Museum, Zoo, and Other Chicagoland Memberships for Kids that Unlock Unlimited Fun

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Museums and Zoos

Chicagoland is full of incredible destinations for kid-friendly fun, including museums and zoos. Memberships for kids can help you make the most of these spots! In fact, memberships are one of our favorite experience gift ideas to ask for from relatives.

A membership helps lessen the cost of individual trips. It can also make it easier to stop in for shorter visits; after all, it’s no fun to invest a bunch of money on tickets somewhere cool only to have to leave because the kids are melting down. We’ve also got the low-down on additional ways to save, including reciprocal memberships.

Memberships help support these important institutions and their missions, too. They can be a great way to help invest in places and organizations that bring joy and learning to our communities. So check out all the options!

Prices were checked in summer 2023 and are subject to change. Many spots also offer senior, military, educator, and other discounts that may not be listed here, so check before you buy.

Zoo Memberships

Child looking over a fence at a giraffe at the Brookfield Zoo, part of the Museum Adventure Pass program.

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

Even if your family only visits the zoo once a year, a membership to Brookfield Zoo may be worth it. In many cases, the membership essentially pays for itself the first time you visit the zoo!

Basic family memberships start at $145/year and include free adult admission for two, free admission for the adult’s children or grandchildren under 18 years old, four one-time-use guest tickets, and free parking at the South gate.

See their membership page for more information, including upgraded memberships that include free admission to the Hamill Family Play Zoo (a gem for families with young kids) and other attractions.

Cosley Zoo
1356 N Gary Avenue
Wheaton, IL 60187

Family membership options start at $55/year for one named adult and $75/year for two named adults in the same household and all of their kids and grandkids under 18. (Cosley Zoo is free for kids 17 and under, as well as Wheaton residents with a park district ID, though you should still reserve your free tickets in advance.)

Want in on a local money-saving secret? Cosley Zoo membership perks include free reciprocal membership or significant discounts at 180+ zoos and aquariums all around North America, including 50% off tickets to the Shedd Aquarium. It also includes half-off incredible zoos you might want to visit on vacation; as of July 2023, these included 50% off tickets for the St. Louis Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Toronto Zoo, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the Dallas Zoo, and many more. (You can usually confirm the destination museum’s reciprocal membership affiliations on their own website.)

Children’s Museums

Suburban Children’s Museums

All of the suburban children’s museums below are part of the CLIMB (Chicago Area Local Increased Membership Benefits) Network, which means certain membership options include reciprocal membership to the other museums! (The list also includes the wonderful Discovery Center Museum in Rockford). That makes a children’s museum membership an even better value. Not all membership options at all museums include the CLIMB membership, so be sure to double-check if that’s important to you.

Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn
5100 Museum Drive
Oak Lawn, Illinois 60453
(708) 423-6709
Family memberships start at $135 and include admission for two adults and up to five children in the same household, as well as other perks. See all membership options or check out Katie’s review of the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.

DuPage Children’s Museum
301 N Washington Street
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 637-8000
Family memberships start at $195 and include up to four free admissions per visit, among other perks. The DCM also has a unique DCM Child membership option that starts at $150 and is awesome for families with one child. The DCM Child membership is also great for children who may be visiting the museum with a nanny or grandparent. See all membership options or check out our write-up on the DuPage Children’s Museum with the latest exhibits.

KidsWork Children’s Museum 
11 S White Street 
Frankfort, IL 60423
(815) 469-1199
Family memberships start at $150 and include admission for up to two adults in the same household, as well as their children, among other perks. See all membership options.

Kohl Children’s Museum
2100 Patriot Boulevard
Glenview, IL 60026
(847) 832-6600
Family memberships start at $165 and include admission for up to four people per visit, among other perks. See all membership options or read about the museum.

Wonder Works
6445 West North Ave
Oak Park, IL 60302
Family memberships start at $150 and include daily admission for four people, plus grandparents, among other perks. See all membership options or view upcoming museum events.

Chicago Children’s Museums

Bronzeville Children’s Museum
9301 South Stony Island Avenue
Chicago, Illinois
(773) 721-9301
Family memberships start at $40, with individual and grandparent discounts available. See the website for all the options, or find upcoming events on their Facebook page.

Chicago Children’s Museum
700 East Grand Avenue, Suite 127
Chicago, IL 60611
Family memberships start at $200 and include admission for up to four people per visit, among other perks. See the website for all the options, or check out my review of the New Water City Exhibit!

