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The 19 Best Museums in Chicago, Illinois [2023]

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Chicago is known for many things. From sports to politics, it’s one of the most important cities in the country. So, it’s not surprising that it’s also the most important cultural hub in the Midwest. This wealth of culture also extends to the city’s many museums.

From art and history to science and literature, there are a number of exhibits worth visiting in the Windy City. Whether you’re planning a family trip or are about to head out on a solo vacation to this midwestern metropolis, there’s a museum exhibit with your name on it.

The 19 Best Museums in Chicago

1. American Writers Museum

American Writers Museum
Image Credit: American Writers Museum

Since it opened in 2017, the American Writers Museum has been dedicated to preserving and honoring great American writers throughout history. The museum is divided into 6 separate exhibits celebrating 100 different authors.

The exhibits celebrate great works of literature as well as the importance of reading through timelines, galleries, and immersive displays for visitors of all ages.

Temporary exhibits are also regularly toured through the museum. Even online-exclusive exhibits can be explored from the comfort of home. Of particular note is the Chicago Gallery, which celebrates famous classic and contemporary writers who have called Chicago home throughout the years.

Various events, like tours and panels with modern-day authors, are also hosted here throughout the year. In most cases, events are free to attend, but make sure to check the calendar before you visit.

Admission to the museum is free for children aged 12 and under. Seniors aged 65+, teachers, and students with IDs can get tickets for $9, and general admission is $14. The museum is open from Thursday to Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest CTA train stations are State & Lake and Washington & Wabash.

  • Address: 180 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60601

2. Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago
Image Credit: Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest art museums in the world, having opened in 1879. It also happens to be one of the largest museums of its kind, with a collection of over 300,000 pieces divided into 11 different categories. The collection is extremely varied, ranging from art from the Byzantine Empire to more contemporary U.S. artists.

Even the medium used in the art pieces at the institute is diverse. The majority of the collection is made up of paintings, though there are also photographs, sculptures, and even textiles. Some of the most popular works featured in the museum are Vincent van Gogh’s “Self Portrait,” “The Old Guitarist” by Pablo Picasso, and “American Gothic” by Grant Wood.

Admission to the museum is free for children and members, $26 for teens, students with ID, and seniors 65+. General admission is $32. Discounts are available for both Chicago and Illinois residents.

The museum is open to the public from Friday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. Members are allowed into the museum an hour early. The nearest CTA stations are Adams-Wabash, Monroe/State, and Monroe/Dearborn.

  • Address: 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60603

3. Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago Childrens Museum
Image Credit: Chicago Children’s Museum

The Chicago Children’s Museum is one of the city’s best spots if you’re visiting the Windy City with kids. The facility was designed to cater to youngsters of all ages, from babies and toddlers all the way up to preteens.

The museum houses over 10 different permanent exhibits aimed at helping children learn and create. In particular, the structure tries to help foster an interest in the sciences with dinosaur exhibits, hands-on learning, and interactive displays.

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum regularly hosts special events like free family days and play opportunities to allow children to socialize without becoming overstimulated. This is in addition to the temporary galleries occasionally hosted here.

The museum is open Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission to the museum is $21 for children over 1 and adults. However, discounts are available for veterans and members. The Children’s Museum also participates in the Museums for All initiative, which offers $3 tickets for qualifying visitors. Free days are also occasionally hosted.

  • 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611

4. Chicago History Museum

Chicago History Museum
Image Credit: Chicago History Museum

With its first roots dating back to 1856, the Chicago History Museum was created to preserve the city’s history. Though the original collection curated by the Chicago Historical Society, the organization that runs the museum, was destroyed in 1871, it was largely restored in the following years.

The museum’s collection is made up of over 20,000,000 documents, images, and other records that track the growth of Chicago throughout its history. Since the collection is so massive, much of it is kept in archives for research and preservation.

There are 7 main exhibits, noting the city’s architecture and industry, as well as manuscripts, books, costumes, paintings, and photos that were created in Chicago by its residents. The museum also regularly features events and exhibits celebrating the city’s multiculturalism.

Admission is free for children, $17 for students with ID and seniors 65+, and $19 for adults. The fee is waived for members. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Clark & North Ave. South.

