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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

Chicago museums are some of the most popular attractions in the city (and among the finest institutions in the world), but the price of admission can add up fast—especially if you're visiting multiple places in a single day. Luckily, it's possible to stroll through the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago or get lost in the Museum of Science and Industry's mirror maze without having to reach into your wallet. Popular institutions throughout the city offer free museum days, allowing Illinois residents to spend a gratis afternoon or evening enjoying the exhibitions (another great perk of living in Chicago). Whether you're looking for things to do in the Loop or want to explore a collection of vintage buttons in Logan Square, we've assembled a long list of free museum days Chicago residents and visitors can take advantage of.

Free museum days in Chicago

1. Adler Planetarium

Museums Science and technology Museum Campus

Illinois Resident Discount Days offer free general admission for Illinois residents with ID. Illinois residents may also upgrade to a Museum Entry +2 pass at a discounted price to gain access to additional shows and exhibitions.

Upcoming free days for Illinois residents include:

January 7-9, 20-22
February 4-6, 11-13, 17-20
March 9-12
April 20-23
May 10-16
June 2, 9, 16
August 22, 23, 31
September 1-4
October 12-15
November 11, 17-19

Bronzeville Children's Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Bronzeville Children's Museum

3. Bronzeville Children's Museum

Museums Childhood Calumet Heights

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


4. Busy Beaver Button Museum

Shopping Jewelry Logan Square

Busy Beaver's Logan Square headquarters host the Button Museum, a collection of more than 9,000 historical pin-back buttons. Admission is always free Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm, but donations are welcome.

Field Museum lobby
Photograph: Courtesy the Field Museum

5. 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:

January 15, 20, 22, 29
February 1–29

$3 admission to families who show an EBT or WIC card (maximum of six people)

Shedd Aquarium
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

6. Shedd Aquarium

Attractions Zoo and aquariums Museum Campus

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

Upcoming free days for Illinois residents include:

January 16-20
February 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28
June 15, 16, 22, 23

Free museum day tickets can be reserved online, but are subject to a $3-per-order transaction fee.


7. Brookfield Zoo

Attractions Zoo and aquariums Suburbs

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


8. Chicago Botanic Garden

Things to do Literary events Suburbs

Chicago Botanic Garden offers free admission daily, though keep parking fees in mind ($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.


9. Chicago Children's Museum

Museums Childhood Streeterville

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 $12.95 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.

10. Chicago History Museum

Museums History Lincoln Park

Free every Tuesday to Illinois residents between 12:30–9pm. Admission is also free on holidays: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents' Day and July 4.

Free for non–Illinois resident children 12 and younger and Illinois residents under 18 daily. City of Chicago residents receive a $2 discount with valid ID.

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

Free to all active duty military, all veterans, Chicago Police and Fire Departments and Illinois teachers with valid ID.

$3 admission with proof of EBT or WIC card.


14. Glessner House Museum

Museums History Near South Side

Free admission every Wednesday and for children 5 years old and younger. Tours are always free to members of the museum and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

16. 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

18. Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

Museums Art and design Suburbs

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


19. Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)

Things to do Literary events Magnificent Mile

Free admission every Tuesday. Also free everyday for active military personnel and their families, children 18 and under, Loyola University Chicago faculty and staff, Loyola students, members of the clergy and employees from other museums (all with valid ID).


23. Museum of Contemporary Art

Museums Art and design Streeterville

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.

24. Museum of Science and Industry

Museums Science and technology Hyde Park

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

Upcoming free days for Illinois residents include:

January 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27-30
February 3-6, 10-13, 18-20, 24-27


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