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Chicago is a great city to live in and a great city to visit. It has one of America’s best food scenes, unrivaled architecture and many of the country’s finest museums. Unfortunately it is also one of America’s most expensive cities. A day at the museum can set a family back $100 or more. Luckily, at least for Illinois residents, there are many days when Chicago’s world class museums are free.  To save you the trouble of finding what museums are free on what days we have done all of the research for you and put together this list. Most of these free days are for Illinois residents only.


Free days at Chicago museums in 2017:

Art Institute Chicago:  Free every Thursday evening from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm. Weekdays from Jan. 9 – Feb. 16.

The Field Museum: Jan. 4, 5, 16, 28, 29, 30 Feb. 1 – 28

Shedd Aquarium: Free admission or you can get the all access pass for $15 instead of $39.95. Jan. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, Feb. 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 21, 27, 28, June 5, 6, 12, 13, Aug. 28, 29, Sept. 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26, Oct. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, Nov. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21

Museum of Science & Industry Chicago:  Jan. 10-12, 16-19, 24-26, 31, Feb. 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28, June 5-9, 12, Sept.  5-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-29, Oct. 2-5

Chicago History Museum: Every Tuesday after 12:30. Jan. 16, Feb. 20, March 4, and July 4.

MCA Chicago: Every Tuesday.

Adler Planetarium:  Jan. 6–13, 16, 17-20, Feb. 6–10, 20-24, June 5–9

Loyola University Museum of Art: Free to everyone on Tuesdays.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Thursdays are suggested donation days.

Smart Museum of Art: Always free to everyone.

Oriental Institute: Suggested $10 donation.

Swedish American Museum: Free for everyone the second Tuesday of the month


 
 
Adler Planetarium Chicago
Chicago is one of the world’s greatest cities. It has world-class architecture, a beautiful lakefront and a thriving food scene.  It is also arguably the top city in the country for museums.  Many people consider The Art Institute of Chicago the country’s best art museum. Our two top science museums, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum, are excellent family-friendly venues! There is also a plethora of other great but lessor known museums.

The one problem with all of these great institutions is that they can be expensive. A trip to the Shedd Aquarium can cost a family of 4 over $100. Luckily, for Illinois residents at least, there are free days at many of these museums.  

The following is a list of the free days at many of Chicago’s museums in 2016.

 

The Shedd Aquarium:

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


The Field Museum:

January: 3, 13, 18, 23, 24;
February: 1-29


Museum of Science & Industry:

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


Adler Planetarium:

January:  4-8,11,12,15,18-22, 25-29
February:  1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29


The Art institute of Chicago:

General admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.


The Museum of Contemporary Art:

The MCA Chicago is free for Illinois residents every Tuesday all year long. 


Chicago History Museum:

Free for Illinois residents Monday through Friday during the months of January and February. 


Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum:

Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois residents. You can pay as much as you like, including going for free. 


Loyola University Museum of Art:

Free every Tuesday for Illinois residents. 


Chicago has several great institutions that are always free: 

They include: the Lincoln Park Zoo, Smart Museum of Art, and the Chicago Cultural Center.













 




 
 
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Chicago is a great museum city. The Art Institute of Chicago is probably the country’s best art museum. The Field Museum and Museum of Science & Industry are wonderful science museums and the Shedd Aquarium is the largest and best aquarium in the country. There are also several small and interesting museums.

Unfortunately like much of Chicago, the museums can be very expensive, especially for a family. A family of 4 can easily spend over $100 just on admissions. Luckily most of the museums offer free days, at least for Illinois residents.

There are some caveats to the free museum days. The first is that it usually only covers general admission. Most of the museums in Chicago have a lot to see with just the general admission and if you want to you can get an all access pass for a reduced price. The second is the crowds. Free admission is a real bargain so some of the museums can be very crowded. I made the mistake of going to a free day at the Shedd Aquarium only to find a line snaking out of the entrance and winding its way around the grounds. Three hours was the grim news from the staff member when asked about the wait. Happily the wait at the nearby Field Museum was only a few minutes.

Free Admission Museum Days for Illinois Residents

The Art Institute of Chicago: Jan 5 – Feb 10 weekdays will be free.  All Thursday evenings, when the museum stays open late, 8:00 pm, you can get in free after 5:00 pm. Illinois educators receive free admission every day. Admission, which covers the whole museum, is normally $20.

The Shedd Aquarium: Jan. 5, 6, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, Feb. 2, 3, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 23, 24, June 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, Sept. 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29, Oct. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, Nov. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24. The free admission only covers the original aquarium but you can get discounted all access passes on these days.  Educators from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin and active military personal, from any state, can register online to get to free passes that cover most of the aquarium. Admission is normally $8 for adults and $6 for children.

The Field Museum: Jan. 5, 6, 7, 14, 15, and all of February. Illinois teachers and all active military personnel get in free every day.  Free admission covers basic admittance only and more comprehensive passes can be purchased for a discount. Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors and $13 for children.

The Museum of Science & Industry:  Jan. 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, March 2-6, April 22, May 21, June 1-5, 8, Sept. 8-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30, Oct. 5, 6. Teachers and active military personnel are always free. Free admission does not cover special exhibits. Admission is regularly $18 for adults and $11 for children.

Chicago History Museum: Free all January and February weekdays. March 4, July 4, Aug 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31, Sept. 1, 2, 3. Children under 12 are always free. Admission is normally $14 for adults and $12 for seniors and students, (13-22).

Museum of Contemporary Art: Free on Tuesdays. Normally $7.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Thursdays are suggested donation days. Normal admission is $9 for adults and $7 for students and seniors.

Adler Planetarium: Jan. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28. Illinois teachers and active military personnel are always free.  Basic admission only but the discount can be applied to an all access pass. $12 for adults, $8 for children and $10 for students.

Loyola University Museum of Art: Free every Tuesday for everyone on all Tuesdays. Clergy members and active military personnel and their families are always free. Admission is normally $8 for adults and $2 for students.

Clarke House Museum & Glessner House Museum: Free every Wednesday. Admission is normally $15.


 

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