Chicago is home to awe-inspiring museums, iconic architecture, and world-famous sites — and you can explore them all without leaving your living room with virtual tours and experiences. These digital resources allow you to experience Chicago in a new way, from our home to yours. Check back regularly as we add more experiences.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is known for their astounding collection, which includes some of the most famous paintings on the planet. And more than 40,000 of their works have been digitized in high-resolution, so you can explore them from the comfort of your own home. A good place to start is with some of the museum’s essential works — zoom in to see each tiny dot in a A Sunday on La Grande Jatte or admire the brushstrokes in Monet’s Water Lilies.
Museum of Contemporary Photography
The Museum of Contemporary Photographyis the world’s premier college art museum dedicated to photography. Located within the Columbia College Chicago’s Loop campus, the museum is home to more than 15,000 objects by over 1,500 artists. Their digital collections showcase photographs from the MoCP permanent collection that have been selected by artists, curators, and students.
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National Museum of Mexican Art
In the heart of the city’s vibrant Pilsen community, the National Museum of Mexican Art showcases more than 3,000 years of Mexican art and culture. The free museum is home to one of the country’s largest Mexican art collections, with a 10,000-piece permanent collection that celebrates the rich diversity of Mexican art across centuries. This virtual tour walks you through the museum’s colorful galleries, where you can view paintings, pottery, textiles, and more.
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Commons Online is a new digital extension of the Museum of Contemporary Art‘s community space. The portal brings together the museum’s online programs and resources, designed to foster social belonging during social distancing. Tune in to virtual programs, try your hand at creative projects, and dig into their archives of artist interviews. Check back soon, they’ll be adding new experiences every week.
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Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Experience outsider art across mediums in Intuit‘s digital collection. View a portion of the museum’s 1,200 works, including pieces from the world’s most well-known self-taught artists.
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Wrightwood 659 is a striking exhibition space in Lincoln Park designed by Tadao Ando. Check out their new virtual programming complementing their latest critically acclaimed exhibition Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People. Other digital offerings include a film series and virtual panel discussions.
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This hidden gem, located on the University of Chicago campus, houses a treasure trove of artifacts from the most ancient days of Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and beyond. The Oriental Institute‘s virtual tour lets you explore many of the objects uncovered during their excavations, from early pottery to a massive statue of King Tut.
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The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museum’s of its kind in the world. The original collection began with artifacts from the 1893 World’s Fair, and has grown into 40 million specimens and artifacts from all over the globe that span millennia. Take a peek at some of these fascinating items via their digital collection, which includes online imagery of ancient pottery, extinct animals, and historic sites.
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National Hellenic Museum
The National Hellenic Museum in Chicago’s Greektown neighborhood is the second oldest U.S. institution dedicated to celebrating the cultural contributions of Greeks and Greek-Americans. Their free digital museum displays the largest Greek/Hellenic collection of its kind in the world, with more than 20,000 artifacts, photos, historic newspapers, and books, plus over 450 recorded oral histories.
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Chicago History Museum
Delve into Chicago’s rich history with the Chicago History Museum‘s entire portal of online exhibitions, which presents a fascinating look at our city’s past. Learn about the Great Chicago Fire, the life of Abraham Lincoln, the Haymarket riots, and the evolution of Chicago’s culinary scene. One of their coolest digital experience is the Chicago θθ Project, which offers free virtual reality experiences of defining Chicago moments like the SS Eastland Disaster and the 1933 World’s Fair.
DuSable Museum of African American History
The DuSable Museum is the nation’s first independent museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and study of the history and culture of Africans and Americans of African descent. Their online exhibit — Freedom, Resistance, and the Journey Toward Equality — includes artifacts that represent the story of African American struggle and achievement across centuries.
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Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
As the third largest museum of its kind in the world, Illinois Holocaust Museum shares first-hand survivor narratives that inspire visitors to learn from the lessons of the past to transform the future. Their virtual museum allows you to watch documentaries of survivor stories, take audio tours, and tour the museum’s blockbuster exhibition, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
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American Writers Museum
The American Writers Museum has launched a virtual hub with blogs, podcasts, exhibits, author talks, and more. Check out their latest exhibit, My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today, an immersive multimedia exploration of the influence of modern immigrant and refugee writing.
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Pritzker Military Museum & Library
The Pritzker Military Museum & Library has launched Pritzker Military Presents. This original series airs each week on Chicago Public Television, WTTW Prime, and is available to stream via their website. Topics cover the full spectrum of military history and include lectures, discussions, and interviews with authors, scholars, and veterans.
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Museum of Science and Industry
Keep the whole family entertained with the new Science at Home series from the Museum of Science and Industry. The kid-friendly activities and videos cover a wide variety of topics, from basic engineering to kinetic energy to human biology. The resources include interactive activities, videos, web-based games, and more. You can also join live tours of their popular exhibits, like Christmas Around the World and the U-505 Submarine.
Take a walk through space without leaving your couch. The Adler Planetarium presents a rich array of online exhibits, digitized images and artifacts, and virtual walk-throughs. Online exhibitions cover everything from women in space to rare astronomy books to first-hand stories from the Apollo 11 mission. And the virtual tours allow you to walk through the exhibits as if you were really there.
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Zoos & animals
The Shedd Aquarium is home more than 1,500 species, including sea otters, seahorses, beluga whales, reef sharks, stingrays, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and beyond. Get up close and personal with the aquatic creatures via high-resolution images and virtual online tours. Walk through exhibits and get behind-the-scenes peeks at trainers and museum employees hard at work. And for a moment of zen, watch the live stream of their stunning Underwater Beauty exhibit.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the largest and oldest free zoos in the country. While the zoo is temporarily closed through March 2021, you can stay connected to your favorite animals through their new Stay Tuned to the Zoo web series. The family-friendly videos will feature creatures from all over the world, from giraffes to Japanese macaques to meerkats.
