Chicago is home to some of the most prestigious museums in the country. And although the city is fairly expansive, most of the museums are conveniently located and easy to get to from a central location. From the unparalleled Art Institute of Chicago (voted the best museum in the entire country in a TripAdvisor poll) to hidden gems like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, Chicago has museum that will capture the imagination of any and all visitors.
For one, there is a wide variety of museums that children will love. From star-gazing at the Adler Planetarium to scoping out the jellies at the Shedd Aquarium, Museum Campus options are a particular favorite. Visiting SUE at the Field Museum is a must, too; she’s the world’s largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton and is famous in her own right. Of course, the Chicago Children’s Museum on Navy Pier is designed with kids in mind, and has a lot to offer in terms of interactive exhibits and kid-specific programing. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the Museum of Science and Industry, located on the South Shore.
For those traveling without kids, there are plenty of museums that adults will find compelling and inspiring on their own. The Art Institute is a given, with its extensive collections and world-renowned holdings, but many people don’t know as much about the Museum of Contemporary Art. Located in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, it features ever-changing exhibitions of current, cutting-edge artwork and installations. Architecture fans will appreciate the many Frank Lloyd Wright institutions throughout the region, and literature lovers won’t want to miss the relatively new American Writers Museum. You could easily spend your entire vacation just scoping out Chicago’s eclectic museum scene.
Here are some of the top museums in the city, and what they have to offer.
Shedd Aquarium: Without a doubt one of the country’s best aquariums, Shedd is divided into several themed sections with different types of aquatic and marine critters in each.
Art Institute of Chicago: This iconic museum is known for its extensive collections including photography, fine art, architecture, domestic craft, ancient artifacts, and paintings. Some standout pieces include the Chagall windows, Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Black Cross, New Mexico,” and Matisse’s “Bathers by a River.”
Adler Planetarium: This kid-friendly institution is popular for its interactive exhibits and historical approach to teaching visitors about space travel. Exhibits include the exciting “Mission Moon” and the beloved “Planet Explorers.”
Museum of Science and Industry: This South Shore standout is actually the largest science museum in the entire country. Here you can undertake explorations of natural phenomena like tornados or scope out man’s influence on the natural world.
Field Museum: This comprehensive natural history museum is home to everything from legendary dinosaur fossils to gorgeous gemstones to a pristine collection of ancient Chinese craftwork.
Chicago Children’s Museum: An excellent educational destination for children and their families, this institution is filled with hands-on exhibits and interactive attractions.
Robie House: Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, this building is located near the campus of the University of Chicago on the South Side. It’s open for tours and is a beautiful example of Wright’s stylistic vision.
Chicago History Museum: Located on the southern tip of Lincoln Park, the Chicago History Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone curious about the past of this amazing city.
Museum of Contemporary Art: A fascinating institution dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, this ever-changing museum features innovative and cutting-edge exhibitions that will provoke and inspire you.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Tour: Tour the spaces in which Frank Lloyd Wright labored to design some of his most iconic work (including the above-mentioned Robie House) and the area around the studio, which features nearly 30 of his own buildings.
American Writers Museum: This newer museum is an excellent option for kids and adults. The institution is highly interactive, with opportunities to learn all about the history of American authors from the iconic to the lesser-known.
Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home: Located west of Chicago in Oak Park, the home of one of the twentieth century’s most iconic writers is well-worth a jaunt outside the city itself. This Victorian-era home has recently been fully restored.
Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago: Housed within the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Money Museum is a small visitor’s center that provides guests a brief overview of the history of currency in the United States.
Richard H. Driehaus Museum: Located in an opulent mansion dating to 1883, the Richard H. Driehaus Museum presents temporary special exhibits that explore themes and experiences of the late nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the decorative arts.