10Best Chicago Museums to Visit

  • The Chicago Children's Museum is located in one of the city's busiest tourist spots, Navy Pier

    Explore the Many Museums of Chicago

    The first stop for most Chicago tourists is the Museum Campus, three adjacent museums along the scenic, downtown lakefront: the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. Yet beyond that campus lies so many more interesting and top-tier museums. The Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry and the National Museum of Mexican Art are among the Chicago museums that will entertain and educate visitors, whether it's with hands-on interactive fun for kids, stories of ancient history or Michael Jordan's basketball jersey. Here, a child plays at the Chicago Children's Museum, located in one of the city's busiest tourist spots, Navy Pier.

    Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

  • Chicago is filled with world-class museums, many of which are located along the lakefront

    The Art Institute of Chicago

    The world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago is home to some of the most famous paintings and sculptures in the world. Many of the art pieces are instantly recognizable, such as Grant Wood's "American Gothic" and Vincent Van Gogh's self-portrait. Kids and adults like peeking into the Thorne Miniature Rooms, 68 little spaces decorated with stunning detail.

    Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

  • The Museum of Contemporary Art's "David Bowie Is" exhibit was a hot ticket in Chicago, and helped people rediscover the museum

    Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

    The museum shot up in popularity in 2014, after landing the only American stop for the "David Bowie Is" exhibit. It brought in people from all over the world, including celebrities. But it also helped people rediscover the museum, which houses one of the nation's largest collections of post-1945 art. The thought-provoking pieces include everything from photography to metal and wire abstracts. If weather permits, walk through the outdoor sculpture garden with views of Lake Michigan and the Streeterville neighborhood.

    Photo courtesy of Peter McCullough/MCA

  • The Museum of Science and Industry

    Museum of Science and Industry

    Its famous coal mine ride is still there, but so are all sorts of new, interactive features in this sprawling, historic museum in Hyde Park. Wear your comfy shoes, as there's a lot of ground to cover. Watch a real tornado being formed in the "Science Storms" area, step inside a World War II German submarine, catch one of the cool Omnimax science movies or see baby chicks hatch. A large kid activity area, with play areas that include a mirror maze, make this one of the most family-friendly museums in town. A buzzed-about robot exhibit is planned for sometime this year.

    Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

  • The Chicago History Museum

    Chicago History Museum

    From the Great Chicago Fire to the riotous 1968 Democratic National Convention, this museum near the lakefront in Lincoln Park takes you through Chicago's fascinating history. Browse photo displays and artifacts, walk through old train cars, see headlines from major tragedies and learn about Al Capone's Chicago roots. Audio tours help tie it all together, and an audio tour for teens makes the museum family-friendly. Special exhibits and music concerts are always on the calendar.

    Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch

  • The history and achievements of African-Americans is celebrated with a variety of exhibits, art and events at the DuSable Museum

    The DuSable Museum of African American History

    The history and achievements of African-Americans is celebrated using a variety of exhibits, artwork and events. A big expansion is in the works in the adjacent "roundhouse" in the Hyde Park neighborhood, home to President Obama and the University of Chicago campus. The museum is not an all-day outing, so best to do it in tandem with other university attractions, such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House or the Oriental Institute Museum. In the DuSable museum, don't miss the wall-sized Freedom Now Mural, a wood carving that tells the story of Africans coming to America. In the summer, events that include music and dancing are held on the front lawn.

    Photo courtesy of DuSable Museum of African American History

  • The Adler Planetarium is part of the scenic Museum Campus area on Chicago's lakefront

    Adler Planetarium

    One of the museums in the scenic Museum Campus area along Lake Michigan, the Adler Planetarium makes the galaxy fun, fascinating and family-friendly. Popular features include the shows in the Grainger Sky Theater, where you lie back in chairs and look up on the dome screen to learn about what you see in the sky. Weather permitting, look through one of the telescopes in the observatory. 

    Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

  • The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is the world's largest indoor aquarium

    Shedd Aquarium

    Pet stingrays, watch a dolphin show and see a fish-filled Caribbean reef at this historic, lakefront museum, located within Chicago's Museum Campus. At the world's largest indoor aquarium, visitors can watch and learn about everything from tiny seahorses to beluga whales, while perusing the exhibits to see fun-to-watch fish. For an extra cost, you can do one of the "extraordinary experiences," such as feeding sharks behind the scenes or swimming with the beluga whales.

    Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

  • The Field Museum in Chicago is one of the largest natural history museums in the world

    Field Museum

    One of the largest natural history museums in the world, in Chicago's downtown Museum Campus, is best known for housing the 42-foot-long skeleton of Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur. But there are so many other interesting exhibits, ranging from ruins from ancient civilizations to a high-tech center that explains how DNA works. Kids will enjoy walking through a re-creation of the Kenyan bat caves. 

    Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

  • Mexican art and culture is showcased in Chicago's National Museum of Mexican Art

    National Museum of Mexican Art

    Mexican art from spanning 3,000 years, and from both sides of the Mexican border, is featured in this popular Pilsen museum. Admission is always free. The bilingual galleries invite visitors to connect with Mexican art and culture. A new exhibition opening in April, "House on Mango Street," will take on issues facing adolescents from working class Latino neighborhoods around the United States. It'll be built around author Sandra Cisneros' novel by the same name, with themes of hope, personal dreams, family, community, home, identity, storytelling and self-empowerment.  

    Photo courtesy of National Museum of Mexican Art

  • The Chicago Sports Museum is located inside Water Tower Place

    Chicago Sports Museum

    A must-see for sports fans, this small museum pays homage to the iconic sports stars of recent years, especially Chicago Bulls basketball legend Michael Jordan. Located in the heart of downtown Chicago's tourist hub, Water Tower Place, it's attached to the Harry Caray's Seventh Inning Stretch restaurant. Eat lunch or dinner there first, and you get free admission to the museum. Enjoy many interactive exhibits, including an area inviting you to try to jump as high as Jordan, a Chicago sports trivia game played on iPads and the blown-up remains of the infamous "Bartman ball" that allegedly ruined the Chicago Cubs' chances for a World Series.

    Photo courtesy of Jamie Bartosch