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 CityPASS which offers discounted admission to five institutions and is available to everyone at significant 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.
Museum Free Days for 2020
1300 South Lake Shore Drive
- January 7-9
- January 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
- December 4-6
Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
- Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to residents every Wednesday evening from 5-8pm and museum admission is always free for Chicago teens under the ago of 18, and all children under the age of 14.
Brookfield Zoo is free to all every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout January and February.
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd. - Glencoe, IL
Admission is always free but parking for non members is $20 on weekdays and $25 on weekends and holidays for residents of Cook County. For non-Cook County residents it's $25 weekdays and $30 weekends and holidays. To avoid parking charges you can walk from the UP Metra North Braeside stop (about a mile walk) to the main entrance of the garden or bike from anywhere. There is also trolley transportation available on designated days from the Glencoe Metra Station.
Chicago History Museum
1601 North Clark Street
- Free 2-9 p.m. on Tuesdays.* Illinois resident children under 18 are always free. Non-Illinois residents 12 and under are always free.
Excludes Dec. 17, 24 & 31.
- January 20
- February 17
- March 4
- July 4
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 E. 56th Pl. - Washington Park
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.
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
- January 8
- January 15
- January 20
- January 22
- February 1-29
Glessner House Museum
1800 S. Prairie Ave. - South Loop
Admission is free to all on Wednesdays at this architectural and historic local highlight. There is never a charge for children under 5 years.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Loyola University Museum of Art
Free to the public every Tuesday.
McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum
Admission is free to all on each Sunday (museum is open seasonally opens May 9 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
Free on Tuesdays for Illinois residents; kids 18 and under are always free. Free the second Saturday of the month (October-May) for families with kids 12 and under.
Museum of Science and Industry
5700 South Lake Shore Drive
- January 6-9
- January 13-16
- January 20-23
- January 27-30
- February 3-6
- February 10-13
- February 18-20
- February 24-27
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Free Thursdays for Illinois residents. Kids under 3 are always free.
1200 South Lake Shore Drive
- January: 16-20
- February: 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28
- June: 15, 16, 22, 23
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.
Always free museums
The Chicago Cultural Center
Cantigny Park and First Division Museum in Wheaton (parking fee)
Chicago Botanic Gardens, Glencoe (parking fee for non members)
Clarke House Museum
DePaul Art Museum
Elmhurst History Museum
Garfield Park Conservatory
Heritage Museum of Asian Art
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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