Company Logo - Home Link

Shedd Aquarium Tickets and Free Days

Updated: December 27, 2023
 By Mel

As guides offering free walking tours in Chicago, we're always getting questions about how to visit popular attractions without paying full price.

This post contains info on how to get low-cost tickets to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, as well as provide tips on planning your visit.

Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.


Before you pay full price, check out our section on ways to save.

General Admission Tickets

This ticket will get you into all permanent exhibits and animal presentations.

4D Experience

This upgrade (on top of your GA ticket) will get you into the 4D theatre. 


There are several cheap or free tickets to the Shedd Aquarium availabile to all kinds of visitors.

Here are a few of the best ways to save, including details about how to get free tickets.

Shedd Aquarium Free Days

On select days with valid ID, residents of Illinois get free admission.

Additionally, there are exclusive special promotions, and eligible orders that can provide more savings or benefits on select days.

The free days in 2024 are currently scheduled for the following dates:


  • 9th - 16th | Free Week
  • 23rd - 25th | Tuesday - Thursday
  • January 30th, 31st | Tuesday - Thursday


  • 1st | Tuesday - Thursday
  • 6th - 8th | Tuesday - Thursday
  • 13th - 15th | Tuesday - Thursday
  • 20th - 22nd | Tuesday - Thursday
  • 27th - 29th | Tuesday - Thursday

March - June

Beginning in March, the Shedd Aquarium will only be offering free days on Tuesdays. This will continue until at least the end of June 2024.

Student Discount

Students 12 and up with school ID are eligible for $3 off when purchasing tickets on-site (except for on Illinois Resident Free Days). 

Free Admission for Military

When active-duty U.S. military personnel present a valid ID, they will receive free general admission.

Free and Low-Cost Admission for Veterans

Veterans and retired U.S. military personnel with valid ID can get $3 off when purchasing general admissuion tickets on-site.

On Veterans Day, former US military will receive free general admission.

Low-Cost Senior Tickets

Senior citizens 65 years old get up to a $3 off when buying tickets on-site (except on Illinois Resident Free Days). 

Half Off for Chicago Residents

Chicago residents with valid ID receive 50% off general admission every day except the free days, in which case they can get 100% off!

Free Admission for Chicago Police Officers and Firefighters

Police officers and firefighters in Chicago are eligible to receive free admission when presenting proper ID.

Free Admission for Educators

If you're a teacher, professor, or other kind of educator in one of the following states, you might be able to get a free ticket to Shedd Aquarium!

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Wisconsin

Museums for All Program

This program is open for all visitors who receive SNAP benefits or have an EBT card. Everyone with this form of ID can get up to 4 free tickets.

Learn more about eligibility.

Library Museum Passport

Chicago Public Library branches have Kids Museum Passports available to check out that can be shown in the general admission line for free entry for 2 adults and 2 children. 

Museums on Us Program

Visitors who have a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch card and matching identification will get one FREE admission ticket on the Sunday of the first full weekend every month, excluding June, July, and August.

Learn more about the program here.

Tourist Attraction Passes

Admission to Shedd Aquarium is included in Chicago’s tourist passes, such as Chicago City Pass and Go City, which work by bundling tickets to purchase in bulk.

Depending on the type of card purchased, you could save up to 55% on retail prices at various museums, attractions, and tours around Chicago.

Here are just a few of the additional activities you can enjoy with a tourist pass at no extra cost:

If you want to learn more about attraction passes that can save you 50% on Chicago activities, check out our full post.

Chicago City Pass

Get in for free with the Chicago City Pass! See Chicago’s Top 5 attractions at 53% off.

For $114/Adult and $93/Child (3-11), you get the following:

Check Groupon

Make sure to check sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for ticket deals. They often provide Shedd Aquarium promotions.

If all else fails, make sure to check our Chicago Travel Tips Facebook Group. You never know, you might find someone offering their own unused tickets for a low price!


This section lists useful information on getting to the museum, when to go, and how long to stay.

Where is the Chicago Shedd Aquarium?

The Shedd Aquarium is at 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL 60605 at the museum campus.

Shedd is within walking distance of most downtown hotels and popular attractions.

We recommend using this Google Maps link for directions from your exact location. 

Shedd Aquarium Map Location

If you’re taking public transportation, there are a few CTA stops within walking distance.

