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Culture Things To Do

Here’s How To Visit Chicago’s Best Museums For Free In 2020

By Charli Renken

Here’s How To Visit Chicago’s Best Museums For Free In 2020

A trip to the museum doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg!

Chicago is home to some of the largest and most respected museums in the world like The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, The Adler Planetarium, and more! These museums have thousands of specimens, art pieces, historic items, planetary wonders, and other fantastic exhibits for hours of educational entertainment.

As wonderful as these exhibits are, seeing all of them can be pricey. General admission tickets can cost as much as $40 per person at some museums. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all the amazing exhibits Chicago has to offer. Many of the city’s museums have free admission days during which tickets are free to IL residents. There are also many museums that are free to attend all year long! Here is how to see the world’s wonders for free right here in Chicago.

Museum of Science and Industry. Image by wnk1029 from Pixabay

Before You Go

The first thing you need to know about free admission days at Chicago’s museums is that the discount typically only applies to IL residents. Sorry tourists, but you’ll have to pay full price even on free admission days. However, many museums do offer a discount for active and veteran US military, educators, students, police, and/or firemen, so if any of those apply to you, be sure to ask at the ticket booth. Children and their families can also access free admission to several museums through a Kid Museum Passport from their local Chicago Public Library!

Many museums also offer free or discounted tickets to low-income families as part of the national Museums for All initiative. The Museum of Science and Industry, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Children’s Museum, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Chicago Botanic Garden are all part of M4A. All you need to be eligible for the discount is an EBT card and your ID. Admission is $3 or less for up to four people per EBT card.

You should also know that free admission days are usually more crowded than usual, so prepare accordingly. Some museums allow you to reserve your free day ticket online. Others are only available at the door. Be sure to check before you go as you could save yourself some time waiting in lines.

free admission days
Fish in the Shedd Aquarium. Photo: @legggomyegggo

2020 Free Admission Days

Finally, here are all the free admission dates for participating museums in Chicago.

The Adler Planetarium

Jan: 7-9, 20-22
Feb: 4-6, 11-13, 17-20
March: 9-12
Apr: 20-23
May: 10-16
June: 2, 9, 16
Aug: 22-23, 31
Sep: 1-4
Oct: 12-15
Nov: 11, 17-19
Dec: 4-6

More information.

The Art Institute of Chicago

While the Art Institute of Chicago doesn’t have specific free admission days, the museum does offer free general admission every Wed evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Admission is also free for all Chicago teens under the age of 18, K-12 educators, and Kids Museum Passport holders. More information.

Chicago Botanic Gardens

Always free.

free admission days
Chicago Botanic Gardens. Photo: @barriebarriekix

Chicago Children’s Museum

Free admission for up to 15 visitors per group the first Sun of every month. Groups of 18 or more must call to register in advance. More information. 

Chicago Cultural Center

Always free.

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Chicago History Museum

Free admission every Tues from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, March 4, and July 4. More information.

DuSable Museum of African American History

Free admission every Tues.

free admission days
The Field Museum. Photo: @wad_albadri

The Field Museum

Jan: 8, 15, 20, 22, 29
Feb: ALL MONTH!
More dates may be made available soon. Check back here for updates. More information

Museum of Contemporary Art

Free for IL residents every Tues.

Museum of Science and Industry

Jan: 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27-30
Feb: 3-6, 10-13, 18-20, 24-27
More dates may be made available soon. Check back here for updates. More information.

free admission days
Museum of Science and Industry. Photo by Liam Briese on Unsplash

National Museum of Mexican Art

Always free.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Suggested donation for IL residents every Thurs.

Smart Museum of Art

Always free.

Swedish American Museum

Free admission the second Tues of every month.

What’s your favorite museum in Chicago? Share it with us on social media by using the hashtag #mysecretchicago.

Feature photo by Solstice Hannan on Unsplash