Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a family favorite located in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Neighborhood. This Chicago attraction will transport you out of the city and into Nature exploring butterfly habitats, river locks, and wetlands. Follow along with me in this complete guide to visiting the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to learn where to park (which can be tricky), which days are free, admission, membership, exhibits to visit, and more. All the details you need to know before you go!
Parking at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is located in the City of Chicago and this can make parking a little more of a challenge. The first and free option is finding street parking on Cannon or Stockton Drive. You can search the surrounding streets and even across Fullerton Parkway by the Lincoln Park Zoo. We often park by this free zoo and walk through it on our way in and out of the Nature Museum. It’s a great way to make it a full day of fun. Learn more about Lincoln Park Zoo with kids here.
Option two is to pay for parking. There is a small Chicago Park District lot located across the street from the Museum at 2431 North Cannon Drive. However, this lot fills up quickly, especially during the summer months. You can also find a few more paid lots if you are willing to walk a bit. Here is a link to a few parking lots in the area.
You could also park in the Lincoln Park Zoo lot which is located at Fullerton Parkway and Cannon Drive, 2400 North Cannon Drive, Chicago
Here is a link to that parking lot. This is an easy walk to the Museum.
Free Days & Admission to Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
I love that Chicago Museums offer free days and I try to take advantage of as many of them as possible. Every Thursday, the Peggy Notebaert offers Illinois residents a suggested donation day. So, it is not totally free but you can throw in a couple bucks for your whole family vs. the higher daily rate. The nice part about it being offered every week is that it’s not as crowded as other Chicago Museums on free days.
As of January 2019 here are the admission prices at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
• $9 for adults
• $7 for students and seniors (60+)
• $6 for children ages 3 – 12
• Free for children under 3
Membership to Peggy Notebaert
If you plan to visit a couple times a year, you might consider buying a Membership. Some great perks are free admission everyday, free coat check, and free stroller check. I love the stroller check. It’s a great option when you have a long walk to the car but don’t want to be burdened with a stroller while visiting the museum. The other added bonus is reciprocal admission to 300 other museums around the world.
Where to Eat
The Nature Museum offers a small cafe at the entrance to the Museum. You will find some pastries, snacks. hearty salads and small dishes. However this is not open all day.
You can also bring your own food and eat at tables provided in the lobby and at Nature’s Lunchbox. The other option is finding a restaurant in the Lincoln Park area or eating at a restaurant in the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Butterfly Exhibit and More
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has 10 different exhibits plus the outside nature trails. Let me highlight a few of my kids’ favorites that I think your kids will love too.
Judy Istock Butterfly Haven
Walk through the amazing world of butterflies in this 2,700 square foot tropical green house filled with more than 1,000 butterflies. Children will be immersed in colorful butterflies and exotic birds. Even more exciting is that children can watch museum staff release new butterflies into the exhibit every day. This was really fun to see!
This cool water table exhibit is not your typical water play. Kids will get to build dams, learn about the Chicago locks, control water turbines, and change the flow of the river. I found this area great for all ages as younger kids can splash around while older ones enjoy building and learning Chicago’s water systems.
Tip: There are no water smocks so I would go to this exhibit at the end of your visit and bring a change of clothes.
Mysteries of the Marsh
In this exhibit, kids will get to visit their living collection of reptiles, amphibians, and various invertebrates. There are seven different types of wetlands represented here. What I liked about this exhibit is the reptiles are easy for all age kids to view up close.
Tip: The kids can watch an animal feeding in this area everyday. Check the daily schedule for times. The last time we were there, we got to watch the turtles being fed up close.
Hands On Habitat
When the kids just need to run around, this is where you go. Kids can explore a cave and swing like a squirrel, steer a ship, dress up like animals, explore a beaver lodge, and climb up and down a two story tree with slide. It’s a great indoor play area.
Take a stroll through a re-created Illinois prairie, savanna, and dune ecosystem and see all the birds and animals who live here. Also in this exhibit is the Family Look in Lab where you can watch and question museum scientists who are preserving animals in their living collection. The staff here was great at interacting with the kids and teaching them about the different animals they preserve. My kids loved this area.
Final Nature Museum Tips
Coat Check – Coat Check costs 50 cents and is located at the entrance of the museum. If you plan to go in the winter, I think it’s worth the 50 cents to not have to lug around all your kids, coats.
Bathrooms – The bathrooms are pretty spread out so just keep this in mind if you have a newly potty trained child.
Crowds – It tends to be less crowded in the afternoon after groups leave and little kids nap.
Explore Lincoln Park– Take advantage of finding parking in Lincoln Park and take time to explore the outdoor Nature Trails and visit Lincoln Park Zoo. The museum only takes 2-3 hours so use the rest of the day to have a city adventure.
Age Range – Wondering what’s a good age to take kids here? I think a range of children can find things to do here due to the different levels of learning. However I do think it is more for younger kids. I would suggest age 12 and younger.
I hope you are now prepared for a great day out at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. You will not regret exploring this amazing nature museum and Chicago attraction with your kids. It’s sure to be a fun filled family day out.
Do you have any questions or great tips? Please leave them in the comments I love to hear from my readers.