Chicago is known around the globe for its first-class museums. These cultural institutions quench the thirst for knowledge of millions of visitors each year. See what's in store at these great treasure houses with our roundup of the top 10 activities at each museum.



  • Kids can command a space shuttle and discover a new planet in Planet Explorers.
  • In the Shoot for the Moon, you can feel the sensation of jumping on the Moon by trying the Lunar Leap. While you're there, view the fully restored Gemini 12 spacecraft, which launched from Cape Canaveral on November 11, 1966, making it the tenth and final flight of the Gemini series.
  • The Adler Planetarium opened its doors in 1930, becoming the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.Take your picture in front of the giant bronze sculpture outside the Adler entitled Man Enters the Cosmos. It isn't just a cool piece of art - it's a 13-foot sundial!
  • Travel back in time in The Atwood Sphere to see what the Chicago night sky looked like in 1913. The sphere is a 17-foot diameter stainless steel sphere punctuated by 692 holes of different sizes, replicating the night sky in early 20th century.
  • Visit the Space Visualization Laboratory, and meet astronomers to talk about their new research and discoveries.
  • Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass, an exhibition showcasing telescopes dating from the 17th century to modern day instruments, is a "must-see" for anyone who has looked up at the sky and wanted to know more.
  • Presented as a live show,Cosmic Wondertells the compelling story of how, through time, we have pieced together an understanding of the cosmos, inviting audiences to ask questions and help scientists unlock modern mysteries of the unknown. The next adventure departs from the Grainger Sky Theater - the most technologically advanced theater in the world.
  • Explore planets, moons, comets and asteroids in the Adler's newly re-designed gallery, Our Solar System.
  • Check out The Universe: A Walk through Space and Time, an interactive exhibition that transports visitors to the distant corners of the cosmos and shows how the Universe evolved over 13.7 billion years - from the Big Bang to modern day.



  • Take your picture with the famous Art Institute Lions at the entrance on Michigan Avenue.
  • Along the Grand Staircase, view beautiful architectural fragments from some of Chicago's historic buildings that have been demolished.
  • Marvel at the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art outside of Paris. The Art Institute's Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections are among the best in the world with more than 350 works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Gauguin.
  • See the largest painting in the museum, Georgia O'Keeffe's Sky Above Clouds IV
  • Explore iconic 19th and 20th century American Art by finding:
    • Edward Hopper's Nighthawks
    • Grant Wood's American Gothic
    • Mary Cassatt's The Child's Bath
  • Take a peek at the Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room, one of the finest examples of architect Louis Sullivan's work and a faithful restoration and reinstallation of the room originally in the Chicago Stock Exchange building (now demolished).
  • Don't miss experiencing the beauty of the new Modern Wing. Designed by Italian architect, Renzo Piano, the use of natural light and windows is unlike any other art museum.
  • The museum also has one of the top three collections of Surrealist art in the U.S. and is on display in the Modern Wing.
  • The outdoor third-floor Nichols Bridgeway connecting the Art Institute to Millennium Park offers spectacular views of the skyline and Lake Michigan.
  • Explore the Thorne Miniature Rooms - tiny recreations of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s.



  • Stand "nose" to "snout" with SUE, the world's largest, most complete T.rex fossil ever found! Sue is 67 million years old!
  • Find SUE's real skull on display on the second-floor balcony overlooking SUE's skeleton in Stanley Field Hall. A cast of SUE's skull is mounted with the skeleton, because the real skull is too heavy, weighing almost 1 ton!
  • Visit Inside Ancient Egypt, and explore a full-sized mastaba tomb complex. View the 5,000 year old hieroglyphics and 23 Egyptian mummies hidden inside.
  • In the Egyptian tomb, delight in examining the wooden funerary boat which is 3,700 years old and one of only four in existence today.
  • Explore the Hall of Jades, which houses North America's largest collection of Chinese jade.
  • Discover the Hall of Gems and find the world's largest blue topaz, weighing 5,899.5 carats.
  • Visit Evolving Planet and find the "Rapetosaurus krausei," an 18-foot juvenile sauropod, found by Field Museum Scientists in Madagascar. It is the only one of its kind on exhibit in the world!
  • Don't miss the Pawnee Earth Lodge in the Native American Halls. This full-scale reconstruction of a traditional Pawnee lodge is true to the originals in form, appearance and construction.
  • Step into the windswept world of the Ice Age Mammoth hunters in Ancient Americas Hall and examine the most sophisticated spear points known to exist, created by the Clovis people to take down mammoths and other giant animals.
  • Wander around Stanley Field Hall and look for fossils embedded in the floor tiles. You just might see something unusual!



