Chicago has three free trolleys. All are seasonal. At times the lines for free trolleys can get very long and you may find yourself waiting for several trolleys to pass before you can board.
Navy Pier Trolley #1
The free Navy Pier Trolley is offering expanded service to the Art Institute of Chicago but is only running on Saturday and Sunday’s now. See trolley stop information below.
The Navy Pier website is also offering a combination Centennial Wheel/Art Institute ticket for $35. See analysis below.
Navy Pier Trolley Schedule and Route Map
January 9 – March 31
Saturdays: 10 am – 10 pm
Sundays: 10 am – 7 pm
April 1 – May 31:
Saturdays: 10 am – 10 pm
Sundays: 10 am – 8 pm
Navy Pier Trolley #2 (operates Memorial Day to Labor Day only):
Navy Pier has a free trolley that goes back and forth along the north side of the pier from Giordano’s at the main entrance to Entrance 1. Entrance 1 is located mid-way along the Pier and across from Riva. This trolley runs from 10AM daily to one hour before closing on Wednesday, Saturday and special Fireworks nights. On other nights it runs until 1/2 hour before closing. This trolley doesn’t run on a schedule as it depends on traffic along the north side of the pier where the parking garage entrance and exits are located.
The Randolph Street Market offers one trolley:
This Trolley is only operational for the May through September indoor/outdoor markets: May 28-29, 2016, June 25-26, 2016, July 30-31, 2016, August 27-28, 2016 and September 24-25, 2015. Departure and arrival times may fluctuate due to traffic in the City. These trolleys can get very full and you may not be able to get on if the crowd is too large and have to catch the next one. They are not air conditioned.
RSM Trolley – Michigan Avenue route/Get a free ride from Water Tower to the West Loop
You can catch this FREE Trolley departing from Michigan Avenue at the Water Tower Pumping Station, on the South side of Pearson, just East of Michigan Avenue. Its a straight shot to the Randolph Street Market Festival making round trips every hour on the hour. Departures begin at 11 am, 12 noon, 1 PM, 2 PM and 3 PM. Return trips from the RSM festival depart on the half hour from the festival’s Washington Street entrance at 11:30 am, 12:30 PM, 1:30 PM, 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30. No trolley hotline.
History of Chicago Free Trolleys
Eight to ten years ago the City of Chicago offered free trolley service from Michigan Avenue and State Street to the Museum Campus. The free trolley to the Museum Campus was discontinued long ago.
The only remaining free trolley’s are the two Navy Pier and the one Randolph Street Market trolleys.
There are “hop on hop off” trolleys that can be picked up around downtown that cost $39/$18 per person adult/child per 24 hour period. If you can afford it this can be a great way to quickly see the highlights of the city.
If you’re on a budget the best option is to use a combination of CTA Buses.
CTA to/from Navy Pier
Several CTA buses serve Navy Pier: 29, 65, 66 and 124. To get to Navy Pier from Ogilvie or Union Stations take the 124 bus. From Millennium Station walk to Michigan Ave and take the 124 bus or walk to State Street and take the #29 bus. To get from LaSalle Street Station walk east to State Street and take the #29 bus.
Getting to the Art Institute from Navy Pier:
Take the #29 bus from Navy Pier and get off at Adams. Walk east two blocks to Michigan Avenue. The AIC will be straight ahead.
Getting to the Museum Campus from Navy Pier:
There are two ways to get to the Museum Campus from Navy Pier:
Year round: Take the #29 bus from Navy Pier and get off on State Street at Lake Street. Then wait for the #146 bus. Make sure the #146 bus is going all the way to the Museum Campus (sometimes they only go as far as Harrison Street). You can read the sign on the front of the bus and make sure it says “Museum Campus”. The #146 will stop at the following Museum Campus locations:
- Solidarity Drive and Field Museum (This stop for Soldier Field also)
- Solidarity Drive and Lynn White Drive for Northerly Island
- Solidarity and Planetarium (This stop for 12th Street beach also)
- Solidarity Drive and Aquarium
During the summer and early fall you can take the Water Taxi from Navy Pier to Museum Campus. It actually lets you off at the Shedd Aquarium. Guide to Chicago Water Taxi’s.
Art Institute/Centennial Wheel Ticket analysis $35
This combo ticket is intended for adults 14 and older only as general admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free for children under 14.
COTC analysis: Combined regular admission for a non-Chicago and non-IL resident is $40 and combined admission for an Illinois (but non-Chicago) resident is $37. So this combo deal will save these two groups a few bucks. Everyone else is better off purchasing tickets separately. Purchase here.
- Cheap eats at Navy Pier
- Things to do at Navy Pier
- Looking for something free or cheap to do in Chicago for adults?
- Looking for something to do with the kids? Check this out: Free and cheap things to do with Kids in Chicago.
- Free fireworks at Navy Pier on Wednesday and Saturday.
- If these free trolleys don’t float your boat check out the Water Taxi’s.