  • Address: 1601 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614

5. Chicago Sports Museum

Chicago Sports Museum
Image Credit: Chicago Sports Museum

First opened in 2014, the Chicago Sports Museum commemorates the many great sports teams and athletes that have represented Chicago. The 6 main exhibits dive into the mysteries, skills, and achievements made by Chicago’s teams.

In addition to the museum’s collection of memorabilia and sporting artifacts from important games, there are also interactive displays. These areas help make the museum fun for visitors of all ages and levels of sports affinity. It’s even possible to see how you compare to the height and arm span of Chicago’s best athletes.

Admission is free for children under 4, $5 for children between 4 and 11 and seniors 65+, $8 for students with ID, and $10 for all other adults. Guided tours are also available for tours of 10 people or more for an extra $5 per person.

The museum is open Monday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. You can also reserve the museum for special events. The nearest bus stop is Michigan & Pearson South.

  • Address: 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611

6. Color Factory

Color Factory
Image Credit: Color Factory

First opening in 2022, Chicago’s Color Factory is one of the city’s newer museums. This installation has traveled around the country, but there are no plans for closing the Chicago exhibit. The museum is an interactive experience meant to dive into the concept of colors through 14 immersive displays and installations.

Among some of the most popular exhibits to experience are the green-hued ball pit and the color horoscope gallery. There are also various areas that engage other senses, like turning tastes into color. The museum regularly collaborates with artists, ensuring the experience is ever-changing.

The color factory is family-friendly. However, due to the multisensory nature of the museum’s exhibits, it might not be the best choice if you’re traveling with young children or others who are easily overstimulated.

Admission to the museum is free for children under 2 and $28 for children between 3 and 12. General admission ranges between $33 and $39, depending on the time and day of your visit. Reserving your visit ahead of time is required. The museum is open Sunday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Address: 233 S. Wacker Dr., Lower Level 2, Chicago, IL 60606

7. DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center

DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center
Image Credit: DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center

Founded in 1961, the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center is meant to preserve African-American culture, history, and art. It doesn’t just focus on stories from the Chicago area but the entire country.

The museum currently houses a collection of 13,000 books, photos, and other artifacts, most of which were donated to the center over the past 50 years. The items in this collection range from artifacts from the country’s slave trade era to poetry from important African-American voices like Langston Hughes.

In addition to the permanent collection, DuSable also hosts temporary exhibits. One of the most notable featured a collection of artwork on loan from renowned actress CCH Pounder. The museum regularly holds cultural events as well as educational programs for students of all ages.

Admission to the museum is free for children under 6, $4 for children 6 to 11, $9 for students and seniors with ID, and $12.50 for adults. Admission is free on Wednesdays. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The closest bus stop is Cottage Grove & 58th Street North.

  • Address: 740 E. 56th Pl., Chicago, IL 60637

8. Field Museum

Field Museum
Image Credit: Field Museum

The Field Museum is one of the largest and most highly-regarded natural history museums in the world. Known for its exhaustive educational material, research, and extensive collection, it’s been a mainstay in Chicago since it opened.

The origins of the museum’s collection date back to 1894, but the current museum didn’t open until 1921. Since then, its collection has grown to encompass 40,000,000 artifacts.

There are currently 13 permanent exhibits that range in topic from evolution to the origins of world cultures. Arguably, the most popular exhibit at the Field Museum is “Sue,” a nearly complete Tyrannosaurus rex that was found in South Dakota in 1990. Since the skeleton was unveiled in 2000, it has been one of the most visited parts of the museum.

General admission to the museum is $30, though there are discounts available for children, seniors, and in-state and city residents. The museum is open Sunday to Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, visitors won’t be allowed entry after 4 p.m. The nearest train stop is Museum Campus/11th Street.

  • Address: 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60605

9. Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Illinois Holocaust Museum Education Center
Image Credit: Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Since it opened, the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center has aimed to combat anti-semitism and preserve the memories of the survivors and victims of the Holocaust. The origins of the museum trace back to 1981, when the center’s foundation first began. However, the actual museum didn’t open until 2009.

The museum’s permanent displays cover the general social and cultural impacts of the Holocaust and the memories of those who went through this part of history. The temporary galleries explore more specific areas of Jewish history and culture, like cuisine and photographic collections.

