Chicago Museum visits can be affordable with free days, discounts

By Jack McCarthy Chronicle Media

One of the famous lion statues outside the Art Institute of Chicago on South Michigan Avenue.

Dig deeper, it’s going to cost more to visit some of Chicago’s most popular museums and attractions in 2018.

Two popular destinations — the Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago History Museum — are the latest to seek higher admission fees after each asked the Chicago Park District for increases to take effect in February.


Museum of Science and Industry’s admission would rise to $21.95 for Illinois residents who live outside Chicago while History Museum entry would increase to $19.

But there are also ways to visit those popular Chicago attractions without breaking the bank. All it involves some advance planning.

Most city museums — especially those located on Park District land — offer selected free days for Illinois residents with proof of residency.

Free days vary by institution and special exhibitions still cost an additional fee. City museums are also banding together this month for a week featuring discounted admissions.


Here’s a rundown of upcoming free dates at 10 of the city’s most popular attractions:



Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, adlerplanetarium.orgFree general admission is offered to Illinois residents on Jan. 15-19 and  Feb. 2, 5-9, 19-22 plus dates in June and August-December. General admission provides access to all exhibitions excluding the historic Atwood Sphere Experience and sky shows.



Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Illinois residents can enjoy free admission to this world-class institution every weekday through Feb. 15. General admission is also free to state residents every Thursday between 5-8 p.m.


Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark, — Admission is free for Illinois residents most Tuesdays from 12:30 to 9 p.m. and on Commemorative Days: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, March 4, and July 4.


Chicago Children’s Museum, Navy Pier, — Admission is free every Thursday from 5-8 p.m. and the first Sunday of every month for children ages 15 and under. Active and retired military also receive free admission daily.


DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place,  —Admission is free every Tuesday of the year to the museum, located in Washington Park. Check the web site for Black History Month events during February.


Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, — Winter is a great time to view the dinosaur bones and other attractions at the lakefront landmark, with free days on Jan. 15, 27 and 28 and the entire month of February. Field also offers free general admission on June 20-22.


Lincoln Park Zoo, 2400 N. Cannon Drive, —There’s never an admission charge at the near North Side zoo. After visiting the Zoo, check out the Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive. Admission is also free. Easy access via public transportation but parking available at zoo lot for $20-$35 per day.


Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., — Free admission for Illinois residents every Tuesday. Members of the military,  police and fire departments and veterans are admitted free every day. Regular suggested admission is $15,  but museum also has a pay-what-you-can pay policy.


Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, — Illinois residents can enter for free on 52 days in 2018, including extensive opportunities in January and February. There’s no general admission cost on Jan. 15-18, 22-25 and 29-31. Also, Feb. 1, 5-8, 12-15, 20-2 and 26-27. There are additional free days in March, June, September and November.


Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, — January is a great month to visit the popular aquarium at no cost with eight free days, plus two more in February. There’s no general admission cost on Jan 15, 18, 19 and 22-26 plus Feb. 2 and 14. The Shedd also has free dates also in June, September and October.


Other museum deals

Chicago museums will also band together during the week of Jan. 18-26 through Museum Week, offering admission discounts of up to 25 percent to the city’s best attractions. Visit for locations and information.

Persons with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT, Link) or WIC card can present the card at museums to receive discounted admissions. Check museum for dates and conditions.





—-   Chicago Museum visits can be affordable with free days, discounts . —-