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.
Find out when your favorite museum is offering free days.
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
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.
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.
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:
- ACME Hotel Company – fun and affordable boutique hotel
- Doubletree by Hilton Magnificent Mile – get a warm cookie at check-in!
- Hyatt Regency Chicago – one of Chicago’s largest hotels
- Intercontinental Hotel Chicago – an historic hotel on the Magnificent Mile
- Loews Chicago Hotel – closest hotel to Navy Pier
- Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel – located in one of the most distinctive buildings in Chicago
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.
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.
Free days at the Field Museum: September 22 and 29, 2021
Read the gripping story of this historic museum in Living Landmarks of Chicago.
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.
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.
220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, 312.280.2660
- Neighborhood: Magnificent Mile / Streeterville
- Free on Tuesdays for Illinois residents, open until 9pm
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
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. They offer suggested donation days on July 22, July 29, August 5, August 12, August 19, and August 26.
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
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
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
1827 S Indiana Ave, Chicago, IL
Chicago’s oldest house was built in 1836 and moved not once, but twice!
The Clarke House Museum is currently closed.
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 currently closed.
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 required.
National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W 19th St, Chicago, IL
National Museum of Mexican Art is currently closed
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, but reservations are required.
Smart Museum Of Art
5550 S Greenwood Ave, Chicago, IL
The Smart Museum of Art is scheduled to re-open April 8, 2021.
These aren’t the only free things to do in Chicago! Find more in our ultimate guide.
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