Located at Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum is home to a wide range of activities, events, and adventures sure to delight all kids under the age of 10—as well as their parents and family members! The Chicago Children’s Museum features 15 permanent exhibitions and play spaces; it also routinely hosts a variety of rotating special programs. Its exhibits are educational, interactive, and hands-on; no matter whether your little ones love dinosaurs, dream of being firefighters, or just want to explore an expansive play area, they’ll undoubtedly find something to love here.
Chicago Children’s Museum History and Background
The Chicago Children’s Museum was established in 1982 by the Junior League of Chicago, a non-profit woman’s organization devoted to improving Chicago through the diligent work of caring volunteers. The Junior League was protesting the elimination of various programs for children throughout the Chicago Public Schools system, and sought to do their part to provide more after-school opportunities for Chicago’s youth population. When the Chicago Children’s Museum first opened its doors, it consisted of just two small spaces within the hallways of the Chicago Public Library.
Over the years, the Chicago Children’s Museum would move multiple times. In 1995, the Chicago Children’s Museum moved to its current location on Navy Pier. Today it is housed in the midst of tens of thousands of square feet spread out across three floors. Year-in and year-out it regularly attracts approximately a half-million visitors, making it one of the most popular children’s museums found anywhere in the United States.
What’s at the Chicago Children’s Museum
The Chicago Children’s Museum is full of fun games, activities, and exhibits designed to stimulate, entertain, and educate your little ones. Some of the most popular permanent exhibits here include Dinosaur Expedition, which features a life-size dinosaur skeleton and provides kids with a place to dig for dinosaur bones in a replica excavation pit; WaterWays, an educational playground space that lets kids explore the power of water by manipulating it through wheels and pipes; and Kids Town, an interactive space designed to create a friendly urban neighborhood for children to explore. Other attractions at the Chicago Children’s Museum include an art studio, tinkering lab, the Kovler Family Climbing Schooner, and much, much more.
An assortment of amenities are available to visitors of the Chicago Children’s Museum. The Chicago Children’s Museum Gift Shop has a variety of items that make perfect souvenirs, gifts, or educational resources. Complimentary wheelchairs may be checked out at the Membership Desk (which is located on the second floor of the Museum), while sound-reducing headphones and wheelchair lap trays are may be procured at the front-door admission desk.
Given its prime location at the heart of Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum is set squarely among numerous additional attractions. Other popular attractions found in the immediate vicinity of the Chicago Children’s Museum include Centennial Wheel and Pier Park, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the AMC IMAX Theatre, and a wide selection of store, restaurants, and more.
Tips for Visiting the Chicago Children’s Museum
- The Chicago Children’s Museum is open every day of the week between the hours of 10:00am and 5:00pm, except for Thursdays, when the Museum stays open until 8:00pm.
- There are many ways to get to Navy Pier. For those driving, you’ll find over 1,500 parking spots in Navy Pier’s on-site garage. However, you can also get to Navy Pier via CTA bus. During the summer, a free trolley shuttle typically runs daily throughout downtown Chicago, and weather permitting there’s even a water taxi that’ll ferry you between Navy Pier, Union Station, and/or the Museum Campus!
- Navy Pier has a ton of open public spaces perfect for a picnic. If you have the time, and the weather forecast looks promising, consider bringing your own lunch to the Chicago Children’s Museum and enjoying a picnic meal before or after your visit.
- If your visiting group contains babies and/or toddlers, make sure to scope out the Pritzker Playspace. It’s a portion of the Museum with its own schedule of hours—so be certain to check their website in advance of your trip for more details—and it’s dedicated specifically for kids who aren’t walking yet.
- There is also something new and exciting taking place at the Chicago Children’s Museum. If you visit their website while planning your trip, you’ll have access to their Calendar of Events, which will give you the inside scoop on any and all bonus activities that might be taking place during the time of your visit.