One of the most recent additions to the museum is the Take a Stand Center, which includes interactive hologram galleries of Holocaust survivors and halls featuring human rights activists.

Admission is free for children under 5. Tickets for children 5 to 11 are $6, students with an ID $8, seniors 65+ $12, and adults $18. All admission fees are waived on the last Friday of the month. The museum is open Wednesday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Golf Rd. & Lockwood Ave.

  • Address: 9603 Woods Dr., Skokie, IL 60077

10. Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures Museum

Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures Museum
Image Credit: Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures Museum

Since opening in 1919, the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures Museum has been one of the Midwest’s most important archaeological research centers. Initially founded by a professor at the University of Chicago, it served to aid in ancient civilization studies.

The museum houses over 350,000 West Asian and North African artifacts that have been collected and donated throughout the years. Together, these items make up 8 permanent exhibits. However, there are also constantly rotating temporary galleries hosted at the museum as well.

Of particular note are the artifacts from the Egyptian and Persian cultures, including a statue of King Tutankhamun and relics from the Persian capital Persepolis.

You can even attend virtual classes and lectures to learn more about the artifacts held here. Due to its affiliation with the university, admission to the museum is free to all visitors. However, donations are welcome if you are able to give them.

The institute is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Fridays when operating hours are extended until 8 p.m. The nearest bus stop is 57th Street.

  • Address: 1155 E. 58th St., Chicago, IL 60637

“There is a discreet artifact in the Egyptian Gallery, but it is one of my favorites. This wooden funerary stela is coming from the Ramesseum in Luxor, Egypt (ISACM E1351), Third Intermediate Period (946-715 BCE). It was discovered in a private tomb and commemorated the Lady Djed-Khonsu-iw-es-ankh (“Khonsu says she will live”). The magnificent white gown she is wearing is a masterpiece.”

Marc Maillot, Associate Director and Chief Curator, ISAC Museum

11. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Image Credit: Tom Powell via Bohen Foundation

Since opening in 1967, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has grown to become one of the largest museums for contemporary art in the world. The collection consists of over 2,500 art pieces and 3,000 other books which span the art world from 1945 to the current day. Since the museum aims to keep pace with changes in the art world, this extensive collection is ever-growing.

Rather than display the entire collection at once, the museum opts to rotate its exhibits based on themes to create a more cohesive experience. Some of the most notable works housed here are “Jackie Frieze” by Andy Warhol and “Rabbit” by Jeff Koons.

However, the MCA, as it’s locally called, has also hosted numerous notable temporary exhibits by artists such as Frida Kahlo and David Bowie. The museum also celebrates other art mediums as well, hosting concerts, cooking seminars, and interpretive dance performances.

Admission is free for children, $14 for students, teachers, and seniors 65+, and $22 for the general public. Discounts for Chicago residents are available. The museum is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Address: 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611

12. Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry
Image Credit: Museum of Science and Industry

Originally opened in 1933, the Museum of Science and Industry features a number of authentic and replica scientific artifacts. The museum has over 2,000 different displays, covering a wide variety of scientific topics, mostly relating to engineering and discovery.

One of the most notable exhibits is the coal mine replica, which even features a shaft elevator. As one of the longest-running experiences in the museum, it’s gained the most notoriety. However, this experience is separately ticketed as capacity is limited.

Notably, the museum is constantly undergoing changes as science develops, with displays dedicated to genetics, storms, and farming technology being updated periodically. Additionally, the museum hosts temporary exhibits, all of which are typically hosted for between 1 and 5 months. So, it’s worth checking what might be there while you visit.

Admission is free for children under 3 and members. Tickets for children aged 3 to 11 are $14.95 and $25.95 for adults. This price doesn’t include access to any of the museum’s specialty exhibits or experiences. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Museum of Science & Industry East.

  • Address: 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60637

“MSI has touched the lives of more than 190 million guests since it opened in 1933. We can only imagine how many children, after visiting this Museum, decided to become biologists or doctors, geneticists or chemists. We strive to develop compelling and captivating exhibits and experiences that not only engage our guests but inspire them as well.”

Chevy Humphrey, President and CEO, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

13. National Hellenic Museum

National Hellenic Museum
Image Credit: National Hellenic Museum

Since opening in 1983, the National Hellenic Museum has become one of the oldest museums dedicated to ancient and contemporary Greek and Greek-American culture. The museum was created to help educate locals and tourists about modern and ancient Greek culture and how Greek Americans adapted to their lives in the U.S.

