Chicago, being one of the world’s great cities, is home to an assortment of world-class museums and cultural institutions. Featuring an ever-changing roster of historically and culturally significant exhibits, Chicago residents have a lot to check out. Fortunately, with summer now here, several of Chicago’s museums are offering free admission days for Illinois residents, making it the perfect time to come and see all that these museums have to offer. Below, we’ve listed each museum’s free admission days, as well as just some of the exciting special exhibits coming to town.
The Field Museum: August 14, 21, 28, September 4, 11, 18
If you haven’t heard, The Field Museum is now home to the largest dinosaur ever to be discovered. Aptly named Máximo, this long-necked, plant-eating titanosaur lived over 100 million years ago in what is now Patagonia, Argentina. Reaching 122 feet wide across Stanley Field Hall on the main floor of the museum, Máximo is a cast that stands 28 feet from head-to-toe, making him, as of now, the biggest land animal to have ever lived. Now, with the bonus of free admission, it’s the perfect time to come in and see this gentle giant up-close. And for those wondering about SUE, the Field Museum’s equally famous resident T-Rex, don’t worry. SUE can now be found in their new home in the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet.
Besides getting to hang out with Máximo and SUE, free basic admission includes the chance to see other exhibits like The Ancient Americas, Inside Ancient Egypt, and plenty of other mammals, birds, minerals, and plants!
If you’re looking to see what all the buzz is about, we recommend checking out the newest exhibit at the Field, Fantastic Bug Encounters.
Chicago History Museum: Tuesdays from 12:30 – 9:30 for Illinois residents, Illinois resident children age 18 and under are always free. Non-Illinois residents 12 and under are always free.
Right now, the Chicago History Museum has a lot going on! Open until August 10, Amplified Chicago Blues is an exhibit that focuses on the experiences of southern black migrants coming to Chicago during the 1940s and ’50s. Oftentimes met with a racially biased and inhospitable public, these music pioneers nonetheless transformed the city and its music by bringing with them an electrified and amplified music that came to redefine the Chicago blues. Visitors to the exhibit will be able to learn the backstory of just some of these revolutionary musicians, including Howlin’ Wolf, Magic Sam, Muddy Waters, and Willie Dixon. The exhibit also features interactive experiences that allow visitors to design an album cover of their own, write lyrics, and for the brave, sing karaoke.
Other exhibits to check out during your visit include Silver Screen to Mainstream: American Fashion in the 1930s and ’40s, an exhibit on Dr. Martin Luther King and his legacy, and an exhibit on Abraham Lincoln and his association with Chicago during his early life and eventual rise to the presidency.
Adler Planetarium: September 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27
The Adler Planetarium offers a number of exhibits and shows, all dedicated to expanding our understanding of the universe around us and our place within it. In Mission Moon, you’ll get to experience and see for yourself how humanity took its first steps into space, as seen through the eyes of Captain James A. Lovell Jr., who is best known as the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission and as the command module pilot of Apollo 8, the first Apollo mission to enter lunar orbit. Featuring interviews with Lovell and his family, visitors will hear his remarkable story and come to see what it’s really like to be an astronaut.
Other exhibits include Telescopes: Through The Looking Glass, which features rare books, documents, and models showing how telescopes have shaped our knowledge of the wider universe, and Astronomy in Culture, a look into the past spotlighting the key figures in astronomy and the tools they used to develop their understanding of the world, and more.
The DuSable Museum of African American History: Free on Tuesdays. Kids 5 and under are always free
The DuSable Museum of African American History is dedicated to promoting and enriching our awareness of the achievements, contributions, and experiences of African Americans. One notable exhibit is Freedom, Resistance and the Journey Toward Equality, which takes visitors on a journey through the African American experience by addressing key periods throughout American history from slavery to the present. This includes Reconstruction, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights movement, and the Black Power Movement, all of which are presented alongside more than 200 objects, artifacts, and archival images and videos.
The museum also lets visitors check out exhibits highlighting Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor, and the 8th Infantry Illinois National Guard, an infantry of all African American officers who were deployed in both World War I and World War II.
The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago: August 26-28 (free to Illinois residents)
MSI is always packed with great stuff to see and do. To give you a quick list of highlights–don’t miss the amazing Wired to Wear exhibit, which is full of all kinds of amazing wearable tech, Makers United, which gives you a chance to make some wearable tech of your own, and to revisit a classic that’s gotten a little extra love this year when you check out U-505 Submarine: 75 Stories and hopefully follow it up with a tour of the sub itself.
The Shedd Aquarium: August 26-27, September 3, 4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30
The Shedd Aquarium‘s an amazing choice any time of year, but this summer’s been amazing for them, with the arrival of two new sea otters that were rescued in May and a baby beluga calf who was born during the Fourth of July festivities.
Also on view at this aquatic wonderland is their most recent special exhibit, Underwater Beauty, which explores the colors, patterns and textures that make the oceans, lakes, rivers and streams so beautiful to behold.
The following museums also offer free admission days. This includes:
The Leather Archives & Museum: Free every Thursday throughout 2019. Visitors must be 18 and older.
Loyola University Museum of Art: Always Free, Open Tuesday through Friday
The Art Institute of Chicago: Free for Illinois residents 5-8pm on Thursdays. Kids 13 and under and Chicago teens under 18 are always free
Smart Museum of Art: Always Free, Open Tuesday through Sunday
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Free on Thursdays for Illinois residents. Kids under 3 are always free
National Museum of Mexican Art: Free admission daily
Museum of Contemporary Art: Free 10am-8pm on Tuesdays for Illinois residents. Kids 18 and under are always free.
McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum: Free on Sundays
U.S. Pizza Museum: Free admission, must reserve online