Are you planning to visit Chicago this year? There are so many amazing places to visit in Chicago with kids. Explore the city’s cool parks, museums, and zoos as well as the countless restaurants and shops. Our favorite Chicago Attractions are the outstanding large museums and Chicago Children’s museums. Kid and adults will love exploring the different types of museums learning about space, history, aquatic life, and so much more. Follow along with me to find out which museums in Chicago are can’t miss on your family vacation.
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8 Best Museums in Chicago Including Cool Children’s Museums
Chicago Museum of Science and Industry
Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest museums in the world covering over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space. The museum is designed to peak your curiosity about science and teach you through hands-on exhibits. Families will learn about astronauts, weather, visit a coal mine, and see an original German submarine from World War II. Kids will love the miniature trains, baby chicks, farm, and kids play area. While you’re there, don’t miss the IMax theater experience, you and your kids will be in awe.
This museum is huge and will take you a full day to explore. They do have a nice cafeteria and areas to eat your own lunch when you’re ready for a break. Find out all the tips you need for a great first visit in my 14 Tips to Visiting Chicago Museum of Science and Industry with Kids.
Chicago Field Museum of Natural History
If you love history, culture, and dinosaurs, this is the museum for you. Families can walk through Ancient Egypt, China, a Native American home, and more. The immersion into history really helps kids understand different cultures from around the world. There is also a new dinosaur exhibit for Sue the T Rex, which is pretty amazing to see. Plus you’ll find a great children’s area where kids can play music, be an archaeologist, learn to farm, and be a forest animal.
The Field Museum is located in Chicago’s Museum Campus right on the lake shore. It’s another huge museum that will take a full day to explore. Take a break by going on a beautiful walk along the lake or having a bite to eat in the museum’s cafeteria. Find out more great tips in All You Need to Know Before Going to Chicago Field Museum.
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This is where you visit to see fish, dolphins, whales, penguins, and more amazing sea life. When visiting, you will get to see incredible fish from around the world and also learn about local fish from Lake Michigan. Kids can jump, play, and explore in the kids areas around the penguin and beluga whale exhibits. There is also a great touch-area to feel starfish and plant life in the ocean. Top it all off by watching an awesome dolphin show or 4D movie.
The Shedd Aquarium is also located in Chicago’s Museum Campus and has great areas to explore both inside and outside the building. The Aquarium can get very crowded so before you go make sure to check out my Tips on Visiting the Shedd Aquarium so you’ll be prepared for a fun day out.
The third Chicago attraction on the Museum Campus is the Adler Planetarium. This smaller museum lets you explore space, astronauts, planets, and so much more with great hands-on exhibits. Kids can launch a rocket ship, drive a moon rover, and create their own spaceships in the design lab. Don’t let the small size fool you, there are tons of great exhibits and movies your family will love watching.
I would give yourself a couple of hours to explore the Adler Planetarium. As it tends to be less crowed then the other Museum Campus Attractions, you could add this as an afternoon activity after visiting the Shedd Aquarium or Field Museum. Learn more in my Guide to the Adler Planetarium.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
This fun nature museum is located in heart of Lincoln Park just north of downtown Chicago. As you walk up to the museum, you will immediately be immersed into nature with their beautiful walking trails and paths. Once inside, you can visit an amazing butterfly sanctuary, explore the wetlands, learn how the Chicago River lock systems work, learn about local animal life and more. Find tons of great hands-on activities to keep the kids interested and engaged.
As you only need a couple hours to explore this museum, we often add on visiting the free Lincoln Park Zoo which is located across the street. This makes it a great full day of exploring animals and nature. Get all the tips you need before your visit in my Guide to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
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Best Chicago Children’s Museums
Chicago Children’s Museum
The Chicago Children’s Museum, located on Navy Pier, is one of the biggest Chicago Attractions in the city. Navy Pier has restaurants, shops, boat rides, a Ferris wheel, and more. But the best attraction for kids is the Children’s Museum. Kids can explore the sounds of music, be creative in the art room, find dinosaur bones, run a grocery store, be a fireman, and more. What I love about this museum is they change up their exhibits often so there is always something new to explore and see. Find out more at Chicago Children’s Museum.
Kohl Children’s Museum
You will find the Kohl Children’s Museum located in the northern suburb of Glenview, Illinois. They have 17 permanent exhibits for kids to explore and enjoy. All have great hands-on activities that keep kids active and involved. I really love all the imaginative play weaved into their exhibits. Kids can be a veterinarian, run a grocery store, be a doctor, or a train conductor. Plus, they run fun children’s programs everyday and have an outdoor area to explore, too.
This is hands down my favorite museum in Chicago for young children to about age 10. You’ll find something there to keep all your kids happy. Find out what you need to know before you go in my Guide to the Kohl Children’s Museum.
DuPage Children’s Museum
If you are out in the western suburbs, DuPage Children’s Museum is a great place to explore with kids. Kids make their own creations with building blocks, become an artist in the art room, play in the water room, and more. One of our highlights here is the wooden building area where kids are allowed to use a hammer and nails to make their own creation under supervision. It’s something fun we don’t do at home so our kids loved it.
To learn more about this fun museum go to DuPage Children’s Museum.
How to Save Money on Chicago Museums
I will be honest, many of the museums in Chicago are pretty expensive for families. So I am always looking to save money on our ticket prices. I found a deal that can save you up to 50% off your ticket price for several Chicago Museums by bundling your visits together with CityPass. You are able to visit 5 different museums during a 9 day period, which is perfect if you are vacationing in Chicago or just doing a summer staycation.
From my museum list, you will be able to use CityPass at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum. Find out how to use this pass and if it’s right for your in my Chicago CityPass Review.
Chicago Museum Free Days
Are you a resident of Illinois? Then you are eligible for Chicago Museum free days. All you need to do is show your driver’s license and you get in for free. I have used this many times and it’s great! Check out this list of Chicago Museum Free Days.
Did you find a few museums in Chicago to visit with your family? Make sure to share with me in the comments. I love to hear from my readers! If you’re looking for more fun places to visit in Chicago, make sure to check out my Ultimate Guide to Chicago Attractions for more great ideas.
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