The museum’s collection can be divided into 3 main categories:

  1. Artifacts are the largest group, with about 18,000 pieces.
  2. The archives contain about 10,000 books and documents.
  3. The more recent Oral Histories project has, at this time, accrued about 200 installments.

This collection contains a mix of ancient artifacts from as far back as 1200 B.C.E. as well as modern items, like the largest collection of Greek newspapers in the country. In addition, the museum also hosts multiple temporary exhibits and fundraising events throughout the year.

Admission is free for members and children under 3. Admission for children aged 3 to 12 is $7, students and seniors with ID are $8, and adults are $10. The museum is open Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nearest train station is UIC-Halsted.

  • Address: 333 S. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60661

14. National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican Art
Image Credit: National Museum of Mexican Art

Plans for the National Museum of Mexican Art began in 1982, but it didn’t officially open until 1987. That planning time allowed the museum to grow its collection, and today it is the self-proclaimed largest institution in the country dedicated to Latino culture.

The museum houses 12,000 artifacts and art pieces and 6,000 digital pieces, making it one of the largest single collections of Mexican art in the U.S. One of the most important exhibits in the museum is the Mexicanidad display, which showcases how Mexico evolved over time and how Mexican culture changed and adapted in the U.S.

The museum also hosts an annual Día de los Muertos showcase, which displays art inspired by the Day of the Dead. It also celebrates contemporary Mexican artists through events and special exhibits that dive deeper into modern-day stories of Mexican and Mexican-American culture.

Admission to the museum and its events is free for all visitors, but donations are welcome. The exhibits are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nearest bus stop is 18th Street & Wolcott East.

  • Address: 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago, IL 60608
Hot Tip:

Learn more about the best things to do in Chicago, from free attractions to nightlife and events, in our detailed guide.

15. National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts Culture
Image Credit: National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

First opened in 2001, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture celebrates Puerto Rican culture and stories through exhibits, educational events, and festivals. The museum is home to numerous galleries featuring historical documents, artifacts, and art from historic and contemporary artists, including names like Elizam Escobar and Osvaldo Budet.

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture doesn’t just celebrate visual art media, though. It also hosts and sponsors musical events throughout the year, the most popular of which is the Navi-Jazz concert. The center’s main mission is to preserve Puerto Rican heritage, particularly after widespread emigration led to a dispersal of its culture.

Admission to the museum is free for all visitors, though donations are welcome. Special events sponsored by the museum sometimes require a ticket purchase. Guided tours are also available for groups of 10 or more for a small fee.

The museum’s exhibits are open Tuesday to Friday from 10: a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Division & Humboldt.

  • Address: 3015 W. Division St., Chicago, IL 60622

16. National Veterans Art Museum

National Veterans Art Museum
Image Credit: National Veterans Art Museum

First opened in 1981, the National Veterans Art Museum aims to encourage and remember veterans who served in the Vietnam War. The museum was the result of the Vietnam Veterans Art Group’s initiative to encourage and showcase art made by ex-soldiers, often as part of self-expression and therapy.

Though originally the group showcased art made by local veterans, its popularity began to spread, and soon, pieces from soldiers around the world were being donated to the cause. Today, the museum has 2,500 pieces that all show the impact and memories of war.

In addition to the artwork, the museum’s entryway serves as a memorial to those who lost their lives. Over 58,000 dog tags of soldiers who died in Vietnam are displayed in this hall. The museum also hosts temporary traveling exhibits that take deeper looks at the conflict through photos, art, and documents.

Admission is free for everyone, though donations are always welcome. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The nearest bus and train stop is Irving Park.

  • Address: 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60641

17. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Image Credit: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Though the current location of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum only opened in 1999, the museum actually started over a century earlier.

This regional natural history museum specifically focuses on the Chicago area and how it changed over time, including its flora and fauna. The museum has over a dozen exhibits covering topics ranging from a natural bird walk to sustainability.

The pride and joy of the museum is the butterfly house, home to over 200 species from Illinois and around the world. This exhibit is one of the longest-running and is part of the center’s initiative to promote the breeding and preservation of local wildlife. The museum also offers educational events and opportunities for visitors of all ages throughout the year.

