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 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 rich and diverse cultures of our community.
OHC is completely free-of-charge—no registration or tickets are needed.
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- CAC members receive priority access to OHC sites and special members-only sites. Join today for an enhanced OHC experience and great year-round CAC benefits.
Frequently asked questions
What is Open House Chicago?
OHC is a free annual festival presented by the Chicago Architecture Center that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 250 buildings across Chicago.
When is Open House Chicago?
OHC is an annual festival held one weekend every October. OHC 2020 is October 17-18. Times vary by site. Please note that, depending on crowds, entry is not guaranteed if you arrive close to a site's published closing time.
Who organizes Open House Chicago?
Since 2011, the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) has organized Open House Chicago. The CAC is a non-profit cultural institution that offers tours, exhibitions, programs, and events for all ages. The CAC’s mission is to inspire people to discover why design matters.
The CAC collaborates with a large number of community partner organizations (such as chambers of commerce, community development corporations, aldermanic offices and historical societies) each year to present Open House Chicago. OHC is also made possible through the support of sponsors, donors and government agencies.
What kinds of sites are included in Open House Chicago and where are they located?
OHC is a citywide event that includes more than 350 sites located in more than 38 neighborhoods. Sites reflect the cultural diversity and history of Chicago, as well as the unique character of each community. Locations include private clubs, residential spaces, offices, hotels, theaters, design/architecture studios, schools and places of worship as well as manufacturing, cultural and government facilities. This diverse selection of sites allows visitors to plan an itinerary according to their own specific interests. Browse the sites that have participated in OHC since 2015.
How are sites selected for inclusion in Open House Chicago?
The list of OHC sites is curated by the CAC. If you would like to propose a potential site for inclusion, you can review the selection criteria and submit an OHC site proposal.
How do I plan my Open House Chicago weekend experience?
The best way to get up-to-date information about OHC is on this mobile-friendly website. Anyone who creates an account with their email on architecture.org, as well as Facebook and Twitter users, can use our online itinerary tool to collect and save sites. Just visit a site page and click the “add to itinerary” button to get started. Visitors can also pick up a printed copy of the OHC Event Guide in the Chicago Tribune the week before the event. To stay up to date on the latest OHC developments, sign up for our e-news.
Where can I find a printed guide or maps of the locations for Open House Chicago?
The OHC Event Guide includes maps, descriptions and open hours for all participating OHC sites. The printed Event Guide is included in an issue of the Chicago Tribune the week before the event. Limited quantities of the printed Event Guide can also be picked up at participating locations during OHC weekend.
What's the best way to navigate the city during Open House Chicago?
Divvy, Chicago's bike-sharing system, and CTA buses and trains are great modes of transit during OHC. Many sites are also within walking distance of one another. For sites not located along CTA routes, Metra train service is available. Some OHC neighborhoods have free or metered street parking.
What is a Priority Access pass and who gets to go in the priority line?
OHC volunteers, CAC members and OHC sponsors will receive Priority Access passes. At any site busy enough to have a line, show your Priority Access pass to a volunteer near the entrance to get faster access to the site. To get a Priority Access pass, become a CAC Member or volunteer for OHC.
Which OHC benefits do CAC members receive?
CAC members receive exclusive entry into members only OHC sites, as well as a Priority Access Pass to gain expedited entry at all OHC sites. Members will receive their OHC Priority Access Pass via email or by mail. Simply show the pass or your membership card to bypass the general public lines at any OHC site. Members at the Dual level receive access for two; the Individual, Student, Senior levels receive access for one; higher membership levels provide access for up to four individuals.
If you need a replacement membership card or an OHC Priority Access Pass, please call the CAC Call Center at 312.922.8687 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are "Members Only" sites and how do they work?
Due to capacity constraints and security concerns, a small number of sites have limited access during OHC weekend.
"Members Only" sites are accessible only to participants with Priority Access passes, but do not require advance registration. To get a Priority Access pass for OHC weekend, become a CAC Member or volunteer for OHC.
What are "RSVP Only" sites and how do they work?
Select OHC sites require advance registration and will not accept drop-in visitors. TodayTix manages ticketing for most of these sites. Most RSVP Only sites are subject to a $6 per person booking fee.
What's involved in volunteering for Open House Chicago?
It takes over 2,000 Volunteer Greeters to staff every site during OHC. To find out more and sign up, visit the volunteer page.
Is photography allowed at Open House Chicago sites?
Most OHC sites do allow photography during the event. Check individual listings online or in the printed Event Guide for icons that indicate whether sites allow or do not allow photography. Once the sites are announced, you can also use the website's category filters to see a list of locations where photography is permitted or where photography is prohibited. As a general rule, ask the volunteers or staff at each location before you take photos—sites may have more specific photography policies or instructions. Some sites may not allow tripod photography or videography.
Is OHC accessible to visitors with disabilities?
All visitors are welcome at Open House Chicago. Most OHC sites are wheelchair accessible. Check individual listings on the Sites page or in the printed Event Guide for icons that indicate whether sites are wheelchair accessible. You can also use the website's category filters to see a list of locations that are wheelchair accessible.
To request an accommodation due to disability or to request more information about a specific site's accessibility, please contact us at email@example.com. Advance notice is encouraged.
Are there Open House programs in other cities?
OHC is part of the worldwide family of Open House events. Open House started in London in 1992 and launched in the United States in 2002 with Open House New York. Now, more than 40 cities around the world have adopted Open House, creating the first global architecture festival reaching more than 1 million people. For a full listing of Open House cities, visit OpenHouseWorldwide.org. A number of similar events called Doors Open take place in Toronto, Milwaukee, Denver, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and several other cities. We believe Open House Chicago to be the second largest event of its kind in the world.