Adler Planetarium is part of Chicago’s beloved Museum Campus. Located right alongside beautiful Lake Michigan, within walking distance of the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium is one of the country’s foremost astronomy museums. Here you’ll find numerous galleries containing educational exhibits, multiple theaters playing informative shows, and a whole range of other special events devoted to spreading knowledge about the wonders of space and our universe.
Adler Planetarium History and Background
When Adler Planetarium opened its doors to the public in 1930, it became the first planetarium found anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. Its founder, Max Adler, was a successful Chicago businessman who sought to popularize astronomy by donating a significant sum of money for the construction of a planetarium. Adler Planetarium was designed by the architect Ernest A. Grunsfeld, Jr. The building was named a United States National Historic Landmark in 1987, and is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places.
Between 1997 and 1999, Adler Planetarium was the subject of an extensive renovation and expansion project. Today the facility sees hundreds of thousands of guests visit each year, and continues to be one of the country’s foremost promoters of space exploration and public astronomy education.
What’s at the Adler Planetarium
Adler Planetarium hosts an extensive assortment of exhibits, shows, and collections. Its popular exhibits include Mission Moon, which tells the story of early Apollo and Gemini NASA missions; Our Solar System, which has displays on each one of our solar system’s planets, as well as actual moon rocks and pieces of meteorites that have crashed into Earth; The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time, which provides guests with remarkable insights into the history of the universe and its creation/development; and a number of other temporary, rotating special exhibits.
Adler Planetarium is quite well-known for its “sky shows.” Each day in its famous “dome theater,” Adler puts on a variety of programs. With titles like Planet Nine, Imagine the Moon, Skywatch Live, and Welcome to the Universe, there’s a little bit of something for everyone interested in learning more about the solar system. Adler Planetarium also contains a large collection of historic scientific instruments; among these artifacts are many important manuscripts, rare books, and much, much more.
Adler Planetarium is home to Galileo’s Café, too. This pleasant lunch spot features floor-to-ceiling windows that let in abundant light and offer up tremendous views of the Chicago’s beautiful skyline. There you’ll have your pick of favorites like soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and more. There’s even a kid’s menu with classics like chicken tenders, peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, and hot dogs—as well as beer, wine, and a whole menu of coffee drinks. Multiple vending machines are located throughout the building, too.
In addition to its on-site dining options, Adler Planetarium has several additional amenities. The Adler Museum Store is the place to go for gifts and souvenirs like space-themed books, toys, and games. Free Wi-Fi service is available for use by all visitors, and coat-check services are provided for $3-per-item. Complimentary wheelchairs may be checked out at the Adler Box Office.
Tips for Visiting the Adler Planetarium
- Adler Planetarium is usually open every day of the week between the hours of 9:00am and 4:00pm. However, Adler Planetarium does often have different, special hours in the summertime, so make certain to check their website for more details as you plan your visit.
- As part of Chicago’s Museum Campus, Adler Planetarium is located in the midst of several different parking lots and garages. However, these options can get pretty pricey in a hurry—especially if you’re making a day of it in the area. If you’re looking to save some money, consider taking public transportation to Adler. It’s accessible via multiple city buses, CTA trains, and Metra trains; or, if you’re feeling ambitious on a nice day, you could even bike to Adler along beautiful Lake Michigan!
- While Galileo’s Café does offer multiple vegetarian and gluten-free options, it is not an allergen-free kitchen. If you or someone in your traveling group has any sort of severe food allergy, you are encouraged to bring your own pre-prepared food with you to enjoy during your visit to Adler Planetarium.
- If you’re interested in exploring the Doane Observatory—which is located right beside Adler Planetarium—keep in mind when planning your visit that it’s only open each day between the hours of 10:00am and 1:00pm.
- Adler Planetarium regularly runs a lengthy schedule of special events and rotating exhibits. For additional information on this sort of programming, make sure to check their website for more details.