  • Don't miss Science Storms! Manipulate a 40-foot tornado, trigger a 20-foot avalanche, create a tsunami, and more!
  • Visit the U-505 Submarine - the only German submarine captured in World War II - take a guided tour to learn what life was like on board.
  • Explore the human body in YOU! The Experience, make the 13-foot 3-D, Giant Heart beat in time with yours; run in the human-sized Hamster Wheel; see blood running through your veins and examine more than 50 real human specimens!
  • Experience the Coal Mine. Take a ride into the bottom of a mine shaft, learn about the technology used in mining coal and see the working conditions of a typical U.S. miner.
  • Enjoy a scientific adventure in the Omnimax Theater, Chicago's only five-story, domed, wrap-around movie theater.
  • Learn how the lunar landing almost failed, try to "dock" at the International Space Station, and remote control your own Mars Rover - all in the Henry Crown Space Center.
  • Witness the miracle of life right before your eyes in the Baby Chick Hatchery. Baby chicks peck and maneuver out of their shells-taking their very first steps! Every day!
  • Complete the winding journey across the United States from Chicago to Seattle through The Great Train Story, a model railroad allowing you to witness more than 30 trains running on 1,400 feet of track.
  • See some of the Museum's most fascinating-and rarely-exhibited-historic bicycles, juxtaposed with the coolest, fastest and most high-tech bikes currently on the market, in The Art of the Bicycle.
  • Check out Earth Revealed, an interactive exhibit that demonstrates Earth's characteristics such as climate, geophysics and weather as well as the human impact on the planet. See the powerful forces at work on our planet in several guided daily shows.



  • See a diver feed the animals and answer your questions in the 90,000 gallon habitat, Caribbean Reef.
  • Find the Shedd Aquarium's oldest resident, an Australian lungfish "Grand Dad." He arrived at the Shedd Aquarium in 1933, and at 85 years old, is the oldest known fish in any zoo or aquarium.
  • Be sure to see our rotating cast of various animals in Shedd's Aquatic Show, One World, where you'll see and hear how the sea lions, dolphins and beluga whales at Shedd arecared for every day by their trainers.
  • Check out over 24 sharks without worrying about getting wet when you explore The Wild Reef Shark habitat.
  • Don't miss the chance to touch a Sea Star (or starfish) in the touch pools of the Polar Play Zone.
  • Find Naluark, the heaviest beluga whale at the aquarium. Hint: Look next to the dolphins!
  • You don't need to be in the North or South Pole to see penguins. Head to the Polar Play Zone and learn how to tell the difference between a Rockhopper penguin and a Magellanic penguin as you watch these speedy underwater swimmers.
  • Don't miss the fun and surprises at the newest show in the Shedd Aquarium's 4D Theater!
  • See Stingrays swimming under your feet in the Wild Reef exhibit.
  • Ask a Shedd volunteer why the green sea turtle in the Caribbean Reef is named Nickel.



Chicago Architecture Foundation

CAF presents a comprehensive program of 85 exciting tours of Chicago by boat, foot, bus, bike, and Segway.  Additionally, exhibitions, lectures, special events, and adult and youth education activities, are all designed to enhance the public's awareness and appreciation of Chicago's outstanding architectural legacy.


Chicago Children's Museum

Chicago Children's Museum is a place where families with infants and children are encouraged to create, explore, and discover together through play. The museum features three vibrant floors of exhibits and activities that provide sensory experiences and engaging educational content focusing on literacy, science, math, visual and performing arts, and health.


Chicago History Museum

If you live in Chicago or are visiting and are curious about the city's past, present, and future, the Museum should be your first stop.  The Chicago History Museum cares for, showcases, and interprets millions of authentic pieces of Chicago and U.S. history.


Clarke House Museum

Built in 1836 for Henry B. Clarke, the Clarke House Museum is Chicago's oldest house. The house shows what life was like for a family in Chicago during the city's formative years before the Civil War. Its fascinating history began at a time when Chicago received its city charter and much of the area was still undeveloped prairie. Tours conducted by Glessner House Museum.


