The Complete Guide to Free Museum Days in Chicago

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How can you find the perfect date spot, plan a wonderful afternoon with the family, or a weekend with friends in Chicago? There is one answer to all three questions. Yes, you already know the answer. Here are the free museum days in Chicago in January 2023. Not only are you in for a day of history, art, or nature, it won’t cost you anything to enjoy it. 

Get ready to take on the day with a Cafe Au Lait from one of Chicago’s favorite spots, Dark Matter Coffee, and redeem your free admission to one of the city’s great museums (on the specified days below, of course). Continue reading to find which free museum days in Chicago you’d like to mark in your calendar.

8 East Washington, Chicago IL 60602

Can’t make it on specific days? Here’s a museum that offers free admission around your schedule; the Chicago Cultural Center. No ticket is required for entry or access to any of the breathtaking exhibits. Opening daily from 10 am to 5 pm, the museum is home to a range of exhibitions devoted to the striking visual arts and contemporary culture. 

1852 W 19th Street, Chicago IL 60608

Another unique cultural museum offering year-round free admission is the National Museum of Mexican Art. Rich in Mexican culture and art, the Museum of Mexican Art has a vast art collection with over 18,000 seminal pieces. The exhibitions deliver on providing high-quality education to all guests at no cost. With the mission to provide knowledge and invigorate appreciation, this stop is a must. 

111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Explore the massive permanent collection Art Institute of Chicago houses, or check out one of the carefully curated themed exhibitions that will open your eyes to a new side of art history. From Japanese printmaking to Renaissance master painting, to contemporary installation and sculpture, the Art Institute of Chicago is a heaven on earth for art lovers and artists in Chicago.

Free Museum Days: Weekdays (Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays) from Jan. 9 – March 24, 2023. The museum is also 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.

220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is a contemporary art museum near Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The museum, which was established in 1967, is one of the world’s largest contemporary art venues. If you’re looking for mind-blowing exhibitions that break through the walls between media and format and challenge your perspective on the world around us, MCA is your place to be.

Illinois residents receive free admission every Tuesday. MCA also has a pay-what-you-can policy and participates in the Museums for All program with a suggested admission of $3 each for up to six individuals when visitors present their LINK (EBT) Card.

2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

Needing an afternoon of peace and tranquility? No need for an over-priced yoga class or a meditation app, The Lincoln Park Conservatory offers free reservations and walk-in reservations (when space allows) during their regular operating hours. I’d recommend a walk through the orchid house for a truly calming effect. 

The conservatory is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. The last entry is at 2:00 pm daily and doors close at 3:00 pm.

1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL 60605

Say what you want about Chicago, but Illinois residents can enjoy free admission to the Shedd Aquarium on select days throughout the year. There is an extraordinary aquatic animal world out there to explore. The Shedd exhibits allow you to marvel at the exotic sea creatures up close. All tickets must be reserved online prior to your visit. If you’re unable to make the free admission days, you find out more about the Shedd Aquarium ticket prices in our article.

Free Museum Days in January: January 12, 13, 14 (sold out), 15 (sold out), and 16

1300 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr., Chicago IL 60605

If you find that a job, school, or other engagement fills your morning and afternoon schedule, the Adler Planetarium is your premier destination for exploration. Whether you prefer stargazing from afar or are ready to strap on your moon boots, there is a unique educational exhibit for you. Admission is free to all Illinois residents (with valid proof of residency) every Wednesday evening from 4-10 pm throughout the year 2023. 

740 East 56th Place, Chicago Illinois 60637

Established in 1961, the nation’s first independent museum celebrating Black culture was born with a powerful mission. This mission is to provide transformative education and powerful exhibits that place the African American narrative firmly within the broader context of U.S. history. The Museum is free to visit on Wednesdays plus free admission to military and to first responders (Police, Fire, EMTs.) with a valid ID.

1601 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

From the great fire to the rebuild, from the mesmerizing gangster fights to the lesser-known cultural facts, Chicago History Museum has everything you’d ever want to know about our beautiful city. CHM strives to be a destination for learning, inspiration, and civic engagement. Through dynamic exhibitions, tours, programs, digital resources, and special events, the Museum connects people to Chicago’s history and to each other.

Free museum days in January: Jan. 16 thru 20, 24 thru 27, and Jan. 31.

5700 S Dusable Lk Shr Dr, Chicago, IL 60637

From Tornados to Tesla coils, ancient boats to futuristic ‘bots, the interactive and award-winning exhibits at MSI bring science to life for guests of all ages. Therefore, take advantage of the free admission days this month and come enjoy something adults and children would both enjoy fully. Current exhibitions include the world’s largest display of Lego Art, The Art of Brick, a bedazzling collection of six decades of plastic souvenirs, Mold-a-Rama, and more.

Free museum days in January: Jan. 9 thru 11, 16 thru 18, 23 thru 25, Jan. 30 and 31.

1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago IL 60605

All of my fellow Night at the Museum fans can appreciate the wide range of historical exhibits located across every inch of the Field Museum of Natural History. The exhibits are so life-like (it almost feels like they actually roam the halls at night). Come experience the wonders on select free museum admission days for Illinois residents in Chicago. 

Free Museum Days in January: Jan. 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 24, 25, and 31.

Featured Image: MSI



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