One of the best things about winter museum-hopping in this city is the free general admission days offered to Illinois residents with ID. Every museum offers some sort of admission deal on certain days! It’s a great time to get out and enjoy the cultural institutions in the city, because you can spend time away from the cold, learning and being entertained. What can you see in Chicago now?

The Art Institute of Chicago always hosts multiple exhibitions and a full schedule of events. Highlights include “Moholy-Nagy: Future Present,” through 1/3, “Master Drawings Unveiled: 25 Years of Major Acquisitions” through 1/29, “Takuma Nakahira: Circulation” from 1/28-4/30, “Lion Hunters: Copying Delacroix’s Big Cats” through 1/15, “Design Episodes: Form, Style, Language, 12/17- 6/25, “Who Builds Your Architecture?” through 6/11, and “Practice, Theory, and History: 150 Years of Educating Artists, Designers, and Scholars at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,” through 2/13. Admission is free for Illinois residents every Thursday from 5-8 p.m. The museum recently received a donation that will cover the admission fees of all teenagers, so starting 1/1, anyone under the age of 18 can always get in without paying!

The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum lets space enthusiasts of all ages explore the universe through interactive exhibits and sky shows, which run daily. The exhibit “What is a Planet?” is open through 1/8. WCG’s favorite shows include “Planet Nine,” about the search for the ninth planet in the solar system, and “Skywatch Live,” which lets you see the stars on the very day you visit. Upcoming events include Dusk at Doane, 1/13; Adler After Dark. Watch for more excitement in 2017, because the Chicago area is getting a pretty big eclipse in August and the Adler has big plans to get people psyched for it! Free days include 1/6-1/13, 1/16, 1/17-1/20.

At the Field Museum of Natural History, “China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors” runs through 1/8, and it’s worth seeing over Winter Break! “Tattoo” explores the art of marking skin and offers a real tattoo parlor; it runs through 4/30. “Lichens: The Coolest Things You’ve Never Heard Of” runs 12/17-4/23 and the Cyrus Tang Hall of China is also worth a long look. Don’t miss Sue, the world’s most complete T-Rex skeleton!

The John G. Shedd Aquarium is where the special exhibit “Amphibians” remains on display through the end of 2017 with more than 40 species of frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders. During the spring months, the Shedd will host its fun overnight programs, letting families “sleep with the fishes” on 1/27 and into the spring. Free days include 1/9-1/10, 1/16-1/17, 1/23-1/24, 1/27-1/28, 1/29, and 1/31.

At the Museum of Science & Industry, you may wish to catch the tail end of the annual “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” exhibit, or check out “Brick by Brick” until 2/12, featuring large-scale LEGO sculptures (like a 60-foot-long Golden Gate bridge, Cinderella’s castle, the Hoover Dam in black and white, and more!) by area LEGO Certified Professional Adam Reed Tucker. Don’t miss the permanent exhibits such as “Science Storms,” and see an Omnimax movie. Also, enjoy the historic Ships Gallery, which reopened in November after undergoing restoration. Free days include 1/10-1/12, 1/16-1/19, 1/24-1/26, and 1/31.

The DuSable Museum of African American History features “The DuSable Masterworks Collection Series I: Paintings” exhibit through 1/16 and “Unpacking Collections: The Legacy of Cuesta Benberry, an African American Quilt Scholar” remains until 2/28. The museum hosts a celebration on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day that manifests city-wide. Admission is free on Sundays; the museum is closed on Mondays.

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood hosts “Maquila Blues, Oscar Moya” through 1/22 and “Hecho en CaSa,” with felt artwork from Francisco Toledo, through 5/7. The NMMA is closed on Mondays, and admission is always free.

Just east of the Mag Mile, the Museum of Contemporary Art features “Basim Magdy: The Stars Were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings” through 3/19, “Above, Before & After,” through 4/16, “MCA DNA: Riot Grrrls” from 12/17-6/18, and “Joyce Pensato: Felix and Lincoln” through 7/30. “BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Chris Bradley” runs 1/17-7/2. The MCA is closed on Mondays; Illinois residents get in free on Tuesdays.

At the Chicago History Museum, “Making Mainbocher: The First American Couterier” is available through 8/20. Also check out “Lincoln’s Undying Words,” through 2/20, and the cool stories in “The Secret Lives of Objects,” ongoing.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum allows guests to visit with 1,000 butterflies in the Judy Istock Butterfly Garden. “Frogs: A Chorus of Colors” is here through 1/22. The museum is free on Thursdays.

And don’t forget some of the smaller museums in the area:

The Oriental Institute Museum
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House
Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier
Newberry Library
International Museum of Surgical Science
Garfield Park Conservatory


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