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Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Photograph: J.B. Spector

Free museum days at the best Chicago museums

Free museum days at Chicago's best museums can help you on save family outings and are great for holiday weekends

By Zach Long

While many Chicago museums have changed their operating hours and safety procedures as they've reopened to the public, some are still offering free admission. That's good news if you're heading to Museum Campus after enjoying some things to do in the Loop—the price of admission can add up fast, especially if you're visiting multiple places in a single day. Keep in mind that many institutions have switched up their hours, rescheduled long-standing weekly free days and introduced online reservations that are required for entry. You may have to jump through a few more hoops than usual, but enjoying free museum days in Chicago is worth the trouble. Remember to bring along a face mask and keep your distance from others!

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best things to do in Chicago

Free museum days in Chicago

Field Museum lobby
Photograph: Courtesy the Field Museum

1. The Field Museum

Museums Science and technology Museum Campus

Active military personnel and Illinois teachers receive complimentary admission.

Upcoming free days for Illinois residents include: October 5, 8, 19, 22, 26 and 29


Shedd Aquarium
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

2. Shedd Aquarium

Attractions Zoo and aquariums Museum Campus

Illinois Resident Discount Days offer free general admission for Illinois residents with ID. Free tickets must be reserved online.

Upcoming free days for Illinois residents include: October 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28

Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo/Christopher Bijalba

4. Brookfield Zoo

Attractions Zoo and aquariums Suburbs

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

Chicago Botanic Garden, nature, garden, botanic, botanic garden
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden

5. Chicago Botanic Garden

Things to do Literary events Suburbs

Chicago Botanic Garden offers free admission daily, though you'll need to preregister online if you're driving and pay parking fees ($25 per car, $10 for senior citizens on Tuesdays, $30 per van, $65 per limousine, minibus, bus and RV). The Metra Union Pacific North line stops just outside the gates, which means you can avoid parking fees if you ride the train.

Glessner House
Photograph: Brendon Brown

7. Glessner House Museum

Museums History Near South Side

Tours are always free to members of the museum and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, but reservations are required.

Photograph: Courtesy of the IMSS

8. International Museum of Surgical Science

Things to do Literary events Gold Coast

Children ages 3 and under always receive free admission.

Illinois residents receive free admission on the following days: November 30–December 4; December 7–11, 14–18

Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

9. Leather Archives and Museum

Museums Rogers Park

While this museum devoted to leather, BDSM, kink and fetish probably isn't appropriate for children, adults can enjoy free admission to the collection every Thursday.

Photograph: Oak Brook Terrace Hotels/Flickr

11. Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

Museums Art and design Suburbs

Free admission every Wednesday, year round. Active military personnel and children under 7 receive free admission daily. Parking is also free. 

Photograph: Callie Lipkin Photography, Inc.

13. Museum of Contemporary Art

Museums Art and design Streeterville

While suggested fees are posted, the MCA has a pay-what-you-can policy—no visitors are turned away. Free for military personnel and veterans, members of police and fire departments and children 12 and under.


Find more museums in Chicago

Field Museum lobby
Photograph: Courtesy the Field Museum

The best Chicago museums


Whether you're visiting the city for the first time or you're a local looking for something to do on your day off, Chicago museums are can't-miss destinations. You'll find world-class institutions throughout the city, including collections devoted to contemporary art, natural history and science that are among Chicago's best attractions.


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