Use free museum days to cut trip costs

Worries about jobs and the economy have people spending smarter. With discounts offered by the travel industry and tourism destinations there are savings to be had whether at a nearby attraction or further away. Freebies and cost-cutting passes exist if you know where to look.

Travel Smart is searching them out starting with Chicago.

Aside from its reputation as the “Windy City (it’s politicians, not the lake, really), Chicago is known for having world class museums such as the Art Institute. If your dates are flexible try visiting your museum of choice when the admission fee is waived. Just know that free admission is entry to the museum building, not to special exhibits and shows although the latter may be discounted on free days.

Free museum days remaining in 2010 as of Aug. 18

Chicago’s Museum Campus of The Adler Planetarium,  Shedd Aquarium and The Field Museum (natural history) stretches out into Lake Michigan from South Lake Shore Drive and Roosevelt Road.

Chicago's skyline is picture perfect from outside the Adler Planetarium
Chicago's skyline is picture perfect from outside the Adler Planetarium. All photos by Jodie Jacobs

For one of the best views of the city’s skyline without going out in a boat, walk east to the planetarium at the end of the road without looking back then turn around (bring the camera). The view is worth the walk even on a blustery day.

The Adler Planetarium, 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, 312-922-7827.

General admission is $10 adults, $6 children. The Adler does not have any free days in August but does the rest of the year as follows: September 7, 13-17, 21 and 28, October 5, 12, 19 and 26, November 2, 9, 16 , 23 and 30 and December 7, 14 and 21.

On free days, the planetarium also offers discount show tickets: Theater -$7, Historic Atwood Sphere Experience – $3, Special Guided Tour – $3.

The Shedd Aquarium,  1200 South Lake Shore Drive, between The Adler and The Field, 312-939-2438. Shedd pass $24.95 adults, $21.95 ages 3-11 and 65 and older. The Shedd does not have any free days in August or December but does September through November as Community Discount Days.

General Admission is free: September 13-14, 20-21 and 27-28, October 4-5, 11-12, 18-19 and 25-26 and November 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30. Admission does not include the Oceanarium, Wild Reef and Polar Play but those attractions are discounted on free days.

T-Rex Susie and other dinosaurs live at the Field Museum
T-rex Sue and other dinosaurs live at the Field Museum

The Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, 866-343-5303. Regular general admission: $15 adults (all show and exhibit access pass $29), $10 children (all access pass $20). Free days, including Target Free 2nd Mondays: August 24, September: 13, 15-16 and 21-22, October 5-6, 13-14 and 19-20, November 2, 3, 10, 16-17 and 30 and December 1, 7-8, 13 and 15-16.

The Museum of Science and Industry,  south of downtown at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60636, 773-684-1414. General admission $15 adults, $14 seniors, $10 children. Free days August 30, September 7-14, 20, 21, 27 and 28, October: 4-6, November 11 and December: 6.

A City Pass helps the budget when free days don’t fit the schedule. Chicago’s City Pass is a discounted way to see the Adler, Shedd, Field Museums and the Museum of Science and Industry plus the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) or the John Hancock Observatory)at half price.  Regular combined admission to these popular attractions would be $134.62 adults and $114.50 for children ages 3-11. The City Pass cost is $69 adults and $59 children.

Art Museums

Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603, 312-443-3600

General Admission: $18 adults, $12 children and seniors 65 and older. Free admission every Thursday 5 to 8 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day) Times are subject to changes so please check ahead.

Visitors from across the globe put The Art Institute of Chicago on their go-to list
Visitors from across the globe put The Art Institute of Chicago on their go-to list

Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611, 312-397-2660.

General admission: $12, students with ID and seniors $7, free to children 12 and under. MCA has free Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. year-round.

Author: Jodie

Longtime Chicago Tribune contributor for news and features. Travel writer for What's Happening, Lakeland Boating and A&E for CBS

3 thoughts on “Use free museum days to cut trip costs”

  1. Most museums are now offering free days. The Heard in Phoenix does that and it has opened up opportunities to people who could not otherwise visit a museum. Great article!

  2. Great info! I hope every place offering information to adults and children alike will have free times. With money so tight, it’s a touch choice for parents: “the zoo or new shoes?”

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