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Chicago Museum Guide

Updated on October 3, 2011
Chicago waterfront museum campus.
Chicago waterfront museum campus.

Alder Planetarium

The city of Chicago has an amazing collection of museums. From fine arts to natural history, and the largest array of ethnic cultural museums in the country, there is truly something to satisfy every visitor's interests.

Spend a day exploring the waterfront Museum Campus. It houses the Shedd aquarium and oceanarium,the Alder Planetarium and Astronomy Museum and The Field Museum. This is all located on a 57 acre lakefront campus that is family friendly and accessible from downtown Chicago by trolley.

John G. Shedd Aquarium

Housing the largest indoor collection of aquatic mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles in the country, this aquarium also has a wild reef exhibit displaying the amazing ecosystem up close and educating visitors about its importance to ocean life world wide. View more than 30 sharks face to face (safely behind glass, of course) and watch them circle endlessly through the water.

The Oceanarium is home to beluga whales, penguins, dolphins, sea otters and whales. There are experts on hand to explain all the facts about your favorite creatures.

Alder Planetarium and Astronomy Museum

Explore the universe through planetarium shows, educational programs and seminars, computer based interactive exhibits and an observatory. Permanent exhibits include topics such as: the Milky Way, our Solar System, and 1,000 years of discovery in astronomy.

Field Museum of Natural History

Behind the Scenes at The Museum of Science and Industry

The Field Museum of Natural History

Visit Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex , view mummies and precious gems and enjoy extensive exhibits in botany and zoology.

The Museum of Science and Industry

Take a hands on approach at this exciting museum that is fun for both adults and children.

Some highlights include :

  • The Circus Exhibit with fun house mirrors and clowns
  • Eye Spy Chambers
  • Space Center
  • Explore the only German submarine in the U.S.
  • Omnimax Films
  • The Transportation Zone, featuring an incredible collection of trains and a real Boeing 727
  • Watch a chick hatch in the Chicken Hatchery
  • Farming and Coal Mining Exhibits
  • The Toymaker 3000: watch up close as robots design and assemble toys
  • The Brain and Heart Exhibits: Walk through a 14 model heart

The Clark House Museum

Get a glimpse into what life was like in the early days of Chicago. The Clark House is the oldest house in the city.

The DuSable Museum of African American History

This museum is dedicated to the preservation and study of African American culture and art. The museum hosts educational seminars and performances.

The National Vietnam Veterans Museum

This new museum displays over 500 works of art by 95 artists from both America and abroad who served in the Vietnam War.

The Notebaert Nature Museum

A unique indoor / outdoor experience designed to help the urban dweller get in touch with nature.

The International Museum of Surgical Science

This collection displays the discoveries and mysteries that have influenced and inspired the science of surgical medicine.

Visual Arts

The Art Institute of Chicago is both a school and museum and houses more than 300,000 works by world reknowned artists including Renoir, Monet, Degas, VanGogh, Seurat and Dali.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography focuses on the role photography has played in history, as well as presenting exhibits that embrace a wide range of contemporary technologies.

The Terra Museum of American Art features the works of Whistler, Cassatt, Chase, Hopper and Weyth.

The most complete and extensive holography museum in the country, Chicago's Museum Of Holography focuses on teaching and research as well as displaying laser created 3-D images.

Downtown Chicago
Downtown Chicago

Chicago is known as the melting pot of the mid-west and this is well illustrated by the ample number of ethnic museums. These museums represent the history of the various immigrant groups that have flocked to Chicago over the past 200 years.


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    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks Earnestshub! Chicago has so much to offer visitors...

    • earnestshub profile image


      10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      It has been a long time since I visited a Chicago Museum. What a great city Chicago is! I loved it's wonderful Museums.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks so much Nicole! I'm looking forward to your hub! :)

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      11 years ago from Chicago, IL

      MmMmM... I should, thanks, amy jane! There's so much to chose from, though, perhaps starting with family restaurants would be the best bet! I'd love to give you & yours a tour the next time you all are on my side of the lake!

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks so much, Nicole! Next time I visit I will join you for a visit to the Museum of Holography! I think it sounds really interesting. You should do a hub about where to eat in Chicago! An insiders guide to all the best restaurants or family restaurants. I could use that! :)

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      11 years ago from Chicago, IL

      amy jane: Great hub! As a native I don't take as much time to appreciate the amazing sights, sounds and smells of my city the way that tourists do. William: If nothing else you WILL be fed in Chicago. You will eat a lot. It will be good :) amy jane, now that my daughter is getting older I'm going to make it my goal to take her to at least a couple of the museums listed here. (I keep trying to get everyone to go to the museum of Holography with me. So far, no takers.) :(

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi William, my husband was very taken with the German U-boat as well! I agree, it is fascinating to imagine what life must have been like aboard it. There is so much to take in and absorb in Chicago. It has a flavor (like most cities) that must be experienced first hand. Thank you for sharing your experience! :)

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I love Chicago, amy jane. I vacationed there a few times in the 1980s when my daughter was attending the University of Chicago. I stayed at a dorm on yards away from the Museum of Science and Industry, which I visited often. The captured German U-boat, U505, was fascinating to walk through. It's so tiny and full of pipes that it's hard to imagine those German sailors living there in the high seas during World War II. Great hub, and I recommend a visit to anyone who wants hasn't been there. There's plenty to see and do, besides the museums, like the Sears Tower and Second City, and some wonderful restaurants.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi Ervin, there is much to see in Chicago that it is difficult to narrow down and plan out which museums to visit. I know I prefer to be told exactly where to go when I am traveling.

    • solarshingles profile image


      11 years ago from london

      Amy, I like this hub called Chicago Museum Guide. So short, yet so fully packed with useful info and important links about many other very interesting museums in Chicago, as well.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks Dave! :)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Very thorough job. Thanks for putting this together.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks Jennifer!

    • profile image

      Jennifer Vitullo 

      11 years ago

      Nice job, Amy Jane!!


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