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At This Pay-What-You-Want Chicago Museum, Even the Restaurant Has World-Class Art

Chicago Museums
by Morgane Croissant Aug 22, 2023

“Come for the pizza, stay for the first-rate museums” could easily be Chicago’s motto. The city has many great pizza joints, but there are only so many pies one can eat, so when you’re satiated in the space of a vacation, make your way to one of the best museums in Chicago. Some Chicagoan museums are free, other not so much, but the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) is both. There’s a suggested admission fee, but you can also pay what you want and not only access the excellent permanent collection and great exhibitions, but you can also enjoy the fine cuisine of the on-site, art-filled restaurant.

Where is the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago located?

The MCA is located in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago. It is 30 minutes away on foot from Millennium Park, 10 minutes from Oak Street Beach, and just four minutes from 360 Chicago, the famously thrilling observation deck inside of Park Tower.

The exact address of the MCA is: 220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States

How to get to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago?

The Chicago stop on the red line of the CTA L train will get you as close as possible to the MCA. It’s a seven minute walk from the station to the museum.

If you prefer taking the bus, the #66 which runs along Chicago Avenue can drop you off right by the museum. Watch for the Chicago & Mies Van Der Rohe stop.

Consult the L trains and buses map made by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to plan your journey.

Parking at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

If you opt to drive to the MCA rather than use public transportation, you’ll need to park your vehicle. There are multiple 24-hour parking garages in the area around the museum, but the closest is the InterPark lot located at the back of MCA on East Chicago Avenue. (See map above.) Validate your ticket at the museum for a discounted rate.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago tickets

General admission for non-Chicago resident is $22 for adults; $14 for students, teachers, and seniors above the age of 65; children 18 and under enter for free.

Chicago residents get discounted rates: $19 for adults; $10 for students, teachers, and seniors above the age of 65; children 18 and under enter for free.

The MCA is a participant in the Museum for All program and allows visitors to pay what they want. The museum’s website explains that “no one will be turned away.” That said, the suggested admission fees help support the museum so if you can afford to pay the regular admission price, you are encouraged to do so.

It is recommended to purchase your ticket online in advance to secure your visit.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago free days

The MCA is free every day for:

  • People 18 and under
  • Illinois elementary and high-school teachers
  • Visitors with disabilities and those caring for them
  • Active military personnel, police officers, members of fire departments, and veterans
  • Members of the MCA

Residents of the state of Illinois can access the museum for free on Tuesday.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago hours of operation

The MCA is open from 10 AM to 5 PM on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Tuesday, the museum is open from 10 AM to 9 PM.

The museum is closed on Monday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day (December 25), and New Year’s Day (January 1).

Collection and exhibitions at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art

The MCA has a permanent collection of around 2,500 pieces, including works by Andy Warhol, Edward Krasinski, and Marisol Escobar. These artworks date from the 1920s to today and cover a large range of media — paintings, sculptures, videos, performances, installations, and more.

Not all the works in the MCA collection is on permanent display, only a handful of them are on view. The displays rotate regularly.

Works from the permanent collection are also included in the multiple rotating exhibitions that take place throughout the year at the MCA.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago restaurant

The MCA has an on-site restaurant named Marisol after Marisol Escobar, the Venezuelan-American sculptor whose work is part of the museum’s permanent collection. Marisol does not feature work by the eponymous artists, but rather big and colorful pieces by artist Chris Ofili.

Marisol is a joyful dining venue whose chef is no other than Jason Hammel, a celebrated Chicago chef who favors innovative, seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine. Marisol is open from Tuesday to Friday for lunch, dinner, drinks, and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The Counter at Marisol is a casual café where you’ll find snacks and hot beverages.

If you’d rather try something outside of MCA, consult Matador’s selection of iconic seven fine dining restaurants in the city.

MCA store

If there’s one place where you’re sure to find pieces that are unusual and fun, it’s the shop of a contemporary art museum, and the MCA store is no exception — actually, it’s probably one of the best museum shops out there, so don’t skip it.

You’ll find books, jewellery, fashion pieces and accessories, home decor (think deigner pizza cutters and great tea kettles), kids toys like Andy Warhol paint by number kits, funky office supplies, and much, much more. The shop also carries pieces by local Chicago artists.

The MCA store is open from 10 AM to 5:30 PM on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Tuesday, the museum is open from 10 AM to 9 PM.

If you can’t visit the store in person, visit the online version.

Hotels near the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

The museum being close to downtown, there are many hotels that will suit visitors who wish to be near the MCA. That said, if you’re looking for a long-term place to stay, check out Matador’s selection of Chicago hotel that combine apartment comfort with skyscraper views and upscale amenities. If you want to be close to the action, Matador’s list of outstanding Chicago hotels within walking distance to must-see sights should help.

We hope you love the hotels we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

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