5 days, 5 free Chicago museums

Every now and then, the stars align, the calendar gods smile on you and you get a perfect storm of freebies in this fair, if occasionally outrageously expensive, city we live in.

Next week, Jan. 24-28, with a little planning, you can hit a free museum in Chicago every day.

Next week, Jan. 24-28, the calendar gods smile upon Chicago: with a little planning, you can hit a free museum in the city every day.

Mondays are always free at the Chicago History Museum, and what better way to start our five-day tour of Chicago’s museums than with a sweep through its history?

Stop by the Sensing Chicago exhibit, where kids can experience the city through all five senses (particularly charming is the “Smell of the Stockyards” exhibit). Kids can be a Chicago-style hot dog (left), pop into moments in Chicago history with green-screen technology and sit in the city’s first El car.

If you have time, head upstairs to the “Chicago: Crossroads of America” exhibit. In the back is a case of everyday items that originated in Chicago, including a Schwinn bicycle and board games that are still popular today.

Monday, Jan. 24: Chicago History Museum

The Art Institute swapped its long-standing Free February program for free weekday admission in January this year, so take advantage of the last full week. On your way in, snap a photo with the museum’s famous bronze lions, dressed in a Chicago Bears helmet (South lion) and a custom-made earmuff and scarf (North lion).

Tuesday, Jan. 25: Art Institute

On to the Field Museum we go. The big draw these days is Gold, a sparkling history of the metal. You can discover the value of your own weight in gold, walk in a room with gold-plated walls, and see Olympic speed skater and Evanston native Shani Davis’ 2006 gold medal, along with the 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series trophy.

For a list of 5 hidden gems you shouldn’t miss, click here.

Wednesday, Jan. 26: Field Museum

Thursdays are suggested donation days at Chicago’s urban oasis, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. This week may be the coldest of the year, but you can wish your way to warmer days with the museum’s Trees Inside and Out, which closes Jan. 30. Kids can touch bark, smell cedar, cinnamon and maple, crawl inside a giant log habitat, slide into a pile of leaves and, of course, climb one!

Thursday, Jan. 27: Notebaert Nature Museum

MSI is free today, and all weekdays in January, rounding out the week of museum madness. In addition to Science Storms and You! The Experience, which are always worth a second (or third, or fourth look), the museum’s “40 Years of Black Creativity” opens this week. It’s a small exhibit, but has happened at the museum every year since 1970. For the budding scientists in your family, new live science demonstrations are the ticket. Try “Happy Brr-thday,” daily at 2:30 p.m., which celebrates the science of birthdays with liquid nitrogen.

Friday, Jan. 28: Museum of Science and Industry

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