Far be it from The Frugalista to discourage you from patronizing Chicago's museums. If you have a favorite institution and you can afford it, by all means, become a member. But assuming you don't join everything, here's a list of museum free days and other ways to enjoy Chicago's cultural offerings for free this summer.
Museum free days
According to this list at Chicagoing.net:
- The Adler Planetarium's free days are coming up next week, June 6-10.
- The Art Institute on the first and second Wednesday of the month.
- Chicago History Museum every Monday.
- The Field Museum June 6-10
- Museum of Contemporary Art every Tuesday.
- Museum of Science and Industry June 1-2 and June 6-9.
- Shedd Aquarium June 12-17 (You have to pay to see special exhibits like the jellies.)
- Notebaert Nature Museum every Thursday (suggested donation day).
Other ways to get in free or for less
- Check out a Kraft Great Kids museum pass from a Chicago Public Library. This program is great -- free admission for whole families to the blockbuster museums including The Art Institute, The Chicago Children's Museum, The Field, Science and Industry, Brookfield Zoo and the Shedd. The number of passes available and their accessibility may vary by library; if you're having trouble at your local branch you could call around to see if another branch has passes ready to check out.
- In the suburbs, check this list to see if your library participates in the Museum Adventure Pass Program. It can get two people into the Brookfield Zoo free, or a car into the Botanical Gardens free (that place doesn't charge for admission, just parking). For some museums, it's just a buy one, get one free offer.
- Are you a supporter of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station? If you have the Member Card, check out this list of two-for-one museum and attraction discounts, including The Chicago Children's Museum (M-F only) and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
- Have a Bank of America card? BofA's Museums on Us program will get you into the Shedd, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chicago History Museum or the Art Institute on the first full weekend of each month. Note that this gets in only the person whose name is on the debit or credit card.
- Join a cheaper museum. Some people may see this as kind of sneaky, but you can buy a membership for any museum that belongs to a reciprocity program and use that to get into lots of museums. One year I bought a family membership to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Ohio, and used that to get into Science and Industry, The Chicago Children's Museum and more Chicago-area museums. Some of these places might have a policy against accepting "reciprocity" members if your driver's license shows a local address, but I never had a problem personally.
- Buddy up. If you join the Shedd and your friend joins the Brookfield Zoo, you should be able to invite one another's families if you pick a generous enough membership level.
Chi-Town Cheapskate lists all the free Navy Pier fireworks displays.
See The Frugalista's continually updated roundup of Chicago daily deals for family and kids summer activities.
Disclaimer: I have not verified any of these dates. It'd be a good idea to call and check before you go.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times