In his latest column, Seth Kugel, the New York Times’ “Frugal Traveler,” centered his “$100 Weekend in Chicago” on the CSO’s Sept. 19 Millennium Park “Concert for Chicago.”

The Frugal Traveler suggests you —

Plan your trip the one weekend a year the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (cheapest ticket: $38 with fees) plays free. I opted for the next best thing: accidentally booking my trip for that weekend.

So I sat in Millennium Park amid a crowd of thousands to hear Riccardo Muti conduct Tchaikovsky before a Chicago skyline that shifted from cerulean to pinkish-orange to dusky blue to deep black, from the opening strains of The Tempest to the frenzied crescendo of Symphony No. 4 in F Minor. I think the experience was best summed up by Alejandra Soto, a college freshman on grass next to me, seeing her first-ever classical concert for a college assignment. “When you’re with the crowd,” she said, “the emotions are so different from watching on YouTube.”

Kugel joined 20,000 Chicagoans on a beautiful September evening that Muti, the CSO’s music director hailed as “a glorious night for music.”

Frugal Traveler photos show “the author’s seat was a good distance from the performers, but he swears they were there,” and CSO Sounds and Stories has plenty of pictures to prove it, including this remarkable shot (below) of the Pritzker Pavilion, the CSO and a huge, enthusiastic crowd. Seth and Alejandra, you’re out there somewhere.

Millennium Park free concert 9/19/2014

And what a Chicago bargain you got. Maestro and the CSO will tour with Tchaikovsky’s Tempest and Symphony No. 4 across Europe later this month. Paris round-trip airfares start at $1,220, while tickets at Salle Pleyel for the CSO concerts Oct. 25 and Oct. 26  top out at 130 Euros apiece. Even couch surfing, you’re talking a minimum $1,500 in Millennium Park savings.

I’m keeping an eye on my travel budget, too. When the orchestra heads abroad, I’m planning a CSO European Tour “staycation” — I’ll remain in Chicago and write about the best ways to enjoy Warsaw, Paris and Vienna right here in the Windy City. Watch for these reports on CSO Sounds and Stories starting Oct. 20.

Andrew Huckman is a Chicago-based lawyer and writer.

 PHOTOS: Listeners crowd the Great Lawn of Millennium Park for the CSO’s free concert Sept. 19. | Todd Rosenberg Photography