Chicago’s Must-See Museums

Make it a museum weekend in the Windy City.

in Arts & Culture, Chicago
August 01, 2016

Photo Nick Ulivieri.

Shedd Aquarium presents amazing aquatic displays.

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Chicago is home to some of the most acclaimed museums in the world.

You can easily spend a weekend or more exploring them. We’ve suggested a handful to get you started.

Museum Campus

Families love to spend the day at the lakefront Museum Campus, home to the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and Adler Planetarium (reopening March 4, 2022). The Shedd houses hundreds of aquatic wonders, including beluga whales, sharks and white-sided dolphins. See the dolphins and whales perform daily in an exciting aquatic show. In the Polar Play Zone, little ones can dress up like penguins and touch real sea stars. Plus, the Shedd recently announced a $500 million transformation, concluding in 2030, the aquarium's 100th anniversary. At the Field Museum come face to face with prehistoric dinosaurs, including towering Sue the T. rex, the largest dinosaur of its kind ever discovered. Or explore a mysterious tomb that holds one of the nation’s biggest collections of Egyptian mummies. At the Adler Planetarium walk with astronauts and see space treasures like real moon rocks. Take a seat in one of the dazzling sky theaters and get ready to blast off into the galaxies.

Museum of Science and Industry

Set aside a second day to roam the halls of the Museum of Science and Industry, in the Hyde Park neighborhood. This massive museum holds more than 800 hands-on science exhibits. Explore the inner workings of a real German U-505 submarine, ride carts through the underground coal mine, and fasten your seatbelt for a virtual ride on a United Airlines Boeing 727 airplane. Need a break? Kick back in the museum’s giant Omnimax Theater.

Art Institute of Chicago

Art lovers can spend the day browsing the nearby Art Institute of Chicago, one of the world’s leading art museums. The Art Institute displays iconic works by some of the greatest artists in history, including Monet, Picasso and Warhol. It’s especially noted for its prized collection of French Impressionist paintings (the largest outside of the Louvre in Paris). The stunning Modern Wing is home to works by important contemporary artists.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Head up to the North Shore to visit one of the world’s greatest living museums. Glencoe’s Chicago Botanic Garden features 26 themed areas, such as the Bonsai Garden and Aquatic Garden. Take a tram tour of the 385 colorful acres or visit an Art Market or a Farmer's market.

Want to see more?

If Chicago's more popular museums haven't quite satisfied your thirst for knowledge, make sure to check out 5 Lesser-Known Chicago Museums You Need to Explore.

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