Even though Chicago has some fabulous museums and if you can get in on the free days or even get a family membership (we have had family memberships to the Notebaert, MSI, and children's museum) parking always seems to get you. See example #3 - with the membership, you pay $17. At that meter lot, you pay $5. Big difference!
Check out these insider tips to some of Chicago’s best parking secrets:
- Museum Campus: Shedd, Adler and Field Museum – If you get there early (before 10:30am), then you can almost always find a metered spot. Drive past the normal parking and head toward the Adler. Turn right on Solidarity Drive, and find metered parking spots on both sides of the street. You do have to get there early though. Otherwise, another option is park elsewhere and take the bus in.
- Art Institute – There is metered parking on S. Columbus Dr. directly behind the modern wing. You can only stay a few hours without feeding the meter again, but, honestly, my kids only have a two-hour attention span anyway. My husband's school offers $8 all day parking at the Trump Tower so that works for us sometimes, too.
- Museum of Science and Industry – Don’t be fooled by the parking signs telling you to take the 57th St. exit from Lakeshore Dr. Instead, exit onto Science Dr. from Lakeshore. There is a HUGE metered lot, and an entrance to the museum.
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – There is usually plenty of free parking along Cannon Dr. If you can’t find a free spot on the street, then try Diversey Harbor (directly across from the museum’s entrance). During the off-season, from late fall through early spring, the harbor parking lot is free for museum attendees.
- Navy Pier - Every winter Navy Pier offers discounted parking rates. Check their website for details. Or sometimes we park by my friends home and just pay to take the CTA bus down.
- Or even opt for those museums with free parking out in the suburbs such as the Brookfield Zoo in the west burbs or the Kohl's Children Museum in the north burbs.