Get your entire family into your favorite Chicago attractions for free on specific days this winter
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 in January-March of 2022.
2022 looks a bit 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. As the year proceeds (fingers crossed), hopefully more free days will return.
COVID-19 safety protocols are in place with some variation. Some venues may still require proof of vaccination for entry because of Chicago’s Public Health Order No. 2021-2. Check all COVID-related protocols before your visit, including whether masks are required or recommended, whether timed entry reservations are required, whether coat checks are operating, or whether concessions are open or closed. Remember that Chicago may follow a different timeline than the state of Illinois for altering restrictions.
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.)
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 or first responders. Some are part of the Museums for All program, for those who have valid EBT or WIC cards; some offer $3 admission for up to six family members. Check the websites accordingly for more info.
And finally, another option to save money on your Chicago visit — avoid parking charges and take the train.
Winter 2022 Free Museum Days in Chicago
ADLER PLANETARIUM, Chicago (reopening Mar. 4)
Free days: Wednesdays
Museum entry is free for Illinois residents every Wednesday evening from 4-10 pm (their new Wednesday hours.) Museum Entry provides access to all exhibitions and experiences (excluding the Atwood Sphere experience and sky shows); entry to all sky shows can be purchased at a discounted rate at checkout. All tickets must be reserved online and in advance. Free day savings: $54
ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
Free days: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays between Jan. 3–March 17
Children under 14 are always free with an adult. To receive free admission tickets, Illinois residents must reserve them online in advance. Resident status will be verified using the zip code associated with the billing address provided. Free day savings: $44
DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, Chicago
Free days: Wednesdays
Online booking in advance is required for all visitors. Free day savings: $39
FIELD MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: “Winter Wednesdays” Jan. 19, 26; Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23; no Free Days posted for March
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
ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER, Skokie
Free days: Last Friday of every month in 2022
Admission includes access to all current special exhibitions, some of which have timed entries. One of their ongoing exhibits, Make a Difference! is a 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: $48
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, Chicago
Free days: 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
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, Chicago
Free days: Jan. 17-19, 24-26, 31; Feb. 1-2, 7-9, 11, 13-14, 16; Mar. 1-2, 7, 13-14
Free Museum Entry for Illinois residents with valid proof of residency. Limited to six children (under 18) admitted per one accompanying adult. Giant Dome Theater films, the U-505 tour and certain special experiences/exhibits are not included in Museum Entry and require separate admission. See the website to plan your trip. Free day savings: $70
PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: Jan. 6, 13, 20, 27; Feb. 3, 10, 17, 24; Mar. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
For Illinois residents. A donation of $10/family is suggested on these “Suggested Donation Days” but not required. Free day savings: $30
SHEDD AQUARIUM, Chicago
Free days: Jan. 13-17, Feb. 7-11, Feb. 14-18; no Free Days posted for March
On select days throughout the year, Illinois residents with a valid ID (present ID upon redeeming ticket) receive free general admission to the aquarium. Illinois Resident Free Days include all habitats, animal presentations and exhibits, including Underwater Beauty, the latest special exhibit, and seasonal Stingray Touch. 4-D Experience is a $4.95 upgrade (subject to availability). Tickets must be reserved online before your visit. Free general admission for a family of four saves $140 (not a typo).
SWEDISH AMERICAN MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: 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 (unfortunately closed as of this writing). Free day savings: $15
ALWAYS FREE (for certain age groups)
CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM, Chicago
Illinois residents 18 and under are always free
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
- BROOKFIELD ZOO, Chicago (Admission to Hamill Family Play Zoo is free for all through 3/31/22)
- CHICAGO CHILDREN’S MUSEUM, Chicago
- GLESSNER HOUSE MUSEUM, Chicago (tours resume Mar. 2)
Have you had a great Chicago museum trip with your kids lately? Email us and tell us all about it!
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