The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest Science Museums in the world and a great place for kids. If you are visiting Chicago and looking for a family-friendly museum, you will want to make sure to check out this museum.
The Science Museum has over 400,00 square feet of exhibits designed to pique your curiosity and teach you about science. With so many exhibits, you will find things to entertain all ages of kids and adults.
To help you explore and enjoy this huge museum, I have come up with family-friendly tips for the Museum of Science and Industry to ensure you have the best visit.
Follow along with me to learn what to see, where to park, where to eat, find free days at the museum, and more helpful tips.
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Top Tips for the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry
** 2020 Updates – Throughout the article, I will add in 2020 changes being made. These keep evolving so check back before you go or on the Science in Industry Page.
Two big changes are visitors must reserve tickets online before you go and will need to wear a mask inside if you are older than 2 years old.
A bonus to the Museum of Science and Industry is that it has its own underground parking garage. This makes it a convenient museum to drive to especially in the cold winter months.
The best place to park in the garage is on the east side of the garage on the lower level. I would suggest Green Level C. With this parking location, you can walk right into the museum without taking an elevator with the kids.
Tip: on busy days, you need to get to the museum early because the garage will fill up.
The bathrooms are spaced far apart in this older museum which can be an issue for younger children. Check out your map to find the locations throughout the museum. You will find family bathrooms located on the lower level near the Farm Tech and Brain Food Court and on Main level 2 near Yesterday’s Main Street.
Coat Check –
If you are going in the winter, don’t worry about carrying your big winter coat as you can use the coat check located across from the ticket counter. Or, if you parked in the garage, leave your coat in the car and just run into the museum.
It’s a large museum so strollers for the little ones are helpful. However, there are not many elevators and the lines for the few elevators get long.
You are also unable to take strollers on several exhibits but you can park your stroller outside the exhibits.
Get a Map –
When you get your tickets grab a map and plan out your day before you start. The museum is very spread out and has three levels. You want to make sure you are not wasting time running all over the museum.
Figure out which exhibits the family will like best and then what is around those exhibits to see while you are there. Also, keep in mind the ticket times for any movies or exhibits you purchased when deciding your plan for the day.
Where to Eat –
** 2020 Update – Only grab and go food located in the Museum Cafe is available but you can bring your own food to eat. Visitors can remove their masks while eating and drinking.
All food areas are located on Lower Level 1 and in the same general area.
The Brain Food Court located on the lower level is a huge cafeteria-style dining experience. It offers a wide variety of food and seating. The downside is you have to wait in different lines for each type of food which can be a pain when your kids want different meals.
Museum Café – This is a quick place to grab a snack, a pre-made sandwich, or a Starbucks Coffee.
Bring your own lunch – You will find tables to eat your own lunch or food from the Museum Café located on the Ground Level right by the Escalators.
This area is fun for the kids because of the Swiss Jolly Ball exhibit, which consists of a marble going through the Swiss Alps using gravity. It sounds funny but it’s pretty cool. Find a table near this exhibit and the kids can be entertained while you eat.
Finnigan’s Ice Cream Parlor
Set in Yesterday’s Main Street area, this old fashioned soda shop is a really fun place to grab an ice cream for a much-needed break. It’s also a great place to bribe the kids for good behavior at the museum. Not that I would ever do such a thing. LOL
There are also family-friendly bathrooms located outside of the parlor.
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Science and Industry Must-See Exhibits
** 2020 Update – The following exhibits are closed at this time. The Idea Factory, Future Energy Chicago, and tours inside the Coal Mine and inside the U-505 submarine (the U-505 Submarine exhibit remains open).
Other exhibits have been modified to promote social distancing.
I-Max Movie –
A really cool thing about the Science and Industry is their giant dome theater. You can watch amazing Science I-Max movies that make you feel like you are a part of the movie. My note of caution is taking young children into these movies.
If your child is having a hard time sitting and you need to leave, it is hard to get out of this theater while the movie is playing due to the steep seating. I would suggest if you think you might need to leave to sit up near the top all the way near the middle aisle so you can make an easy escape.
The other issue is the movies can activate motion sickness. The further up you sit in the theatre the less dizzy you will feel. So, make sure to get in line early for the best seats in the theatre.
Tip: if there is a Movie you really want to see, order your tickets in advance because they do sell out on busy days.
Before or after the movie, check out all the cool space exhibits outside the theatre.