Nature Memberships

Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Route 53
Lisle, IL 60532
(630) 968-0074
Memberships for four individuals start at $175. Children under two are free, and there are additional one- and two-person memberships available, all with additional perks. See more membership options, or read more about exhibits and the Children’s Garden at the Morton Arboretum.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
Family memberships start at $149 and include two adults and all minor children in the household, as well as free parking and other perks. See more membership options.

Other Memberships in the Suburbs

Elmhurst Art Museum
150 Cottage Hill Avenue
Elmhurst, IL 60126
(630) 834-0202
Family memberships start at $100 for family admission, with up to two adults, and include a discount on classes, among other perks. See all membership options.

Chicago Museum Memberships

Spinosaurus skeleton cast hanging high in the Field Museum's main hall.

Adler Planetarium
1300 S Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Family membership starts at $180 and includes admission for two adults and children in the household, among other perks; see all ticket options.

Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 443-3600
Membership starts at $115 and covers up to two adults plus all children in the household, among other perks. See all membership options.

Field Museum 
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-9410
Family membership starts at $140 (when purchased online) and covers two adults and two children, among other perks. See all membership options and our tips for visiting the Field Museum

Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago
5700 S Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 684-1414
Family membership starts at $195 and includes two adults, one guest, and kids, as well as free parking and other perks. See all membership options, or see Katie’s review of Is “Pompeii: The Exhibition” Good for Kids?

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Family membership starts at $92 and includes two adults and the children in their household, among other perks. See all membership options.

Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 939-2438
Family membership starts at $195 and includes two adults and children under 18 in their household, among other perks. See all membership options.

Other Ways to Save on Visits to Local Attractions

Museum Adventure Pass

Check out a Museum Adventure Pass from your local library to enjoy discounts at certain museums and zoos in the area. Discounts include free admission or buy one/get one free or 50% off. 

CityPASS

This nine-day pass includes tickets to five Chicago attractions: the Shedd Aquarium and Skydeck Chicago, plus your choice of the other three attractions from a list including the MSI, the Art Institute, the Field Museum, and more.

The pass is only valid for nine days, making this option very different from a membership. It can be a good deal if you’re planning on being in the city for a few days and touring most of the hotspots—otherwise, you’re better off going à la carte.

Free Days

Still unsure and want to get a preview before you purchase? Be sure to check out our listing of the 2023 Chicago Area Museum Free Days!

More Membership Options

  • Many gyms (especially park district and YMCA options) offer family memberships that allow older kids to exercise, play on the courts, and more. Gyms with childcare can be a fantastic outlet for parents with young kids, too.
  • Some local rock climbing gyms offer memberships that let kids return often to strengthen their bodies and practice their climbing skills.
  • Lastly, don’t forget pool memberships. Our list is brimming with splash-worthy spots to cool off all summer long. It’s really nice to be able to go for a swim anytime you like during the summer!

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • I LOVE this breakdown of memberships!!! Thank you!!!

    Reply
  • I can’t believed the value of reciprocal memberships was not included in the MSI and the Arboretum breakdowns! We travel a lot and have gotten in all over the country for free at botanic gardens/arboretums and museums. A weekend in Milwaukee made our MSI and Morton memberships pay for themselves, after getting into the Milwaukee Science Academy and the Milwaukee Public House and then two gardens (including the cool one with the domes….I forget what it’s called). That is a huge value right there!

    Reply
  • Karen L Boylan
    May 8, 2018 4:13 pm

    Great article just a few more helpful hints. For Brookfield zoo if you are typically bringing kids under three and you usually go alone. A family membership may not be worth it as you said but they offer Individual and Individual plus Memberships (which allow you bring one adult guest with per visit. We did this until our son reached 3 and then upgraded.) And for the Arboretum – Reciprocal value alone can not be overlooked for this one it adds a ton of value as it has an agreement with over 300 places, including several that are two hours or less from the Western/Soutwest Burbs. Including: Talltree Arboretum (near Valpo, IN) this is a must if you have a little train fan. Chicago Botanic Gardens in Glenview (technically free but parking is $35 and your Morton membership offers you free parking and the opportunity to use the members line at the parking lot saving tons of time.) Just visiting Morton and these two paid for our membership plus we took it on vacation and visited gardens in the Berkshires and Connecticut.

    Reply

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