Chicago’s Art Institute and Discount Tickets

Lion Guarding the Entrance to the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois
Lion Guarding the Entrance to the
Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois

Whenever I travel abroad, I look for deals and discounts on tickets to museums or other attractions that I plan to visit, but I don’t always think about it here at home. When my daughter and I visited the Art Institute in Chicago on Friday, though, we did get a deal.  I’ll tell you about it.

Getting Discounted Tickets

First, though, I’ll tell you about a few of the ways we have saved on tickets. Some cities have passes that include nearly all the museums or attractions in that city, some have several small groups of attractions, and some offer both options, so you can choose.

Opulence kn the Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy
Opulence kn the
Doge’s Palace, Venice, Italy

In Venice, Italy, for example, you can purchase a pass to the Doge’s Palace, the Correr Museum, and two smaller museums; or you can buy one that covers those and seven more museums.  You can purchase a pass to fifteen churches or one that includes all of the churches and museums together. Some options offer more savings than others.

The most important question when thinking about purchasing a museum pass, is how many of the included museums you want to see.  If you only plan to visit two or three museums or attractions and want to spread your visits over several days, a museum pass may not be the best choice.

The Louvre Museum, Paris, France
The Louvre Museum, Paris, France

The Paris Museum Pass can be a great deal – it includes some of the best museums and attractions in the city.  The Louvre, the Orsay, the Tower at Notre Dame Cathedral, the Triumphal Arch, and the Palace of Versailles are only a few on the long list.  I’ve purchased a museum pass nearly every time I’ve been in Paris, although, there were times when we visited fewer museums than we could have and did not get the best value from the pass.

When you are planning, decide which museums are your top priorities.  Think about your own and your travel companion’s travel habits.  Consider what you realistically will be able to accomplish while you are visiting the city to determine if the pass is right for you.  Everyone is different and sometimes you may save money by purchasing individual entrance tickets rather than a pass.

In addition to multiple museum passes, discounts may be available for individual museums.  These discounts are probably not as steep, but if you are only interested in one attraction, a small discount is better than none.

In Chicago, there is a great deal on a five-museum pass, called the CityPass.  It would be great for people coming to the city for a vacation, but because it expires in nine days, it is not as convenient for someone like me who wants to spend a day in the city, once a month.

I live near Chicago, so it is easy to take the train or drive in for the day.  I’ve saved money in the past using a Groupon discount.   Groupon, Living Social, or similar sites occasionally offer savings on museum admission.  If I am flexible as to when I’d like to visit, and if I pay attention to these local market sites, I may be able to get a ticket for much less than face value.

Senior citizens and young children can often pay a discounted admission price here or abroad (young people up to age 26 may qualify in Europe). In most European cities, people with disabilities, along with their traveling companion, are admitted free or at a greatly reduced price to museums and attractions.  If you qualify for one of these groups, be sure to bring documentation in order to receive the discount.

Another way to save – especially, if I’d like to visit the museum more than once a year – is to buy a membership.  Getting an additional discount on membership is an even better deal.

Membership for the Art Institute

My daughter and I had planned to visit Chicago’s Art Institute this spring – there was a special VanGogh exhibit we were interested in.  When my daughter checked the website to look at the opening hours and ticket prices, a pop-up window invited her to enjoy a 15% discount on annual memberships.

The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago

We hadn’t really thought about getting an annual membership, but seeing that discount was enticing.  We have been to the Art Institute before, although we don’t usually go more than once a year. Would we, if we had a membership?

We talked about the advantages of membership and determined that as much as we both enjoy art, it could be a wise investment.  We figured the cost of purchasing the regular membership against the second tier membership, Member Plus.  There were additional advantages for the second tier, but of course, it was more expensive.  With either membership – and by using the discount coupon – we would not lose money if we visited just one more time within the coming year.  We are now members!

Visiting the Art Institute, Seeing VanGogh

Model of the Bedroom
Model of the Bedroom

We arrived shortly after the museum opened in the morning and went straight to the VanGogh exhibit.  Although the exhibit was somewhat crowded, we expected it would have been more so if we waited until after lunch.

The focus of the exhibit was the group of three paintings VanGogh completed of his bedroom as he lived in a yellow house in Arles, France..  My daughter and I visited Arles in 2014, and saw the location of the since demolished yellow house.  The exhibit included  a model of the bedroom, a timeline of VanGogh’s short life, and several video presentations.

The first “Bedroom in Arles” painting finished by the artist, is owned by the VanGogh Museum in Amsterdam, the second by Chicago’s Art Institute and the third by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.  This exhibit marks the first time that the three paintings have been displayed together.  My daughter and I have seen each of the paintings separately – it was so interesting to see them together.

Video Triptych of VanGogh's "Bedroom in Arles"
Video Triptych of VanGogh’s
“Bedroom in Arles”

The Art Institute did a great job pointing out the differences through video and pictorial demonstrations.  I especially enjoyed the display pictured here – the camera zoomed in on particular sections of the paintings at the same time so the viewer could see the differences and then zoomed back out.  The camera focused on several areas of the paintings in turn.

We loved the exhibit and the other sections of the museum that we visited after lunch.  We are excited to be able to go back as often as we can throughout the coming year.

I hope you can take advantage of deals on museums and attractions, whether you are at home or abroad.  With a little advanced planning, you will be able to enjoy the cultural experiences that each city has to offer.





  1. I tend to forget that the Art Institute is only a train ride away. It’s been awhile since I have gone but now feel inspired to take a ride up. Membership is a great thing, some times allowing entrance when tickets are sold out or to avoid the long lines. Your are lucky that you have a daughter who appreciates art with you.

    1. Years ago, my daughters gave me a trip to the Art Institute as a Mother’s Day Gift. Every time I go, I think of that gift.

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