Fall Free Admission Days at Chicago Museums and Zoos
Do you love visiting Chicago museums and zoos? Do you love visiting Chicago museums and zoos for FREE?
We’ve put together a list of special days when Chicago museums and zoos offer free admission this fall, for kids and/or adults. This list includes family favorites we know you love to visit in Chicago, with free days between September through the end of December (although after October the free days become scarce). The only thing you need to do: get there from Champaign-Urbana.
We know that many of us are looking for a break. The last several months have blended together, and a getaway to the big city can be the salve some of us need.
Of course, 2020 looks A LOT DIFFERENT for free museum days. Some popular museums have pushed pause temporarily on the free days practice; and some aren’t open at all right now. We note those below.
COVID-19 safety protocols are in place with some variations, but what remains consistent: all museums require masks and all ask guests to social distance as much as possible. Check before you go to see if timed entry reservations are required, or if concessions are open or closed.
The days listed below are mostly free for ILLINOIS RESIDENTS. That means you must provide valid Illinois proof of residency; a drivers’ license or state I.D. usually suffices. Always check with each museum when in doubt.
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. These are based on general admission prices at the time of publication. Of course, always check yourself as there are add-ons not included in the general admission price at some places. For many museums, the kid price applies to children 3-11.
Many museums also offer discounts or freebies for veterans; first responders such as police and fire; seniors; and 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.
Remember that most museums are non-profits; donations are usually accepted!
Save more money on your Chicago visit – avoid parking charges and take the train.
(Don’t worry if your schedule doesn’t jive with the free days in the fall; we’ve noticed that free days are usually more plentiful during winter – meaning January and February. For 2021… who knows?)
FALL 2020 FREE DAYS AT CHICAGO MUSEUMS and ZOOS
BROOKFIELD ZOO, Chicago
FREE DAYS 2020: EACH TUESDAY AND THURSDAY in November, and EVERY MONDAY AND TUESDAY in December through 12/22
Zoo admission must be purchased via our reserved timed-ticketing system to limit guest capacity; if you are reserving tickets on a free day, you will see a price of $0.00 for all admissions. (Parking fee of $15/car still applies.) No onsite ticket sales will be available. Note that the Zoo’s Holiday Magic lights display will not be illuminated on any free admission days. The Zoo plans to temporarily close to the public Jan 1-Feb 28, 2021. Free day savings: $86
SHEDD AQUARIUM, Chicago
FREE DAYS 2020: EVERY MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY during October; no word on Free Days after October
Illinois Resident Free Days include access to all open animal and permanent exhibits, the special exhibit Underwater Beauty and seasonal Stingray Touch. Free tickets are limited and must be reserved ahead of a visit online or by phone: 312-939-2438. Free admission will not be granted to guests who walk up without a reservation. All adults must provide proof of residency in-person when redeeming tickets at the discounted rate. A $3 transaction fee will be applied to Illinois Resident Free Day tickets reserved online. The 4-D Experience admission is a $4.95 upgrade for all guests. Free general admission saves $140 for a family of four (no that is not a typo).
FIELD MUSEUM, Chicago
FREE DAYS 2020: October 7, 19, 22, 26, 29; no word on Free Days after October
Illinois residents can secure free general admission by reserving their tickets online then providing proof of residency at the museum. On these days, 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: $82
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, Chicago
FREE DAYS 2020: September 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30; no word on Free Days after September
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
ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER, Skokie
FREE DAYS 2020: EVERY WEDNESDAY
This is a popular place for field trips, and may be best for age 10 and up. 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. Free day savings: $42
INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF SURGICAL SCIENCE, Chicago
FREE DAYS 2020: Monday, November 30 – Friday, December 4; Monday, December 7 – Friday, December 11; Monday, December 14 – Friday, December 18
Have an aspiring healthcare worker in the house? The International Museum of Surgical Science (IMSS) is a unique facility committed to the history of surgery. Its permanent collection of art and artifacts from the history of medicine is housed in a historic mansion, in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Recommended for older kids – 8 and up. The Rx for Success Health Career Center at the International Museum of Surgical Science is designed to educate students of all ages about the occupations available within the health sciences. No onsite parking. MORE INFO HERE. Free day savings: $52
ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
KIDS 13 AND UNDER FREE
This iconic museum is a must visit for visitors around the world – and it’s in our own backyard. The current exhibit, Monet and Chicago, is a must see. Children 13 and under are free every day. The museum has put together a lot of tips on safety protocols and what to do to prepare for the visit HERE.
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART CHICAGO
KIDS 18 AND UNDER FREE
The museum currently has limited open days, Thursday through Sunday. Good news: children 18 and under are free daily. Admission is just suggested; the museum does not turn away anyone. For more info, visit the MCA website.
CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM
KIDS 12 AND UNDER FREE
If you grew up in the Chicago area, you’ve been to this place. I might be biased, but the history of Chicago is truly fascinating. Children 12 and under are free everyday. Currently, admissions will be controlled in timed increments. Ticket sales will end one hour before close each day. For more information visit its website.
INTUIT: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago
KIDS 17 AND UNDER FREE
This unique museum, dedicated to work by self-taught artists, is not necessarily geared to children – but most kids love “outsider” art, defined as the work of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world. Intuit has taken several new precautions, including timed entry tickets which must be reserved in advance. Open Friday to Sunday. MORE INFO HERE.
CLARKE HOUSE MUSEUM, Chicago
FREE TOURS DAILY 2020: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
The Clarke House Museum is Chicago’s oldest home. Tours of this 1836 Greek Revival-style house reveal what life was like for a middle class family in Chicago, when the city was in its formative years before the Civil War. Hour-long guided tours of Clarke House Museum are now free. Tours are limited to 15 people, available on a first-come, first-served basis. MORE INFO HERE.
ALWAYS FREE: LINCOLN PARK ZOO
ZooLights — a holiday light display offered at the Lincoln Park Zoo on select evenings between Nov. 21–Jan. 3 — will have a $5 admission charge this year. 5 free evenings of Zoolights are scheduled for Nov. 24 and Dec. 9, 17, 21, and 29. Tickets are still required, but they will be free; they will be released the Sunday prior to each date at 4 p.m.
NO FREE DAYS CURRENTLY:
McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, Chicago
Children 5 and under are free.
(This museum is only open in the summer months and early fall. Beginning at river level and spiraling five stories up, the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore a historic landmark bridgehouse. General admission is $6; children 5 and under are free.)
MUSEUMS THAT REMAIN TEMPORARILY CLOSED:
ADLER PLANETARIUM, Chicago
The Adler Planetarium is temporarily closed.
(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
PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM, Chicago
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is temporarily closed.
(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
Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration at the SWEDISH AMERICAN MUSEUM, Chicago
The Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration is temporarily closed.
(The Swedish American Museum is 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: $10
DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, Chicago
The DuSable Museum is temporarily closed.
(Admission is free every Tuesday. Kids 5 and under are free every day. More information: http://www.dusablemuseum.org/ )
Free day savings: $26
CHICAGO CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
The Chicago Children’s Museum is temporarily closed.
(The first Sunday of each month has free admission for visitors 15 and under. More information, visit the museum website.)
Free day savings $30
Have you had a great museum trip with your kids lately? We’d love to hear about it. Email us at email@example.com