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Take a walk on the wild side with Brookfield Zoo‘s new live streams. The suburban zoo’s Facebook page is #BringingTheZooToYou with videos of a different zoo animal each day at 11 a.m. CDT. So far they’ve featured Mexican wolves, snakes, and a bearcat while zookeepers provide informative and interesting narration. Viewers can even ask questions to be answered in real time. If you can’t make it right on time, each daily video is saved on their Facebook and YouTube pages.
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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Get to know birds, mammals, reptiles, and more with the PeggyNotebaert Nature Museum. This super family-friendly museum has a massive collection of plants, animals, insects, fossils and more to teach people of all ages about the natural world. Check out their online exhibit about the importance of biodiversity, along with a collection of digital artifacts.
Millennium Park is the green heart of Chicago. The lakefront park is home to iconic public art, outdoor concerts, skyline views, seasonal ice rinks, and more. The centerpiece of the park is Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean”, one of Chicago’s most famous attractions. It’s also where you’ll find the soaring Pritzker Pavilion, home to the popular (and free!) summer movie series, the tranquil Lurie Garden, and so much more.
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Garfield Park Conservatory
The Garfield Park Conservatory, often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” is one of the largest conservatories in the nation. The conservatory spans two acres of public greenhouse space and 10 acres of outdoor gardens, with a diverse collection of plants representing all different climates. Take a virtual tour of their gardens, including a digital color safari and an architecture-based tour.
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The Morton Arboretum, located just outside Chicago in Lisle, is offering online resources for all ages. Find horticulture classes; virtual video walks; and educational offerings on tree care, ecology, climate change, and plant identification. These online webinars are designed for children and families, students and teachers, or just lifelong learners and home gardeners.
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Fox in a Box escape rooms
Challenge your friends and family from afar with this one-of-a-kind virtual experience from Fox in a Box Chicago. This online escape room takes participants to the height of the Cold War, where you must coach a live actor on how to disarm a nuclear warhead before it’s too late.
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Frank Lloyd Wright architecture
The Chicagoland area, including nearby Oak Park, is home tothe largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures in the world. This is where you’ll find some of the iconic architect’s most influential works, including UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Frederick C. Robie House in Hyde Park. Take a look inside with these video tours.
Chicago Architecture Center
The Chicago Architecture Center has launched a new online mini-magazine, CAC@Home. The digital publication brings new and archival video, reading material, fun for the family, quizzes, interactive content, and more straight to subscribers’ inboxes. Read the first issue here and make sure to subscribe for more.
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Explore every corner of Chicago from your couch. Chicago Detours offers tons of virtual video tours that explore architecture all around the city, focusing on hidden gems and lesser known stories. They also cover a variety of other topics, from historic bars to the 1893 World’s Fair to LGBTQ history, all led by expert guides.
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Chicago Cultural Center
Check out these free virtual tours of “The People’s Palace”. The virtual tours, which are available on-demand on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month, cover the stunning architecture and history of the Chicago Cultural Center, built in 1897.
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Theatre & music
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, part of Chicago’s museum scene for more than 130 years, is consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. And now you can experience the acclaimed group from home.
Steppenwolf Theatre, one of the nation’s premier ensemble theatre, is providing a variety of ways to connect with their productions and cast virtually. Listen to their new interview-based podcast “Half Hour” for candid one-on-one conversations between ensemble members. Or subscribe to their new virtual stage to stream brand new Steppenwolf content from anywhere.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater‘s new Shakes@Home initiative that brings history’s most famous playwright to life in your living room. Explore this fun and educational online portal, which features creative experiences like a Living Room Sonnet Series, video playlists of top Chicago Shakespeare moments, audio recordings of pre-show talks by Shakespeare scholars, a documentary, cooking videos, and activities for kids.
Belmont Theatre District
The Belmont Theater District is home to more than 50 theaters, from independent movie houses to legendary comedy clubs. And many of those theatres have now launched digital programming to enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Check out podcasts, sketch shows, movie streams, and more.
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The world famous Joffrey Ballet is staying active on their YouTube channel. You can stream the acclaimed documentary Joffrey Mavericks of American Dance, which draws on rare archival footage to tell the history of the dance company and dance itself. And don’t miss ballet lessons and dance-inspired workouts.
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Lookingglass Theatre is a cutting-edge theatre located in a historic space in the Loop. They’ll be streaming their annual holiday show The Steadfast Tin Soldier for the entire month of December. You can also subscribe to The Secret Passage, a digital series that offers an exclusive peek into their process.
Check out Lyric Opera‘s blog, Lyric Lately, for content and activities from the acclaimed group. Try your hand at Lyric trivia, see unreleased footage and virtual performances, and check out backstage perspectives, family activities, quizzes, and more.
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Music Box Theatre
The Music Box Theatre is a historic, independently owned cinema that’s a favorite in the Lakeview neighborhood. Their new virtual cinema series lets you watch Music Box-curated films at home, while supporting the theatre during its closure.
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This landmark Auditorium Theatre is offering two virtual holiday shows: A Celtic Family Christmas and A Holiday Concert with Alfreda Burke & Rodrick Dixon. You can also join historic theatre tours from the comfort of your own home. And check out their YouTube page for archived footage of past shows, talks with special guests, and performances.
Virtual field trips with Mayor Lori Lightfoot
These virtual tours of Chicago’s cultural treasures, led by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, are designed for local students studying at home. Stay Home, Hit Play will go behind the scenes of a new museum each week, including the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, Museum of Science and Industry, DuSable Museum, the Art Institute, and more.