Get your entire family into your favorite Chicago museums and zoos for free on specific days this fall
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 2023. Hold onto your hats because there are some great deals here!
Don’t be disappointed if you can’t make any of these fall free days work. Plan ahead for the winter — January and February usually bring the most free day opportunities for Chicago museums.
Need to stretch your fall entertainment budget? Check out our ideas for Fall 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 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 individual 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.
Fall 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: Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from Nov. 27–Dec. 22, 2023
Illinois residents under 14 are always free with an adult. To receive free admission tickets, Illinois residents are encouraged to reserve them online in advance. Resident status will be verified using the zip code associated with the billing address provided.
Free days: Tuesdays and Thursdays from Oct. 3 – Nov. 23; Mondays and Tuesdays from Dec. 4 – Dec. 18, 2023
Note that these free days apply to all guests and not just Illinois residents. Free days include general zoo admission, but do not include parking, virtual reality experiences, or special events such as concerts, Zoo Brew, or Holiday Magic evenings. All tickets and parking may be purchased either onsite at Brookfield Zoo or online in advance.
(Note: at time of publication it was not clear to us how to reserve free day tickets online without paying, so definitely contact the zoo to find out how your family can get the full benefit of this deal.) Free day savings: $102 (not a typo!)
DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY, Chicago
Free days: Wednesdays
Online booking in advance is suggested for all visitors. Free day savings: $39
CHICAGO CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Free days: Sept. 28, Oct. 26
Advance tickets/reservations are not necessary for these two fall Free Family Days, open to residents of any state. $10 discounted parking at Navy Pier with validation. Sept. 28 special theme is “Puppet-palooza!”; Oct 26 theme TBA. Free day savings: $84
CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM
Free days: Sept. 13, 27; Oct. 9, 11; Nov. 1, 29; Dec. 13
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: Sept. 9, 12, 19, 26; Oct. 3, 9, 10, 17, 24, 31; Nov. 7, 10, 14, 28; Dec. 5, 12
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
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 in September and October
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: $44
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, Chicago
Free days: Sept. 11, 12, 15, 18–20, 26; Oct. 4, 5, 9; Nov. 1, 8
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: Thursdays
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
Free days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in September and October
What??? This is too good to pass up! Illinois residents with a valid ID (present ID upon redeeming ticket) receive free general admission to the aquarium. Illinois Resident Free Days or Evenings include all habitats, animal presentations and exhibits, 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: ballpark $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
NOT CURRENTLY OFFERING FALL 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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