The Museum of Science and Industry is located at the northern end of beautiful Jackson Park, in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, mere steps from Lake Michigan and only a few blocks from the campus of the University of Chicago. Housed in a striking building that dates back to the legendary World’s Fair of 1893, the Museum of Science and Industry has been delighting visitors for over 85 years with its variety of educational exhibits and informative programs. Here you’ll find a bit of something for everyone who is curious to learn more about how science and technology shape our worlds each and every day.
Museum of Science and Industry History
The Museum of Science and Industry first opened its doors to the public in 1933, during the Century of Progress World’s Fair exhibition that was held in Chicago to celebrate the city’s centennial. It was founded by Julius Rosenwald, an owner and long-time president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, who wanted to create a unique space devoted to promoting study of the sciences and technology in Chicago.
The Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the only significant building that remains standing from the famous 1893 World’s Fair that was hosted in Chicago. Called at that time the Palace of Fine Arts, the building was designed by Charles B. Atwood. After the conclusion of the 1893 World’s Fair, the building for a time was home to the Field Museum. When the Field Museum moved north to its current location, the Palace of Fine Arts sat empty for years before eventually becoming home to the Museum of Science and Industry. While the building has been renovated and modified many times over the years, its basic structure remains true to the original building.
What’s at the Museum of Science and Industry
Today the Museum of Science and Industry stands proudly as the Western Hemisphere’s largest museum devoted to science. The Museum of Science and Industry features a grand total of some 400,000 square feet of exhibit space, a five-story tall domed movie theater, two additional theaters, an 800-person-capacity auditorium, over 35,000 different artifacts, and much more.
The Museum of Science and Industry is known for a strong mixture of beloved permanent exhibitions and rotating special events. Popular permanent attractions here include a real World War II German U-505 submarine, a replica coal mine, a 1,400-foot model railroad, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, and more. At any given time, the Museum of Science and Industry also has a number of special exhibits on display, too.
Visitors to the Museum of Science and Industry will find multiple dining options available on-site. The Brain Food Court is open each day of the week until 2:30pm. It serves a nice mix of family favorites like sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, chicken tenders, soups, and more. The Museum Café is a good option for those visitors wanting to snag a grab-and-go bite, as they specialize in to-go sandwiches, salads, snacks, and coffee drinks. If you’re visiting on a weekend, and are in the mood for a real treat, you can check out Finnigan’s Ice Cream Parlor. This Saturday- and Sunday-only spot replicates the feel of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and is known for its sundaes and shakes. A number of vending machines are located throughout the facility, too
There are many additional amenities available at the Museum of Science and Industry. You’ll find here four different gift shops; each one has a different focus, but throughout you’ll be able to purchase your choice of souvenirs, gifts, toys, DVDs, and more. In the Museum’s Entry Hall you can rent a stroller or check a coat; it’ll run you $3 for either of these options. With few exceptions, like in the case of special exhibits or theater presentations, photography is allowed throughout the Museum.
Tips for Visiting the Museum of Science and Industry
- The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the included attractions on the Go Chicago Card, Chicago CityPASS and Explorer Pass. All of them will give you a great savings if you go on one of the included premium activities. The Go Card and Explorer Pass includes admission to any of the Giant Dome Theater shows ($12). CityPASS gives you the the option one extra: Either a Giant Dome Show, Coal Mine Entrance, Fab Lab or the current temporary exhibit. All of the Chicago Tourist Passes allow you to cut the line. Just to to the Will-Call booth.
- The Museum of Science and Industry is typically open each day between the hours of 9:30am and 4:00pm. However, there are a few days/weeks throughout the year that the Museum features extended hours; if you’d like to plan your visit so as to best take advantage of these extended hours, check their website for specifics.
- There are a variety of convenient methods for getting to the Museum of Science and Industry. If you are arriving via car, the Museum has its own underground parking garage, with the fee running around $22 per vehicle. If you don’t have a car during your visit to Chicago, or you’re looking for a less expensive option, the Museum is also readily accessible by multiple city buses, CTA and/or Metra train, and by bike.
- In fact, if it’s a nice day and you enjoy cycling, consider visiting the Museum via a bike ride along the lakefront path. This lovely trail runs all along Lake Michigan, and can take you all the way to the Museum’s front entrance—where you’ll find multiple bike racks at your disposal.
- Certain exhibits throughout the Museum of Science and Industry have limited accessibility. Other exhibits in the Museum feature flashing lights and/or sounds that might trouble some guests. For more details on such circumstances and accessibility options, make sure to check their website in advance of your visit.
- It is important to note, too, that the kitchen at the Museum of Science and Industry is not allergen-free. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, you are encouraged to bring your own food to the Museum.