Driehaus Museum

Steps away from Chicago's Magnificent Mile, the Driehaus Museum offers visitors a fascinating view of one of the few remaining examples of the palatial homes erected by the wealthy of America's Gilded Age. The galleries, elegantly furnished with period pieces selected from the Driehaus Collection, are presented in harmony with the interiors and surviving furnishings, immersing visitors in the original splendor of this late 19th-century home.


DuSable Museum of African American History

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. Exhibits, concerts, films, children's events and literary discussions are just a few of the institution's various programs offered.


Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Visit the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. View rare currency and displays of millions of dollars. Detect counterfeit currency and create your own unique dollar bill featuring your portrait. All visitors receive souvenir shredded money.


Glessner House Museum

A National Historic Landmark, Glessner House was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887. It remains an internationally-known architectural treasure in Chicago. A radical departure from traditional Victorian architecture, the structure served as an inspiration to the young Frank Lloyd Wright and helped redefine domestic architecture.  Offering guided tours, lectures, and other special programs to interpret the themes of art, architecture, and social history which are inherent in Glessner House, the museum's collections, and the stories of its residents and neighbors during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


International Museum of Surgical Science

Housed in a historic mansion on Lake Shore Drive, the International Museum of Surgical Science spans the history of surgery by means of art, books, medical instruments and artifacts. The Museum's collections and exhibitions portray the mysteries, breakthroughs, failures, and milestones that have shaped modern surgical science. Of special interest to those in the medical field, our collection appeals to anyone interested in history, science, architecture, or classical and contemporary art.


Museum of Broadcast Communications

One of only three museums dedicated to broadcast history in the nation, the MBC is home to America's only National Radio Hall of Fame Gallery. The new MBC includes Oprah's Door (through which she made her famous grand entrance each day), WGN's Family Classics set, 183 inductee posters in the only National Radio Hall of Fame Gallery, the "original" Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd and Effie Klinkler, Scores of radio memorbillia and vintage radios, and a working radio and television studio.


Museum of Contemporary Art

One of the nation's largest facilities devoted to the art of our time, the MCA offers exhibitions of the most thought-provoking art created since 1945 and documents contemporary visual culture through painting, sculpture, photography, video and film, and performance.


National Hellenic Museum

A premier institution that fosters a deeper connection to American history and culture through the experiences of Americans of Greek origin.


National Museum of Mexican Art

One of the most prominent first-voice institutions for Mexican art and culture in the United States.  Home to one of the country's largest Mexican art collections, including more than 7,000 seminal pieces from ancient Mexico to the present. 


Oriental Institute Museum

World-famous collection of artifacts from the ancient Middle East, including a recreation of an Assyrian palace and a 17-ft.-tall statue of King Tut.  A part of the University of Chicago, it is an internationally recognized pioneer in the archaeology, philology, and history of early Near Eastern civilizations. 


Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Inspiring people to learn about and care for nature and the environment through a unique indoor/outdoor experience. Touch live animals, learn about food's life cycle and let your imagination go in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven.


Pritzker Military Library

Open to the public with live events and a collection of books, films, and gallery exhibits that tell the story of the Citizen Soldier in American military history.


Smart Museum of Art, of The University of Chicago

As the fine arts museum of the University of Chicago, the Smart is home to thought-provoking exhibitions and an exquisite collection of ancient, modern, and contemporary art from across the globe. Free and open to the public.


Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership

Chicago's Jewish education and cultural center. It offers an innovative array of public programming, including exhibits, performances, films, and lectures. The institute collects, preserves, and displays materials from the Jewish experience. Art from the institute's collection is showcased throughout the building and temporary exhibits examine aspects of Jewish culture.


Swedish American Museum

You don't have to be Swedish to visit Chicago's Swedish-American Museum! The Museum has something for everyone-an art gallery, immigration exhibit, children's museum, genealogy center, and a gift shop featuring a beautiful selection of handcrafted Scandinavian gifts.


Ukrainian National Museum

Discover Ukraine's rich culture through colorful Easter eggs, ceramics, costumes, intricate embroidery, and religious artifacts. Learn about the Ukrainian Genocide Famine and the Chernobyl disaster.