Experience Chicago’s award-winning museums, without spending a dime. Check out our ever-growing list of free museum days in 2021, plus some Chicago museums that are free all year long.

Looking for other ways to save? Check out the Chicago CityPASS or Go Chicago Card, which offers admission to several Chicago museums and attractions for one discounted price.

Here’s a list of free Chicago museum days for 2021. Keep in mind that many museums are currently operating with shortened hours and new ticketing procedures; check our list of open museums in Chicago or contact the museum to learn more.

Field Museum

Field Museum with guests socially distanced
Photo by Lucy Hewett

The Field Museum will be offering free basic admission, plus discounted passes to explore a ticketed exhibition or enjoy a 3D movie, for Illinois residents on the following 2021 dates:

  • Jan. 25 and 28, 2021
  • Feb. 25, 2021
  • March 8, 11, and 15, 2021
  • April 12, 15, 19, 22, 26, and 29, 2021
  • May 3, 6, 10, and 13, 2021

Illinois residents can redeem free admission by reserving their tickets online then providing proof of residency at the museum. The free tickets include all general admission exhibitions, such as Evolving PlanetThe Ancient Americas, and Inside Ancient Egypt.

Illinois teachers (pre-K through 12th grade) and active military personnel receive free basic admission year-round.

Museum of Science and Industry

MSI Storm exhibit
J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Admission at the Museum of Science and Industry is free for Illinois residents on the following dates:

  • April 14, 2021
  • May 12, 2021
  • June 9 and 19, 2021
  • July 14, 2021
  • Aug. 11, 2021
  • Sept. 8 – 9, 15 – 16, 22 – 23, and 29 – 30, 2021
  • Oct. 27, 2021
  • Nov. 3, 10, and 17, 2021
  • Dec. 8, 2021

The Museum of Science and Industry is always free for United States military active-duty personnel and veterans, Illinois POWs, Chicago firefighters, Chicago police officers and Illinois teachers (Pre-K through 12th grade).

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium is offering Illinois residents free access to all permanent exhibits, including special exhibits Underwater Beauty and seasonal Stingray Touch, on the following 2021 dates:

  • Feb. 22 – Feb. 26, 2021

Advance reservations required; no tickets will be available onsite. A $3-per-order transaction fee applies to Illinois Free Day tickets reserved online. All adults must provide proof of residency in-person when redeeming tickets at the discounted rate.

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute in fall

The museum admission is always free for Chicago teens under the age of 18, all children under age 14, Link and WIC cardholders, active-duty military, and Illinois educators.

The public can enjoy the following public museum areas free of charge:

  • The Ryan Learning Center in the Modern Wing
  • The North and South Gardens (accessible from Michigan Avenue)
  • The Nichols Bridgeway connecting the museum to Millennium Park
  • The Bluhm Family Terrace on the 3rd floor of the west pavilion of the Modern Wing

Chicago History Museum

Clayton Hauck

The Chicago History Museum is offering free admission:

  • March 4, 2021
  • July 4, 2021

The museum is also free to Illinois residents every Tuesday from 12:30 to 9:00 p.m. with valid I.D. (exclusions apply). Children under 12 are always free.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Duro Olowu exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art
Installation view, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, MCA Chicago Feb 29-May 10, 2020 Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

The Museum of Contemporary Art is always free for visitors under age 18, visitors with disabilities and their caregivers receive free admission, members of the military and police and fire departments and veterans, and Illinois elementary and high school teachers.

  • Illinois residents receive free admission every Tuesday

To encourage more people to visit and visit often, the MCA has a pay-what-you-can policy — no one will be turned away. They also offer suggested admission of $3 each for up to six individuals when visitors present their LINK (EBT) Card as part of the Museums for All program.

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Resistance Gallery at the Illinois Holocaust Museum
Photo by Kathleen Hinkel

The Illinois Holocaust Museum is offering free admission on:

  • Feb. 3, 2021
  • March 25 — April 11, all kids and students receive free entry to the museum
  • Every Wednesday all year long

Reserve your free tickets in advance.

Visitors with an active Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and a photo ID on certain dates.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Free admission year-round for everyone at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Brookfield Zoo

Free admission at the Brookfield Zoo for all active, reservist, and retired members of the military with ID. Admission is also free for children age 2 and under.

Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium exterior

The Adler Planetarium is temporarily closed, please check back for future free museum days.

Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier

Navy Pier Entrance in the Fall

The Chicago Children’s Museum is temporarily closed, please check back for future free museum days.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Clayton Hauck

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is temporarily closed, please check back for future free museum days.

DuSable Museum of African American History

DuSable Museum

The DuSable Museum of African American History is temporarily closed, please check back for future free museum days.

Loyola University Museum of Art

While the museum remains temporarily closed, admission is free year-round at the Loyola University Museum of Art.

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum:

  • No upcoming free admission days

Swedish American Museum

Swedish American Museum Exterior

Free admission every second Tuesday of the month year-round at the Swedish American Museum. Children aged 1 year or younger are admitted free.

Clarke House Museum

Clarke House Museum Exterior

The Clarke House Museum is the oldest home in the city of Chicago. There are free public tours on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Glessner House

Glessner House Exterior

There are currently no upcoming free admission days at Glessner House.

Charnley-Persky House

The Charnley-Persky House is temporarily closed, please check back for future free museum days.

Wrightwood 659

There are currently no upcoming free admission days at Wrightwood 659.

National Veterans Art Museum

The National Veterans Art Museum is temporarily closed, please check back for future free museum days.

National Museum of Mexican Art

While the museum remains temporarily closed, admission is free year-round at the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center Exterior

While the center remains temporarily closed, admission is free year-round at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Admission is free year-round at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. All visitors must reserve a free timed ticket.


Dates are subject to change and may not include fees to view special exhibits. Visit individual museum websites for admission details, as well as policies for specific community members such as military personnel and local school groups.