Learn about the world through these Chicago institutions celebrating art, science, heritage and more.
Chicago, Illinois is a major hub of U.S. culture featuring museums and cultural offerings for the whole family to enjoy. Get hands-on and immerse yourself in the various offerings sprinkled throughout the city and increase the depth of your knowledge all while having loads of fun. For the top museums and institutions to visit in the area, check out this handy list.
Chicago Museum Campus
The Chicago Museum Campus is a 23-hectare park that connects three of the city’s most important museum destinations: Shedd Aquarium, where you can explore the underwater world of marine life; Adler Planetarium, where you can see far off galaxies and explore space; and the Field Museum of Natural History, where you can pay a visit to the largest, most complete fossil of a T-rex. Spend the day and learn about the mysteries of the natural world by visiting each site and taking in what they have to offer.
SUE, the largest Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, on display in The Field Museum
Chicago Children’s Museum
Located on the historic Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum is three stories of family fun. It features 15-minute interactive exhibitions and daily activities in math, science, reading, art and more that are designed with your children in mind. Hide in a tree house, construct a skyscraper, tinker with real tools, go fishing, explore and climb a schooner and have an awesome time. There is also a toddler and baby activity area.
A night view of Chicago Children's Museum entrance at the Navy Pier
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago offers a variety of imaginative art exhibitions with daily guided tours, family activities, wonderful shows, a delicious restaurant and a beautiful terraced sculpture garden with views of Lake Michigan. It is one of the nation’s largest facilities dedicated to contemporary art, displaying the most thought-provoking pieces since 1945. The permanent collection has a strong focus on surrealism, minimalism, conceptual photography and work by Chicago-based artists. The collection includes works by Francis Bacon, Ann Hamilton, Alfredo Jaar, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, René Magritte, Ed Paschke, Ad Reinhardt, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson and Andy Warhol.
Photography exhibit in a gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
The Chicago Architecture Foundation
The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) offers more than 80 different touring routes so you get a truly hands-on experience of Chicago’s world-famous buildings. Excursions include boat trips, walking tours, public transport, cycling and even a Segway tour. The foundation also has a permanent exhibit: The Chicago Model City, a 30-square-meter replica of the city. There’s also a variety of chic home furnishings, Chicago-themed souvenirs, books on Chicago’s architecture, videos and trinkets designed by local jewelers and artists located in the Foundation store.
Viewing stunning and significant architecture throughout Chicago
University of Chicago
Located in the heart of the vibrant Hyde Park community, the University of Chicago has various art and cultural halls, museums and galleries that are free of charge to the general public. The Smart Museum of Art shows thought-provoking pieces as well as a collection of ancient, modern and contemporary art from across the globe. The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts has 200 square meters of gallery space for rotating exhibits as well as a performance hall. You are also welcome to stroll through campus to see architectural masterpieces of Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Helmut Jahn.
One favorite attraction on campus is The Oriental Institute Museum, world-renowned for its showcase of history, art and archaeology of the ancient Middle East. The collection of treasures displayed in the permanent gallery were unearthed in ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia and Megiddo between 1920 and 1940. The museum provides free admission so the public can easily enjoy the story of the rise of civilizations; learn about archaeological, linguistic and historical discoveries; and understand cultural comparisons between the ancient and modern worlds.