Even with museum prices often out of reach for many families and individuals there is no reason to stay away--you just need to plan ahead.
Literally every one of Chicago (and the area's) world-class museums offer special deals along with free general admission on certain days each year (typically to Illinois residents with valid proof of residency).
Show Me Chicago's annual roundup of museum free general admission days along with special discounts is updated whenever a new date or offer is added.
In addition to free days other options include the Chicago City Pass which offers discounted admission to five institutions and is available to everyone at a 54% savings over regular admission prices.
There are a limited number of kids museum passports for the Shedd and other museums that allow a family of four (4) general admission available through the Chicago Public Library for Chicago residents that have a library card. Also check your local library to see what they offer.
The week of August 28 through September 2 all CPS students ages 12 and under will be admitted free to Chicago's major museums.
Free Winter Weekdays 2017
Art Institute of Chicago
Illinois residents (with valid proof of residency) will be admitted free every weekday from January 9 through February 16, 2017.
General admission is free to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. throughout the year.
General zoo admission is free on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from January 3, 2017 through February 28, 2017.
Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier
Visitors, ages 15 and under are admitted free on Free First Sundays, offered the first Sunday of each month.
Target Free Family Night, offered Thursday evenings from offers free admission to all visitors from 5-8pm.
Chicago History Museum (CHM)
CHM offers free admission to Illinois residents every Tuesday beginning January 10, 2017, from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m. and on Commemorative Days: January 16 (MLK day), February 20 (President's Day), March 4 (Casimir Pulaski day), and July 4 (Independence Day).
Charnley-Persky House, 1365 North Astor Street
Tours are free on Wednesdays, through March (tour limited to 15 individuals).
DuSable Museum of African American History
Admission is free to all on each Tuesday of the year. Children under 5 always receive free admission.
Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 S Cottage Hill Ave, Elmhurst
First Fridays are free year-round.
The Field Museum
Free general admission for Illinois residents on the following 2017 dates:
January 4, 5, 16, 28, 29, 30
Glessner House Museum
Admission is free on Wednesdays, year round.
Loyola University Museum of Art
Admission is free for Illinois residents every Tuesday, year round.
McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum
Admission is free to all on each Sunday (museum is open seasonally May to October). Children under 5 are always free admission.
Mitchell Museum of American Indian Art, 3001 Central St, Evanston
The museum is free to individual visitors on the first Friday of each month.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays year round.
Museum of Science and Industry (MSI)
MSI offers free general admission for Illinois residents on the following 2017 dates:
January 10-12, 16-19, 24-26, 31
February 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28
June 5-9, 12
September 5-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29
The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) is celebrating the 2017-2018 school year by offering a free family pass to every Chicago Public Schools K-12 student who attends the first day of class. Each pass provides Museum Entry tickets for up to three (3) adult or child between September 5, 2017 and June 18, 2018. The passes will be included in the information packets all students receive on their first day.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois residents year round.
The Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum—the city’s oldest museum—will celebrate its 160th birthday with five free days of admission for Illinois residents from Jan. 9-13, 2017.
Illinois residents receive entry at no cost on suggested donation Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every week throughout the year.
Free general admission for Illinois residents only on the following 2017 dates:
January 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
February 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 21, 27, 28
June 5, 6, 12, 13
August 28, 29
September 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26
October 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31
Swedish American Museum
Admission is free for all visitors on the second Tuesday of the month, year round. Members and children under the age of one are free.
The following museums are ALWAYS FREE admission:
The Chicago Cultural Center
Cantigny Park and First Division Museum in Wheaton (parking is $5)
Chicago Botanic Gardens, Glencoe (parking $25)
Clarke House Museum
DePaul Art Museum
Elmhurst Historical Museum
Garfield Park Conservatory
Lincoln Park Conservatory
Lincoln Park Farm in the Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo
Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art (Northwestern University campus, Evanston)
National Museum of Mexican Art
National Veterans Art Museum
The Oriental Institute Museum (suggested, but not required donation $10 adults; $5 children) Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture
Smart Museum of Art
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Filed under: Chicago Museums