’s going on right now in your neighborhood? Check out the free EveryBlock iPhone app to get “hyperlocal” news and information for virtually every pocket of Chicago. Created and run out of Chicago (the company was acquired by MSNBC two years ago), EveryBlock aggregates and publishes detailed information ranging from reviews of a new beer garden to police reports of aggravated assault.
Similarly, the iPhone will even inform you of places not to go! If you are a crime-blotter junkie and can’t get enough cop talk, you can also pay $1.99 for Police Radio Chicago. The app provides live audio feeds of 13 police dispatch zones.
Getting around town
If you have a car but want to avoid the buzzkill of high parking costs and nasty traffic jams, make sure your iPhone is riding in the shotgun seat.
For less than the price of an hour at a parking meter, the $1.99 Chicago Parking app provides real-time pricing information for more than 300 local parking garages. The app also provides a listing of “Early Bird” specials, CTA information, and even an alarm notification right before your meter is about to expire.
Want to find out how congested the ride will be to Garfield Park or the Museum of Science and Industry? While MotionXGPS Drive ($0.99) and Waze GPS & Traffic (free) are the most popular and reliable iPhone apps that offer live traffic information, MultiCam Chicago ($1.99) allows you to literally see traffic patterns with cameras maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The iPhone of course is not the only smart device in town that will help you get around town this summer. Among the best Android apps to explore the Chicago summer are ChicagoWay- Everything Chicago and Chicago Travel Guide Triposo. Both free apps serve as one-stop-shopping resources for summer fun.
Brad Spirrison is the Managing Editor of Appolicious.com and AndroidApps.com, where consumers find mobile apps they'll love. The Appolicious family of sites (which also includes video review service AppVee.com) and mobile apps (for the iPhone and Android devices) are discovery tools to help consumers browse, search and share recommendations for the hundreds of thousands of apps available on the iOS and Android platforms. Spirrison, a longtime Chicago-based media and technology commentator, lives in Lakeview with his wife and young son.