2023 Free Museum Days: Chicago and the Suburbs

GuidesMuseums and Zoospopular

Free museums in Chicago?! Yes! Our visits to museums and zoos are core memory-makers for our children, especially when they involve a trip to the city. After marveling at the skyline as we get closer to downtown, we spend the day getting lost in exhibit halls, wandering through artifacts and learning about animals we didn’t know exist.

These one-of-a-kind adventure days can feel intimidating at times, but they become that much easier with the ultimate family-friendly price tag – free! Below you’ll find details about free museum days at the Field Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Plantetarium, and so many more remarkable museums in the Chicagoland area.

Free Museum Days and Free Days at the Zoo

Active duty military and their families, veterans, teachers and educators, and LINK or WIC cardholders can also get free or discounted admission at many of these museums, too.

Adler Planetarium
1300 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-7827

Adler Planetarium is offering free admission to Illinois residents on Wednesday evenings from 4:00pm – 10:00pm. All tickets must be purchased online. (Check out Rachel’s review of the Adler Planetarium for tips for your visit.)

Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 443-3600

The Art Institute of Chicago hosted many free days at the start of 2023. Illinois residents will receive free admission on Thursday evenings from 5:00pm – 8:00pm, which runs from May 18 – August 31, 2023. Check their website for free admission guidelines and more information.

Brookfield Zoo
8400 W. 31st Street
Brookfield, IL 60513
(708) 688-8000

Brookfield Zoo hosted quite a few free days throughout the start of 2023. As of April 10, 2023 no new days have been announced. As a note: on free admission days, parking fees still applied. Visits from military personnel are always free. Brookfield Zoo is open on weekdays from 10:00am – 5:00pm, and weekends from 10:00am – 6:00pm.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-5440

Admission to the Chicago Botanic Garden is free on select days, but there is still a parking fee of $25/car on weekdays, and $30/car on weekends, with senior discounts available. Parking is free for members.

The Illinois resident free days for 2023 include:

  • January 9–16
  • February 5–10, 20
  • March 6–10
  • April 10–13
  • May 9, 11
  • June 13, 15, 19
  • July 11, 13
  • August 8, 10
  • September 12, 14
  • October 9–10, 12
  • November 6–12
  • December 11–17

Please note that free admission does not apply during ticketed events and preregistration is required. The Garden has a maximum capacity.

Cantigny Park
1 S 151 Winfield Road
Wheaton, IL 60189
(630) 668-5161

From March through December, parking is free the first Wednesday of each month. Parking is also free as on select holidays, including Veteran’s Day. Admission is always free!

Chicago Children’s Museum
Navy Pier
700 E. Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 527-1000

Chicago Children’s Museum is excited to welcome back Free Family Days in 2023. Not only is admission free, but extra activities and programming will be stationed throughout Navy Pier. The following dates have been announced:

  • January 26
  • February 23
  • March 30
  • April 27
  • May 25
  • September 28
  • October 26

Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 642-4600

Children ages 18 and under who are Illinois residents are always free. Free admission is always granted to various professionals including members of the military, law enforcement, and educators. Select days in 2023 are free for Illinois residents, which include:

  • April 4, 26
  • May 4, 29, 31
  • June 19, 28

DuSable Museum of African American History
740 E. 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 947-0600

DuSable Museum is free to all visitors on Wednesdays, and free every day to first responders and military personnel.

Elmhurst Art Museum
150 Cottage Hill Avenue
Elmhurst, IL 60126
(630) 834-0202

The first Friday of each month is free all year for the McCormick House and the Artist Guild at the Elmhurst Art Museum.

Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-9410

The Field Museum offers free admission on select days throughout the year, with quite a few coming up. Advance tickets are not reserved online, they must be purchased at the door. Proof of residency is required.

  • April 18, 22, and 25, 2023
  • May 2, 16, 23, and 30, 2023
  • June 6, 13, 19, 20, and 27, 2023

Heritage Museum of Asian Art
3500 S Morgan Street
Chicago, IL 60609
(312) 842-8884

Children under 7 and active members of the military get in free when visiting the Heritage Museum of Asian Art.

Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2000

Every day is free at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art
1220 Kensington Road
Oak Brook, IL 60523
(630) 833-1616

Lizzardo Museum of Lapidary Art offers free admission on Wednesdays, and is free every day to guests 6 and under. Active members of the military are admitted free every day. Check out our virtual tour before you go.

Loyola University Museum of Art
820 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660
(312) 915-7600

At this time, Loyola University Museum of Art requires appointments for visiting.

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 280-2660

Admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays. Free admission is always granted to various professionals including members of the military and educators. MCA has a pay-what-you-can policy, and no one will be turned away. 

Museum of Science and Industry
5700 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 684-1414

MSI offers museum free days throughout the year for Illinois residents with ID. Dates subject to change, so please check their website before heading to the city. As of January 8, 2023, the following dates have been announced for 2023:

  • January: 9–11, 16–18, 23–25, 30–31
  • February: 1–2, 6–9, 13–14, 16, 21
  • March: 1, 6, 14
  • April: 18, 22
  • May: 4, 9, 17–18
  • June: 1, 6–7
  • August: 22, 28–29
  • September: 5–6, 11–12, 15, 18–20, 26
  • October: 4–5, 9, 16–17
  • November: 1, 8

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 755-5100

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum offers free admission to various professionals including members of the military, and educators. They are also offering suggested donations days every Thursday in April and May 2023. On these days, guests are welcome to enjoy free admission, or contribute a $10 suggested donation per household.

Philips Park Zoo
1000 Ray Moses Drive
Aurora, IL 60505
(630) 256-3860

Philips Park Zoo is always free! Check their website for hours of operation before visiting.

Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 939-2438

The Shedd Aquarium’s Discounts and Free Days page is the best resource for finding additional information before you go. Admission can be upgraded to include Shedd’s 4-D Experience. A transaction fee applies to Illinois Free Day tickets reserved online, but is required. The Shedd Aquarium hosted a variety of free days in the start of 2023. As of April 10, 2023, no new dates have been announced.

Swedish American Museum
5211 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 728-8111

Admission is free for all visitors on the second Tuesday of each month.

Share a photo from your free museum trip on Instagram and tag us at @mykidlist so we can see all the fun! Also, learn about how your local library can help you save on admission any time of year with tickets to check out.

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