Chicago’s best cultural institutions include significant collections in the areas of science, contemporary art and natural history. And, many offer special days with free admission for Illinois residents; for our out-of-town guests, our concierge has VIP access tickets to many of our favorites. These are our top recommendations, but other contenders are the Adler Planetarium, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History and interactive Museum of Science and Industry.
Choose your topic—science, art, nature, industry, history—and match it to one of the Windy City’s leading-edge museums.
Art Institute of Chicago
Grand and imposing with rambling light-filled halls and galleries housing 300,000 works, this is Chicago’s most revered and well-known institution, famous for having one of the globe’s largest impressionist collections. Pick up a map and make a plan, because you’re never going to see it all. Medieval armor or the modern wing? Georges Seurat or Vincent van Gogh? Spend a fascinating day or two exploring and learning.
Field Museum of Chicago
Monolithic best describes the Field Museum, founded in 1893 for the World’s Fair. Learn all about natural history at this revered institution with more than 300,000 square feet and 30 permanent exhibitions. Delve way back into 4.9 billion years of planet Earth and its creatures. Museum stars include Sue the T. Rex and Maximo the Titanosaur.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
The MCA Chicago “champions the new and unexpected in contemporary art and culture,” housing one of the country’s biggest collections. This is the place in the Midwest to see the latest up-and-comers, avant-garde exhibitions and the permanent collections by Koons, Picasso and Calder, to name a few. See local talents at the Chicago Works series, with discussions and workshops. Look for headliner visiting exhibitions and check the arts events calendar for outstanding programming. Critics rave about the toney, vibrantly-adorned museum restaurant, Marisol.
Shedd Aquarium Chicago
This aquarium takes a holistic approach to ocean life and conservation, offering things like outdoor yoga and Chicago River kayak trips with experts to learn about the ecosystem, habitats and wildlife. Favorites are the shark-filled wild reef exhibit, rescued sea otters of the Oceanarium, belugas and dolphins, and 4-D movies. Join Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park in taking the aquarium’s #SheddTheStraw/Protect our Waters pledge to stop using non-biodegradable drinking straws and protect aquatic animals in our lakes, rivers and oceans.
Image Courtesy of Choose Chicago