Free Museum Days in Chicago

Save a bundle by visiting Chicago museums for free.

Get out your calendar and get ready to save a bundle, ’cause here are free museum days in Chicago museum AND museums that are free all the time.

In a world-class city like Chicago, one of the best things to do is explore its world-class museums. Unfortunately, seeing them all can be very expensive.

Lucky for you (especially if you’re an Illinois resident), there are several free days at the most popular Chicago museums.

There are also several free museums in Chicago, and we’ve got them, too! 

It’s worth noting that, while general admission is free on the days listed below, special exhibitions usually require a paid ticket.

If these dates don’t fit your schedule you can save money on tickets with a Go Chicago Card. Save up to 55% off Chicago attractions – get this virtual pass on your smartphone now!

Related: How to save money in Chicago

Please note that many free days are for Illinois residents only.

Free Museum Days in Chicago

Find out when your favorite museum is offering free days.

Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago

1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, (312) 922-7827

When you visit Adler Planetarium, you’re visiting the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. Built in 1930, its exhibitions bring the stars to you.

2021 Adler Planetarium Free Days

  • Dates will be added as they become available.

Read all about Adler Planetarium in Living Landmarks of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago
Photo courtesy Choose Chicago

111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603, 312.443.3600

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the city’s finest treasures.

Popular exhibits include the largest collection of Impressionism outside of the Louvre, the Thorne Miniature Rooms, and galleries devoted to American art, to African American art, to photography, prints and drawings, and Indian Art of the Americas.

2021 Art Institute of Chicago Free Days:

  • November 29
  • December 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17

The Art Institute of Chicago is currently free for the following groups:

  • Kids under 14
  • Chicago teens under 18
  • Students who attend one of our University Partner schools
  • LINK and WIC cardholders
  • Illinois educators, including pre-K–12 teachers, teaching artists working in schools, and homeschool parents
  • Active-duty military free every day. Active-duty military families are free from Armed Forces Day through Labor Day
  • Kids Museum Passport: individuals with a Chicago Public Library card can check out a pass for free general admission to the Art Institute.
  • Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit cardholders receive free general admission to the museum on the first full weekend of each month
  • Sotheby’s Preferred cardholders and up to three guests receive complimentary general and special exhibition admission
  • The Cultivist members and up to three guests receive free general and special exhibition admission

If none of these apply to you: Get a fast pass to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Find hotels near the Art Institute of Chicago

Brookfield Zoo

3300 Golf Rd, Brookfield, IL 60513 708.688.8000

Not only is Brookfield Zoo a wonderful place to visit the animals, it’s also a world leader in animal population management and wildlife conservation.

Admission is free for zoo members and all active, reservist, and retired members of the military.

Charnley-Persky House Museum

1365 N Astor St, Chicago, IL 60610 312.573.1365

It’s only fitting that the Charnley-Persky House is the home of the Society of Architectural Historians since it was designed by Louis Sullivan and his junior draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright. Guided tours will resume August 7, 2021, and reservations are required.

Learn the story of the Charnley-Persky house in Living Landmarks of Chicago

Chicago Children’s Museum

700 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, 312.527.1000

The Chicago Children’s Museum is open Friday through Sunday each week. Admission is free for Veterans and Active Military. It is also free for EBT card or WIC card holders. Visit chicagochildrensmuseum.org for details.

Check out these hotels near the Chicago Children’s Museum:

Chicago History Museum

Chicago History Museum

1601 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, 312.642.4600

The Chicago History Museum showcases the city’s complicated history and is itself a piece of history.

Free admission to the Chicago History Museum is available for members and the following:

  • US Armed Services: All active duty military and all veterans (with valid ID)
  • Chicago Police Department: All active duty (with valid ID)
  • Chicago Fire Department: All active duty (with valid ID)
  • Illinois Teachers (with valid ID)
  • Pre-Registered School Field Trips
  • Park Voyagers: Must show your pass.
  • Kids Museum Passport Holders: Must show your pass.

Do none of those apply? Get your tickets.

Learn more about the Chicago History Museum

Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum of Natural History

1400 S Lake Shore Dr , Chicago Illinois, 312-922-9410

The Field Museum of Natural History houses millions of specimens in its collections, from gems to mummies to dinosaurs.

2022 Free days at the Field Museum

  • January 5, 12, 19, 26
  • February 2, 9, 16, 23

Read the gripping story of this historic museum in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Glessner House

Glessner House Museum in the South Loop of Chicago, the last design by Henry Hobson Richardson

1800 S Prairie Ave, Chicago, IL

Tours of the Glessner House are limited to six people. They are currently only offering free admission for members of Glessner House and the National Trust.

