Best Museums in Chicago: Art, Science History & More
Chicago is home to some of the best museums in the world. We’ve got a world-class art museum, an informative planetarium, an aquarium where you can get up close to marine life, and much more. No visit to Chicago is complete without visiting at least one of our great museums, many of which are located on the Museum Campus, a complex at the south end of the city along the Lakefront.
Free Museum Days in Chicago
Though all of the Chicago museums charge a fee, they all also offer multiple free days throughout the year. Check out the full list of 2010 free days at museums around the city here.
Discounted Admission with the Chicago City Pass or Go Chicago Card
If your visit doesn’t happen to fall on one of the museum’s free days, you can still receive discounted admission with a Chicago City Pass or Go Chicago Card. Compare discount city passes here to determine which one is right for you. More Chicago Attraction Deals.
Chicago Art Institute
The Art Institute is one of the best art museums in the country, and the new modern wing is considered to be one of the best in the world.
The Chicago Art Institute is arguably one of the best art museums in the country. Home to famous works by artists like Picasso, Monet, Cezanne, and Wood, the museum features thousands of paintings, sculptures, photos, and pieces of pottery, furniture, jewelry, and decorative arts.
The brand new modern wing is considered to be one of the best in the world and hosts thousands of pieces of modern art from Europe and the Americas.
The Art Institute is located at the northern edge of the Museum Campus, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Jackson. The nearest el stop is two blocks away on State and Jackson.
The Field Museum
The Field Museum showcases exhibits from the natural world, like the towering Sue, the world’s most complete and largest T-Rex dinosaur skeleton.
The world-famous Field Museum of Chicago is located on the city’s lakefront Museum Campus and showcases thousands of anthropological and biological artifacts, including the largest, most complete, and best-preserved skeleton of a T-Rex dinosaur, the exhibit known as Sue.
Other notable exhibits include the largest man-eating lion on record, several mummies from ancient Egypt, a carved Maori meeting house, and the hall of gems. Temporary exhibits have explored everything from how we define a person’s ethnicity to the history of diamonds.
For the quickest possible visit, plan on at least 45 minutes to an hour. But this massive and well-curated museum deserves much more time, so figure on at least 2.5 hours to really do it justice (though you could easily spend 4-5 hours here). There is a snack shop on site.
The Field Museum is located on the Museum Campus at Lake Shore Drive. The nearest el stop is at Roosevelt and State. The #146 (which goes down Michigan from State and Lake and drops you off right in front of the Field) and #6 buses also service the museum.
Museum of Science and Industry
Lovers of technology (both old and new) will appreciate the Museum of Science and Industry, which traces human invention through history.
The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest science museums in the world. Built in 1893 for the Word’s Columbian Exposition, it officially opened as a museum in 1933.
Exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry showcase the history of the industry, innovation, and invention throughout the years. Visitors can learn all about passenger train travel, go inside a real coal mine, watch a baby chick hatch and take its first steps, get “inside” the internet and get up close to the only German submarine in the US.
The Museum of Science and Industry is located south of the Museum Campus, at E. 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive.
The Shedd is one of the best and largest aquariums in the world. Home to over 32,000 marine animals, it is a living museum that educates as well as entertains with interactive exhibits and demonstrations.
Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is known as one of the best places in the country to learn about marine life and see underwater creatures up close. When the Aquarium opened in 1930, it was the largest in the world, and since then, it has doubled in size.
The Shedd is home to over 32,000 animals, including beluga whales, dolphins, giant sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, penguins, otters, lizards, and jellyfish. Daily shows include shark feedings and dolphin training, and it seems like there is a new baby sea creature being born every few months.
The Shedd is located on Chicago’s Museum Campus along Lake Shore Drive. The #146 bus services the Shedd from State Street.
The Adler Planetarium is a must for any amateur astronomers. Exhibits explain the inner-workings of the galaxy and movies showcase the beauty of the universe.
Chicago’s Adler Planetarium is probably the most overlooked of all of the city’s museums. And while it may not have the jaw-dropping exhibits (a giant T-Rex skeleton, for example) of the some of the others, it’s still worth a visit, particularly for any avid stargazer.
The Adler isn’t my favorite of Chicago’s museums; I confess I found myself a bit disappointed in some of the exhibits which were a bit heavy on the reading. While those are great for kids and adults who are fascinated by space, younger kids and those with shorter attention spans might not be as enthralled. There are some hands-on exhibitions and informative demos to help kids and adults learn about the wonders of the universe, I just wish there were more. If space is your passion, spring for the extra tickets to attend special movies or explore the night sky from a seat in the Adler’s theater, where stars are projected onto the ceiling for viewing.
The Adler Planetarium is located on Museum Campus. The nearest el stop is at Roosevelt and State and the #146 bus heads down Michigan Avenue and drops passengers right at the Adler door.