Chicago has world-class museums. You've probably explored some of the 300,000 works of art at the Art Institute of Chicago, and maybe you've learned about Chicago's expansive African American legacy at the DuSable Museum of African American History, but have you visited the lesser-known Money Museum? Or the adult-only Leather Archives? Beyond its famous institutions, Chicago hosts quirkier, little-known museums, worth going off the beaten path and checking out.

International Museum of Surgical Science

surgical science

Four stories of an historic mansion house, the International Museum of Surgical Science is a division of the International College of Surgeons. Don't worry, this fascinating place is accessible for every level of education, not just doctors. Created to promote understanding for the history of medicine and surgery, the IMSS displays things such as a human body cut into half-inch pieces and art made from blood and kidney stones.


Hours: Tues–Fri, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat–Sun, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Mon.

Admission: $15/adults, $8/children ages 4–13

International Museum of Surgical Science  |  1524 N. Lake Shore Drive  |  312-642-6502  



The Money Museum (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

Money Museum at Chicago Federal Reserve Bank

As headquarters for the second largest business district in the country, it makes sense that Chicago boasts a Money Museum. Located in a section of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, this small, interactive museum features hallmarks like a glass cube stuffed with a million dollars and an exhibit that allows you to create money with your photo on it. Guided tours begin at 1 p.m., Monday–Friday, and each visitor gets a bag of $365 of shredded currency.

Hours: Mon–Fri, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed on bank holidays.

The Money Museum  |  230 S. LaSalle Street  |   312-322-2400  



Leather Archives & Museum

Leather Archives & Museum

Strictly for adults, the Leather Archives & Museum highlights items related to alternative sexual practices including leather, fetishism and sadomasochism. There's clothing, gear, art, literature and photos on display, and it's not for the prudish or shy.

Hours: Thurs–Fri, 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat–Sun, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Admission: $10 (Must be at least 18 years old)

Leather Archives & Museum  |  6418 N. Greenview Avenue  |  773-761-9200  



Chicago Maritime Museum

Chicago Maritime Museum

From its earliest beginnings, Chicago has been defined as a city rising from the lake. Its strategic post at the foot of the Great Lakes has seen eras of change: from the times of Fort Dearborn, when the fur trade was the economic mainstay of Chicago, later to when the distribution channel saw giant bulk freighters transporting grain and coal, and now to its transformation into a scenic urban waterway dotted with kayaks and sightseeing boats.

The Chicago Maritime Museum tells this history with a collection of more than 6,000 items including ship models, articles, books, photography and nautical artifacts. It is located within the Bridgeport Art Center.

Hours: Tues–Sat, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. 
Admission: $10/adults, FREE for children

Chicago Maritime Museum  |  1200 W. 35th Street  |  773-376-1982  


Looking to skip the museum-campus crowds this summer? Go off the beaten path for these attractions and check out one of these lesser-known museums, or you can use our museum guide to find exhibits at Chicago museums that pique your curiosity!

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and commenters and do not reflect the views of Choose Chicago.