With more than 10 million residents and more than 54 million tourists visiting every year, Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S and a popular home and destination for military families and veterans. For these veterans, their honorable service has earned them many beneficial benefits and services, and Chicago upholds its military-friendly reputation by offering numerous discounts, deals, and helpful resources.
Sometimes knowing where to start in claiming your benefits can be a bit daunting. Chicago offers numerous state and national resources for helping veterans and families access their benefits, through its VA Regional Office, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs. There are also several helpful organizations that facilitate networking with other veterans and helping veterans in emergency situations. For more information on these offices and services, read our blog on Chicago veteran benefits and services.
In addition to state and government-provided benefits, many businesses in the city of Chicago offer quite a few attractive veteran discounts. For most, you need some sort of proper identification as a veteran, whether it’s your VA card or a veteran designation on your driver’s license. To receive this designation on their driver’s license, veterans must obtain official certification from the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) by visiting one of the IDVA offices and providing a copy of their DD-214 or Certification of Military Service (NA Form 13038). You can also complete the process by mail.
For veterans visiting the Windy City on vacation, or resident veterans wanting to enjoy some of the local attractions, proper military or veteran ID gets you free or reduced admission to the some of the city’s favorite venues. For example, active duty, retirees, and reservists with proper ID can obtain free admission to the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Brookfield Zoo. Veterans also receive $10 off Wendella Boat Tours.
For Chicago veterans with a VA disability designation of 10% or more, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) provides free transportation with its military pass. Eligible veterans must have a qualifying service-connected disability and provide proof that he or she is in receipt of a USDVA disability compensation of 10% or greater, or is receiving military disability retirement pay in lieu of USDVA compensation at a rate of 10% or greater. You can get a military pass at the Ventra Customer Service Center, located at 567 W. Lake St. The CTA has provided free rides for more than 8,000 veterans through this program.
Several area hotels offer military discounts; you may need to call beforehand to check that they are applicable for veterans. For example, the AC Hotel Chicago Downtown offers active and retired military 30 percent off the best available rates. Veterans can book the discounted rate online using promo code “C28” or by calling 844-672-9070, and reserving a stay under the “First Responders Rate.” Veterans should show valid ID upon check in.
Many local Chicago businesses honor military veterans by offering discounts of their goods or services. It’s always good to call ahead of time when hoping to claim a military discount, and be sure to always have your veteran identification if you plan on using one. Also, it never hurts to ask if an establishment offers a military discount; you may be surprised at who does! Several Chicago businesses publicize their discounts for veterans, including:
- Café Con Leche: 10% off entire bill
- Azucar Delights: 20% on birthday cakes, wedding cakes, and Quinceañera cakes
- Patino Grill: 15% off total purchase. (773) 463-7701
- Portage Grounds: 10% off of total purchase.
- Twisted Tattoo: Up to 20% off purchase.
- Monroy Sewer and Plumbing: 15% discount. (773) 255-1785
- Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: 45 Minute massages for $28
Written By Megan Hammons