Explore your world
Swimming Polar Bear | © Cmadler/WikiCommons
Swimming Polar Bear | © Cmadler/WikiCommons

The Top 10 Free Museums And Attractions In Chicago

Picture of Samantha Looney
Updated: 9 February 2017
The best things in life are free. And whether you’re looking for the perfect weekend activity or a way to entertain the kids for a few hours, we list the museums and attractions you can visit without having to pay a dime, year-round in Chicago.

Cloud Gate

Also known as ‘The Bean,’ Cloud Gate is a must-visit for tourists and locals alike in order to get the true Chicago experience. Located in Chicago’s Millennium Park, this iconic sculpture by Anish Kapoor reflects Chicago’s incredible skyline while playing with light and the sky.

Cloud Gate, 201 E Randolph St., Chicago, IL, USA

Museum of Contemporary Photography

The Museum of Contemporary Photography is one of the only museums in the U.S. dedicated solely to photography. The museum collaborates with artists and photographers locally and internationally to present a collection of works that help promote a greater understanding and appreciation of the artistic, cultural, and political implication of the image in our world today.

Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 S Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 663 5554

Smart Museum of Art

Located on the University of Chicago campus, The Smart Museum of Art is always free and home to various works of art including those by Edward Degas, Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Matisse, Mark Rothko, and Pablo Picasso. Although there are various other museums in the city, The Smart Museum is always free and houses exhibitions featuring incredible works of art from around the world, including sculptures, paintings, as well as contemporary and modern art.  

Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S Greenwood Ave., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 702 0200

Lincoln Park Zoo

Open 365 days a year and always free, the Lincoln Park Zoo is the perfect place to bring your family and spend the day watching and learning about lions, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, and hundreds of other mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians.

Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N Clark St., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 742 2000

Lincoln Park Conservatory

The Lincoln Park Conservatory is a little sanctuary in the middle of the bustling city. The Victorian-era glass house is divided into four houses and is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The conservatory is full of tropical palms, ancient ferns, and thousands of different types of plants and flowers throughout the year.

Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N Stockton Dr., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 742 7736

The Newberry Library

The Newberry Library is one of the best research libraries in the world and focuses on history and literature across the Americas and Western Europe. The five-floor granite building is the perfect place for book lovers and literature enthusiasts.

The Newberry Library, 60 W Walton St., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 943 9090

The 606

Chicago has its own old elevated railroad-turned-beautiful park and trail system. What was once known as the Bloomingdale Line, now the 606, is the perfect place to take a stroll and enjoy the peace and quiet of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. 

606 Trail, 1752 N Damen Ave., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 773 661 9172

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum

The Jane Addams Hull-House was one of the first settlement houses in the U.S. The house was founded by Jane Addams, the first American woman to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. The museum holds pictures, furniture, and a collection of artwork by individuals who lived in the house, offering historical insight into what life was like during the turn of the 20th century.

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, 800 S Halsted St., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 413 5353

Promontory Point

Located in Chicago’s Burnham Park, this man-made peninsula juts out into Lake Michigan. Standing on the point, you will see some of the most beautiful views of the Chicago skyline. Within the park, there are bird sanctuaries, beaches, and a skate park, making it a great place to spend the day enjoying the fresh air. 

Promontory Park, 5491 S Shore Dr., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 742 5369

Oz Park

Located in Lincoln Park, Oz Park is dedicated to author L. Frank Baum who lived in the area in the 1890s. With Dorothy’s Playlot and The Emerald Gardens, the entire park brings the magic of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to life. In addition, there are metal statues of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, Dorothy, and Toto. 

Oz Park, 2021 N Burling St., Chicago, IL, USA, +1 312 742 7898