Most people are already familiar with Chicago’s must-see museums: the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. Yet many more excellent, world-class museums exist in the Chicago area. These new or hidden gem museums are worth a visit.
A must-see for Saturday Night Live fans, this small museum made a big splash with the opening of its critically acclaimed exhibit, Saturday Night Live: The Experience (it runs through the end of 2018). Visitors get to experience what it’s like to walk into 30 Rockefeller Center and go behind the scenes to learn how the legendary comedy show is made. Clips of famous skits and show memorabilia fill the rooms, with photo ops at the Wayne’s World couch and the Weekend Update desk. Afterward, peruse the other floors for historic radio and TV displays, from WGN’s Bozo Circus to Meet the Press. Check out their other exhibits, too, like Watching TV in the 1990s.
Opened in the summer of 2018, this is the world’s first museum dedicated solely to clocks and stained glass. The five-story museum in downtown Evanston features 1,100 clocks from around the world—most of which were made in the 1700s—and 80 stained-glass pieces, some up to 25 feet tall. The third-floor banquet hall has a Tiffany ceiling and rooftop garden. It’s the pet project of Chicago real estate manager Cameel Halim. When he immigrated to the United States from Egypt in the 1960s, he marveled at the huge 19th century churches and was upset to see their beautiful stained-glass windows covered in soot. He started buying up windows when churches were being torn down, and restored them piece by piece, building an impressive collection.
Book lovers fawn over this unique Michigan Avenue museum, which opened in 2017 across the street from Millennium Park. The museum celebrates the works of authors ranging from Dr. Seuss to Jack Kerouac using touch screens and multimedia displays. Writers and readers of all kinds are inspired by the creative displays. Look for the Word Waterfall, a looping light installation with words and phrases.
A large collection of African-American art and historic memorabilia educate visitors about black history in America, from being freed from slavery to the Civil Rights era and Barack Obama’s presidency. Artifacts like shackles from slave boats tell the story, as do thought-provoking art pieces. After your visit, check out some more of the sites that reflect Illinois' African-American history.
The Humboldt Park neighborhood is home to Chicago’s largest Puerto Rican population, making it the perfect home for the country’s largest collection of Puerto Rican art. The traditional and contemporary works that adorn the walls of this historic building teach visitors about the Puerto Rican island culture and traditions. Theatrical performances, readings and art lessons are occasionally offered as well. Hours are limited at this free museum, so call ahead to make sure it’s open.
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