International Museum of Surgical Science

1524 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60610, 312.642.6502

Free admission is available for the following:

ASTC Members– FREE Admission for two adults and all children under 18 of the same household. Must present valid ASTC Membership card with ID or other proof of residence. Exclusions: Members of centers & museums OR member’s residence located within 90 miles “as the crow flies” from the International Museum of Surgical Science. Does not include special exhibits.

Museums for All– Through Museums for All, those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) can gain free or reduced admission to more than 300 museums throughout the United States simply by presenting their EBT card. Up to four people admitted for free per card. Does not include special exhibits.

AAM Members– FREE Admission with membership card. Does not include special exhibits.

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

1220 Kensington Road, Oak Brook, IL 60523 630.833.1616

This “gem” of a museum highlights the fine art of cutting and polishing stones.

  • Free on Wednesdays

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

99 Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago, IL 60601 312.977.0227

Chicago has the most moveable bridges in the world. Get an inside look – literally, at these complex structures at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. The museum is not offering free days at this time, but admission for adults is only $6.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, 312.280.2660

  • Neighborhood: Magnificent Mile / Streeterville
  • Free on Tuesdays for Illinois residents, open until 9pm

Museum of Science & Industry

U-505 German Submarine at the Museum of Science & Industry

5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL

  • March 10
  • April 14
  • May 12
  • June 9, 19
  • July 14
  • August 11
  • September 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30
  • October 27
  • November 3, 10, 17
  • December 8
  • Free admission is for Illinois residents only

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Adam Alexander Photography Photo Courtesy of Choose Chicago

2430 N Cannon Dr, Chicago, IL 60614, 773.755.5100

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has the most hands-on activities of any museum in the city.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Free Days (donations suggested):

  • November 4, 11, and 18
  • December 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30

Shedd Aquarium

Jellyfish at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, one of the many creatures you can see during their free days

1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL (312) 939-2438

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is not just a fantastic place to see aquatic animals, it also has a magnificent conservation program.

  • Tuesday, September 7
  • Wednesday, September 8
  • Monday, September 13
  • Tuesday, September 14
  • Wednesday, September 15
  • Monday, September 20
  • Tuesday, September 21
  • Wednesday, September 22
  • Monday, September 27
  • Tuesday, September 28
  • Wednesday, September 29

Shedd offers daily free and discounted admission to those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) by simply presenting their EBT card. 

Swedish American Museum

5211 N Clark St, Chicago, IL (773) 728-8111

The Swedish American Museum offers free admission on the second Tuesday of every month

Adler Planetarium

Free Museums in Chicago

These Chicago museums are free all the time.

The Arts Club of Chicago

201 E Ontario St, Chicago, IL

  • Neighborhood: Magnificent Mile / Streeterville
  • Always free

City Gallery

Historic Water Tower Chicago

Located within Historic Water Tower, 806 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

This free gallery inside the Historic Water Tower focuses on photography.

The City Gallery is currently closed.

Clarke House Museum

Chicago Women's Park and Gardens and the Clarke House Museum
Clarke House Museum

1827 S Indiana Ave, Chicago, IL

Chicago’s oldest house was built in 1836 and moved not once, but twice! It reopens October 20 with free guided tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1pm. Space is limited and tours are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Learn the story behind the Clarke House Museum, Chicago’s oldest house.

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

800 S Halsted, Chicago, IL

Jane Addams was a remarkable person and a Nobel Peace Prize-winner. Step inside Chicago’s first settlement house and learn the story behind the social reformer.

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is featured in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Admission to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is free, but registration is required.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lions at Lincoln Park Zoo

2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL

One the country’s oldest and last free zoos, Lincoln Park Zoo has been delighting locals and tourists since 1868. It is always free.

Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)

820 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, 312.915.7600

LUMA is currently closed

Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art

40 Arts Circle Dr, Evanston, IL

Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art is currently closed

Museum of Contemporary Photography

600 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL

The Museum of Contemporary Photography is currently open, but reservations are recommended.

National Museum of Mexican Art

1852 W 19th St, Chicago, IL , nationalmuseumofmexicanart.com

Diorama at National Museum of Mexican Art

The National Museum of Mexican Art was founded in 1982 and contains one of the country’s largest Mexican art collections. The museum is always free, although donations are welcome.

The Oriental Institute

1155 E 58th St, Chicago, IL

The Oriental Institute is currently open, but reservations are required.

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago

5811 S Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago is open, but reservations are required.

Smart Museum Of Art

5550 S Greenwood Ave, Chicago, IL

The Smart Museum of Art is open, and reservations are required.

These aren’t the only free things to do in Chicago! Find more in our ultimate guide.

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Free museum days Chicago - there are several free days at Chicago museums, including the Museum of Science & Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Art Institute of Chicago. There are also #Chicago museums that are free all the time. #Freethingstodo