“Free Days in November at Chicago Museums and Zoos” by S.M. O’Connor

There are upcoming Illinois Free Days in November at some of Chicago’s premier museums.  In addition, some of Chicago’s cultural institutions are always free or have one free day a week or one free day a month throughout the year, as indicated below.  The institutions in question are the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum and The Field Museum of Natural History on the Museum Campus in Burnham Park; the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, which is on Forest Preserve District of Cook County land adjacent to southwest suburban Brookfield, Illinois; the Chicago Horticultural Society’s  Chicago Botanic Garden, which is on Cook County Forest Preserve District land on adjacent to north suburban Glencoe, Illinois; the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier; the Chicago Historical Society’s Chicago History Museum and Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (Chicago Academy of Sciences) in Lincoln Park; the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Streeterville; the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park; the National Museum of Mexican Art in Harrison Park; and The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture in Humboldt Park.

Institution Name

Illinois Resident Free Days in November
Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum[1] November 11th, 12th, 14th,  and 15th
The Art Institute of Chicago Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Brookfield Zoo Tuesdays and Thursdays

(October 1-December 31, 2018)

Chicago Botanic Garden Always Free – Parking is $20 for cars and $25 for vans
Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier First Sundays of every month for children fifteen and under


Target Free Family Nights – Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Chicago History Museum[2] Tuesdays from 12:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
DuSable Museum of African American History Tuesdays
                    The Field Museum of Natural History[3] November 11th and 18th
Lincoln Park Zoo Always Free
Museum of Contemporary Art[4] Tuesdays Year-Round
Museum of Science and Industry[5] November 12th
National Museum of Mexican Art Always Free
The National Museum of Puerto Ricans Arts & Culture Always Free
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum[6] Thursdays


Check the Websites of these cultural institutions for details.  In general, one should check those Websites or call those institutions before planning trips.[7]  These dates are subject to change for various reasons.  The hours an institution is open on a given date can also be subject to change with notice because of being rented out for night private functions and with little notice due to unforeseen events.

MuseumExterior3Figure 1 Credit: Chicago Historical Society Caption: This is the main entrance of the Chicago History Museum in the Chicago Park District’s Lincoln Park.

North EntranceFigure 2 Credit: The Field Museum of Natural History Caption: This is the north entrance of The Field Museum of Natural History on the Museum Campus in the Chicago Park District’s Burnham Park.

2018 Spring ExteriorsFigure 3 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is the Museum of Science and Industry in the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park, as seen on Monday, May 7, 2018.

In partnership with the Museums in the Park, the Chicago Public Library is offering free Kids Museum Passports to Chicago’s cultural institutions.


[1] On Illinois Discount Days, Illinoisans may also upgrade to an All Access Pass at a discounted price and thereby gain admission to the Atwood Sphere Experience and Sky Shows.

[2] Free Tuesdays do not including Tuesday, December 18, 2018 and Christmas Day (Tuesday, December 25, 2018).  The Chicago History Museum is also free on Commemorative Days: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Presidents’ Day; March 4th; and July 4th.

[3] On Free Admission Days, Basic Admission is free for Illinoisans with proof of residency in the state.  Passes are available in person, but not online.  Basic Admissions covers general admission exhibits, including Evolving Planet, The Ancient Americas, and Inside Ancient Egypt.

[4] The Museum of Contemporary Arts (M.C.A.) is also free for anyone eighteen-years-old or younger; police officers, firefighters, active-duty military service members and veterans, and accompanying relatives; students and faculty at Columbia College, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Harold Washington College, Harry Truman College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Northwestern University, Olive-Harvey College, Richard Daley College, the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, The University of Chicago; and Wilbur Wright College; caretakers for the elderly and physically disabled; and, of course, M.C.A. Members.

[5] On Illinois free Days, Museum Entry (general admission) is free for all Illinoisans who show valid proof of residency in the state.  [No further Chicago residency discounts apply on Illinois Free Days.]  The limit is six children (under eights-years-of-age) admitted per one accompanying adult.  [See chaperone ratios and policies for School-led Field Trips and Group of 15+.  Giant Dome Theater films, Coal Mine tours, optional U-505 onboard tours, and certain temporary exhibits are not included in Museum Entry, and require separate admission.  See Ticket Princes on Illinois Free Days and Parking.

[6] Thursdays are suggested donation days at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

[7] This is a good rule of thumb to follow because exhibits one wants to see can be closed.  Major exhibits can be de-installed to make wake for new exhibits.  Even famous, permanent exhibits can be temporarily closed so exhibit halls can be remodeled or curators, conservators, and preparators can clean specimens, artifacts, or artworks.  Museums can de-accession and sell specimens, artifacts, and artworks to purchase other specimens, artifacts, and artworks.  Cultural institutions can donate treasured objects to other cultural institutions that are better able to care for them.  Beloved animals at zoos and aquariums can die or be in seclusion for medical reasons or placed on loan to other institutions.

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