All the 2024 Free Museum Days Chicago and the Suburbs Have to Offer

GuidesMuseums and Zoos

Free museum days 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 in Chicago and the Suburbs

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 (Chicago)

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 (Chicago)

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

The Art Institute of Chicago hosted quite a few free days to kick off 2024. The next schedule free admission opportunities are on Thursday evenings, running 5:00pm – 8:00pm, from June 6 to September 26, 2024. Check their website for free admission guidelines and more information.

Brookfield Zoo Chicago (Brookfield)

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

Brookfield Zoo had quite a few free days to kick off 2024. No new free days are being advertised at this time. 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 (Glencoe)

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 2024 include:

  • January 8 – 15
  • February 4 – 9, 19
  • March 18 – 22
  • April 8 – 11
  • May 7, 9
  • June 11, 13, 19
  • July 9, 11
  • August 6, 8
  • September 10, 12
  • October 1, 2, 14
  • November 4 – 8, 11, 12
  • December 9 – 15

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

Cantigny Park (Wheaton)

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

Cantigny Park offers free parking opportunities every Wednesday of the month, but advance registration is required. Check their website for any updated offerings including select holidays such as Veteran’s Day. Admission is always free!

Chicago Children’s Museum (Chicago)

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. While nothing has been announced for 2024 as of yet, a variety of dates took place in 2023. Check out Mia’s review of the new Water City exhibit and tips for visiting the Chicago Children’s Museum!

Chicago History Museum (Chicago)

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 2024 are free for Illinois residents, which include:

  • March 12, 27–28
  • April 10, 18, 24
  • May 1, 27, 29

DuSable Museum of African American History (Chicago)

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 is offering free admission on the first Friday of February, March and April 2024, thanks to generous sponsors. Details on these, and future offerings, can be found on their website.

Field Museum (Chicago)

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

The Field Museum offered free admission on select days at the end of 2023, and will be hosting free Wednesdays for Illinois residents. Advance tickets are not reserved online, they must be purchased at the door. Proof of residency is required. Check out our guide to visiting the Field Museum with kids!

Heritage Museum of Asian Art (Chicago)

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.

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center (Skokie)

9603 Woods Drive
Skokie, IL 60077
(847) 967-4800

Children under 5 are always free when visiting the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. Kids and students are free from March 18 to April 14. All guests will be granted free admission on the last Monday of April, May, and June 2024. It is recommended to reserve tickets online in advance when taking advantage of free admission days.

Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago)

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

Every day is free at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art (Oak Brook)

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 (Chicago)

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 (Chicago)

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 (Chicago)

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. Check out our review of the Museum of Science and Industry before your trip on any of the following free days announced to start 2024:

  • April 21
  • June 6, 19

National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago)

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 (Chicago)

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 (Aurora)

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, and find out what to expect when you visit Philips Park.

Shedd Aquarium (Chicago)

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

The Shedd Aquarium will 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 (Chicago)

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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