Idea Factory –
This hands-on kid’s area for children 10 and younger is so much fun. Kids will love exploring the different science concepts they can test out themselves.
There is a water area with balls but don’t worry, they have raincoats. The Idea Factory is divided into an older area and a younger area so small children are also safe to explore.
It has a timed entrance so that it never gets too crowded. Stop by and pick up a ticket and come back when it’s your time.
Next door is a farm area with a real tractor and combine to climb into which is always a big hit with the kids. This is a great place to wait for your time to come up in the Idea Factory.
U-505 Submarine –
The museum has its own World War II German Submarine. It is a really cool exhibit where you not only see the submarine but also learn all about WWII.
This is a great area for a little bit older kids as there is nothing hands-on for younger children to do and a long walk to get to it.
You can take a really fun tour of the inside of the submarine also, but keep in mind it is very tight in there so again harder with younger kids. I will say this is a favorite of my 9-year-old but the 6-year-old is bored.
So, decide to go based on your children’s ages and what they like.
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Favorite Kids Exhibits
Here are some more kid-friendly exhibits.
The Great Train Story has a huge train display with a miniature Chicago, Seattle, Illinois countryside, and more. Look for the buttons for the kids to press and have fun finding the many different types of trains.
In the Genetics Room, you will find the cutest baby chicks. There is an incubator with eggs where you can see baby chicks hatching out of their eggs and other newly born chicks walking around.
Kids love it! You can go through the back entrance by the trains if you just want to see the baby chicks and not the whole Genetics hall.
The Science Storms Hall has huge displays of different weather patterns. Make sure to check out the simulated tornado area. Often the museum staff let the children in to see and touch the storm. There are also several hands-on areas for kids, too.
The Coal Mine Ride takes you down into a mock coal mine to experience what it was like working in a coal mine. You will take an elevator ride and a tram ride once below.
This is a neat experience for kids who aren’t too squirmy. You can’t take strollers in this exhibit. For this exhibit, you will need to purchase a ticket.
Fairy Castle has a miniature fairy home with amazing details for any princess and fairy loving kids.
The Circus area is a long hallway on your way to the U-Boat and Theater. Here the kids can look at silly mirrors, catch falling bubbles on a cool screen, and see miniature circus wagons.
At the beginning of the hall, lights are located on the floor that the kids can run through and it sounds like a piano.
There are so many other great exhibits, too. Your family will have so much fun exploring all the museum has to offer.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Lights
Every year the Science and Industry displays over 50 Holiday Trees from around the world plus one huge 4 story tree. Each tree represents a different country and has ornaments and decorations to reflect the countries traditions.
It’s both amazing to see and educational at the same time. Both children and adults will enjoy strolling through all the decorations before visiting the other science exhibits.
On weekends they also have holiday performances to entertain guests.
In 2020 this event starts on November 13th and runs Through January 3, 2021.
Find more fun places to see Holiday Light Displays in our Christmas in Chicago Holiday Lights 2020
Do you plan on going to the museum more than one time this year? If yes, I would consider getting a membership.
The museum prices are not cheap and depending on how many family members you have, it may pay for itself in 2 visits.
We enjoy being a member of the Science and Industry because it includes free parking which is a huge bonus, especially in the winter months. I also like the member’s lounge that is included. You can go there to take a break and have a free coffee or hot chocolate. They will also help you purchase tickets to shows and exhibits.
A big bonus to membership is on busy days you just walk right in and skip the long entrance lines.
You can head up to the member’s lounge to get your parking ticket validated. So no waiting in lines which is great with kids.
Another bonus – if you are a nursing mother, they have a private nursing room in the member’s lounge. Plus, there is a member’s bathroom.
For this museum, I find it to be a good deal to be a member.
Free Days –
Are you an Illinois resident? If so, you are eligible to get in free during the free days at the museum. Check out this link to see upcoming dates.
The museum does tend to get crowded on these free days but it is such a huge building I find that it does not hinder your experience.
Free Days link (here)
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Final Tip –
You can order Movie tickets and exhibit tickets in advance. If you plan to go at a busy time a year such as a holiday or a summer, I would purchase your tickets ahead of time. They often sell out.
I hope these tips will help you and your family have an amazing trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. It is a place my family loves and I am sure yours will love it too!
Do you have any questions or tips of your own? Please share with me in the comments. I love to hear from my readers.
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