The museums in Chicago cover an endless variety of fascinating exhibits—obscure histories, landmark homes, and architectural wonders. Experience the Art Institute’s Dan Kiley-designed garden, the inspiring Tiffany-glass dome at the Cultural Center, and the cavernous, marble-filled Field Museum entrance hall.
If you’re an Illinois resident there are a handful of days throughout the year when admission is free at a handful of the city’s museums. But even visitors have options too, there are a number of institutions that are free all the time such as the National Museum of Mexican Art or the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Traveling with kids? Get a Chicago Public Library card and you’ll be able to check out free passes for 19 museums. Plus, there are a ton of other things to do in Chicago with kids.
Take a look at the list of scheduled Illinois Resident Discount Days below and we’ll continually add dates as they are announced throughout 2019.
Museums with the most free days
February 4-6, 11-13, 17-20
June 2, 9, 16
August 22-23, 31
November 11, 17-19
All of February is free! We’ll update with more 2020 dates as announced.
Museum of Science and Industry
January 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27-30
February 3-6, 10-13, 18-20, 24-27
February 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28
June 15, 16, 22, 23, 2020
Art and design museums that regularly offer free admission
The Art Institute of Chicago
Free admission for residents on weekdays from January 27 to March 4. Plus, teens under 18 and kids get in for free. So do Illinois educations, Link and WIC cardholders.
DePaul Art Museum
Free for anyone.
Loyola University Museum of Public Art
Free all the time.
Museum of Contemporary Art
On Tuesdays admission is free for Illinois residents. On other days, admission is a suggested donation of $18.
Museum of Contemporary Photography
Free admission for all.
For families, teens, and kids
Children’s Museum at Navy Pier
The first Sunday of every month there’s free admission for kids under 15. There are a few other ways to get discounts, too.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Lincoln Park Zoo
Free entrance all year long.
Chicago History Museum
Free for residents from from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. Commemorative days are also free, those include: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, March 4, and July 4.
Who gets in for free: US Armed Services, Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department, and Illinois teachers
For those looking for a cultural experience
Chicago Cultural Center
Free entrance always and free on-the-spot tours too.
DuSable Museum of African American History
Every Tuesday admission is free. Military personnel also receive free admission.
National Museum of Mexican Art
Free admission everyday.
National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture
Free admission and parking.
Swedish American Museum
Every second Tuesday of the month is free all year. Kids under 1 get in for free, too.
For those going off the beaten path
International Museum of Surgical Science
Free days include:
February 3, 7, 10, 13, 17, 21
December 4, 7, 11, 14, 18
National Hellenic Museum
Bank of America cardholders receive one free admission on the first full weekend of every month.
McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum
Every Sunday is free while the museum is open from May to October. Children under 5 get in for free.