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. Also these trolleys do not have air conditioning.
Trolleys stop running after Labor Day.
Navy Pier Trolley #1 is cancelled for 2021. This is the red or blue trolley that looped around River North, possibly to the Art Institute and then back to Navy Pier. If you ever saw it it was always jammed full so I’m sure they don’t want to expose people to that.
Navy Pier Trolley #2 (operates Memorial Day to Labor Day only) has started operating. Check website for daily hours.
Navy Pier has a free trolley (it’s a white van) that goes back and forth along the north side of the pier from Giordano’s at the main entrance to Entrance 1 in the middle of the pier and Entrance 2 at the end.
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 Trolley is canceled because the market has moved to Michigan.
Navy Pier Trolley #1 The free Navy Pier Trolley stops at the Art Institute of Chicago on the Monroe Street side of the Modern Wing. This stop is also directly across the street from Millennium Park. See trolley stop information below. COTC note 6/9/19: The map on the website and in the link below doesn’t show the Art Institute as a stop but the Trolley Tracker does. I’ve emailed Navy Pier twice for clarification but haven’t heard back. Navy Pier Trolley Schedule and Route Map 2019 Schedule Route Map
The Randolph Street Market offers one free trolley: May-September 2018
This Trolley is only operational for the May through September indoor/outdoor market. 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 and there are no seat belts. RSM Trolley – Michigan Avenue route/Get a free ride to/from Water Tower to the West Loop
You can catch the FREE Trolley departing from Michigan Avenue at the Water Tower Pumping Station, on the South side of Pearson Street, just East of Michigan Avenue. It’s a straight shot to the Randolph Street Market Festival making round trips every hour on the hour. Starts: Round trips every hour from 11AM, 12NOON, 1PM, 2PM and 3PM
Last Pickup at Randolph St Market: 3:30PM. Trolleys run on Randolph Street Market weekend dates only. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
History of Chicago Free Trolleys
Twelve or more 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 at least ten years 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 $40+ per person adult 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.
Or take the free trolley listed above.
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.
- 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.