Winter Fun in Chicago: Free Days at the Best Museums
Do you love visiting museums? Do you love visiting museums for FREE? We’ve put together a list of special days when we know Chicago museums offer free admission this winter. This list includes family favorites we know you love to visit in Chicago, from January through March.
The days listed below are mostly free for ILLINOIS RESIDENTS. That means you must provide valid Illinois proof of residency; a driver’s license or state I.D. usually suffices.
We’ve also included the average free day savings for a family of four (two adults, two kids) so you can see how beneficial these are to your family budget. For many museums, the kid price applies to children 3-11, but sometimes it’s 13 and under. Always look at the fine print. (Prices are subject to change without notice.)
Save more money on your Chicago visit – avoid parking charges and take the train (our advice).
Many of these free days happen on certain dates or days of the week. Remember, you might have the ability to go to a museum any day of the week and get a great discount, if you have a museum membership. Always ask about reciprocal agreements, such as the Nationwide Museum Passport Program.
Our article focuses on general admission. However, many museums also offer discounts or freebies for veterans, as well as teachers. Some are part of the Museums for All program, for those who have valid EBT or WIC cards – many offer admission for $3 up to six family members. Check the websites accordingly for more info.
(Want to go to Indianapolis Museums for free? Check our article about visiting Indianapolis Museums for free in 2020 HERE. Spoiler alert: go to Chicago. More opportunities!)
WINTER FREE DAYS AT CHICAGO MUSEUMS
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, Chicago:
Free days: January 2020 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27-30; February 2020 3-6, 10-13, 18-20, 24-27
Want to go to the Museum of Science and Industry for free? Illinois residents who show valid proof of residency can get free admission to this family favorite (a HUGE cost savings!). On Illinois Free Days, museum entry is free for all Illinois residents who show valid proof of residency. OmniMax films, Coal Mine and optional U-505 onboard tours, and certain temporary exhibits are not included in museum entry, and require separate admission. See Ticket Prices on Illinois Free Days and Parking. Free days savings: $62
SHEDD AQUARIUM, CHICAGO:
Free days: January 16-20, 2020; February 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 2020
On select days throughout the year, Illinois residents with a valid ID receive free general admission or discounted upgraded admission to the aquarium. Three options are available on your Illinois Resident Discount Days – free General Admission, or discounts on the Shedd Pass and Total Experience Pass. Note: you can reserve free tickets online, which is recommended as capacity is limited; there is a service charge to do so, however. Free days savings varies, but free general admission saves $140 for a family of four (not a typo).
FIELD MUSEUM, CHICAGO:
Free days: Jan. 8, 15, 20 (Martin Luther King Day), 22, 29; February 1 – 29 (all month!)
For Illinois residents. Must show proof of residency; cannot be reserved online. Free basic admission is included; discounts are available for upgrades, so free day can be a great time to do the upgraded stuff you’ve always wanted to do. See the website to plan your trip. Free day savings: $126 (not a typo)
ADLER PLANETARIUM, Chicago:
Illinois Resident Discount Days: January 7-9, 20-22; February 4-6, 11-13, 17-20; March 9-12
Countless galaxies, unfathomable distances, exploding stars, diamond planets, black holes, there’s no way around it, space is freaking awesome! Come learn more at the Adler Planetarium during Illinois Resident Discount Days – where Illinois residents receive free General Admission to the museum (note: shows are extra). Cannot be reserved online. More information on their website. Free day savings: $54
ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO: Starting January 27 and continuing through March 4, 2020, Illinois residents receive free general admission *every weekday all day long* including during evening hours on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. While children under 14 are always free with an adult, this string of free weekdays for all is somewhat unusual for the museum. Year-round, the Art Institute offers many discounts as well as a weekly free entrance for Illinois residents on Wednesday evenings. More info on their website. Free day savings: $44
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART CHICAGO: Admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays, year round. Must have proof of residency. Children 18 and under are free daily. Admission is just suggested; the museum does not turn away anyone. More info here. Free day savings: $30
DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, CHICAGO: Admission is free every Tuesday. More information here. Free day savings: $26 (FYI that kids 5 and under are free).
CHICAGO CHILDREN’S MUSEUM: The first Sunday of each month has free admission for visitors 15 and under, but adults pay full price. The museum has change its Thursday night promotion, as of 2020 up to four people get in for the price of $20. For more information, visit their website. Free day savings: $38
CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM: Illinois residents 18 and under are free everyday, but adults are not. The Museum is free to Illinois residents every Tuesday (excludes December 17, December 24 and December 31) from 2 to 9 p.m. For more information visit its website. Free day savings: $38
PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM, Chicago: We loved this museum when we visited. One of Chicago’s hidden gems, located in Lincoln Park. (Read our review.) Thursdays are suggested donations day for Illinois residents, year round. Free day savings: $30
SWEDISH AMERICAN MUSEUM, Chicago: Located in Andersonville, one of the most concentrated areas of Swedish heritage in the United States, with Swedish roots dating back to the 19th century. What’s of most interest to families is the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration. Free admission the second Tuesday of every month. Free day savings: $15
GLESSNER HOUSE MUSEUM, Chicago: Named one of Chicago’s greatest remaining Gilded Age Mansions, the Glessner House is located in the South Loop. Tours are led by trained docents and last approximately 75 minutes. Self-guided tours are not available. Children under 5 are free every day. Free admission every Wednesday. Free day savings: $46
ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER, Skokie: This is a popular place for field trips, and may be best for older elementary kids+. Make a Difference! exhibit provides an age-appropriate and highly interactive space where hands-on activities for kids ages 8-12 foster leadership skills, empathy, self-esteem, and positive decision making. In 2019, free days on the 10th of every month; it is not clear if that promotion will continue in 2020. Free day savings: $42
Have you had a great museum trip with your kids lately? We’d love to hear about it!