5 Top Chicago Museums for Families

Jocelyn Murray August 22, 2011 No Comments


Tots and Travel Recommended

Home to the world’s first skyscraper, the infamous Al Capone, and a thriving theater community, Chicago, Illinois is a popular destination with attractions for all ages, including the following 5 museums (listed alphabetically). Come see why these museums have proved to be a favorite among many, and explore their treasures for yourself.

Adler Planetarium

Adler Exterior Shot

The Adler Plantetarium (courtesy of the Adler Plantetarium)

A National Historic Landmark, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois is America’s first planetarium. Founded in 1930, this fantastic museum houses three full-size theaters and an extraordinary collection of astronomical artifacts including a window sundial from 1529 – the oldest known sundial of its kind.

Adler Planetarium - Atwood Celestial Sphere

Atwood Celestial Sphere (courtesy of Fritz Geller-Grimm)

The many interactive exhibits bring scientific concepts to life for people of all ages: Learn more about gravity; experience space on a simulated rocket launch; see some of the world’s oldest telescopes; explore the moon’s surface; touch a piece of a meteorite; discover the role of astronomy in past cultures and so much more in the museum’s numerous hands-on exhibits. Engaging shows are featured in the theaters, including the 3D Universe Theater that immerses viewers in the sights and sounds of space, and the Grainger Sky Theater that projects the largest continuous digital image in the world. A variety of activities, presentations and tours are also offered to enrich the learning experience. For more information visit their official website at www.adlerplanetarium.org 

Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago Children's Museum entrance

Chicago Children's Museum (courtesy of Chicago Children's Museum)

One of the most visited children’s museums in the country, the Chicago Children’s Museum offers three stories of exciting exhibits and activities that engage and educate children through hands-on interactive fun. Kids can dig for fossils in the excavation pit of the Dinosaur Expedition exhibit, hone their artistic creativity through painting, sewing, sculpting and sketching, splash and play with the various water system elements in WaterWays, explore a giant tree house, climb through ship rigging, play in an urban neighborhood, invent things in the Inventing Lab, and so much more.

Chicago Children's Museum waterways

Children can splash and play in WaterWays (courtesy of Chicago Children's Museum)

There are seven infant and crawler areas throughout the museum for little ones to play, learn and explore freely, including activities with manipulatives, art, music and movement.

Free art workshops for families are offered daily in the Kraft Artabounds Studio, as well as programs that foster growth and learning in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), health and wellness, language and literacy, culture and more.

For more information on this wonderful venue visit their website at www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org 

Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum of Natural History - (courtesy of Joe Ravi, license CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Located on the serene shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois (close to the Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium), the Field Museum of Natural History houses over 21 million specimens including the largest and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever found named Sue.

Field Museum of Natural History - Sue, the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered

Meet Sue: the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered

Some of the museum’s exhibition highlights feature artifacts from ancient Egypt including human mummies, mummified animals and interactive displays; an extensive dinosaurs collection; beautifully created dioramas with a wide range of animals including the man-eating Lions of Tsavo; diamonds and gems from around the world, amazing insects 100 times larger than life, and much more. Guests can watch scientists at work through the glass of working laboratories at the museum. Visitors can also enjoy tours, hands-on activities, art projects and story time, family workshops, sleepovers, and other engaging activities that encourage discovery and learning.

For more information on this exciting family museum visit their website at www.fieldmuseum.org 

Museum of Science & Industry

Museum of Science & Industry exterior

Museum of Science & Industry exterior (courtesy of Joe Ziolkowski, Museum of Science and Industry)

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois is one of the world’s largest science museums with close to 14 acres of hands-on exhibits, over 35,000 artifacts, and a domed Omnimax® theater. Some of the museum’s fantastic permanent exhibits include a functional Coal Mine, the German U-505 Submarine seized during World War II, and the Transportation Gallery which offers interactive flight and ride simulators.

Museum of Science & Industry - Pioneer Zephyr

The Pioneer Zephyr (courtesy of Scott Brownell, Museum of Science and Industry)

The sleek stainless-steel passenger train – Pioneer Zephyr – takes guests on an interactive guided tour back to 1934,  while Yesterday’s Main Street offers visitors a nostalgic glimpse of Chicago circa 1910.

Children find the manufacturing processes of toys in ToyMaker 3000 fascinating with its interactive stations, moving robots and automated assembly line; as well as the Baby Chick Hatchery as little chicks break through their shells in the incubator.

A plethora of tours and live science experiences including shows, lectures, laboratory programs and events offer guests unforgettable hands-on experiences as well. For more information visit their website at www.msichicago.org 

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - exterior

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - (courtesy of Alan Scott Walker)

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, Illinois has a remarkable collection of about 250,000 specimens that include fossils, plants, animals and minerals, many of which were gathered before 1900, as well as over 150 species of live animals.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - polar bear

This polar bear is an eye-catcher at the museum

Some of the permanent exhibitions include: the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven that consists of a 2,700 square-foot tropical greenhouse with butterflies, birds, a waterfall and flowers; the Wilderness Walk with its recreated prairie, savanna, and dune environments; a Chicago waterways play experience for children in River Works; Birds of Chicago with its stunning displays of 115 specimens; and their newest permanent exhibit – Nature’s Lunchbox – that examines the cycle of food. Special events and activities include live animal feedings, hands-on children’s programs with games, puppets and books, adult and family programs and classes, field trips, workshops, and informative films and documentaries. For more information visit their website at www.naturemuseum.org

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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