Chicagoland’s Free Museum Days You Don’t Want to Miss in 2024

Enjoy family fun that is easy on the wallet with these local museums offering free admission.

Chicago’s museums are world-class, but all those bones, weather simulators and rides in Chicago’s first El train car don’t come cheap. Throw in parking, special exhibits and the gift shop, and it adds up fast.

But in the philanthropic spirit of our fine city, most museums offer free admission for Illinois residents on certain days. As much as I love free museum days in Chicago, be prepared for big crowds! I suggest arriving early and checking ahead if you can reserve your free ticket online to avoid lines. 

Here’s a complete calendar for the next few months for museum free days in 2024. You’re on your own in the gift shop. Looking for more fun things to do with kids in Chicagoland? Check out our weekend picks!

This article was recently updated on May 3, 2024 by Chicago Parent’s Audience Development Manager Katina Beniaris. The update included her research and fact-checking expertise to provide the latest information on free admission days at Chicagoland museums. Questions? Please reach out to katina@chicagoparent.com.

Free Museums Days Chicago

Adler Planetarium

visit adler planetarium chicago with kids
Photo credit: Adler Planetarium

  • Free on Wednesdays 4-10 p.m.

On Wednesday evenings, Illinois residents (proof of residency required) can enjoy free admission at Adler Planetarium. The planetarium also participates in Museums for All and Bank of America Museums on Us. Note: Free admission is not included for their Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon fulldome show. 

Find more things to do with kids with our Adler Planetarium family guide.

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago
Photo credit: Art Institute of Chicago

  • June 6-Sept. 26: Free on Thursdays 5-8 p.m. 

The Art Institute of Chicago will return with their free hours this summer. Throughout the year, kids under 14 and Chicago teens under 18 are always free. The museum also participates in Museums for All and Bank of America Museums on Us.

Plan the best kid-approved visit with our Art Institute family guide.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago Children's Museum
Photo credit: Chicago Children’s Museum

The Navy Pier attraction has not posted any free family days for 2024. They are a proud Museums for All partner. 

Chicago History Museum

Chicago History Museum
Photo credit: Chicago History Museum

  • May 2024: 1, 27, 29
  • June 2024: 19, 23, 26, 29
  • July 2024: 4, 17
  • August 2024: 28

Illinois residents can enjoy free admission days throughout the year. Chicago History also offers free admission for Illinois residents under 18 and all children under 12.

DuSable Museum of African American History

DuSable Museum
Photo credit: DuSable Museum/Madison Burger

  • Free for Illinois Public School students in grades K-12

DuSable Museum offers a variety of free admission options for Chicagoland families. Admission is free every day for Illinois Public School students in grades K-12. The museum also participates in Museums for All and Bank of America Museums on Us.

Field Museum

Field Museum
Photo of SUE courtesy of The Field Museum

  • May 2024: 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
  • June 2024: 5, 12, 19, 26
  • July 2024: 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
  • August 2024: 7, 14, 21, 28
  • September 2024: 4, 11, 18, 25
  • October 2024: 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
  • November 2024: 6, 13, 20, 27
  • December 2024: 4, 11, 18

The Field Museum offers Free Wednesdays for Illinois residents. They also participate in Museums for All. 

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo credit: Lisa Miller/Lincoln Park Zoo

  • Always free

Did you know that Lincoln Park Zoo has always been free since they opened in 1868? Note: Some special events might include a paid admission. 

Plan a Lincoln Park Zoo family day with our guide.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Photo credit: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

  • Free on Tuesdays for Illinois residents, kids 18 and under are always free.

MCA Chicago offers free admission to all children. The art museum also participates in Museums for All and Bank of America Museums on Us. During the year, they also offer free admission for their Family Days, usually on Saturdays. 

Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry
Photo credit: Museum of Science and Industry

  • June 2024: 6, 19

MSI Chicago offers free admission days throughout the year. The museum also participates in Museums for All and Bank of America Museums on Us (Sundays only). Note: Free admission does not include costs for special exhibits and experiences. 

Get kids curious on their next visit with our MSI Chicago family guide.

National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican Art
Photo credit: National Museum of Mexican Art

  • Always free

In the heart of Pilsen, the National Museum of Mexican Art offers free admission all year round. Check out their calendar for upcoming special events, including many events geared for families. 

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

  • Free on Thursdays

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum offers free admission for Illinois residents every Thursday for weekly donation days. $10 optional donation suggested. They also participate in Museums for All. 

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium
Photo Credit: Shedd Aquarium

  • May 2024: 7, 14, 21, 28
  • June 2024: 4, 11, 18, 25

Illinois residents can enjoy free admission on Tuesdays evening through June 25. The aquarium also participates in Museums for All.

Check out our tips when visiting Illinois Resident Free Days at Shedd Aquarium!

Free Museum Days Suburbs

Chicago Botanic Garden

 

Chicago Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

  • May 2024: 7, 9
  • June 2024: 11, 13, 19
  • July 2024: 9, 11
  • August 2024: 6, 8
  • September 2024: 10, 12
  • October 2024: 1, 2, 14
  • November 2024: 4-8, 11, 12
  • December 2024: 9-15

Chicago Botanic Garden offers free admission days to Illinois residents, pre-registration is required. Note: Free admissions are not applicable during ticketed events. 

Explore nature with our family guide to Chicago Botanic Garden.

Elmhurst History Museum

Elmhurst History Museum
Photo credit: Elmhurst History Museum

  • Always free

The Elmhurst History Museum offers free admission to all. Families will enjoy checking out their special exhibits. 

Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center

Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center
Photo credit: Illinois Holocaust Museum

  • May 2024: 26
  • June 2024: 30

The museum also participates in Museums for All and Bank of America Museums on Us. 

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Arts

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Arts
Photo credit: Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art

  • Free on Wednesdays

The museum offers free admissions on Wednesdays and for kids under 7. 

Mascot Hall of Fame (Whiting, Ind.)

Mascot Hall of Fame

Mascot Hall of Fame

The Mascot Hall of Fame sometimes offers free admission during their Friday programs. They also participate in Museums for All. 

More Free Museum Admission Opportunities

Bank of America Free Days

Have a Bank of America card? Simply present your card on the first full weekend of each month and get free admission to various Chicago area museums. One per cardholder, so it won’t be free for the entire family (unless each of your children has a credit card), but a free adult admission is nothing to sneeze at.

Museums For All Initiative

A fun day out at the museum isn’t always super fun for your wallet. Through Museums for All, families that receive food assistance can take advantage of free or significantly discounted admission for up to four people when they present their SNAP EBT card. With more than 40 participating museums in Illinois, there’s no shortage of exciting discoveries to be had.

Chicago Public Library Museum Passes

Chicago Public Libraries’ museum passes are now digital and can be used across Illinois! The passes include museums, historical societies and more. Visit chipublib.org/digitalpasses to log in with your card details and make reservations. 


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Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts is the assistant editor on the Chicago Parent team. She is always on the lookout for the coolest and trendiest new attractions, restaurants and events for Chicagoland families. Her newsletters, online family guides and exciting digital content keep families informed on all the latest happenings around town.
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