Free Days for Chicago-Area Museums

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. Here’s a complete calendar for  the next few months for free museum days. You’re on your own in the gift shop.

Note: We’re updating our website as quickly as we can, but changes may occur due to COVID-19. Please double check before heading out for the most updated information on safety precautions and any last-minute closings. Most of these museums require guests to purchase their timed tickets online before visiting. Stay safe!


The Art Institute of Chicago

Kids 14 and under and Chicago teens under 18 are always free.

The Field Museum

  • September: 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

Must reserve tickets in advance.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Always free.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Free on Tuesdays for Illinois residents; kids 18 and under are always free. Advance registration is required.

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Always free. Must reserve tickets in advance.

Museum of Science and Industry

  • September: 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30
  • October: 27
  • November: 3, 10, 17
  • December: 8

Shedd Aquarium

  • September: 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

  • August: 5, 12, 19, 26
  • September: 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
  • October: 7, 14, 21, 28


Elmhurst History Museum

Always free. Must reserve tickets in advance.

Wilmette Historical Museum

Always free. Must make appointments in advance.


Bank of America Free Days

Have a Bank of America card? Then on the first full weekend of each month present your card and get free admission to various Chicago area museums (see website for details). 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.

Museum Day: Sept. 18, 2021

Smithsonian magazine is hosting a Museum Day and museum-goers can download their ticket on their website. Each ticket grants the ticket holder and one guest free, timed access to any participating museum on Sept. 18. Participating museums in Chicagoland include American Writers Museum and Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art.

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This post is updated regularly. 

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