  • Bus #146 – Inner Drive/Michigan Express/Museum Campus.
  • Bus #130 – Museum Campus (mid-May through Labor Day).
  • Exit at the Roosevelt Red Line Stop – servicing Red, Orange, and Green Line and offers connections to #146 bus, located at State Street and Roosevelt Road.

TIP: Keep in mind that hop-on-hop-off bus tours in Chicago have stops near the museum at the Museum Campus!

When is the best time to visit? 

  • Weekdays: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Weekends: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
  • Extended Summer Hours (mid-June to mid-August): 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Shedd Aquarium’s hours vary by season. Last ticket purchases occur 45 minutes prior to closing each day. Check the calendar before you visit.

Shedd Aquarium Monday Popular Hours

The museum’s most popular times are weekends and afternoons.

We suggest visiting Monday - Thursday or Sunday morning for the most space to freely move about the aquarium.

If you visit on Saturday, we suggest arriving right at 9:00 a.m.

If you visit on Sunday, we suggest arriving at 9:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m.  

How long should I stay?

Most visitors stay in the aquarium for between 2 and 3.5 hours.  

Check out the exhibits below to see what you can find during your visit.

Can I bring food? 

Yes. There are several restaurants and a vending area for snacks, but you may bring a lunch and eat it in the designated space on the North Terrace or lakeside lawn.

Are there lockers for my bags?

Yes. The aquarium has coat lockers that can be rented with cash or credit cards.

However, they are not monitored and are mostly small in size.

Why not use one of these other options for storing your luggage or bags in Chicago? 

Can I take photos?

Yes, you may take all the non-flash photos you like for personal use.

Just click on your desired destination in the aquarium. To capture the moment, use the button on your camera or device.

NOTE: Selfie sticks are prohibited. 

How much does it cost to park at Shedd Aquarium?

The parking charges at Shedd Aquarium differ. On many weekends, they offer valet service for $26 per car. Nearby Museum Campus garages and lots have rates from $11 to $80, influenced by space and vehicle type.

Do you have to reserve parking at Shedd Aquarium?

Booking a parking spot at Shedd Aquarium isn't mandatory. Yet, it's wise to get there early since spots might be taken, especially during busy times and weekends.

Why is Shedd Aquarium considered one of the best aquariums in the United States?

Shedd Aquarium houses over 32,000 creatures from across the globe. It boasts diverse displays like the Oceanarium, Polar Play Zone, and Caribbean Reef. Additionally, Shedd plays a pivotal role in conservation studies and awareness.


This section lists a few of the more popular Shedd Aquarium exhibits.

The Amazon Rising

This exhibit displays plants and animals from the Amazon and teaches about how this ecosystem survives and even thrives with yearly floods.

There are piranhas, monkeys, and an anaconda, among other species and plant life, in the Amazon Rising.

You can see the differences in the wet and dry seasons. 

The Caribbean Reef

Check out the plant life and the inhabitants of the Reef!

This exhibit gives you a 360-degree look at this habitat.

You can play hide-and-seek with the animals who live here. Look for the green sea turtle and the sharks!

Waters of the World

There are over 80 habitats in this exhibit ranging from Asia to the local American wetlands.

The Oceans gallery has sharks and giant anemones with a floor-to-ceiling Kep Forest.

The Islands and Lakes habitat has a Bahamian iguana and American alligators!

Other habitats include the Great Lakes and the world's Rivers. 

The Wild Reef

Home to sharks, stingrays, and live coral, the Wild Reefs offers a close encounter with some exotic creatures in their living habitat.

This exhibit is a recreation of a coral reef in the Philippines and allows you to see what divers do.

The habitat even goes above water and has recreated the fishing village in the Philippines that saved their dying coral reef. 

The Abbott Oceanarium

This exhibit will teach you about the Pacific Northwest.

You will encounter beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, and sea otters. You can also enjoy the Shedd’s aquatic show. 

Polar Play Zone

Get up close and personal with underwater viewing decks where dolphins come to greet you while you eat your lunch and a penguin playscape!

This is a favorite spot for families with smaller children and includes a kid-sized submarine to explore. 


About The Author


Mel loves to be a tourist in her own city. With a background in performing arts, tourism, and photography, giving tours and being a story-teller comes naturally to her. She loves traveling, food, and theatre. Mel splits her time between Chicago and Los Angeles (#theatrelife) and leads tours and manages both cities!
Updated: December 27th, 2023
Back to Top