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 2023.
Heading into 2023, it appears that FREE MUSEUM DAYS have made a big comeback in Chicago. And that’s great news for those of us who feel a little stir crazy, especially in the dog days of winter.
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.)
Our article focuses on general admission. Many of these free days happen on certain dates or days of the week.
WHAT DOES FREE ADMISSION COVER?
Be aware that at most museums, free admission is limited to general admission; special shows, events, or exhibits may have an additional cost. And sorry to let you know that there’s no such thing as free parking (unless noted).
WHAT ABOUT OTHER DISCOUNTS?
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.
Many Chicago museums participate in the Museums for All program, an initiative designed to make museums more accessible to families nationwide by removing financial barriers. Museums for All generally is available to those who have valid EBT or WIC cards, and offers highly discounted admission which varies at each museum (we’ve seen $1-$3 per person, for up to 6-8 family members.) Check the museum websites for more info.
Many of these museums offer discounts or freebies for:
- active military and/or veterans
- teachers or first responders
- visitors with disabilities
And finally, another option to save money on your Chicago visit — avoid parking charges and take the train.
Winter 2023 Free Museum Days in Chicago
ADLER PLANETARIUM, Chicago
Free days: Wednesdays
Museum entry is free for Illinois residents every Wednesday evening from 4-10 p.m. 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. 9 – March 24, 2023
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. Once you’re in the museum, check out the free family programs and the Ryan Learning Center. Free day savings: $44
BROOKFIELD ZOO, Brookfield
Free days: January-February 2023 on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
Note that these free days apply to all guests and not just Illinois residents. Parking ($15/car) and any special attractions/activities are not included in the free admission offer. Admission to the Hamill Family Play Zoo is currently free every day. All tickets and parking may be purchased either onsite at Brookfield Zoo or online in advance. Free day savings: $86
DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, Chicago
Free days: Wednesdays
Online booking in advance is required for all visitors. Timed-entry passes are required for entry into THE MARCH. Free day savings: $39
FIELD MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: Jan. 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31; Feb. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 20; March 7, 14
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: $94 (no that is not a typo)
ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER, Skokie
Free days: Through Jan. 8 for kids and students; last Friday of every month
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. Parking is free. 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. 9–11, 16–18, 23–25, 30–31; Feb. 1–2, 6–9, 13–14, 16, 21; March 1, 6, 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. 5, 12, 19, 26; Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23
For Illinois residents. A donation of $10/family is suggested on these “Suggested Donation Days” but not required. Read about our visit (granted this was pre-Covid) here. This is one of the hidden unsung gems in the city! Free day savings: $30
SHEDD AQUARIUM, Chicago
Free days: Jan. 12-16; Feb. 7-9, 14-16, 21, 22, 23, 28
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 at least $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. Free day savings: $20
ALWAYS FREE (for all)
- GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY
Reservations are free and required to enter. Advance reservations are strongly recommended. Walk-up reservations are prioritized for Garfield Park & West Side neighbors and members if available. Bookings to the Conservatory gardens are available up to 30 days out.
- LINCOLN PARK ZOO
- CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER
- NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MEXICAN ART
- CHICAGO FED’S MONEY MUSEUM (temporarily closed)
ALWAYS FREE (for certain age groups)
CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM, Chicago
All children 12 and under are always free
NOT CURRENTLY OFFERING FREE DAYS
- CHICAGO CHILDREN’S MUSEUM, Chicago
- GLESSNER HOUSE MUSEUM, Chicago (closed in January 2023 for repairs)
- ORIENTAL INSTITUTE, Chicago
Have you had a great Chicago museum trip with your kids lately? Email us and tell us all about it!
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