Chicago's museums are offering free days hand over
fist/flipper/mummified hand/robotic arm so far in 2011. The Art
Institute revamped its longstanding free day programs, MSI came
through with free weekdays in January, and Shedd
announced this week that it will open its doors with a February
all free days and read what's new this year, click
What's that you say? You've never been to a free day at
Chicago's busiest museums? Oh, boy. To help you out, we've compiled
a Survival Guide to Free Days at Chicago's Museums, with tips,
shortcuts and advice on saving a buck without losing your sanity.
We'll be adding guides to each museum right here as we go, so check
The upside: It's free. Enough said. Chicago's
museums are world-class, but they don't come cheap. Start with a
$10-$20 admission price tag, throw in parking and a trip through
the gift shop, and a family trip to the museum easily breaks the
$100 mark. So free days are a great deal, though you're still on
your own in the gift shop.
The downside: They can be a bit of a zoo.
Veterans of Chicago free days will well remember lines snaked
around the Shedd and two-hour waits to get inside at the Field. So
we recommend going early, bringing reinforcements (this is
definitely a parent tag-team situation if it's possible) and maybe
some animal crackers.
Tips for smooth sailing:
Shedd has world-class exhibits, from Nunavik the baby beluga to
Granddad, the world's oldest living fish. It's a guaranteed
thumbs-up from the kids but can be pricey if you try to do it at
cost, especially with parking rates at Chicago's Museum Campus.
Shedd's crowds tend to bottleneck at Caribbean Reef, the
90,000-gallon crown jewel of Shed's collcetion. So sidestep this
exhibit and head straight back to the the Oceans exhibit, where
you'll find octopi, seahorses and, yes, Granddad.
Our favorite spot? Down in Wild Reef, where you'll see sharks
above you, rays below, and clownfish ("Nemos") all around.
Sure, classic artwork isn't necessarily on the top of every
kids' list, but Chicago's premier art gallery is full of things
kids will get a kick out of. The good news is that free days here
tend to be slightly lower-key than some of Chicago's other
We recommend starting up - way up. On the roof of the Modern
Wing, to be exact, where two jet engines sit on the Bluhm Family
Terrace. The exhibit, by British artist Roger Hiorn, actually has
some slightly jarring, dark undertones about industry and tragedy,
but none of that will matter to your 5-year-old obsessed with all
things that go vroom!
The Ryan Education Center, which opened in 2009 with the modern
wing and replaced the old Kraft Family Center, is a kid-friendly
oasis in the museum. Kids need to vent some steam? Head here
(immediate left before entering the modern wing) and you'll find a
welcoming spot for kids and families.
Kids can make their own art at the Joseph Cornell exhibit.
See more of Liz's stories here.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.