Fall Fun in Chicago: Free Days at the Best Museums
Visit your family’s favorite attractions in Chicago for FREE this fall on specific days
Do you love visiting museums? Do you love visiting museums for FREE? We’ve put together our list of special days when we know Chicago museums offer free admission this fall from September through December.
Of course, 2021 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 details below, current at time of publication. And, as the year proceeds (fingers crossed), hopefully more museums will reopen and more free days will return.
COVID-19 safety protocols are in place with some variations, but what remains consistent: all museums require masks due to indoor mask mandates from various authorities. Check before you go to see if timed entry reservations are required, if coat checks are operating, 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 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.)
Another option to save more money on your Chicago visit — avoid parking charges and take the train, if that works for your comfort level.
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.
Fall Free Days in Chicago in 2021
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, Chicago
Free days: Sept. 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30, Oct. 27, Nov. 3, 10, 17 and Dec. 8
Want to go to the Museum of Science and Industry for free? On Illinois Free Days, museum entry is free for all Illinois residents who show valid proof of residency — a HUGE cost savings! OmniMax films and certain temporary exhibits (such as the Marvel one) are not included in museum entry, and require separate admission. See Ticket Prices on Illinois Free Days and Parking for all the fine print. Free day savings: at least $68
FIELD MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: Sept. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
For Illinois residents. Must show proof of residency; you can only receive free admission in person. Free basic admission on Illinois Free Days 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: $82
PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: Sept. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28
For Illinois residents. A donation of $10/family is suggested on these free days but not required. Free day savings: $30
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, Chicago
Free admission on Tuesdays
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
SWEDISH AMERICAN MUSEUM, Chicago
Free admission the second Tuesday of every month
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 day savings: $15
ALWAYS FREE (for certain age groups)
ALWAYS FREE (for all)
- GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY
- LINCOLN PARK ZOO
- CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER
- NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MEXICAN ART
- CHICAGO FED’S MONEY MUSEUM (temporarily closed)
NOT CURRENTLY OFFERING FREE DAYS
- ADLER PLANETARIUM, Chicago
- BROOKFIELD ZOO, Chicago
- CHICAGO CHILDREN’S MUSEUM, Chicago
- CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM, Chicago
- DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, Chicago
- GLESSNER HOUSE MUSEUM, Chicago
- ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER, Skokie
- SHEDD AQUARIUM, Chicago
Tip: Not up for a museum visit this fall? Plan ahead: winter (January and February) is usually one of the best times to visit Chicago museums — lots of free day opportunities!
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