All the 2023 Free Museum Days in Chicago and the Suburbs: Field Museum, Shedd, and More!

GuidesMuseums and Zoospopular

Free museums in Chicago?! Yes, please! 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 Planetarium, 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 will be hosting free days to end 2023. From November 27 – December 22, 2023 and January 8 – March 26, 2024, Illinois residents will receive free admission on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Check their website for free admission guidelines and more information.

Brookfield Zoo

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

Brookfield Zoo has quite a few free days scheduled to end 2023 and start 2024.The dates are as follows:

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 3 – November 23, 2023
  • Mondays and Tuesdays from December 4 – December 19, 2023
  • Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from January 2 – February 29, 2024

As a note: on free admission days, parking fees still apply. Visits from military personnel are always free. Brookfield Zoo is open daily from 10:00am – 5:00pm.

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:

  • June 13, 15, and 19
  • July 11 and 13
  • August 8 and 10
  • September 12 and 14
  • October 9, 10, and 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

Child playing with water toys at the 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. Not only is admission free, but extra activities and programming will be stationed throughout Navy Pier. The following dates have been announced for 2023:

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

Check out Mia’s review of the new Water City exhibit and tips for visiting the Chicago Children’s Museum!

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:

  • November 29
  • December 13
  • January 15–19, 23–26, 30–31
  • February 1–2, 6–9, 13–16, 19–23, 27–29

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

Elmhurst Art Museum has previously offered free admission on the first Friday of the month, but as of December 11, 2023, is no longer advertising this offering.

Field Museum

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

The Field Museum offers free admission on select days throughout 2023, with a few coming up. Advance tickets are not reserved online, they must be purchased at the door. Proof of residency is required.

  • August 29
  • September 5, 9, 12, 19, and 26
  • October 3, 9, 10, 17, 24, and 31
  • November 7, 10, 14, and 28
  • December 5 and 12

Check out our guide to visiting the Field Museum with kids!

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

Child looks through a display case at a castle made of precious stones on top of an agate base.

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 Rachel’s review of Lizzadro Museum and tips for going with kids.

Mindworks: The Science of Thinking

224 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60604
(773) 795-4580

Run by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Mindworks is an interactive museum and laboratory located across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago. Guests are encouraged to explore each hands-on exhibit, which in turn, provides researchers with insight into human behaviors. Mindworks awards points for participating in exhibits, and those points can be redeemed for prizes. Admission is always free, and reservations are recommended, but not required. Check their website for visiting hours.

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

Child watches a model train go by at the 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 July 26, 2023, the following dates have been announced for 2023:

  • August: 28, and 29
  • September: 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 26
  • October: 4, 5, and 9
  • November: 1 and 8

National Museum of Mexican Art

1852 W. 19th Street
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 738-1503

The National Museum of Mexican Art, located in the heart of the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, is always free! The museum is open to guests on Tuesdays through Sundays, from 10:00am – 5:00pm.

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 that the museum is open to guests. On these days, visitors 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 has already announced their free days to start 2024, and is offering Illinois residents free admission on the following days:

  • January 9 – 16, 23 – 25, 30, 31
  • February 1, 6 – 8, 13 – 15, 20 – 22, 27 – 29

They will also be offering free admission on select Tuesday evenings from 5:00pm – 9:00pm. These dates are:

  • March 5, 12, 19, 26
  • April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
  • May 7, 14, 21, 28
  • June 4, 11, 18, 25

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. Guests utilizing the free admission for Illinois residents must reserve tickets online in advance. A transaction fee applies.

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. Please note that the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration on the third floor is only open to play from 1-4pm.

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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