Free architecture tours Open House Chicago. Open House Chicago is the annual Chicago Architecture Center event where Chicagoan’s get access to buildings around the Chicago area – some of which are usually not open to the public or that charge a fee to get in.
When: Saturday-Sunday, October 16-17, 2021. Check links below for dates and times.
Where: Chicago, other suburbs.
Covid (Bring your card)
Some sites require Proof of vaccination or recent negative Covid test required for entry. Face masks are required for all visitors. Check each sites website (not just the Open House Chicago website) for restrictions and bring your vaxx card. The last thing you want to do is schlep to some site and then not be able to get in!
Check the list of participating buildings
Check the list here or the map of sites here. A couple sites are open to Chicago Architecture Center members only but the vast majority are available to the public. Sign up for OHC e-news. Consider signing up to volunteer to get free VIP access
OHC is free-of-charge. Organize a group, plan your itinerary, mark your calendar and prepare to run from building-to-building all weekend!
No “Must-See” List
I have no way of knowing who’s interested in what so I’m not creating a “Must See Sites” post. There’s everything from hotel lobbies, churches and religious buildings, office buildings, residential buildings, architects offices (unemployed architects bring your CV’s!), and much more.
Things to consider when deciding which buildings to tour:
- They are usually inaccessible to the general public
- You will get more access than on regular days and/or
- They usually require a fee to visit or tour.
To plan your tours:
The Chicago Architecture Center will offer a free app October 1-31, 2021.
Chicago Architecture Center, 111 E. Wacker Dr. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm. Currently has an exhibit about Helmut Jahn. Admission is usually $10-$14.
McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum 376 N. Michigan Ave. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm. This museum is always free on Sundays.
Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center 220 S. Michigan Ave. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: Closed. Orchestra Hall never offers tours so you would have to be attending a concert to get access.
Sky-Line Club 307 N. Michigan Ave. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 4pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 4pm This is a members only private club with a beautiful English pub bar and great views.
Chinese American Museum of Chicago 238 W. 23rd St. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm. This museum usually has a $5 suggested donation fee.
The Arts Club of Chicago 201 E. Ontario St. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: Closed. Private club with a famous Mies van de Rohe staircase.
International Museum of Surgical Science, Eleanor Robinson Countiss Home, 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm This museum usually has a $13-$17 admission free and no free days.
Illinois Holocaust Museum, 9603 Woods Dr., Skokie, IL Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 4pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 2:30pm Admission is usually $8-$15 and no free days.
Oak Park River Forest Museum, Cicero Firehouse No. 2, 129 Lake St., Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: Closed Admission is usually $5-$7.
Clarke House Museum, 1827 S. Indiana Ave. Sat, Oct 16: 12pm – 4pm Sun, Oct 17: 12pm – 4pm This museum is always free. Free tours on Wed and Sat.
The Wheeler Mansion 2020 S. Calumet Ave. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm. This is a bed and breakfast.
Ukrainian National Museum 2249 W. Superior St., Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm Admission is usually $5-$10
Free architecture tours Open House Chicago
1 North Dearborn, 1 N. Dearborn St., Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm Get access to their tenant-only rooftop.
Prudential Plaza One Two Pru 180 N. Stetson Ave. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm Get access to their tenant-only rooftop with great views.
The Central Standard Building 231 S. LaSalle St. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm Spectacular lobby that I’m not sure the public can normally access. Haven’t popped in their in decades.
Fine Arts Building 410 S. Michigan Ave. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm This building used to house a beautiful, classic old theater, the Fine Art Theater, that showed art films. It’s under renovation now so you probably can’t see it. They also used to have elevator operators.
McCormick Place Rooftop Farm 2301 S. Indiana Ave. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 3pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 3pm They offer tours of this a few times a year through the South Loop neighborhood association.
Free architecture tours Open House Chicago – Other sites
All churches are generally open and free year round although I would call first during Covid. You can always get in just after masses end and take photos without getting yelled at.
Harold Washington Library Center 400 S. State St. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 1pm – 5pm. This is always free and open to the public. The 9th floor Winter Garden is spectacular. I sit up there and read (pre-covid) in winter.
Willis Tower 233 S. Wacker Dr. Sat, Oct 16: 10am – 5pm Sun, Oct 17: 10am – 5pm. All the locations you can visit during Open House Chicago are always accessible to the public. The Skydeck is NOT included unless you pay.
Here’s the CAC’s official description:
Have you ever walked by a building and thought, I wish I could see what’s inside?
The Chicago Architecture Center’s Open House Chicago (OHC) is the city’s annual architecture festival. For one weekend in October you can explore Chicago’s most iconic and unique architectural treasures. From mansions to sacred spaces, theaters to private clubs, hotels to secret rooms—OHC gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at many of the city’s great places and spaces that are rarely, if ever, open to the public.
Here’s your chance to venture into new neighborhoods, learn the stories of Chicago’s buildings and experience the diversity and culture of each community.