Get your entire family into your favorite Chicago attractions for free on specific days this summer
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 summer, from June through August of 2023.
Don’t be disappointed by the relatively few options for free museum days during the summer. Plan ahead for next winter — January and February usually bring the most free day opportunities for Chicago museums.
Need to stretch your summer entertainment budget? Check out our 50+ ideas for Summer Fun on a Budget.
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 get an idea of how beneficial these discounts 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.)
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). Always check whether whether timed entry reservations are required, and whether free admission entry is available online only or also at the door.
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, for those who have valid EBT or WIC cards; some offer $3 admission for up to six family members. Check the museum websites for more info.
Many of these museums also offer discounts or freebies for:
- active military and/or veterans
- teachers or some university affiliations
- first responders
- visitors with disabilities
And finally, another option to save money on your Chicago visit — avoid parking charges and take the train.
Summer 2023 Free Museum Days in Chicago
ADLER PLANETARIUM, Chicago
Free days: Wednesday evenings
Museum entry is free for Illinois residents every Wednesday from 4-10 p.m. Museum entry provides access to all exhibitions and experiences (excluding sky shows); entry to sky shows or special exhibitions 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: Thursday evenings
Admission will be free for Illinois residents on Thursday evenings, 5–8 p.m., June-August 2023. Illinois residents under 14 are always free with an adult. To receive free admission tickets, Illinois residents can reserve them online in advance or visit the admissions desk on the day of visit. Resident status will be verified using the zip code associated with the billing address provided. Admission to the Van Gogh special exhibit is not included. Free day savings: $54 (for Illinois residents with kids under 14)
DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, Chicago
Free days: Wednesdays
Online booking in advance is suggested for all visitors. Free day savings: $39
CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: June 18, 19, 25, 28; July 4, 26; Aug. 15–17
Illinois residents 18 and under are always free. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance online. Free day savings: $38
FIELD MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: June 6, 13, 19
Must show proof of residency; you can only receive free admission in person. Only basic admission on Illinois Free Days is included. Discounts are available for upgrades, so these free days 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: $90
ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER, Skokie
Free days: Last Friday of every month; all kids are free during June
Admission includes access to all current special exhibitions, some of which have timed entries. One of its 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
MCCORMICK BRIDGEHOUSE & CHICAGO RIVER MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: Sundays
This museum is only open seasonally (May-October). General admission is pay-what-you-can for all guests on Sundays. Bonus free days are occasionally announced on their social media. No discounts apply to bridge lifts or tours; reservations required for both. Free day savings: $28
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: June 1, 6, 7; August 22, 28, 29
Free 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: $82
PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM, Chicago
Free days: June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
For Illinois residents. A donation of $10/family is suggested on these “Suggested Donation Days” but not required. Free day savings: $46
SHEDD AQUARIUM, Chicago
No free days posted at time of publication
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 day savings: $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, now reopened after a lengthy closure. Free day savings: $15
- GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY (reservations required)
- LINCOLN PARK ZOO
- CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER
- NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MEXICAN ART
- CHICAGO FED’S MONEY MUSEUM (now reopened!)
NOT CURRENTLY OFFERING FREE DAYS
Have you had a great Chicago museum trip with your kids lately? Email us and tell us all about it!
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