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Free museum days at the best Chicago museums

Free museum days at Chicago's best museums can save family outings from a hefty price tag

Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to spend a fortune in order to visit some of Chicago's best museums and cultural institutions. If you're willing to plan ahead, you can take in masterpieces at the Art Institute or gaze at tropical fish while strolling through Shedd Aquarium without spending a dime. You'll need to be an Illinois resident to take advantage of many of these offers, but that's one of the perks of living in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Complete guide to Chicago museums

Museums with free admission days

Adler Planetarium

Illinois Resident Discount Days offer free general admission for Illinois residents with ID.
January 4-8,11,12,15,18-22, 25-29
February 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29

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South Loop

Brookfield Zoo

Free on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from January 1, through February 28.

Free admission is always available for active, reserve and retired military personnel with proper ID.

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Chicago Botanic Garden

Free admission daily. 

Parking fees:

$25 per car 
$10 for senior citizens on Tuesdays
$30 per van 
$65 per limousine, minibus, bus & RV 

The Metra Union Pacific North line stops just outside the gates, which means you can avoid parking fees if you're up for a train ride.

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Chicago Children's Museum

Critics' pick

Free Thursday evenings from 5–8pm.

The first Sunday of every month is free for children 15 and younger. Active and retired military personnel receive free admission every day.

Teachers, firefighters and police officers receive $5 admission every day.

EBT cardholders receive admission for up to six people for $3. Groups must have at least one child 15 years old or younger.

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Chicago History Museum

Critics' pick

Free for children 12 and younger daily, and Illinois residents weekdays from January to February.

Illinois residents enjoy free admission during Illinois Resident Discount Days.

Free to members of DuSable Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art and Institute for Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.

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Lincoln Park

The Field Museum

Critics' pick

Active military personnel and Illinois teachers receive complimentaty admission.

January 3, 13, 18, 23, 24
February 1-29 (for Illinois residents)

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South Loop

Glessner House Museum

Free admission every Wednesday and for children 5 years old and younger year-round. 

Free to National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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South Loop

Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)

Free admission every Tuesday.
Free everyday for active military personnel and their families, children 17 and under, Loyola University Chicago faculty and staff, Loyola students, members of the clergy and employees from other museums (all with valid ID).

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Museum of Contemporary Art

Free every Tuesday for Illinois residents with ID year-round. Free for military personnel and veterans, members of police and fire departments and children 12 and under.

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Gold Coast

Museum of Science and Industry

Critics' pick

Illinois Resident Discount Days offer free general admission for Illinois residents with ID.
January 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29
February 29
June 1-3, 6-8
September 6-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30
October 4-6
November 3, 10
December 1

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Hyde Park

Shedd Aquarium

Illinois Resident Discount Days offer free general admission for Illinois residents with ID.
January 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
February 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29
June 6, 7, 13, 14

September 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27
October 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31
November 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29

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South Loop


Beverly K
Beverly K

Regarding the "Train" stopping at Botanic Garden. What train are you refereeing to. The only one I know stops 1/2 mile (at least) away. Trains do stop outside Ravinia, but only on concert dates..