Admission is free for children under 3, $10 for children aged 3 to 12, $12 for seniors and students with a valid ID, and $17 for adults. In-state residents get a $2 discount on all tickets. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nearest stop is Cannon & Nature Museum/Fullerton.

  • Address: 2430 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago, IL 60614

18. Polish Museum of America

Polish Museum of America
Image Credit: Polish Museum of America

The Polish Museum of America was first opened in 1935, making it one of the oldest museums in the country dedicated to a specific ethnic culture. The center houses a large collection of artwork, folk costumes, and other documents and artifacts that preserve and educate visitors on Polish culture.

Originally intended to be an archive, the museum has since grown to be one of the most important members of Chicago’s Cultural Alliance. This is in large part thanks to the respect it pays toward this heritage.

The museum’s exhibits can be divided into 3 main categories:

  1. Permanent collections remember historic Polish figures and recreate the journey many Polish citizens took when immigrating to and adapting to life in America.
  2. Online collections allow would-be visitors the chance to get acquainted with the museum’s collection at a distance and act as a useful research tool for cultural students.
  3. Temporary collections dive deeper into specific topics regarding Polish history and the Polish-American experience.

Admission is free for children, $8.50 for seniors and students with ID, and $10 for adults. The museum is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Division & Cleaver East.

  • Address: 984 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60642

19. WNDR Museum

WNDR Museum
Image Credit: WNDR Museum

Chicago’s WNDR Museum is an immersive sensory experience that’s divided into 22 separate exhibits. The museum opened in 2018 and since then has worked with multiple contemporary artists to create installations visitors are able to wander through and dive into.

Some of the most popular galleries in WNDR are the Masterpiece exhibit, which uses technology to let you alter famous art images, and the Illusion Room, which cleverly distorts real-life perspectives. The museum is an all-ages location. However, its use of colors, perspectives, and lights may be overwhelming for children or adults who have sensory issues and concerns.

Admission to the museum is free for children aged 2 and under. Tickets for children aged 3 to 12 range between $22 and $28, depending on the day and time. General admission fluctuates between $32 and $38.

WNDR is open Monday, Thursday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The nearest bus stop is Madison & Morgan West.

  • Address: 1130 W. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60607

How To Get Free or Reduced Admission to Chicago Museums

We’ve indicated with each museum whether or not children, students, or seniors receive free or reduced admission. There are also several other programs that offer similar concessions.

The Museums for All program offers free or reduced admission to museums through the U.S. for those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits). Participating attractions in the greater Chicago area include the Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, and more.

Bank of America’s Museums on Us program offers cardholders free general admission on the first full weekend of every month to the following Chicago museums: Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (Sundays only).

Capital One cardholders can enroll in a complimentary 6-month membership with The Cultivist (through June 22, 2024) and receive access for themselves and a guest to the Art Institute of Chicago and the MCA Chicago.

Participation is subject to change; please verify participating museums and entry conditions before your visit.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, the Windy City has no shortage of museums worth visiting. Whether you’re an art fan or are trying to brush up on your history knowledge, there’s an exhibit in Chicago for you. We hope that this list has helped you narrow down your options so you know which of the city’s museums are worth visiting on your next trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the oldest museum in Chicago?

The Chicago Academy of Sciences is the oldest in the city, having been opened in 1857. Though the original museum structure burned down in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, it reopened shortly thereafter. In any case, it continues to be the oldest museum.

How many museums does Chicago have?

Chicago has over 70 museums in the city covering a wide variety of topics from art to science. There are also a number of smaller exhibits and galleries and other museums in the greater Chicagoland area. These are split between public and privately-owned establishments.

Are Chicago museums free on Tuesdays?

Chicago museums offer multiple value days for visitors. Illinois residents can visit multiple museums for free on Tuesdays, while out-of-state residents visiting with children can sometimes attend exhibits at a free or reduced cost on Saturdays. Some museums always offer free admission to guests.

Does Chicago have good museums?

Chicago has some of the best museums in the country. They’re home to collections that come from around the world in the fields of art, natural history, and more. In fact, the city’s museums and exhibits are some of its most widely-visited tourist attractions.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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