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.
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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.
2023 Adler Planetarium Free Days
- Adler Planetarium is free to Illinois residents every Wednesday from 4pm to 10pm
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.
2023 Art Institute of Chicago Free Days:
Admission is free for Illinois residents on weekdays (Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays) January 9–March 24, 2023.
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.
Free guided tours are offered each Wednesday at 12pm.
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 daily. 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.
The Chicago History Museum is free to Illinois residents on the following days in 2022:
- January 17
- February 1 – 4, 9, 21
- March 4
- June 19
- July 4
- August 23 – 26, 30 – 31
- October 10
Free admission to the Chicago History Museum is available for members. It’s also free for members of DuSable Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, and National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, 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.
2023 Free days at the Field Museum
The Field Museum offers free admission to Illinois residents on the following days in 2023:
- January 24, 25, 30
- February 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 20, 21, 28
- March 7, 14
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.
Glessner House is closed for interior work in January and February of 2022.
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
2023 Free days at the Museum of Science & Industry
- Free admission is for Illinois residents only
- January 9–11, 16–18, 23–25, 30–31
- March 1, 6, 14
- April 18, 22
- May 4, 9, 17–18
- June 1, 6–7
- August 22, 28–29
- September 5–6, 11–12, 15, 18–20, 26
- October 4–5, 9, 16–17
- November 1, 8
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.
2022 Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Free Days (donations suggested):
- January 6, 13, 20, 27
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.
2023 Free days at the Shedd Aquarium:
- February 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28
- March 1-2
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! 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.
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.
Admission to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is free, but registration is required.
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
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.