We live near Chicago and love taking advantage of the FREE DAYS at local museums.
The Shedd Aquarium‘s Free Days are notoriously packed, but we discovered this year that if you go early you can avoid the crowds. We arrived at 10:30am and got STREET PARKING (!?!?!) over by the Planetarium (just had to pay the meter!!). There was basically no line (took about 5 minutes to get inside). But by the time we left around 1pm there was a line that stretched way beyond the steps of the museum and the museum had certainly gotten much more crowded. But we had about 60 minutes of relatively crowd free wandering.
I packed a lunch which we were able to eat outside at their outdoor dining area- tables and chairs and a beautiful view of the lake. No hassle or issues with us bringing in our food and water bottles which is always nice.
I also created this printable Aquarium Scavenger Hunt for the boys, just in case. And while we didn’t need it (they were happy to wander) they did love picking up a map at the museum and pretending to go on a “treasure hunt” to find the creatures on their list. ENJOY. (My boys are age 3 and 6 and both loved this activity)