Museums are more fun when they're free


When to find the freebies this summer by Ann Scanlan



Chicago Parent file photo The Terra Museum of American Art is always free and this summer is the time to enjoy it before it closes Oct. 31.

If you're looking for a fun and free outing for the kids during the summer, several of Chicago's finest museums-Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science of Industry-are out of the question. The four museums, located on land owned by the Chicago Park District, are required to offer 52 free admission days a year. That once meant one free day a week. But recent changes in the law permitted flexibility and the museums now offer a free week, June 6-11, which is of little use to families with children still in school.

Although you'll have to fork over the full admission price if you want to see Sue at the Field Museum or “Amazon Rising” at the Shedd, you still have plenty of free options. (By the way, we didn't forget Saturday, there are no freebies that day.) Here's a guide:

Monday Chicago Historical Society Clark Street at North Avenue, Chicago (312) 642-4600 Tuesday Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago (312) 443-3600 Elmhurst Art Museum 150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst (630) 834-0202

International Museum of Surgical Science 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago (312) 642-6502

Museum of Contemporary Art Free from 5-8 p.m. 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago (312) 280-2660

Swedish American Museum Free the second Tuesday of the month 5211 N. Clark St., Chicago (773) 728-8111

Wednesday Clarke House Museum 1827 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago (312) 745-0040

Glessner House Museum 1800 S. Prairie Ave., Chicago (312) 326-1480

Thursday Chicago Children's Museum Free from 5-8 p.m. Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago (312) 527-1000

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 2430 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago (773) 755-5100

Friday Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest 217 Home Ave., Oak Park (708) 383-2654

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art 220 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst (630) 833-1616

Spertus Museum 618 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago (312) 322-1747

Sunday The DuSable Museum of African-American History 740 E. 56th Pl., Chicago (773) 947-0600

Always Free Cantigny Admission free, $7 to park, $4 after 5 p.m. 1 S. 151 Winfield Rd., Wheaton (630) 668-5161

Centerspace-Gallery 37 66 E. Randolph St., Chicago (312) 744-8925

Chicago Architecture Foundation's ArchiCenter 224 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago (312) 922-TOUR

Chicago Cultural Center 78 E. Washington St., Chicago (312) 744-6630

Martin D'Arcy Museum of Art Cudahy Library, Loyola University 6525 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago (773) 508-2679

Des Plaines Historical Museum 789 Pearson St., Des Plaines (847) 391-5399

DuPage County Illinois Historical Museum 102 E. Wesley St., Wheaton (630) 682-7343

Elmhurst Historical Museum 120 E. Park Ave., Elmhurst (630) 833-1457

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago 230 S. LaSalle St., Chicago (312) 322-2400 Fermilab Pine Street off Kirk Road, Batavia (630) 840-3000, Check for restricted access at

Garfield Park Conservatory Donation of $3 suggested during “Giants” dinosaur exhibit 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago (312) 746-5100

Hyde Park Art Center 5307 S. Hyde Park Blvd., Chicago (773) 324-5520

Illinois and Michigan Canal Museum 803 S. State St., Lockport (815) 838-5080

Illinois State Museum Lockport Gallery 201 W. 10th St., Lockport (815) 838-7400

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art 756 W. Milwaukee St., Chicago (312) 243-9088

Isle a la Cache Museum 501 E. Romeo Rd., Romeoville (815) 886-1467

Joliet Iron Works Historic Site East of Scott Street on Columbia Street, Joliet (815) 727-8700

Kline Creek Farm County Farm Road between Geneva and St. Charles roads, Carol Stream (630) 876-5900

Lincoln Park Conservatory 2391 N. Stockton Dr., Chicago (312) 742-7736

Lincoln Park Zoo 2200 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago (312) 742-2000

McDonald's USA First Store Museum 400 N. Lee St., Des Plaines (847) 297-5022

Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago (312) 738-1503

Museum of Contemporary Photography 600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago (312) 344-7104

The Peace Museum 100 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago (773) 638-6450

The David and Alfred Smart Museum University of Chicago 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago (773) 702-0200

The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago (312) 595-5024

The Terra Museum of American Art Closing Oct. 31 664 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago (312) 664-3939


Heather Cunningham is a writer living in Batavia who writes frequently on parenting and health issues.



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