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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

Bronzeville Children's Museum

Free admission for children ages 3 to 9 on the first and third Saturday of each month. Free admission is always offered to active and retired military personnel.


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Brookfield Zoo

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


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


Free for children 12 and younger daily, and 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


Active military personnel and Illinois teachers receive complimentary admission.

Illinois residents recieve free admission on June 21, 22, 23 August 11, 27 and 29
September 10, 17 (ID day), 18 and 19
October 2, 16, 30 and 31
November 27
December 3, 4 and 18

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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


Illinois Resident Discount Days offer free general admission for Illinois residents with ID.
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.
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


Sherry F
Sherry F

Except if you live in Indiana. Frosts my cookies that someone that lives 400+ miles away, but still in Illinois, can get free access.  Yet those of us here in NW Indiana, less than 40 miles away, who work and relax in the city, cannot. Boo I say!!! 😊

Andrea B
Andrea B

@Sherry F IL residents support the museums through taxes, which is why the museums are required to offer free admission days for IL residents.  Still, the state misses out on $ by not including free days for nearby states--years ago before the IL resident aspect was used/enforced, we went with large groups and $ was spent on food, parking, gift shop items, etc.  We haven't been back in ten years or more--used to be trips twice a year.  (Nearby in MI/IN)

It's too bad they limit it.  I think it loses the city money.

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..