Chicago Museums

Chicago is known for its many fabulous museums. One of the best is the Art Institute, which located a bit south of the Magnificent Mile, is best known for its extensive collection of Impressionist paintings. Of course, there are many other interesting permanent collections, as well as, a continuum of temporary exhibits. If you need a bit of a break, there is very respectable restaurant upstairs, as well as a large gift shop with museum exhibit-related trinkets, as well as, an excellent book collection. Entrance is free on Tuesdays, or a membership will gain you entrance whenever you like.

Another prominent art museum is the Museum of Contemporary Art, which on Chicago Avenue, just off of the Magnificent Mile. While it is on a much smaller scale than the Art Institute, it is a must-see for anyone interested in modern art.

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Chicago’s Near North Side in Lincoln Park, is a favorite among youngsters and the caretakers. While some refer to it as the “Butterfly Museum,” for the cultural institution’s most famous permanent exhibit is the butterfly. As the museum’s philosophy is to challenge people to engage in conversation, testing and questioning in order to learn and grow, they, on a regular basis, introduce new programs are offered. For example, Animal Grossology is a temporary presentation designed to explain gross and fascinating facts related to animals.

The Museum Campus, built right next to Lake Michigan, is home to three spectacular institutions, not to mention a sensational view of the city. The Field Museum is an enormous natural science facility that is probably most famous for Sue, the world’s largest T-rex dinosaur. The campus also features Shedd Aquarium, which has everything from sea turtles to Beluga whales, the Adler Planetarium, which has special astronomy shows, as well as, a host of interactive educational games and exhibits.

There are also many excellent museums outside of the city center. If you find yourself on the South Side of Chicago, don’t miss the Museum of Science and Industry. It is absolutely enormous and has a wealth of exhibits designed especially for kids. (Of course, there are also exhibits geared toward adults, as well.)

And, then there are also a number of museums that are part of the University of Chicago campus. Among them is the Smart Museum, which has a good collection of modern art (with an emphasis on Chicago-based artists). Another popular museum is the Oriental Institute, which has a stunning collection of artwork from countries foreign to the U.S., including such countries as Iraq and Iran.

Of course, this list is not comprehensive; there are many other interesting and impressive museums scattered throughout the city. Specialty museums are well worth your time, as are the smaller galleries that are springing up in various parts of the city. A word to the wise: try visiting the museums in the winter months. Not only will you manage to avoid the brutal, cold weather, you also won’t have to deal with the dense crowds caused by summertime tourists.