Chicago museums are amazing - but they can certainly break the bank. Make sure to check out my list of free Chicago museum days to avoid the fees!

Free Chicago Museum and Attraction Days 2016

Update: Chicago Free Museum Days 2017

Happy 2016! This year is going to be great – I can feel it. I’ve already started brainstorming what fun things I want to fill this year with, and museums are on my list each and every year. But I know the entry price in Chicago can add up quickly. So I’ve put together a list of the free Chicago museum days for the entire year. More dates will likely be added as the year goes on, so make sure you bookmark this page and check back!

Free Chicago Museum Days

Art Institute of Chicago

Every Thursday, 5pm – 8pm – Free for all Illinois residents

Illinois residents under 14 free every day.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Every Thursday, 5pm – 8pm – Free for all visitors
First Sunday of each month – Free admission for visitors 15 and under

Free admission to active duty military families year-round. Members of the United States military on active duty receive four free admissions.

Police officers, firefighters, veterans, and teachers all receive one free admission to Chicago Children’s Museum year-round.

If you decide to go on a non-free day, you can download this coupon for $1 off each admission.

Alder Planetarium

January 4-8,11,12,15,18-22, 25-29
February 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29
October 10
November 11
December 3-9

An Illinois license is required for these free days.

Museum of Science and Industry

Free general admission to all ILLINOIS residents:
January 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29
February 29
June 1-3; 6-8
September 6-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30
October 4-6
November 3, 10
December 1

Field Museum

Free general admission to all ILLINOIS residents:
January 3, 13-14, 23-24
February 1-29
October 2, 16, 30, 31
November 27
December 3, 4, 18

Shedd Aquarium

Free general admission to all ILLINOIS residents:
January 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
February 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29
June 6, 7, 13, 14
September 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27
October 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31
November 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29

Museum of Contemporary Art

Tuesdays – Free to Illinois residents year round.

Free for members of the military and police and fire departments, veterans, and children 12 and under.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois residents.

Swedish American Museum

Third Friday of each month, 11 a.m., September through June – free story time and craft hour.

Second Tuesday of every month – free for everyone.

Clarke House Museum

Wednesdays – free tours year round.

Glessner House Museum

Wednesdays – free tours year round.

Charnley-Persky House

Wednesdays – free tours year round.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Free daily admission – parking fees apply.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Free daily admission every day.

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum

Always free, with a suggested donation.

Chicago Cultural Center

Always free.

City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower

Always free.

International Museum of Surgical Science

Tuesdays – free for everyone.

Money Museum

Always free.


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Chicago museums are amazing - but they can certainly break the bank. Make sure to check out my list of free Chicago museum days to avoid the fees!Chicago museums are amazing – but they can certainly break the bank. Make sure to bookmark this list of free Chicago museum days to avoid the fees later!

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19 Comments

  1. Great post! My mom used to take us on free days occasionally since admission is so darn pricey. I love the Field Museum & the Museum of Science and Industry and can’t wait to take Odette some day when she’s a little bit older.

    • Admission is pricy! I usually end up paying once a year or so but then make sure if I’m visiting again I schedule around a free day – I can’t imagine paying all that money with a family too many times!

  2. The Children’s Museum has free days too?! I had no idea! Woohoo, I know what we are doing the first Sunday in February to get Little Miss in for free. How fun! 🙂 I love that Chicago museums have these free days!

    • Me too! I’m going to take full advantage once I have little ones 🙂 Have fun with her at the Children’s Museum – I seriously love it there haha

  3. While I don’t live in Chicago (or a city, for that matter) I do live leave NY and Philly, and there are always places/things we want to visit at both, but you’re too right – as with most cities, a visit for 2 adults (and soon to be one kid over 2, so he’ll need a ticket as well!) is pricy! Thanks for the reminder to check out the free days!

    • No problem! I’m so happy when I hear museums have free days coming up – big or little 🙂 I can only imagine I will love them even more once my family grows.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this! My birthday is this month on the 25th I may be checking out the Shedd Aquarium AND the Museum of Science and Industry.

  5. I’ve gotten in for half off at the Alder Planetarium just because I’m an educator. It was AWESOME! I used to love going to the museums when I was younger – just take a day on the train from where I was and hit the museums the day that they were free then hang out at Navy Pier.

    Great post! Need to show this to my sister because she loves free days just as much as me!

    • The educator discounts around the city are great as well! My parents each got those when I was growing up and I know it helped out a lot 🙂

  6. Happy New Year! I just sent my mom a link to this post so we can pick a few to go to this winter.

  7. TUN

    Added to our Chicago Student Discount Guide! Thanks 🙂

    https://www.pinterest.com/tundiscounts/chicago-student-discount-guide/

  8. This is such a great resource! I’ll definitely come back to refer to this list again throughout the year. My only wish is that more of the free days took place on weekends since I have to work during the week. =( But even so – it’s great to know these opportunities are out there!

    • I know – and a lot of times the museums close before dinner which is a bummer. They sometimes announce late closing times though throughout the year! If I see any updates on that, I’ll update here as well 🙂

  9. Woah! Nice! Chicago is on my list of cities I’d like to visit, I’ll have to keep these in mind!

  10. Thanks for entering this in The Pinterest Game — good luck, and we hope to see you again next week! You make me want to visit Chicago! 🙂

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