All the 2021 Chicago-Area Museum Free Days

While Chicago’s world class museums did an incredible job with remote programming this past year, we’re excited to get back in the doors! These action-packed days are certainly memory makers, but prices can add up quickly. Stop by on a museum free day to explore without the worry of large admission fees.

photo courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry

As Illinois moved into Phase 5 on Friday, June 11, 2021, we imagine more zoos and museums will begin expanding these opportunities. Some museum free days have not been updated for 2021 yet, and others may be added later. Don’t forget to check back again later in the year! And please always confirm free days before you go, as they are subject to change.

2021 Museum and Zoo Free Days

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 opening again! Starting July 3, 2021, they’ll be open weekends for their Summer Sky Shows. The first three weekends of July, they’re offering free admission for Illinois residents. Make sure to reserve your tickets online soon, the July 3 showings are already sold out!

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

To celebrate The Obama Portraits coming to the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois residents can visit for free from June 18-25, 2021. Guests 13 years old and younger are always free at the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as active military and educators. Check their website for free admission guidelines.

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

Children ages 11 years old and under are free from August 2-4, 2021. No reservations required! On those days, parking fees will still apply. Visits from military personnel are always free.

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

Admission to the Chicago Botanic Garden is always free, but there is a parking fee of $25/car on weekdays, and $30/car on weekends, with senior discounts available. You must reserve parking in advance.

photo courtesy of Cantigny Park

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 set to reopen on July 2, 2021. At this time, they have not announced plans for free admission days.

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. Check their website for more details.

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

DuSable Museum is excited to be opening its doors again on June 19, 2021. Free days are not being advertised at this time.

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

The first Friday of each month is free all year at Elmhurst Art Museum.

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

You’ll find all the details about Field Museum free days on their website, so double-check before you go! Advance tickets are not reserved online, they must be purchased at the door. Proof of Illinois residency is required. Currently, the museum has released the following 2021 days for free basic admission:

  • July 12 and 15, 2021
  • August 23 and 26, 2021

Heritage Museum of Asian Art
218 W. 26th Street
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 842-8884

Admission is free every day at 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! Advance online reservations are no longer required.

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. 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 has not reopened to visitors.

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

  • Admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays.
  • MCA has a pay-what-you-can policy, and no one will be turned away. Suggested admission is $15 for adults and $8 for students and seniors.

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

MSI offers free days throughout the year for Illinois residents with ID. Dates subject to change, so please check their website before heading to the city. Their currently scheduled free days for 2021 are:

  • June 9 and 19
  • July 14
  • August 11
  • September 8 – 9, 15 – 16, 22 – 23, 29 – 30
  • October 27
  • November 3, 10 and 17
  • December 8
See also
Family-Friendly Weekend Events: July 30–August 1 and Beyond

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

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is opening to the public on July 8, 2021. They have not announced any free days at this time.

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

Philips Park Zoo is open again as of June 13, 2021, and it 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 the right days! They offered quite a few days back in February, and hopefully will be doing more again soon.When running, the offer is for Illinois residents with valid IDs. Admission can be upgraded to include Shedd’s 4-D Experience. A transaction fee applies to Illinois Free Day tickets reserved online, but ensures your spot.

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 with the #mykidlist hashtag so we can see all the fun! Also, learn about how your local library can help you save on admission any time of year.

About the Author

Katie Mayle
Katie is a mother of three children, ages 7, 5, and 2. A Joliet native, she and her husband moved back to his hometown of Naperville after the birth of their second daughter. Her three kids keep her family very active, and she is grateful for the countless indoor and outdoor opportunities available to families in the western suburbs. She looks forward to sharing family-friendly fun with the parents of young children.

2 Comments on "All the 2021 Chicago-Area Museum Free Days"

  1. Thank you for this website. Looking forward to checking some of these off my list for things to do in Chicago and suburbs. I am a senior trying to see my surroundings

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